This is the 201st episode of the 1958 to 1964 Private Eye series, 77 SUNSET STRIP. The series ran for a total of 206 episodes. Series regulars were, Efrem Zimbalist Jr, Roger Smith, Edd Byrnes and Jacqueline Beer. This was the start of the "cool" television P.I. series that hit the TV in the next few years. PETER GUNN, SURFSIDE 6, BROTHERS BRANNAGAN and HAWAIIAN EYE are a few examples of these series.
This episode is from the last season of 77 SUNSET STRIP. Due to actor salaries and slipping ratings the studio revamped the formula for this season. Efrem Zimbalist Jr is now running an agency as a single. His office is now located in LA's Bradbury Building.
Zimbalist is called out of town to look into case. It involves a man, Hampton Fancher, who is on death row with a week to live. He has been convicted of raping a young girl and then killing a young man who came to her aid. Fancher's father, big time political boss, Preston Foster, has done all he can do, but has no luck getting his son freed. It seems that the local DA, Tom Nolan, is not amused that Foster is backing someone else for Governor.
Foster wants Zimbalist to go over everything about the case and see if he can prove his son was framed. Zimbalist goes over the case files and interviews all the witnesses etc he can find. Everywhere he goes he is shadowed by local City Detective, Charles McGraw. McGraw has the effect of causing people to suddenly clam up.
Zimbalist visits Fancher in prison and the man tells the PI that he was drunk at the time of the crimes. He recalls nothing but is sure he never did the deeds. Every time Zimbalist gets close to finding something important, Detective McGraw shows. McGraw even has Zimbalist arrested on a pandering beef for talking to an underage witness. Foster still has a little pull at City Hall and gets him sprung.
Zimbalist is now royally annoyed and redoubles his efforts to discover what really happened. Now one of the key witnesses turns up with a hole in his back. Zimbalist continues his quest and soon turns up a likely suspect.
The suspect, Bruce Dern, was ignored in the original Police investigation. That investigation had been handled by none other than Detective McGraw. It seems that DA Nolan had promised McGraw a big bump in rank and pay to help frame Foster's son. This would of course look bad for Foster. That way Nolan could do an end run around the State votes Foster controlled.
Needless to say, McGraw is now too far in to back off, and makes a play to silence Zimbalist. There is some rough and tumble needed, before McGraw can be handed over to some honest cops. Nolan's plan falls to pieces. The real culprit, Bruce Dern is quickly behind bars with McGraw and the crooked DA Nolan for company. Fancher is released much to his and his father's relief.
This new version of 77 SUNSET did not go over well with the viewing public, and the series was cancelled after 20 episodes. This particular episode though is quite good, and worth a watch.
Beside the always oily, Bruce Dern doing a guest turn, we also have in the cast, future BATGIRL, Yvonne Craig.
Handling direction duties is actor, director, Lawrence Dobkin. Dobkin was on screen from 1946 to 2001 in over 200 different roles. As a director, he helmed several hundred episodes of various television series.
The look of the episode is quite sharp with long time big screen cinematographer, Bert Glennon at the controls. The three time, Oscar nominated Glennon was the director of photography on films such as, STAGECOACH, RIO GRANDE, RED LIGHT, THE MAN BEHIND THE GUN, CRIMEWAVE and THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON. Glennon was a favourite of director John Ford and they worked together on seven films.
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