The body of a young woman is found by a boy diving from a pier. The coroner finds that she died, not by drowning, but due to arsenic poisoning. The main clue in the detectives' investigation is a small heart-shaped tattoo on her hand with the letters "MAC" inside of it. Detective Steve Carrella takes his wife Teddy along with him to a tattoo parlor as he questions the owner. Later, Teddy decides to get a tattoo herself. In doing so, however, she has put herself in grave danger as the killer has come to the same tattoo parlor with his intended next victim. Written by
There were some terrific drama and police series on in the 1950's and early 60's, notably "Naked City" and "the Detectives." I am not sure about the other 29 episodes of "87 Precinct," but this pilot was nowhere near their quality. It was poorly written and I just felt embarrassed for some good actors who had to deal with the dull script the best they could. The opening and closing title sequence looks like the director just said to the cast to look friendly and act like you know each other. Everybody really has bit parts with the exception of Robert Lansing, Gena Rowlands, and Robert Culp. They are the actors who you feel most sorry for. Lansing plays the hero and Gena Rowlands is his deaf-mute wife. Rowlands plays her role doing pantomime. Lansing seems to be playing charades when he communicates with her.
There is a ridiculous scene in a restaurant where a man comes over and tries to pick up Rowlands. He doesn't seem to care that she is a deaf-mute or has a husband. Instead of Lansing saying "I'm a police officer and I'll arrest you if you don't stop bothering my wife," he gets into a fight with the guy and beats him up. The scene serves no purpose except to put some fighting/action into the story.
Worse, the detectives don't really solve the case. Gena Rowlands just happens to be in a tattoo parlor when Culp, the villain walks in. So the case gets solved by an implausiblec coincidence.
Culp plays a charming psychopathic killer, but without much charm and without much psychopathology. Like the man in the bar that Lansing beat up, he suddenly falls in love with Gena Rowlands for no reason. While Gena Rowlands is pretty, she's hardly irresistible, especially when she has to answer in pantomime. Its just another plot twist that doesn't work and seems ridiculous.
Surprisingly, Victor Sen Yung, the famous cook Hop Sing on the "Bonanza" hit series of the time, is quite good as a sleazy tattoo parlor owner promising special deals to all his clients. It makes you think how wasted his talents were on "Bonanza." I assume the episodes got better after the pilot. They could not get much worse.
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