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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
McCLOUD was a TV series derived from the 1968 Clint Eastwood feature "Coogan's Bluff," about an Arizona lawman who shows those New York cops how to catch a fugitive from justice. Dennis Weaver starred in the 1971 pilot that led to the series which aired on Sunday nights as part of the NBC Mystery Movie, along with COLUMBO (Peter Falk) and McMILLAN AND WIFE (Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James). Due to the alternating nature of the format, each show averaged only one episode per month, so McCLOUD lasted six seasons but produced just 45 episodes. By some strange quirk of fate, "McCloud Meets Dracula" (April 17 1977) was the very last episode, interweaving dual plot lines concerning a rooftop sniper and a mysterious trail of bloodless corpses. Fortunately, writer-producer Glen A. Larson had the good sense to cast the venerable John Carradine as the pseudo vampire Loren Belasco, who we first see being interviewed by the actual Tom Snyder on his then popular TOMORROW show, which followed Carson's TONIGHT SHOW. The whole escapade served as a gentle tribute to the aging actor, also utilizing clips from his prime Draculas from the 1940s, "House of Frankenstein" and "House of Dracula." This was among my earliest memories of Carradine, whom I actually met in Youngstown Ohio on June 22 1981, while he was traveling with a vaudeville tour of one night stands with other celebrities like Tiny Tim, Jan Murray, and Pinky Lee. His character tells Tom Snyder that he is a descendant of Count Dracula and has an eerie servant played by the reliable Reggie Nalder, who two years later would play a vampire himself in "Salem's Lot." The business with the sniper takes up very little screen time but the greatest surprise is that the blood drinking killer turns out to be a real vampire! Carradine himself is doubled by a stunt man in all the chase scenes (due to his terrible arthritis) and the final sequence has the police baffled by the vampire's disappearance while the audience spots a solitary bat flying away. There were other cop shows that dabbled with the supernatural, one other that I would mention being the "Vampire" episode from the second season of STARSKY AND HUTCH (Halloween 1976) which featured a wonderful turn by John Saxon in the lead, understandably attracted to future THREE'S COMPANY star Suzanne Somers.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Enjoyable. Nostalgic. Disappointing. This final episode in the McCloud series delves into the supernatural and seems to take flight in more areas as well. Sam wants badly to get on a sniper squad but somehow is stuck investigating a case about a victim that has two bite marks on his neck and a body drained of blood. He along with a pathologist who believes an actual vampire is the culprit and Chris Coughlin who is writing a book about vampires get on the not-so-hot trail of the killer. Couglin goes on the Tom Synder show and meets Loren Belasco - an actor famed for playing Dracula and for being an expert on vampire lore. Belasco is played by the always elderly looking John Carradine - an actor who knows a lot about playing Dracula! We get clips from House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula on a television station as well as a very creepy house and a very creepy servant played by a future vampire Reggie Nalder. Carradine is good as always and I love the McCloud character, Broadhurst, and especially Chief Clifford who barks out funny one-liners like McCloud moving slower than shut-ins, but as the final episode of the series I have to admit this one is a bit of a let down. The sniper story is under-played and the resolution to the Dracula story is full of holes accentuated by a very ambiguous ending. That notwithstanding the episode is fun and where can you see Dennis Weaver chew up scenery with an actor who has chewed it up for decades like Carradine as Dracula. So what if the story is preposterous - and it is - this in simple, clean entertainment.
This final episode of "McCloud" was more entertaining than creepy, although the creepiest character was Morris the butler, played by Reggie Nalder. In 1979, Nalder portrayed the infamous vampire Mr. Barlow, from the equally infamous "Salem's Lot", which is still the best/scariest vampire film I've ever seen. Back to this story, the familiar faces include Ken Lynch, Diana Muldaur, John Finnegan, J.D. Cannon, and quirky performances by Tom Snyder, and especially John Carradine; their interview together is rather interesting and fun. I'll do my best not to spoil too much, as I'll give some positive and negative aspects. Let's get the minuses out of the way first; right off the bat, I thought Belasco(Carradine)could've shown his fangs at least ONCE, but he never does, so he really just looks like a tired old man. I wasn't crazy about how he runs from the police, considering vampires are supposed to float/fly. When he enters and kills a female victim in her apartment, I don't recall him being invited in, so I'll chalk that up to lazy writing. Lastly, I thought Muldaur was only average, and slowed the episode down a bit. Regarding the positives, Belasco's abode was done fairly well, with candles and an eerie dark room where the coffin rests. For those paying real close attention, one of the props in the house is a painting, and if you watch the Night Gallery, you may notice the same painting from a segment titled, "With Apologies to Mr. Hyde". Even though I complained above about a "running" vampire, I did like how he climbed up a bridge before the final scene, which I won't ruin for you, but I like how it's left ambiguous. Nalder was the best aspect of this episode though, and in 1979, he was the scariest vampire ever to appear on film. If you're a fan of 1970's vampires, you probably won't be too disappointed, although I felt a bit more meat could've been added to the bone.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First, let's start with the obvious. Either producer-writer Glen A. Larson swiped the idea for this show from "Starsky and Hutch: Vampire" (which aired on October 30, 1976) or S&H stole it from him. Either scenario is possible, but given the filming schedules for each show the former scenario is more likely. Larson did have a 90-minute time slot to fill, so there is a subplot about a sniper terrorizing New York City and a major new character in Dr. Harvey Pollick. But both the sniper story and the Pollick story are VERY badly mishandled. When the vampire kills his first victim, a police officer (the ubiquitous John Finnegan, who had been a desk sergeant in his previous appearances) thinks the wound was from a small-caliber bullet and attributes it to the sniper. In fact, despite numerous clues to the contrary, people keep attributing the deaths to the sniper until very close to the end of the show. The exception is Pollick, who comes up with most of the clues. Unfortunately, Pollick comes across as obsessive to -- and beyond -- the point of psychosis. (I once wrote most of a novel where Pollick resurfaces as a deranged vampire slayer wasting everyone in sight with a crossbow and a quiver full of wooden arrows.) Furthermore, despite some half-hearted efforts by director Bruce Kessler to try to conceal the vampire's identity, there is no mystery at all as to who the killer is (unless, as is unseen but possible, his henchman Morris follows him along and is HIMSELF the vampire). This show very much needed a different director and almost anybody but Michael Sacks playing Pollick. Larson's script, though it contains some good funny lines, is often far too heavy-handed. The worst part comes during the final tag, when Larson (through Chief Clifford) spouts a long diatribe at the U.S. Army for creating the sniper. That doesn't make this a bad episode, but it doesn't make it the great episode we were expecting for a series finale.
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