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Jerrold L. Ludwig, who has been writing for television since 1967, and
producing programs since the 1970's, pens this script, for "Murder in
High C," his third of seven "MSW" episodes. For Season Twelve, Jerrold
also serves as a series Co-producer.
Four "MSW" episodes are set in Italy: Sicily (#6.22) (Hagarty Book-end), Milan (#9.1), Genoa (#11.14) and Rome (#12.8) although many others contain characters of Italian-American descent. In (#10.9), Jessica returns to NYC from a three-week tour of Italy, but this does not coincide with an Italian-setting episode.
Lorenzo Caccialanza guests as the good-natured Inspector Piero Amato in two of these (#11.14) and (#12.8) although he is billed as Amati in the latter. Lorenzo portrays an efficient and capable law enforcement officer, a refreshing change from the "MSW" norm, in which hapless police officers often jump to wrong conclusions and issue false arrests. Lorenzo adds charm and sophistication.
Carol Lawrence delivers her fourth "MSW" performance among (#1.2), (#2.19), (#6.8 as an opera singer) and here in (#11.14) (also as a very capable opera soprano, coinciding with her spectacularly well-tuned voice, often associated with Musical genre film and television). Carol performs especially well here.
Genoa, Italy, a large metropolitan community in the northwestern reaches of the peninsula, hosts the Italian Opera Company, which rehearses for an opening night performance, while awaiting the arrival of its newest star, Andrea Beaumont (Khrystyne Haje), who is busy avoiding a stalker threatening to strangle her on this chilly, foggy evening. (Why anyone needs air conditioning remains another mystery.)
Andrea (whose name they pronounce here as "On-dray'-ya") Beaumont and her husband, Jonas Cole (John Getz), have invited their dear old friend Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) to Genoa, to hear Andrea's performance, after Jessica has helped to nab a New York City stalker, who has been imprisoned for threatening the life of Andrea. But now somebody is at it again in a suspected copycat version of the torment.
While Stella Knight (Carol Lawrence) rehearses on stage at the theatre, Jessica delights in listening to her performance. Vicki Lawson (Ely Pouget) arrives to assume the next seat, to ask whether or not Jessica has heard from Andrea, as baritone Paul Corelli (Charles Cioffi) assumes the next seat, to join in the discussion.
Conductor Drew Granger (Bruce Abbott) abruptly halts the rehearsal to lambaste Vicki, Paul and, especially, Jessica for interrupting the practice session. Drew has received an offer to to conduct elsewhere and behaves temperamentally toward the Italian Opera Company brass, for holding him to his contract.
Drew has a backstage confrontation over his contract with financial front Rudolfo Petrocelli (Robert Costanzo), who also disagrees with partner Carlo Rossi (Pierrino Mascarino) about various problems.
Inspector Piero Amato (Lorenzo Caccialanza) arrives to investigate a series of threatening telephone calls to Andrea, he displaying voice-prints from headquarters, at the request of Jessica and Jonas, who secures his wife inside their apartment, but invites the company to a cocktail reception to honor Andrea.
Back at the theatre, various arguments persist, and when gunshots are heard backstage, Jessica and Piero rush to discover Jonas' holding a pistol, while hovering over the body, and saying that he also heard the shots and ran back to find his own gun beside the body.
Jessica and Piero share a strong professional rapport as they investigate the murder, while threats to strangle Andrea continue.
But Jessica discovers evidence and soon believes that the murder has occurred much sooner than the time which the gunshots were heard, finding evidence that blanks were fired, that air conditioning has been set at a very cold temperature, and that a pen has left its impression in the carpet beneath the body of the "Murder in High C."
The cast is rounded out by Anthony Marciona as Stage Manager, Benito Prezia as Doctor, and Sam Ingraffia as Policeman.
This episode marks the first of two "MSW" appearances each for Lorenzo Caccialanza and John Getz, the second of three for Bruce Abbott, the third of three for Robert Costanzo, and the fourth of four for Carol Lawrence.
I have always enjoyed "Murder, She Wrote" episodes with Angela Lansbury as the main character, Jessica Fletcher. However, "Murder in High C" was a disappointment. A mysterious and obviously disguised voice in the Genoa fog speaks of imminent death to a beautiful opera singer. The woman in fear and shock tells others, her dutiful husband standing by her side in support. Then, the same voice with the same message comes via repeated phone calls. Murder attempts appear to take place. There is a prime suspect who could easily be the villain planning the crime. The prime suspect gets killed. The danger is over, or is it? It sounds like a great murder mystery. It is, but this "Murder, She Wrote" episode is not the original of this story. Watch the more gripping 1960 movie "Midnight Lace" with Doris Day, Rex Harrison, and Myrna Loy. The cities are different, London vs. Genoa. The beautiful woman is an heiress rather than an opera singer. But, the voice in the fog, on the phone, the murder attempts, and the would be villain getting killed are all there. And the danger being over? Well, you'll have to watch it to find out. Compare it to this "Murder, She Wrote" episode and see if you agree that "Murder in High C" is interesting, but "Midnight Lace" is far more satisfying.
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