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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
So, this is my absolute favorite episode and has been for forty years.
I still have memories of seeing it when it originally aired. I wrote
about it, in detail, in my diary when I was sixteen. Since getting the
DVDs of this season, I think I've watched it four or five more times.
It gets better with each viewing. I gave it a perfect score; though not
completely perfect, some scenes are more than perfect, so it averages
out to perfect.
Right from the opening scene, it's staged perfectly. Some villain drugged Starsky then shoots him with a deadly poison. At 4am, barely able to function, Starsky pulls the phone off the table, dials Hutch's number and manages to croak out "....Hutch..........Help". We don't see what Hutch does: we don't really need to. We know he is on his way to save his friend before the line goes dead. Who doesn't want a friend who will come to save you from undetermined danger at 4am?
The hospital scene is great, learning about the poison and Starsky's prognosis (not good, naturally). The comic relief of Starsky asking for his pants, which Hutch didn't think to bring, was a nice bit of dialog also.
Subsequent scenes of talking about what to do and possible suspects are nicely written and delivered. The search begins, a race against the clock. There is a great scene when Hutch and Dobie snap at each other and Starsky is the voice of calm, even though he is the one dying. The next great scene is on the way to the second suspect. Starsky collapses from pain and Hutch grabs hold and tries to help him through it. Both PMG and David Soul control that scene from start to finish. Starsky makes some funny comments, but they don't matter; we are focused on getting him through this, just like Hutch is. I like when Starsky gets up and asks Hutch how he looks, and Hutch says "You look terrible".
The next great scene is when they are waiting for Starsky to get some medication to help the pain. They banter back and forth, then Starsky reacts to a pain spasm and Hutch reacts to Starsky's pain right behind him, in perfect timing. I do not know how these guys did these scenes so perfectly. (I watch them now in slo-mo and they are still perfect.)
Two more great scenes to go. Hope is fading, leads have dried up, they sit at their desks near defeat. Starsky says "if this were a cowboy movie, I'd give you my boots", then reaches out. Hutch drops his hand into Starsky's. So there they are, holding hands. I do not know how they made that work, made it feel real and natural and totally right, but they did it. I truly believe that PMG and DS are the only two actors that could ever had made that scene work. It's an awesome scene in a show filled with awesome scenes.
Finally they get the lead they need and head to confront the villain. Starsky is barely functioning now but desperate to get the info to save his life. Hutch confronts the guy, but can't shoot him for fear of losing the info on how to save Starsky. The guy figures that out and prepares to kill Hutch. Starsky manages to drag himself to the scene and shoot the guy before he can kill Hutch, basically sacrificing his last chance to live to save Hutch. The last valiant act a man can make.
Things are really dire now. At last, with no time to spare, Hutch has an epiphany that takes him to the right culprit, getting the poison back in time to get the antidote prepped and save Starsky.
My criticisms are small. This woman chemist shows up to help, out of nowhere, and mentions a scientist father who "won't help". There is no context for these people yet they turn out to be pivotal. I wonder if some dialog got cut that would have given us context. Also I would have liked to see Hutch in more immediate danger when Starsky shoots the villain; they should have been drawn down on each other, with the villain taunting Hutch and ready to shoot. As it was, Hutch was still kind of hiding. Finally, when they wheel Starsky away for probably the last time, Dobie says, "well, that's that" or something equally strange and cold. He should have expressed sympathy to Hutch and then Hutch could protest and say it's not over yet.
I found it necessary to describe all of these scenes because I found them so amazing, so well-done. Not just the words or the actions or the expressions or the staging - all of those together in a seamless bundle that equaled perfection. After forty years, I remember that show like I had seen it yesterday. Nobody did anything like this as well as PMG and David Soul.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What a plot ! And they utilized it just to serve the state of the show
at the time perfectly. It's hot with fast events, good looking girls
(the evil man's woman, the girls of the porn movie), a twist, an
emotional situation (if we were in a cowboy's movie.. I would give you
my shoes), nice music (the sensitive guitar at the hospital), and a
climax where the rescue will be in the nick of time.
It's fun. And by this lovely era's measures where the channels were limited, it's super fun. (Paul Michael Glaser) is as always the most charismatic, prince of cool, and the funniest. (David Soul) is not having the same qualities, with some chilliness despite the famous gracefulness. I think the whole story of the avenger father was so late and a bit lame. I disliked the forced laughable finale, it was always unbearable (even at its time !), my only consolation that it was here less stupid than others like, earlier in the same season, the one at (The Hostages)'s end.. OHHH that was cruel !
For sure they didn't want to make it deep or profound. It's the plot of 1950's D.O.A for dynamic and entertaining 60 minutes. And it worked, for the plot, the formula of the show, or the strong producers' creativity. Moreover it still works for the great nostalgic feeling of having an afternoon's foreign show, or a Wednesday's night one as we used to have in Egypt during the good old 1970s and 1980s when we enjoyed too many sweet, plain, and innocent Starskys & Hutchs.
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