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Columbo: Try and Catch Me (1977)
Overall, this is a very entertaining and worthy episode of the great Columbo series. To the reviewer who said that Ruth Gordon was largely unknown at the time--quite the contrary! She was a very well known and highly respected writer/actress and it speaks to the high regard the industry had for Columbo that a star of her ilk would appear in the series.
Basically, a very successful mystery-book writer murders her nephew (by marriage) by tricking him into walking into her huge safe, and then locking him in to suffocate to a slow and painful death. She thinks he murdered her beloved niece in what has been ruled a boating accident/unexplained disappearance.
It seems like the perfect, clever murder--but Columbo's on the case!
It's interesting that we never find out if, indeed, Abigail's nephew actually *did* kill his wife/her niece--and his possible motive is never discussed, either (maybe he thought, rightly as it turns out, that Abigail would leave all her money to him). But, again, it's never clear.
Also, the fact the nephew had no pictures of his dead wife in his apartment seems like weak evidence to me of a marriage gone sour--perhaps it was too painful for him to look at her picture a mere four months after she tragically died. Who knows? I found it to be somewhat of a stretch when Columbo focused on this as evidence of an unhappy marriage.
Peter Falk is at his very best during an impromptu speech he's basically forced into giving by Abigail when he shows up at her appearance at a women's club meeting, and the scenes with Columbo's beloved "Dog" are sweet, and add humanity and humor to the proceedings. Another great scene has Abigail telling Columbo that she likes him and thinks he's very nice (paraphrasing). Columbo replies, "I wouldn't count on that. I wouldn't count on that at all." Peter Falk delivers these lines with a terrific mixture of both the sympathy/respect he has for the suspected murderer, but also as a warning. Excellent acting by Falk!
G.D. Spradlin is great as always, and Mariette Hartley is wooden as always...but her performance is a minor quibble.
See this wonderful episode of Columbo! It can't compete with Jack Cassidy episodes, but it's almost as good as the series gets.
The Twilight Zone: Night Call (1964)
Most frightening TZ episode ever! (SPOILERS)
When I first watched "Night Call" as a young child (we were forbidden to watch TZ at all but my brother and I would sneak it in when my mother was busy) I was scared out of my mind to the point where I finally confessed to my mother and she took pains to tell me that this was not real; the old woman was ACTING; there were floodlights and stagehands all around her and she was in no danger! Gladys Cooper was a fine actress--her turn as Henry's mother in "My Fair Lady" is one of my favorites--and she expertly conveys the dread of hearing a phone ring in the middle of the night--only to pick up the receiver to hear a voice on the other end which the poor old woman learns is that of a DEAD MAN, her fiancé. Oh, the fear--the thunder and rain add to the overall effect, and the viewer is just as terror-filled as the poor, tortured woman. I recall feeling so very, very badly for her...as a kid, this was scary stuff.
Whenever she sees the wire going down into his grave...there are no words for the chilling effect of that scene. HE IS CALLING YOU FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE! Interestingly, in some early showings of this episode, the networks in question edited out the explanation of WHY the man was angry, or at least not yet at peace--I never knew until I was an adult that she'd apparently been a bit tough on him in life. That's what I got from his final call, anyhow.
Absolutely scary and memorable--I watched it last about a year ago and it holds up well as the best TZ episode ever. Ten out of ten.
The Shell Seekers (2006)
Just Lovely! SPOILERS
I caught this movie tonight and was completely enchanted, due in no small part to the acting, which was strong and believable throughout. Vanessa Redgrave is always dependable, of course, but the supporting performances--particularly Nancy, Antonia, and the young Penelope--were outstanding. I saw the ending coming yet it didn't diminish my enjoyment of this film one bit--there was just no way Penelope's scheming, greedy children were going to get those sketches, as they were meant to serve a far more worthy and noble purpose. BRAVO PENELOPE! Very good movie that made me want to read the book on which it's based, which I will. By all means, watch The Shell Seekers if you can, and enjoy!