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Columbo: By Dawn's Early Light (1974)
For those about to rock...
Classic rock fans may understand my summary line, which is in regards to the murder weapon of choice, a cannon. The best aspect for me was the performance by Columbo veteran actor Patrick McGoohan, who portrays Col. Lyle C. Rumford perfectly. The other familiar faces include a very young Bruno Kirby, his father Bruce Kirby, an annoying Madeleine Sherwood, a mediocre Mark Wheeler, Tom Simcox, and Burr DeBenning. This is a different location than the usual boring mansion, as the entire episode is filmed at a real military academy! Columbo even volunteers to live with the cadets while he investigates the murder. Let me mention that the murder itself, while original, seems quite silly to pull off; also, is the motive really worth all the trouble? Enrollment is way down anyway, so closing the school shouldn't come as no big surprise. Regarding the "elusive cider", I find it hard to fathom that Rumford would continue to pursue this issue, since it places him at the scene of the crime, although I won't spoil anymore. Although these details are worth mentioning, and I'm a Columbo veteran myself, I still don't think they detract that much from a very solid episode.
Columbo: Any Old Port in a Storm (1973)
This is among my favorite episodes of Columbo, along with the 1976 William Shatner one, mainly because the hammy performance of Donald Pleasance. Don't take that as a negative though, because he really shines as the snobby Adrian Carsini, even though he overacts just a tad, and he looks about as Italian as my cat, but he gives his all. It's obvious he and Peter Falk have great chemistry, and I found myself feeling sorry when he finally gets caught. The other familiar faces include Julie Harris, Gary Conway, Dana Elcar, and Joyce Jillson. How can you not love an episode that revolves around a winery? The winery itself is an actual one, located in San Jose, called Mirassou Winery. We also get to see a cool 1966 Ferrari, that happens to have a "Colombo" engine, a wine auction, and a very cool vault under the winery. As much as I enjoyed this, there are still some silly things that Carsini does before and after the murder, and I really doubt folks behave this way in real life, so those aspects make this from being a perfect segment. Whatever the case, this is still one of my favorites anyway.
Uninspiring all around
As much as I anticipated this segment, it must be said that it was a major letdown, especially the mediocre performance of Doney Oatman, who plays Edna Unger, who did little of substance, and was as wooden as they come. Pamelyn Ferdin did a much more credible job a few years before as Edna. Even Paul Williams gave a rather lame performance, especially when he performed. I'm also not that surprised that Oatman's acting career ended about 3 years later. One scene in particular that bugged me was when Edna meets Willaims, her idol, and she just stares at him and gapes without uttering one word, then he leaves shortly after. I've seen wood with more emotion. Now that I piled on her enough, there's a few decent moments, I guess, but not enough to ever want to watch this again. Maybe the writers were out of ideas? The only interesting moment is when Oscar mentions Alice Cooper's
Columbo: Blueprint for Murder (1972)
Country vs. Classical
I would have to say the best moments for me, although too short, are the tense scenes between Forrest Tucker, Patrick O'Neal, as both give great performances. The other familiar faces include Janis Paige, Bettye Ackerman, and John Fiedler; I found Pamela Austin slightly annoying as the "child bride". No need to go through the plot, as you probably read it, or know it, by now. Peter Falk did a commendable job as the director of this episode, as it's not the usual murder taking place in a big mansion; rather, mostly everything revolves around a construction site, namely "Willamson City". We also get some nice scenes on a ranch, an impressive office, a university classroom, and real construction workers doing their trade. As fine as this episode was, I'm not so sure Columbo could've gotten quick approval to dig up a massive pile of concrete, which occurs here. Other than that small tidbit, this is a mighty fine story.
Bea Arthur is amazing
It's not easy to upstage Archie Bunker, but Maude pulled it off, as Bea Arthur hit a home run with her excellent performance. Even before her first appearance on the episode, there's some very funny moments, as Archie, Mike, and Gloria are all sick, and poor Edith tries her best to tend to all of them. When it's too hard for her, Maude comes to the rescue, much to the chagrin of Archie! He can't stand her or her liberal ways. I won't get into the banter between the two of them, but it is legendary; besides, it's probably the first time I ever heard the word "socialist", which was uttered by Archie about FDR, whom Maude loved. I would say this is among my top overall episodes for this great show, and if you're a fan of Arthur's, make sure to catch her wonderful performance here.
All the President's "Man"
This early episode revolves around Archie being interviewed at work, which has something to do with the economy, I think. I believe he mentions "pinko Cronkite", a term he uses several times during the series' run. As Archie comes home from work in a good mood, that soon changes when he realizes his television is broken, and he's having trouble finding someone to fix it. During this time, there's a funny exchange with a repairman named Levy(Neil J. Schwartz), who you may recognize from "Happy Days" although he is unable to fix the set because of a Jewish holiday revolving around sunset. A scene or 2 before or after this, Archie hurls around some ethnic jokes that wouldn't be allowed on the tube nowadays, but they are very funny. Since I'm an old CBS logo buff(hard to explain), there's a very cool "special report" logo on the set at Kelsey's bar; Archie had nowhere else to watch the news, so he bribed the guys with a round of beer to let him see the news, as they were watching a basketball game. Look for familiar faces in Bob Hastings and Billy Sands, both from "McHale's Navy". I won't spoil the ending, but let's just say that Nixon didn't do Archie any favors, even considering that Archie voted for him!
Night Gallery: Room for One Less (1973)
One of those weird ones
My following review will take you longer to read than the amount of time it will take you to watch this extremely short segment, which is barely a minute long. This is what I call a "Jack Laird special", meaning he was the director/writer of many shorter comedic segments, which Rod Serling detested, I heard. Listening to Serling's quick monologue seconds before this story began, he almost seems resigned to the fact that he must take one for the team, so to speak. I think he and Laird butted heads over the comedy aspect for this show. In any event, I still enjoy the 70's cheesiness for some of these skits. Regarding this one, we get to see inside a somewhat darkened elevator, which appears full of people, probably headed to and from their jobs. Weirdness ensues when a man quickly turns into an alien(Lee J. Lambert) with a giant head; soon after, the elevator operator(James Metropole)shows the creature a sign that mentions something about 10 people being the maximum limit for the elevator, so the alien must get off. I'll let you wait and see what happens next, but it's not funny nor scary. If you can wait barely a minute, then you can sit through this one.
McCloud: McCloud Meets Dracula (1977)
With apologies to Mr. Barlow
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.
Columbo: Candidate for Crime (1973)
It was only a coincidence that I watched this great episode on the same night as Super Tuesday, when politicians won or lost crucial states for the big upcoming election. Anyway, Jackie Cooper is excellent as the ambitious Nelson Hayward, who's running for office, and is as cocky as they come. Some of the other familiar faces include Ken Swofford(equally solid), Joanne Linville, Tisha Sterling, and Vito Scotti; pay close attention and you may also recognize Sandy Kenyon, whom I remember from a few All in the Family episodes. Other than a rather silly murder motive, add in another silly moment using firecrackers, and the fact that Hayward himself commits the crime, rather than hire someone else to do it, this is still a pretty entertaining episode, especially Cooper's smug portrayal. Something else I enjoy is the many outdoor scenes, instead of inside the typical boring mansion many stories revolve around. We get to see Hayward's swimming pool, a gas station where Columbo's getting his car fixed, and a funny scene where Columbo gets fitted for a suit. All in all, this is a mostly entertaining episode worth seeing.
Part Salem's Lot, part Night Stalker, and part Pac-Man
If you've read my earlier reviews, you may or may not know that my preference for this show is the darker segments that appear, but not often enough for my appetite. The better and darker story here, called "Island of Horrors", was almost exactly what I hope for when watching this program. It had elements of horror, especially the eerie bright eyes of the "zombies", which almost looks like any vampire from "Salem's Lot", from 4 years earlier. The familiar faces here include Gayle Hunnicutt, Chris Connelly, Jared Martin, and a cameo from Cassandra Peterson, famously remembered as Elvira. Another cool scene had these things rising from their graves, which was both corny and creepy, but still was enough for me to recommend to a fan looking for the same creep factor as me. Lastly, the "Night Stalker" reference, although I'm not certain if this influenced this segment, was when Mr. Rourke mentions pouring a special type of salt into her man's mouth to cure him. The other story starred a real husband and wife team(Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows)as a couple looking for the "perfect" child, although it was Stuart(Allen)pushing this idea on his wife. An interesting note has this perfect child, played by Sebastian Dungan, actually married to a man in real life. I'm not so sure this is what Stuart had in mind as a "perfect" child. I thought Justin Henry did a decent job of playing "imperfect" Andy, who likes "Pac-Man", but who's not what Stuart really wants, but his wife certainly does. Andy has the Adam Rich haircut thing going on too, plus he's easy to feel pity for. Obviously, I prefer the earlier segment, but the latter one wasn't too shabby either.