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I still haven't won the Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes yet. Man, do those guys owe me ...
is there room for one more line?
is there room for one more line?
is there room for one more line?
is there room for one more line?
The Picasso Summer (1969)
I am very, VERY disappointed by the ending!
At the risk of simply doing another "me-too" review I'll try to mention some points about the movie without needlessly repeating what other have said. (There are currently eight others.) It seems to me that so far I'm the only one who has actually read the original story since I'm the only one upset by the movie's changed ending.
But before I tear into the wretched ending I'll talk about some other things first. Any filmmaker who tries to turn a Bradbury story into a film faces a doubly difficult task. It's never easy to turn (i.e. stretch) any short story into a feature length movie and it's even harder to put a Bradbury story on film, as anyone who has read him can easily attest.
The movie's story is based upon his short story "In a Season of Calm Weather", originally published in Playboy in 1957 and later anthologized in his book A Medicine For Melancholy. Several of his other works have been turned into movie projects with very uneven results: Fahrenheit 451 as done by François Truffaut (pretty good), The Illustrated Man (not bad), and last and certainly least, The Martian Chronicles (positively dreadful). This movie would have been much better if they hadn't ruined the ending.
In order to stretch the movie out the directors included several extended scenes of Picasso's paintings coming to life and an overly long bull fighting sequence. The animated sequences are quite good but I can't help but feel they last as long as they do to fill the empty space between the live action parts. Not only were they too long but the same sequences were used over and over again and seemed too repetitive. Ditto for the bull fighting part (included here to help explain Picasso's fascination with the subject). It may be a good idea to go make dinner during the bull fight, if only to miss its grisly conclusion when the poor bull dies in bloody agony after being gored by the bull fighter's sword.
The movie begins with the couple attending what would have been considered a hip (but ultimately vapid) San Francisco party, where George sees a woman with a tattoo of an eye on her neck (get it? Picasso?) and an artist is selling paintings of single alphabetical characters (I really liked his lower case "a"). The old band Sopwith Camel makes the briefest of appearances (if you blink you'll miss them), which is a shame, since they are one of the many bands from 60s that have been sadly forgotten. The party, along with his disillusionment with his pointless career, is what leads George and his wife to go on their extended journey to look for Picasso.
It should be remembered that this more of a 60s European film and less of a typical Hollywood flick. Movies like this move slowly and many Americans, particularly today's generation (who rate a movie by its explosions and body counts), will find it boooooring. This was one of the first big movies the great cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond worked on after he had escaped from behind the Iron Curtain. You really can't see much distinctive work here although he did his best work on big budget movies like Close Encounters. The film score by Michel Legrand is fine but it seemed at times a bit too much, especially during the extended animated sequences. Again, this kind of thing is not unexpected, given the time this movie was made.
Now about the ending. I would have normally given this movie a high mark, like a 7 out of 10, because I like movies of this type. However, the ending absolutely ruined this movie for me and I am at a loss to explain how it came it about. As far as the movie goes, the ending is not inconsistent with the progress of the story, but it is essentially a 180° reverse of how Bradbury ended his story. The story's ending was meant to be bittersweet and somewhat ironic, as so many of his other stories are. Had I never read the original story, I would'nt've hated the ending I suppose, but as someone who discovered Bradbury at age twelve (an appropriate age, yes?**) I just can't accept it. I suspect it was that very reason that Bradbury did not use his real name as screenwriter and instead uses the pseudonym of Douglas Spaulding.** If you have seen the movie I suggest you read the story and see how it's supposed to end.
** If you don't understand that point read Dandelion Wine
The Twilight Zone: Elegy (1960)
What is a Five Letter Word for Turkey? It's "E-l-e-g-y"
Serling had some kind of fondness for asteroids as they figured in at least three different stories and of which the science was often very, very wrong. In "The Lonely," a convict is confined to one that is only nine million miles away from Earth (??) and bigger than Mars or Mercury (??!!) There was also "I Shot an Arrow into the Air," where a rocket pilot mistakenly thinks he has landed on an asteroid, even though everyone else would have known better. (One would think an experienced rocket pilot would realize that a celestial body with a 1g gravity and an atmosphere could not be an asteroid.) I can only assume that Serling and company just didn't care that it was wrong, or probably assumed no one would notice.
But even if we give them a pass for the error of being on a asteroid in Elegy, we still have to accept the fact that this episode is a turkey so bad even the Pilgrims wouldn't have touched it. Absolutely nothing in this show made even the slightest bit of sense. We are first told in Serling's narration that the astronauts are in a "far corner of the universe." When they land one says they're 655 million miles from Earth, which is somewhere between Jupiter and Saturn. Fine, we can accept that under the guise of creative license. But then they look up into the sky and see two suns. Houston, we've got a big problem.
But even if we are willing to ignore this due to creative license there's more. As the astronauts move about they see a number of people in everyday situations apparently frozen in time. We of course eventually find out why this is, and it is the most preposterous thing ever. (Spoiler Alert) What is the point of this cemetery? Why would anyone go to such lengths to be buried WHEN NO ONE WILL EVER SEE YOU IN YOUR RESTING STATE? You're dead, so you can't enjoy it, and no living person will ever go to it to appreciate it. I can just see the salesman for this operation: "Now when you die, we will transport your corpse to a place millions of miles from Earth, and pose you in whatever fashion you desire, to remain like that for all eternity, and for which no one, not even your loved ones, will ever see." To which everyone is apparently supposed to say,"Great! Sign me up!" Anybody willing to do this should have his head examined, preferably before he signs the contract.
It's a shame Serling didn't just put this script into a locked drawer and then pull it out 10 years later when doing Night Gallery. Then, he could have changed the setting to some remote island in the Pacific, and changed the three astronauts to sailors shipwrecked on the island. Had he done that I would have a much better appreciation for the story. But I wouldn't watch this version again, even if they gave me a free plot at Happy Glades.
Rockford is on his way to deliver $10,000 bail money to a client when his car develops problems somewhere out in the desert. He manages to limp into a small town, a town so small it doesn't have a bank, but it does have a land development company that has a safe. Jim talks the one remaining employee there into locking up his money for the night since it would be foolish to keep it with him overnight in a motel room. (Kind of makes you wonder why Jim would be transporting such a large sum of money himself (which would be equivalent to about $45,000 in today's money) instead of Wells Fargo. Or why they were ten $1,000 bills, when all bills over $100 had been withdrawn from circulation ten years beforehand. I know, we're not supposed to be asking questions...)
The next morning the money and the man he gave the money to have disappeared and Jim's in trouble. Since the land company director appears to be a part of the scheme and the local sheriff isn't interested in taking Rockford's story seriously, Jim decides to pull another con job of sorts. Here is the reason for my title of this review: In a story that appears to have been written specifically with Angel in mind, Angel is no where to be seen. Jim needs an inside con artist to infiltrate the company and he arranges for an old acquaintance named "Fast Harry" DeNova (Richard B. Shull) to come to town. Shull is excellent as the con man, but the whole time you're watching you can't help but ask yourself why he's here and not Angel. (One can only assume that Stuart Margolin was otherwise engaged and they couldn't change the production schedule to accommodate him.)
Rockgord gets into more trouble, of course, as the sleazy company director at first appears to return the lost money to Rockford, only to use it to frame him for murder. (The scene where Jim manages to escape from his jail cell is far too unrealistic to be believed and mars an otherwise excellent episode.) Rockford does clear his name and bring the bad guys to justice, somewhat fittingly in the desert, right in the middle of the future Blue Lake. (Just where did they expect to get the millions of gallons of water to create this lake?)
There's another odd plot point in this episode. After Jim gets stuck in the small town, Jim tries to call his trailer and talk to Rocky and explain why he won't be home that night. When Rocky answers the phone Jim asks him why he hadn't answered the phone, and Rocky says that he was tired of the client 's lawyer calling and asking where Jim is with the bail money. This makes no sense for two reasons. One, since one of the most famous things about the show was Jim's answering machine (it's played every time during the opening credits, it's not like it's something unknown to the viewer), why didn't Rocky just screen the calls and only answer when Jim called? Two, if Rocky didn't answer, why didn't he just leave a message on his answering machine? This whole thing would have made sense if it had taken place at Rocky's house. It almost makes you wonder if that had been the idea when the script was written but for some reason they filmed it at Jim's trailer. After all, they could have at least put something in the dialog that the machine was out of order. Or even better, have Rocky tell him that the machine was repossessed, since a running joke for him was his shaky finances.
Despite it's odd faults it's still a good episode, as every single actor delivers a fine performance. And as good an actor as Shull is, if you're like me, you'll saying to yourself, If only Angel had been there....
"We' Were On A Break!" or, Once Again Sorkin is Wrong
This episode exhibits so many of the traits that make an Aaron Sorkin show almost unbearable. Everyone talks like robots, acts like robots, emotes like robots, you almost wonder where Stanley Kubrick is. Among the many problems Sorkin has is his incessant need to make his characters jabber endlessly nonsensical stuff. Hence, you have to listen Dana's quest to buy a camera while she rattles off its specifications again and again; you have to listen to Jeremy apologize for the length of the show for his unwillingness to give blood. Okay, Jeremy, we get it, we get it, your sorry, you really wish you could give blood, you know it's for a good cause, but you just have a problem with giving it, you really wish you didn't, but you just can't help it, your sorry about it, and you insist on personally apologizing to everybody about it, and personally explain yourself to them for the purpose of making sure they understand your reason, that it isn't for a silly reason, that it's just something you can't bring yourself to do ...
If that last sentence had you pulling your hair out, join the club. Presumably Sorkin doesn't write this stuff because he thinks it's great material, but because he has to somehow produce enough lines of dialog to fill the show's allotted air time. That's a lot of incessant jabbering to have to sit through.
The other thing I wanted to point out was Sorkin's bone headed goof in the beginning. When Dan and Casey are talking about Napoleon, Dan says that Napoleon died on Elba. Casey (i.e. Sorkin) responds by saying that he is a Phi Beta Kappa, and therefore knows better than everyone else, and "corrects" him by saying he was really murdered on Elba. Wrong, wrong, and wrong. While Napoleon was initially exiled on Elba, he subsequently escaped, regained his throne, and then rather quickly lost the Battle of Waterloo. He was then sent to one of the remotest places on Earth, St. Helena, where he died 6 years later. In fairness to Sorkin (oh, how I hate to write that), since the show aired the theory that he was murdered (by arsenic poisoning) has been largely discredited. But he still got the Elba thing wrong. (But he's a Phi Beta Kappa! And he's smarter than everybody else!)
Ironside: Seeing Is Believing (1969)
Does one believe what one sees or sees what one believes? That is the question ...
After someone is killed in a bar, five barflies work with a sketch artist to produce a composite of the man they saw. It just so happens that the sketch of the killer bears a striking resemblance to Ed, that Ed doesn't have an alibi (he was off fishing by himself), and that Ed had a prior connection to the victim. This means Ed is suspect number one and it also means Ironside will move heaven and Earth to clear his name. Eventually the investigation leads to an unmarried woman and the man who apparently doesn't want to marry her. The woman in question is played by Anne Whitfield, (someone from my neck of the woods), and is another one of the sadly under appreciated actresses of that era. She really has far too little screen time in this episode. If you enjoy seeing her keep an eye out for her in the Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Nautical Knot" where she is better presented.
Will Ed go to the gas chamber? You'll never know unless you watch the show ...
But the one thing I have to point out is an error so bizarre that I had to rewind the VCR tape three times to be sure I wasn't seeing things. (Why yes, I do still use a VCR - doesn't everyone?) At the beginning there is an extended scene where the five barflies describe the killer in exacting detail to the police sketch artist. (It should be noted that in real life such sketches are usually fairly crude, not nearly as good as you see in these police shows.) All of the witnesses agree that the picture is correct in every detail. The police Lt. (played by Norman Fell, who would later become Mr. Roper in that annoying TV show Three's Company) thinks he recognizes the person and goes to compare the sketch with a photo of Ed. Here's where it gets bizarre: The person in the sketch has his hair combed left to right and Ed has always combed his right to left. (As it turns out the real killer combs his hair just like Ed does.) When the Lt. looks at Ed's picture, it's printed backwards, so that the sketch will match the bassackwards photo in his hand!! I cannot figure out how this happened. Did they deliberately print a backward photo so that the photo would match the bungled sketch? Or did someone give the artist the backwards photo to draw the sketch? Did the producer / director think that no one would ever notice? To be sure it's not enough that it ruins the program but things like this stick out like a sore thumb.
And I, for one, do not like a sore thumb.
Ironside: Love My Enemy (1969)
A story ripped from the headlines (or in today's world, the history books)
I really don't watch the Ironside reruns for entertainment value. I mainly just want to see some of the old time guest stars that are (unfortunately) largely forgotten today or because these episodes are a kind of cultural relic of those tumultuous times. (I never cared about the show as a teenager either.) But I'll pass along a couple of points anyway.
Ironside is called in to provide security for American diplomats who are engaged in unofficial negotiations to resolve a diplomatic incident. Mark goes along but Ed and Eve have to remain behind since card carrying policemen aren't allowed on the trip.
The story is about an informal negotiation about some American captives held by a Far Eastern country called "The Democratic People's Republic". There's only one country over there with a name like that and it's North Korea. Given the air date of this episode (October 1969), this story has to be based upon the Pueblo Incident, when the North Koreans seized an American boat, claiming it was a spy ship in N. Korean waters. The claim was bogus, of course, partly due to the fact N. Korea has always claimed territorial water far in excess of international agreements, and partly due to the fact their leaders have always been a couple degrees north of completely loony. The N. Koreans kept the American personnel captive for almost a year until releasing them in time for Christmas in 1968. They kept the boat and it remains to this day a museum dedicated to their courageous resistance against Yankee imperialism. (Yes, they are a funny bunch.) Pres. Johnson took a deliberately cool approach to the incident (after all, their actions constituted an act of war) because: a) we were knee deep in Vietnam (this coincided with the Tet Offensive); and b) the Korean War was technically still in effect, since no peace treaty has ever been signed, only a ceasefire, which no one was anxious to break (although no one really ever knows about the other side).
The actors who make up the "other side" are the typical lot one finds on American television, at least in those days. The fact that they are of different nationalities doesn't matter in TV even though in the real world it would. Philip Ahn is the only true Korean of the bunch who has relatively few lines for his part. James Shigeta is Japanese and never would have been allowed to be a part of the delegation for that reason (yes, they have racism over there too, especially since Koreans remember all too well the suffering under the Japanese occupation in WWII). Khigh Dhiegh, who built quite a career playing Chinese characters in movies and TV even though he wasn't Oriental at all. He was half Anglo and half Egyptian, but like many good actors, could overcome such limitations. (In today's politically correct world he probably wouldn't be allowed to play am Oriental.) The negotiations move along slowly (as they do in real life. For example, before the peace negotiations to end the Vietnam War even began, the negotiators haggled for YEARS over what shape the table that everyone sat around should be - should it be square or rectangular? Yes, Virginia, it does make a difference!) Everything goes wrong when Nam Feng (not a very Korean name) becomes gravely ill. Ironside quickly determines he was poisoned but he can't figure out who or why. By appealing to the integrity of his opposite number Hsai Mak (Khigh Dhiegh), he's able to find the murderer.
I can't help but mention one other mistake. The host of the event is a Baron Lars von Gyllenskjold (played by Bo Svenson). He was clearly supposed to be of some kind of Scandinavian descent but his last name is "von Gyllenskjold".The "von", which is German for "from", was used to indicate families that made up the Prussian aristocracy. I'd bet my last dollar there's no Prussian with a name like Gyllenskjold. Whoever came up with this character's name should have asked someone to double check it.
Overall I give this episode a 6 but only because the story fits my interests. For me a typical episode is a four at best.
The One Where Past-His-Prime Provenza Meets Past Prime Time TV Stars.
The episode starts with Provenza dealing yet again with the problems of getting on in years: his inability to shoot straight at the target range. (One could make this into some kind of Freudian thing but I won't go there.) If Proenza can't qualify with his gun then he'll be stuck at a desk which, for him, is as good as being retired. The impending case will reinforce this theme but will also help him find a way out.
The murder of an apartment landlord leads the team to a run-down apartment complex populated with the people who are retired from the TV business. The name of the complex, Lost Horizon, (which the residents also call Shangri-La) is from the movie of the same name and is no accident, since it fits in with the theme of Provenza's problem. (Interesting note: Sykes says that the victim had moved from "Carthay Circle" before moving into the complex. I don't know if it was intentional but that name is awfully close to Cathay, the ancient name for China, the place the people in Lost Horizon were traveling from when they found Shangri-La.)
And just in case we don't have enough TV and movie references as it is the residents provide many, many more. They are the retired crew members of a fictional TV series from the 1970s called "Prognosis: Homicide" (a show that sounds an awfully lot like the old "Quincy M.E."). They include (I'm mentioning them for anyone who hasn't seen the show) many a famous actor from years gone by: Marion Ross from Happy Days; Doris Roberts from Everybody Loves Raymond (an annoyingly insipid show - did it really take viewers NINE years to get tired of that family of incessant backbiters?); Ron Glass from the old Barney Miller show, where he played a pretentious detective who once wrote a book called "Blood on the Badge", a title I'm surprised no one has used for a movie title; Tim Conway, a hysterically comedic performer from The Carol Burnett Show; and Paul Dooley, someone who never really worked a lot on TV, preferring instead to work on stage and in movies.
Anyway the victim (who was initially presumed to have been a suicide but was actually poisoned) was the landlord of this complex. Since this is now a murder case they now have to figure out whodunit. The residents are the obvious suspects but they keep talking about someone they call Scarface (not a reference to the movie - just an apt description of him). When it turns out he has an alibi (a rather embarrassing tape of him in a karaoke contest) the attention goes back to one of the residents. (In a minor mistake the copy of his karaoke gig is on a DVD instead of something on YouTube. There is simply no way the sponsors of the contest would have produced a DVD like you buy in the stores in just a couple of days. I know, I know, it's creative license - but I can't help noticing little things like that.)
I won't give away the ending but I will make say something on another couple of things. When Tao looks at the "antique" video camera from the apartment's surveillance system, he says,"If you look through this lens you could probably see Barnaby Jones," a reference to another classic TV detective show from the 70s. When Dr. Morales provides vital evidence to the case he says he feels like Quincy "without the subtitles," because he grew up in Uruguay. As it turns out Jonathan Del Arco grew up in Uruguay and probably also watched the Quincy there, presumably with subtitles.
And yes Provenza does solve his problem, but in a somewhat unexpected way. You just can't keep a good man down.
First of all, they should have called it "Who Killed WHOM"; then they should have made sense of the script
Dragnet was supposed to be based on actual police cases and while most of the stories are believable, this one left me scratching my head. The beginning is plausible enough, with three murders at a boarding house. Friday and Gannon piece together the clues, including a cryptic gasp by one of the victims that sounds like "oft one". They eventually figure out what happens of course but the solution seems fairly incredulous.
I won't completely spoil the ending, but according to Friday, the killer somehow performs several physical acts that seem highly improbable: he climbs several flights of stairs, hides his gun, and changes his clothes. All of this was supposedly done while dying from a gunshot wound in his chest. The sure don't make criminals like that anymore.
If one can accept this, there is another problem for this case. After the police officers tell Friday & Gannon that they have made a thorough search of the building, they find the entrance to the previously undiscovered attic that should have been obvious to even the most cursory of searches. Did it never occur to anyone to see if the building had an attic?
I also wondered why the wounded man didn't leave a trail of blood straight to his deathbed. Someone else has posted a goof pointing out that the bullet hole in the shirt had no blood on it. This really isn't a goof since back then TV networks were loath to show blood, fearing it would offend viewers, especially since kids often watched this program. (Network censors were very skittish back then. Ever notice how the early episodes of MASH showed no blood when they operated on patients?)
As usual, the show tries to end on a high note with a bit of a joke, as someone arrives to deliver a new TV to the boarding house (an argument over the old TV being the cause of the murders). Based upon Fridays meticulous chronology of the case, the delivery would have been at around 10:00 P.M. Who delivers TVs that late at night?
Emergency!: Computer Terror (1976)
Some days it just doesn't PAY to be John Gage.
The main umbrella story in this episode is the computer error that over pays John by ten fold. His normal check is supposed to be for $596.10 but he (and things like this just seem to happen to John), gets a check for $5,9610.00 instead. Naturally John turns this into a major soap opera (does he cash it? does he just send it back to payroll and possibly wait several months before they finally pay him the right amount? where can he keep his check so that it will be safe? Oh, what to do!) I won't tell what he finally does but if you know John, you know when he tries to do something it usually backfires on him.
There are other rescues, of course. A hobo is nearly crushed to death while sleeping it off in the back of a car in a salvage yard; Roy ends up all wet when a mischievous Great Dane is too much to handle; and a man has to be rescued while precariously perched way up on a platform.
Whenever I watch old shows I try to calculate what the difference inflation has made on the value of money. After adjusting for inflation John's pay check would be equivalent to $ 2444.92 in today's (2013) dollars, which would therefore make his incorrect check worth almost $25,000. This was of course in the days before direct deposit. Imagine if you discovered your employer incorrectly deposited 25 grand into your bank account - would you be ecstatic or terrified? He also states that this is for two weeks, and assuming that this is the net amount, this would make his yearly net salary equivalent to a little over $63,000. What do paramedics make today?
This reminds me of a slightly different real life incident. Back in the late 1990s, a customer wrote an angry letter to an antacid company complaining about its product and demanding a refund. When the first letter went unanswered, he wrote again, and again, and again, until someone finally decided to cut him a check for his $1.98 just to shut him up. However, someone goofed and accidentally used his zip code (he lived near Seattle WA) for the dollar amount and sent him a check for more than $98,000. And yes, the guy cashed it and promptly disappeared. I still don't know how this story ended.
Let's hope John never wrote anyone demanding a refund...
Hawaii Five-O: The Ways of Love (1968)
Beyond here, there be plot holes ...
I'm mainly here to point out a few things that I noticed whilst watching this episode. I never much cared for the show as a kid and have only recently seen some re-runs. As such I tend to notice odd things and this episode has plenty of them.
The first oddity occurs during the opening scene, the car chase down a lonely highway. There is the usual problem of continuity, as the sunlight is first low in sky on the driver's side, then high overhead, and then on the passenger's side. One really can't fault them for this as TV shows are under enormous time pressure to complete their shots and they rarely have the time to do it perfectly right. This is even noticeable on big budget movies (like the the famous crop duster scene in North By Northwest). Besides, who notices such things, anyway? (Besides people with WAAAY too much time on their hands.) Another interesting thing from this sequence is when one shot shows the film crew silhouetted against the background when the cars pass by. This clearly was intentional - one of the crewmen actually waves as one of the cars passes! I wonder if anybody was fired for this unprofessional behavior. But since this is a TV show (where re-takes are extremely rare) they had to keep the shot. (The best example of this was an episode of The Wild Wild West where Robert Conrad split the crotch of his pants wide open and they didn't re-shoot it, even though his underwear was on full display.)
One of the things about McGarrett is the fact he is always in the middle of the action. This would never happen in real life since a person in his position would rarely leave office except for a meeting or lunch. I call this the Captain Kirk Syndrome (for want of a better term) because Kirk was always in the middle of everything even though he had no business doing it. (I always thought it was too illogical (as Spock would say) that the Captain would be so involved in routine matters). The TV reason for this is obvious since you have to have your lead star involved in the action as much as possible. There must have been other shows where this also happened but I can't think of one before Trek.
Anyway, Five-O needs an undercover guy to rub shoulders with the bad guy in his prison cell over in California. So naturally McGarrett goes - who else? Send Danno? Nah, Danno needs to stay put and do whatever it is that Danno does. It's not like they actually need McGarrett in his office in Hawaii. (Imagine the Governor's reaction when he finds out what's going on - 'McGarrett's doing what??!!') The prison he ends up in is a strange one as it is the quietest place on Earth (it must be all of those mellow Californians). When they are doing their scenes there it is so quiet you might think they are actually in a crypt. I can only remember seeing one other prisoner and that was when just his arm was sticking out of his cell. If you pay attention to their shirts you'll will notice that McGarrett and Barca have the same inmate number (18790)! I can't even begin to figure out how this could have happened. Maybe Californian jails give all of their inmates the same number?
Alas, the plot holes and bizarre happenings are still to come. When the two are on the way for their court appearances they are dressed in civilian clothes. But, you ask, aren't prisoners always dressed in their prisoner garb when they appear in court? Why, yes they are, but here they are in civilian clothes for the very reason this never happens in real life: to make it easier for them to mix in with the civilian population after they escape. (I remember once when I was driving down a highway somewhere years ago and every mile they had a sign on the side of the road telling drivers not to pick up hitchhikers - they might be escaped prisoners!) Of course this arrangement could have been prearranged by Five-O but Barca should have found this VERY strange and been leery about their "escape".
The other large plot hole was the ease with which they got a military flight to Hawaii. It's a clever idea to be sure but not as easy as they make it. Even with forged orders and uniforms they still have to have military I.D. (it's not like the military lets every Tom, Dick, and Harry come on board - they tend to frown on that kind of stuff). And of course McGarrett had to have a higher rank than Barca did. Do you think Jack Lord would have allowed the other guy to outrank him? Not on your life!
Once on the island the story becomes fairly conventional as McGarrett patiently waits, hoping that Barca will lead him to the stolen jewels. However, McGarrett does give Barca a little too much leeway while he beats his confederate Larsen and then shoots him. In a real life case this might have prevented a conviction. In those days the viewing public didn't care about legal technicalities - they just wanted the case solved - and TV writers were loath to make an issue of it. (A lot of Columbo's cases would not have gotten very far in the judicial system.) Police dramas have changed an awful lot in 40 years.
At least the episode doesn't ramble nearly as much as this review. Talk about high praise - 'the shows better than the review!'
Go light on the historical facts
The story is fairly typical of a Hogan storyline: The Germans store a secret weapon at Stalag 13 (in this case a barrel of heavy water) and Hogan manages to convince Klink that it's magic water from a fountain of youth in Norway. It follows the usual Hogan formula where Hogan tricks Klink into doing what he wants him to do (and look very foolish while doing it) without him realizing what Hogan's motive is.
The heavy water comes from a special plant located in Norway, the only one of it's kind in Europe. Heavy water differs from tap water in that it contains a neutron (which therefore makes it heavier than normal water). The heavy water is useful to produce enriched plutonium, a superior alternative to uranium. The US managed to produce enough plutonium to make its Nagasaki bomb using a much more difficult process. The Hiroshima bomb used the more conventional enriched uranium.
Contrary to popular belief, the Germans never tried to make an atomic bomb. (A high level conference after the war started ruled out the possibility of making one, so that vital resources were not wasted on a potentially fruitless project.) They did engage in basic research and explored the use of nuclear power to supply electricity for civilian uses but they never did anything like the American Manhattan Project, correctly realizing such a program was beyond their industrial capacity.
Hardly any of the heavy water from Norway made it to Germany. Allied saboteurs managed to destroy the plant and most of the stockpiled heavy water was sunk before it left Norway. But then Hogan's Heroes never really let historical facts get in their way. Nor should they have.
The Fugitive: The 2130 (1966)
Beware the machines ...
Unlike some Fugitive stories (well actually, all of them) which were pretty basic (Kimble meets a troubled person and tries to help him or her without also getting caught by the police), this one tries to do a little more, in that this one is more of an action oriented story. There's still a human interest aspect as Kimble is asked by his employer's daughter to take the blame for a fender she dented on her father's sports car. Kimble does so only to discover the girl had hit a pedestrian. (Wouldn't you would think that by now he would know better than to get involved in other people's problems?) When the police arrive Kimble splits. The father, a computer scientist with a super-duper computer, offers to help Gerard predict Kimble's movement and presumably effect his capture. Not surprisingly the computer is remarkably efficient in predicting Kimble's actions even though it couldn't have been so in real life (at one point it predicts Kimble will go cranberry picking in Portland, OR and sure enough that's exactly what he does). It's kind of interesting to see the computer set up (how many people today would even know why a card puncher or sorter is needed?) although the show's budget prevented them from doing a completely realistic set up (In those days computers were a massive affair requiring almost all of the available wall and floor space of a very large room.)
This episode, a break from the common Fugitive story, embraces a theme (man vs. machine) that would become a lot more common in other movies and TV shows in the years to come. The power of a computer is shown becoming "smart" enough to predict what a person would do if given enough information about the person. It kind of hard for people today to appreciate this since the state of the art computer system in this story seems almost as antiquated as a quill pen.
As I've said earlier the normal Fugitive story centers around somebody in trouble. In this one the troubled person is practically ignored, as she mainly appears at the beginning and end, and doesn't have the usual dramatic climatic confession we usually expect, since the 2130 is the center of this story. Is this the first time a computer (in a non science fiction genre) had such a prominent place in a TV episode?
The vagabond Kimble meets on the train is clearly meant to remind the viewer of Jack Kerouac. At first this person may seem like a completely unnecessary character dropped into the middle of the story. I think though he was meant to be a human counterpoint to the 2130, as he reads his probing (and correct) character analysis of Kimble, a nice contrast to the computer, with its cold sterile printouts on Kimble's movements. But in a case of it's-just-too-convenient-to-be-true, the discovery by the police of the nearly perfectly hand drawn sketch of Kimble in his notebook is too conveniently at the right time and place just to make the story work (if there had been no sketch, the cops would not have known Kimble had been there, which would have ended the chase right then and there.)
One other minor character is played by Don Mitchell, who would later become a star on the Ironside show, in one of his first roles. Mitchell is another one of a long list of talented actors who were sadly underused during their careers.
Finally I want to note that this episode was directed by Leonard Horn, one of those under-rated directors that never seemed to get the respect he deserved. His work is almost solely confined to television, and his feature film work was just a couple of low budget affairs. I suggest you try to keep an eye out for his name when you happen to watch old TV shows and see if he is more than just a run of the mill operator. TV directors often have little to work with and those with a little something extra make all of the difference, whether it coaxing better performances from actors or keeping the pace nice and tight so that the story doesn't bog down. It's a shame he died at a relatively young age.
What Is Going On Here? (or, The Strangest Donna Reed Episode Ever!); (or, McCarthyism Comes To Hilldale!)
First the recap (including a spoiler): Jeff is part of a group of three guys, one of whom has somehow rigged the school's bells to ring at the wrong time and thereby utterly disrupt the school. (Why Jeff is part of such a prank is the first bizarre aspect of this story.) The vice principal sees Jeff check his watch just before the bell goes off and assumes that he must know who is responsible. When Jeff fails to spill his guts he is suspended. Jeff then spends the next couple of days deciding what to do. He pretends to go to school as usual (for some reason the school doesn't notify his parents) but spends the day alone at the lake contemplating his actions. A family friend tells Alex about this, but instead of confronting Jeff, he decides to wait and let Jeff come to them when he's ready. This is truly odd behavior by his parents, completely out of character for them. As best as I can remember, (I was so flummoxed while watching this story I have trouble remembering the end) there is no real resolution to it. Jeff apparently never rats, his suspension isn't lifted, and he never explains to his parents what happened. All in all, a really strange episode.
Now the good part (my analysis): While the episode begins in a rather straight forward fashion (Jeff is part of a plot to sabotage the school's alarm bells so that they ring at odd times and therefore disrupt classes), it quickly veers off into some kind of bizarro world. For one thing, Donna and Alex are not notified by the school that Jeff is suspended. This may have been necessary for the sake of the plot since Alex and Donna spend most of the episode wondering what is bothering Jeff and why he is being seen at odd places like the local lake instead of where he really should be be, namely school. And of course instead of asking him they patiently wait for him to come to them. Is this how 1950s parents raised kids? (Where's June Cleaver when you really need her??) The other bizarre aspect to this episode is that Jeff and his friends actually committed a crime (breaking and entering and vandalizing school property come to mind) and NO ONE acts like this is a big deal. Had this happened in real life the police would have gotten involved. The point is is that Jeff's "prank" was something the show's writer's shouldn't have gotten into and picked something more benign. As it is, we have Jeff doing something patently illegal, with the school only suspending him, Donna and Alex acting like befuddled nitwits, and poor Jeff trying to figure out what to do.
Jeff's actions are the second issue here. Just what on Earth were these people thinking? Jeff's problem is a common enough thing - does he rat on his friends or does he do the right thing and tell what he knows. This particular dilemma is not a good one to use, since as I noted earlier Jeff and friends are guilty of an obviously criminal act, and not something more benign, like loosening the tops of the salt shakers in the cafeteria or something like that.
I couldn't help but think of Hollywood's counter-reaction to the McCarthy-inspired blacklisting that began in earnest in 1960. By the time this show was on, Hollywood was in full reverse mode trying to undo all the terrible things they had supposedly done during the '50s blacklist era. (I've also notice that at least one writer on the Donna Reed Show was a formerly blacklisted writer.) One can easily see poor Jeff symbolizing the plight of the Hollywood Ten, valiantly refusing to do the right thing and choosing instead to remain loyal to his friends. I personally have never understood this mentality as it is everyone's duty to tell what they know, even if it means implication friends or family.
That's why I find this episode of an otherwise excellent series (yes it's dated and yes the subject matter of it's stories is often trite) to be very odd. The way people behave in this episode is out of character and I can't help wondering if there is some agenda at work here. (Although I should also mention that in another episode Donna is shown reading a copy of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, something that I find VERY interesting.) If you haven't seen this one for yourself (or haven't seen in a long time) watch it and see if you don't agree with me that it's the strangest Donna Reed episode ever...
Cannon: The Sounds of Silence (1974)
Pretty Average and Slightly Odd ... Except for Leslie Charleson
This is kind of a hard episode to evaluate. It begins as a investigation of a man's disappearance, except for the fact that no one will admit he has in fact disappeared. Chris Brock is the man in question and Cannon has been hired by the man's fiancé Joan Stevens. Chris' father and business partners claim he has simply decided to go away on a vacation. His girlfriend, Joan, played by Leslie Charleson*, doesn't believe it because he didn't take his favorite stuffed animal (and no, I am not making that up). Cannon initially refuses to take the case (he thinks it's a simple family dispute) but changes his mind when the family chauffeur assaults her and steals her purse (to get the stuffed animal back, of course).
All of this requires some background exposition. The fiancé is a genius who became a chess grandmaster as a child, graduated from college as a teenager, and started a multimillion dollar business after that. Joan tells Cannon that Chris was abducted but the proof (she had found his room to be a total wreck) was in spotless condition when the police arrived. Joan is now treated by everyone as the jilted girlfriend who can't accept the fact that her boyfriend has dumped her.
Cannon does eventually get to the bottom of this case. Chris has suffered some kind of breakdown (a not uncommon trait of uber-geniuses) and regresses mentally to the state of a child. His father and business partners are hiding him away, keeping him out of the spot light since such a revelation like this would cause a stockholder panic and destroy the company. Dear ole dad tries to act like he is only concerned about his son's well being but we know better. (Whenever someone says it isn't about the money we all know it's really ONLY about the money). In any case, Cannon rescues the man-boy, who at this point has regressed to the age of an eight year old.
In the epilogue, Cannon and Joan visit Chris in the hospital (a public one at that - couldn't they have afforded a private clinic?) and he has improved to the level of a 14 year old. The doctors are confident he will make a complete recovery.
This episode does have a few oddities. How exactly does the title fit in? I really don't think it references the Simon and Garfunkel song of the same title made famous by "The Graduate". They may have simply tried to come up with one of Cannon's typically ominously sounding titles, like "A Touch of Venom", "Murder by Moonlight", and "He Who Digs a Grave", etc. Chris and Joan's relationship is somewhat odd, especially in the end at the hospital. He and Joan appear to still be boyfriend/girlfriend which raises some ethical questions which didn't appear to be of concern to the show's producers (unless everyone still assumed then unmarried people didn't have sex). Given Chris' mental state, should Joan be allowed around him? This show also assumes the same errant notion people have that chess prodigies are automatically brilliant people who are successful in everything they do. Just look at Bobby Fisher if you have any questions about that.
There are better Cannon episodes than this one unless you are an unrepentant Leslie Charleson fan. In which case, watch it again.
* Leslie Charleson is one of those actresses from the 70s that I can't understand why she didn't have a more substantial career. She worked fairly steadily, to be sure, but I'll never understand why she never landed a more substantial role (soap operas don't count), like a series regular (she would have been a great Pamela Ewing). Alas, too many people have eyes but cannot see ...