By season 2, Starsky and Hutch was starting to get its bearings and this is one of the finer episodes of the year, I think.. What's interesting is that it bears a striking resemblance to what happened in real life to 1920s actor Fatty Arbuckle, and how the public never forgave him even though it was never proved that he was guilty.
In this S&H episode, however, an actor with a similar fate as Fatty retaliates by killing off one by one his fellow actors and former friends and our two heroes need to find out who it is.. David Soul is at his best when they give him a bit part in the movie they are filming and his nervous and awkward antics are extremely funny.
The episode features superb performances by veteran actors Rory Calhoun (who has aged considerably since hunting Gilligan on the island 10 years earlier), Chuck McCann, a very young Jeff Goldblum, and even an appearance by Read Morgan who you might remember as the down on his luck baseball player in the 1959 Twilight Zone episode, "What You Need."
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Starsky and Hutch go undercover as stuntmen on a movie set to protect the movie star from an unknown assassin. The killer is a crafty former actor/comedian with a grudge, who can don disguises and has already killed most of the star's friends and fellow actors, making each killing look like an accident.
Starsky and Hutch could take some lessons from the killer about how to blend in when in disguise and undercover. As usual, as undercover stuntmen, they stand out in weird outfits (the feather in Hutch's hat bothers me so much) and bumbling ineptness. I suppose it's funny in a way, but I get tired of it. I really didn't like Hutch having to be so terrible when he is given a line to say in the movie. I suppose they, as actors, were having a bit of fun making fun of themselves as actors. OK, fair enough.
There were quite a few lines and situations in this movie within a TV show that were probably entertaining for the cast and crew of the show. PMG and DS get to say things like "We get to be actors?" and "I didn't know actors worked so late" and other things that had touches of irony. I have to think they enjoyed that. They also discuss the fleeting nature of fame with the movie star, which was also a bit of poignancy, considering PMG and DS were on the high cycle of fame at the time. I'm sure there were a lot of insider jokes going on in the filming of this episode. The show's real make-up artist, "Shotgun" Britton, has a speaking role, so you have to know they were all goofing a lot with this show. Who knows how many other thing were going on in this show within a show.
A reoccurring theme that comes up in this episode is the troubled bad guy. There seems, especially in Season 2 of this show but also quite often in 70s cop drama, to be this concept of the mentally or emotionally damaged criminal who is not completely responsible of his actions, and for whom we should feel pity. I've lost count of how many times Starsky and Hutch have lowered their weapons against a gun-toting perp, because they think they can reason with him and talk him out of his evil intentions, because he's really just misunderstood or maybe having a bad day. These days it's hard to imagine cops in such a scenario; anyone holding a gun, or anything that looks anything like a gun, is shot twenty times before he can blink. It's interesting to consider how these conceptions have changed through the years. Starsky and Hutch is a microcosm of our ideas of law and order, crime and justice, as they existed at that time. It's curious how things have changed; our thoughts on these matters haven't quite gone on the trajectory you might have expected they were going to go in 1979. Or maybe they have.
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