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Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Big Four (2013)
Season 13, Episode 2
7/10
The problem of timing
2 August 2019
Agatha Christie wrote her Hercule Poirot stories from 1920-1975 but the famous TV series starring David Suchet tried to film most of the episodes as if they were taking place in a specific time period in the mid 1930's. This creates a problem when they take a novel written by Christie in 1927 and transfer it to the 'eve' of World War II. The main characters look so much older than they do in the hour long episodes of the first 6 seasons not because the characters would have actually aged that much from the time period in which those episodes were set but because the actors themselves have aged a quarter of a century since they first started filming the series in 1988. The result is a ridiculous 'reunion' between characters who would have been working together just a short time before with their ages being inexplicably advanced. Why, oh why didn't they just film the stories in the sequence they were written and set then in the time in which they were written?
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Law & Order: Aria (1991)
Season 2, Episode 3
8/10
She didn't want to do it but you'll want to see it
29 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
A haunting episode that anticipates Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In this one the regular cops and lawyers have to deal with a show-business addicted mother who pushed her favorite daughter into pornography just because it could make her a 'star'. Maura Tierney players her other, neglected daughter, who co-operates with the cops to bring justice to her sister (and herself). The mother, played by Marilyn Rockafellow is both dreamy and steely at the same time, determined to maintain her delusions as a protective shield against reality. But the star of the show is Mary B. Hall, who appears only at the beginning and at the end, in video tape viewed posthumusly, in which tearfully pleads with her mother to "stop the train" and let her off as her mother stares at the screen in admiration for the performance her beloved daughter is giving.

By the way, per "Law & Order The Unofficial Companion" by Kevin Courier and Susan Green, Tovah Feldshuh is playing "probate lawyer". She's never referred to as Danielle Melnick during the episode and seems to have a much more restrained personality and chummier relationship with Ben Stone than we see in the episodes in which she plays Melnick, (the first of which was a season later: "Helpless" 11/4/92). Jerry Orbach played a defense attorney named Frank Lehrman in the episode before this. The character Feldshuh plays in this episodes might not be Melnick, even though she's also an attorney. .
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Route 66: Child of a Night (1964)
Season 4, Episode 13
7/10
1/3/64: Child of a Night
25 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This one seems to be a sort of sequel to my all-time favorite episode of this or any other series, "The Mud Nest" form season 2. The boys are in Savannah, Georgia, where they witness the crash of a small plane. They pull the dying pilot, (Herschel Bernardi) out and he gives them $38,000 in cash, saying to give it to a child he fathered by a waitress in Savannah a generation before. Once again, Linc is the idealistic one that wants to go through with it. Tod is more practical, thinking they should report the money and go through the Bureau of Missing Persons, (as he and Buz did in The Mud Nest). Instead they get a local lawyer who helps them much in the way Edward Asner's BMP operative did in the prior episode.

They find a troubled youth played by Daniel J. Travanti, (two decades before "Hill Street Blues"). They also find the waitress, (Sylvia Sydney, (who had also been in the poignant first season episode "Like a Motherless Child"), which could have been the title of this one), who is in the country home. They bring them together in a scene that has some superficial resemblance to the climactic scene of "The Mud Nest". Instead of being poetic and touching, this scene is bitter and angry. He's not the child and lashes out at Sydney, expressing his hatred of his own mother who abandoned him and her because she abandoned her child. The one is over much more quickly than in "The Mud Nest". The boys eventually find their query, a young businesswoman who thinks she is the natural child of the family that raised her. That family doesn't want to hurt her by telling her what actually happened. It's a strong episode but not the equal of "The Mud Nest". Nothing is.
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Rear Window (1954)
10/10
A World of Its Own
10 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
It was Fred Astaire who discovered that you have to photograph dancers with a static camera because dancers move and a moving camera reduces movement. Most of Alfred Hitchcock's films, (although not all: see ROPE) are like a game of billiards. The characters are like billiard balls moving all over the table and colliding with each other until they all meet at the finale. But here the camera is static and it is the world that moves. What comes out is not simply the story, but all the details- all the stories. The result is a moment in time- a few days in the courtyard of a New York City apartment building in the sweaty summer of 1954- captured forever and most vividly. How many details and how many human stories do you see in FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, SABUTEUR, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH or NORTH BY NORTHWEST? Just the one. When you watch those films you are in an audience in a theater, watching a story played out on the screen. Here you see it all. You are in the movie. Remembering REAR WINDOW is like remembering something that you witnessed yourself- something that actually happened to you, not just a movie you watched. The result is not just Hitchcock's greatest film but one of the greatest films ever made.

The marvelous detail of this film is just amazing. Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly are legends of the cinema and Thelma Ritter, Wendell Corey and Raymond Burr are actor's actors. But the real star is the set, a world unto itself. And the photography of that set, all that was needed to allow us to see into the rooms clearly- it's amazing stuff, (the lighting needed was so hot it set off the sprinkler system). But even better than that is the sound. It's not all just flat on the soundtrack, like actors in a dubbing session. Like good radio drama, it recognizes that people who are some distance away sound different. The voices coming from across the courtyard are just perfectly done and do more than even the camerawork to "put you there".

The musical score for this film is not a film score at all- it's the music of these people, also heard across the courtyard. We hear the composer composing his song. We don't hear him doing it in five minutes, as we have heard in all the musicals. Instead it evolves over time. The dramatic piano cords he plays underscore the drama to come. We also hear some opera music that does the same. Everyone seems to have their own music-everyone except Thorwald, the murderer. And what a brilliant touch it is to make the murder a pathetic man, instead of some brilliant mastermind. In the end, he is one of us, as well, in a twisted way.

I can't think of another movie that creates a world so vivid for the audience to live in. ROPE was strictly about the action in the apartment. The view out the window is just a painted backdrop. Maybe a better comparison could me made to DEAD END, but as good as that film it's not really the same. Our perspective changes too much. Perhaps my favorite scene in REAR WINDOW is the one moment, (seconds, really), the perspective does change. It's when Jeffries is struggling with Thorwald and everyone in the apartment house looks in the direction of his apartment for a change. Now there's a twist!
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7/10
Could have used a spoonful more
5 January 2019
I was 10 years old when the 1964 movie came out - the perfect age to enjoy it to its fullest. I became an instant Julie Andrews fan and have been ever since. Dick Van Dyke was wonderful and Mathew Garber and Karen Dotrice, (especially Karen) are about the two curtest kids I've ever seen. It was fun and exciting and I've owned a DVD of it for years, which I re-watched the night before seeing the new film.I went into the theater humming the songs in my mind and hoped very much to see a worthy sequel. I teared up when Mary Poppins descended from the sky. She was back and so was my childhood! (And that's the point of the whole thing.)

I would call it a worthy effort that comes up a bit short, (But how could it hope to match the original?). The casting of Marry Poppins was critical, of course. She's not supposed to age so Julie couldn't play her again. I'm not sure who is around today that could have matched her or exceeded Emily Blunt's effort. Blunt just doesn't shine through the screen as Julie did. Instead of the megawatt smile, she has a sort of sly look. She goes expressionless when she doesn't have the line whereas Julie listened to and responded what each character said. Blunt's singing is OK. I agree with most that the songs didn't measure up. they weren't bad but I was still humming the old ones as I left the theater. Lynn-Manuel Miranda is fine as Jack, a replacement for Van Dyke's Bert. The Lamplighter's dance is an homage to the chimney sweep number in the original but, like most things in this film, it's not quite as good. Ben Whishaw is OK as the worried grown-up Michael and Emily Mortimer perfect as the grown-up Jane, now a labor organizer as her mother was a suffragette. Mortimer looks almost exactly like Karen Dotrice who shows up in a brief scene playing another character. Meryl Streep shows up as a lady in an upside down house, essentially replacing Ed Wynn. Colin Firth is fine as the villainous banker. But Dick Van Dyke steals the show as the now elderly son of the old banker he played in the first film, even doing a brief but complicated dance number. At age 93, he had to put on make-up to appear old enough! They asked Julie Andrews to play the balloon lady at the end I would have loved to see her make an appearance but she felt she would have been a "distraction". I disagree. It was just what the film needed at that time. I love Angela Lansbury, who might have played Mary Poppins had Julie turned the part down, and she does very well. But I and everyone else wanted to see Julie in that role. There would have been an ovation at her appearance.

One problem is that they introduce the serious plot about losing the house early on and the silly adventures Mary takes the new Banks children on seem superficial as a result. It would have been better to leave that potential disaster until the later part of the film. The real point of Mary Poppins is that children should have fun and adults should stay in touch with their inner child and thus relate to their outer ones.
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8/10
A powerful story about powerful women
28 December 2018
I'm shocked at all the negative reviews I see here. they seem to focus on the ahistorical meeting of the two queens and the use of black and Asian actors in some of the roles. The first is about dramatic license, something frequently used in historical movies, including the 1971 version of this story. Any competent dramatist is going to want his two antagonists to confront each other and I think it's forgivable. As to the second, I recall Kenneth Branagh did the same thing when he cast Denzel Washington in "Much Ado About Nothing" a generation ago, saying that black actors should be able to play Shakespearean roles besides just Othello. Josie Rourke, the director of this film, must have had the same idea.

Like several of the reviewers here, I decided to see this and "The Favourite", a different story but also a story of women running Great Britain, abit a century and a half later. That film is highly praised and also has good performances, but i enjoyed this one better. It was more serious, less saucy and had, (easily) a better and clearer ending, (you can't top a beheading for that).

The production values, as many have mentioned are good but it's the two lead performances that count. Saoirse Ronan, when her hair is wept back, looks something like Meryl Streep and seems to be on that kind of career path. She is regal and fiery, yet fun-loving and fearful and dominates every scene she is in. The roles I've seen Margot Robbie in are either as a sex-pot or a cartoon character but she gives us a memorably neurotic but sympathetic Elizabeth. they are the reasons to see this movie and they are very good reasons, indeed.
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Magnum, P.I.: Novel Connection (1986)
Season 7, Episode 8
Cross-over Cross-up
30 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I've just watched this episode of Magnum PI, (not a show I watched much), and it's second part, which appeared on Murder She Wrote, (one of my favorites), which was entitled "Magnum on Ice" and I was disappointed, (to put it mildly) with what Magnum PI did to the ending of their segment in the version I saw, which was altered for syndication and for the DVD I was watching, (which was from the boxed set of Murder She Wrote's third season).

A hit man is threatening one of Higgins' several female guests, which include Jessica Fletcher. Jessica and Magnum get off to a bad start with Thomas presenting himself as a professional who should handle everything. At the end of the episode, as shown in the intro to the MSW finale, Magnum shoots the hit man but the hit-man's gun somehow disappears and he's found to have been shot in the back. A police Lieutenant who doesn't like Magnum arrests him for murder. He winds up in jail. He doesn't like it but now Jessica is his best hope for getting out of jail.

MSW got the right to add the Magnum episode to their DVD as a bonus. But the Magnum people wanted the first episode to be a stand alone for syndication and later the DVD so a phony scene was shot with Magnum and Higgins talking about how Magnum has killed the bad guy and his employer has confessed and Jessica and the other ladies have returned to the mainland after realizing that Jessica was wrong in her theories of the case. Magnum is not in jail at all. This ending makes Jessica look like an idiot.

There ought to be agreement when cross-overs are done that the episode of the other series should be made available for syndication and DVDs of each show so viewers can see these episodes as they were intended to be seen, instead of creating a false ending that makes the star of the other show look bad.

Interestingly, the original Hawaii Five-0 had two episodes where McGarrett teams up with a middle-aged female mystery writer, (played by Mildred Natwick) to solve cases, (Frozen Assets 3/30/78, and The Spirit is Willie, 1/25/69). In one epsilon she's trying to find out how an old friend died and in another she's trying to find out what happened to her niece's husband. Either could easily be a Murder She Wrtoe- Hawaii Five crossover if the shows had been contemporary and both were better than this mish-mosh.
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Murder, She Wrote: Menace, Anyone? (1986)
Season 2, Episode 20
Whither Betsy?
20 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This episode ends without a confrontation between Jessica and the murderer. Instead the confession comes from her father, played by Van Johnson, who simply says she's home and describes her mental illness that led her to commit the crime. There's even a flashback sequence depicting the crime where the murderer is shown only from the waist down, making it likely that a stand-in for Betsy Russell, who plays the character, was doing the enacting of the murder.

There's got to a be a backstory to this. Did Betsy, (an old crush of mine from her 80's films), walk off the set? Did she become ill? Her promising career took a bit of a nosedive right around this point, although her marriage two years later might have caused her to put it on the back-burner.

The final scene would have had a lot more to it if she had appeared in it. it would have been a major acting opportunity for her, playing an unbalanced murderer, forced to confess. The ending to this episode wasn't so much confusing as it was limp, because of the lack of the confrontation with the murderer.

Something happened here and I wonder what.

(I would love to have put this on a MESSAGE BOARD so there could be a discussion about it.)
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The Racket (1951)
The Racket and Horizons West
25 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
These two Robert Ryan movies form the early 50's would make a great double-feature. Both are good movies full of faces that would become familiar on television in the coming years.

A comparison of the two movies is also interesting The Racket was done for Howard Hughes' RKO studio. Horizons West was a Universal picture. Both had famous directors, John Cromwell, (supplemented by several others, including Nicholas Ray) and Bud Boetticher. The Rackett is a re-working of a successful play and movie from the 1920's with a screenplay by WR Burnett, (High Sierra among others). Horizons West is done by Louis Stevens, a veteran writer of movie westerns, (this appears to be his best work).

Ryan is the main "bad guy" in both movies but in each case, he's much more complex than that. His Nick Scanlon in The racket is violent and intimidating, almost reptilian. He's fully formed as a heavy from the moment we meet him. But we find out he either grew up with or went to school with Robert Mitchum's police Captain: in the grand tradition, they came from the same background but went in different directions. We also learn that Ryan sent his now troublesome younger brother to college to keep him out of the rackets. He clearly doesn't think much of the crooked politicians and new "corporate" crooks that are running things. And in the end, his revenge is to "tell the voters to vote for the honest politicians". Underneath the violence, he has a certain integrity. Something- we never learn what turned him against society while Mitchum remained well-adjusted and on the right side of the law.

In Horzions West, Ryan starts out being a good guy, or at least not a bad guy yet. He comes home from the Civil War with his brother, (Rock Hudson), and a loyal friend named "Tiny", (James Arness). As they arrive in Texas, they have a conversation about the future. Arness wants to raise his family. Hudson wants to work the family ranch, just like before. Ryan shows a harder edge. He wants to make it big. They arrive in town, (Austin) to see that Yankees carpetbaggers have made it big. Ryan ties to associate with them but gets on the wrong side of Burr in poker game and is on the outside looking in. He organizes a band of out-of-work soldiers and deserters into a cattle rustling operation and establishes connections with a Mexican military officer who is running a crooked operation across the border. Eventually he gets even with Burr, who is killed. And has an affair with Burr's pretty young wife, (Julie Adams). In the beginning our sympathy is with him but as he grows more and more powerful, he becomes more ambitious and ruthless, which makes him too many enemies and causes his eventual downfall.

In Horizons West, Hudson becomes the town sheriff and has to take on his brother, thus paralleling the Ryan-Mitchum relationship in The Racket. In that film, Ryan killed a policeman played by William Tallman, who became famous as Hamilton Burgers on Perry mason. In Horizons West, he kills Hudson's deputy, who is played by Jim Arness, soon to be famous as Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke. William Conrad, radio's Matt Dillon, appears as a corrupt policeman in The Racket. That film has two actors from Perry mason, the other being Ray Collins, who played Lt. Tragg. Horizon's West has two actors form Gunsmoke, with Dennis Weaver playing a very un-Chester-like gunman. Both films have a heavy dose of corrupt public officials. Both of them have a major movie star to face off against Ryan, although Rock Hudson was early in his career and never became the dramatic force Mitchum was. But Ryan dominates every scene he's in, no matter who is in it with him.
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Horizons West (1952)
The Racket and Horizons West
25 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Both are films made by Robert Ryan in the early 50's and they would make a terrific double feature.

A comparison of the two movies is also interesting The Racket was done for Howard Hughes' RKO studio. Horizons West was a Universal picture. Both had famous directors, John Cromwell, (supplemented by several others, including Nicholas Ray) and Bud Boetticher. The Rackett is a re-working of a successful play and movie from the 1920's with a screenplay by WR Burnett, (High Sierra among others). Horizons West is done by Louis Stevens, a veteran writer of movie westerns, (this appears to be his best work).

Ryan is the main "bad guy" in both movies but in each case, he's much more complex than that. His Nick Scanlon in The racket is violent and intimidating, almost reptilian. He's fully formed as a heavy from the moment we meet him. But we find out he either grew up with or went to school with Robert Mitchum's police Captain: in the grand tradition, they came from the same background but went in different directions. We also learn that Ryan sent his now troublesome younger brother to college to keep him out of the rackets. He clearly doesn't think much of the crooked politicians and new "corporate" crooks that are running things. And in the end, his revenge is to "tell the voters to vote for the honest politicians". Underneath the violence, he has a certain integrity. Something- we never learn what turned him against society while Mitchum remained well-adjusted and on the right side of the law.

In Horzions West, Ryan starts out being a good guy, or at least not a bad guy yet. He comes home from the Civil War with his brother, (Rock Hudson), and a loyal friend named "Tiny", (James Arness). As they arrive in Texas, they have a conversation about the future. Arness wants to raise his family. Hudson wants to work the family ranch, just like before. Ryan shows a harder edge. He wants to make it big. They arrive in town, (Austin) to see that Yankees carpetbaggers have made it big. Ryan ties to associate with them but gets on the wrong side of Burr in poker game and is on the outside looking in. He organizes a band of out-of-work soldiers and deserters into a cattle rustling operation and establishes connections with a Mexican military officer who is running a crooked operation across the border. Eventually he gets even with Burr, who is killed. And has an affair with Burr's pretty young wife, (Julie Adams). In the beginning our sympathy is with him but as he grows more and more powerful, he becomes more ambitious and ruthless, which makes him too many enemies and causes his eventual downfall.

In Horizons West, Hudson becomes the town sheriff and has to take on his brother, thus paralleling the Ryan-Mitchum relationship in The Racket. In that film, Ryan killed a policeman played by William Tallman, who became famous as Hamilton Burgers on Perry mason. In Horizons West, he kills Hudson's deputy, who is played by Jim Arness, soon to be famous as Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke. William Conrad, radio's Matt Dillon, appears as a corrupt policeman in The Racket. That film has two actors from Perry mason, the other being Ray Collins, who played Lt. Tragg. Horizon's West has two actors form Gunsmoke, with Dennis Weaver playing a very un-Chester-like gunman. Both films have a heavy dose of corrupt public officials. Both of them have a major movie star to face off against Ryan, although Rock Hudson was early in his career and never became the dramatic force Mitchum was. But Ryan dominates every scene he's in, no matter who is in it with him.
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The Defenders: The Broken Barrelhead (1962)
Season 1, Episode 32
Money can't buy everything
12 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A very young Richard Jordan is hot-rodding with a couple of friends when a group of hunters step out onto an otherwise deserted road. Three people are killed and Jordan goes on trial. His father, (Harold J. Stone), is a highly successful businessman who has always done whatever is necessary to ensure his won success. He hires the Prestons to defend his son, then offers to back the DA in a run for Congress and finally bribes a juror.

Lawrence has to figure out what to do. The first trial was a hung jury due to the bribed juror. if he reports what he knows, the second trial would be conducted in a hyper-charged atmosphere in which the jury would resent the defendant's status as a rich kid whose father tries to buy his freedom. If he doesn't report it, he could be up for discipline before the bar. Kenneth urges his father to look out for himself but Lawrence feels his ultimate responsibility is to his client.

Meanwhile Jordan is getting sick of being a rich kid and having his father pull all the strings in his life. Another good "What would you do" episode that leaves you thinking, which is what this series is famous for.
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The Defenders: Along Came a Spider (1962)
Season 1, Episode 31
A not-so-bad seed
11 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A man is killed and his 9 year old daughter shockingly accuses her grandfather of the crime, saying she saw what happened. The old guy, a former Vaudeville comic with a a joke or story for everyone, seems like the nicest guy in the world. Even his daughter, (now a widow) can't believe it. But circumstantial evidence piles up: Grampa and Daddy were arguing about his living with the family. Daddy was killed by being bludgeoned with a trophy grandpa once won. And the people Grandpa says will give him an alibi, (some other Vaudvillians at a place they hang out, can't vouch for his being there at the time of the crime.

Lawrence Preston has to try to break down the girl's story in court, which makes him seem like a cruel guy but it would be more cruel to let his client be found guilty and possibly executed if her story is wrong.

He succeeds in demonstrating the girl made her story up through a clever procedure. The judge and prosecutor let her off without prosecuting her for perjury. Grandpa forgives her and all is well. One question remains unanswered or even addressed: who did kill Daddy?

The most memorable thing is a splendid performance by young Leslye Hunter as the girl. it's so good she's kind of creepy like the child in "The Bad Seed". Maybe she did it? But we never find out, due to the 'happy' ending.
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The Defenders: The Benefactor (1962)
Season 1, Episode 30
Oh pardon me thou bleeding piece of earth
10 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of those episodes that made this show famous. They take on abortion, which was illegal at the time except where the mother's life was in danger. It's surprisingly sympathetic for the time toward the abortionist and his 'victims'. (Compare this episode to Detective Story 1951). Robert F. Simon, who normally plays garrulous types, is a gentle, idealistic surgeon motivated by the death of his own daughter, whose epitaph is in my title. We are also provided with some amazing statistics: in 1962, (when this was shown), per a witness, 1 in 10 unmarried women were becoming pregnant. There were 6000,000 unmarried pregnant women each year and 9 of 10 got illegal abortions! 175,000 such abortions were done on teenagers.The show makes a strong case that these women would be better off having legal abortions with good doctors in the best of circumstances.

Simon's character makes two claims I disagreed with, one of which I had never heard before. he alleges that the life of an aborted child would be inevitably so unpleasant that it would not be worth living, (so it's OK- even good- that they aren't born), and that it's crueler to have women give birth and then give their babies up for adoption than it to abort them so that they never see the baby to begin with. Maybe it is but there's a lot of assumptions there.
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The Defenders: Reunion with Death (1962)
Season 1, Episode 29
"The Rack" revisited
10 October 2016
Paul Newman first became a star when he played Rockey Graziano in Somebody Up there Likes Me in 1956 but he solidified his status with his next film that year, The Rack, playing a Korean War veteran who cracked under psychological torture by the Communists. This episode of the Defenders may have been partially inspired by that.

It's another Kangaroo Court story as Lawrence Preston is called to a hotel room by a group of veterans to offer legal advice on creating a veteran's organization. Their real purpose is to assist them in putting one of their members on trial to see who cracked and told the Commies where the partisan group they were delivering supplies to would meet them. Preston reluctantly agrees to help when the accused says he wants to go through with it to clear himself. This produces a strange scene where the man at first tries to escape and then announces his desire to be tried in the next breath. It's not a very convincing set up but the resulting drama is very good, with a couple of good twists at the end.

The underlying theme is that all men have their limits and how can we judge them when we don't know our own? As usual, there's a cast full of familiar faces, with Lee Philips, (the movie version of Peyton Place), Robert Weber, (another alumni of the movie version of Twelve Angry Men), H. M. Wynant, Woodrow Parfey, Michael Conrad, (much later of "Hill Street Blues"), and, in a brief turn as a waiter, a very young Gene Wilder, RIP.
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The Defenders: The Naked Heiress (1962)
Season 1, Episode 28
The not so blue angel
7 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A college professor has become infatuated with an ecdayist and, in a drunken stupor has signed a paper prepared by her manipulative mother leaving her his estate, which had been promised for a scholarship fund for his university. the man tries to stagger home but fell in front of a subway train and the young stripper is suddenly worth $185,000. The school hires the Prestons to make a case against the new will.

Both Prestons are initially in contempt of the stripper and her mother, viewing them as gold-diggers. They are right about the mother but not about the daughter, a sensitive, intellectually curious young woman who was forced into her sleazy profession by her avaricious mother and who was legitimately in like with the professor and perhaps more than that because he introduced her to a new world and other possibilities.

Ken falls for the young woman while his father remains contemptuous- until the climatic hearing when she rebels against her mother.
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The Defenders: The Tarnished Cross (1962)
Season 1, Episode 26
Star chamber
6 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The Prestons are visiting a school to give the head of it an award for his creation of a student government that has given local youths a greater sense of responsibility. it's worked to the extent that they blunder into a court hearing set up in the gym to try one of their members for murder.A well-liked janitor was murdered a couple of nights before and the student was seen sneaking into the guys' apartment and later found in possession of a "zip" gun and a cross the old man had insisted was worth $500 because it was covered in gold.

the accused is played by a young Martin Sheen, making his second appearance on the show. the prosecutor is an equally young Ken Kershival of "Dallas. The judge is a young Barry Primus, who has been seen in many shows. A witness is played by an even younger Luke Halpin, later the older boy on Flipper. That, of course, is one the joys of the series- seeing actors who later became famous in their earliest roles. it's also a strong drama, with Lawrence and Kenneth Preston eventually taking over and showing the boys that, while their intentions are good, they are not yet ready to make such judgments.

Particularly effective is the opening sequence, which shows the students silently taking over the gym and setting things up for something but we don't know what - until Sheen realizes that these people intend to kill him.
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The Defenders: The Last Six Months (1962)
Season 1, Episode 27
Don't let the door hit you on the way out
6 October 2016
In an effective opening, Arthur Hill, (we only hear his voice in this scene: it's subjective camera), is told my his doctor that he's got 6 months to live. He marches out of the doctor's office, into the street. he contemplates suicide by stepping in front of a car but thinks better of it. Instead he goes to the office of his business, a partnership. he tells his partner what his prognosis is and asks him to agree to pay his family $500/mth after he dies. the partner refuses and Hill strangles him in a cold rage. it was Hill who created and built up the business and then brought this man on as a partner, who will now own the whole thing. His fortunate partner won't even lift a finger to help the founder's family and now he can't lift a finger to do anything.

the prosecutor, (J. D. Cannon) wants to skip the trial and just let the guy die in jail without putting him through it. What Hill doesn't know is that there's a law that he can't profit from committing a crime: his family can't inherit the business, (the partner had no family). Ken Preston takes up his case and tries to prove him innocent, claiming he didn't know what he was doing and is not responsible for his own actions.

A decade alter, Arthur Hill was playing a lawyer himself on Owen Marshall. In October, 1962, Arthur Hill really made his name when he created the role of George in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" on Broadway.
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The Defenders: The Iron Man (1962)
Season 1, Episode 25
One of the episodes that made this show famous
5 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This show made it's name by taking on controversial topics, although most of their episodes don't really fall in that category. For years the only peek we had of the show were pixel-challenged clips of this episode on You-Tube, (they seem to have disappeared but now there is the DVD).

The Prestons are asked to defend a neo-Nazi student who was making a speech on campus and a young man who started heckling him gets badly beaten up by the youthful Fuhrer's followers. The DA wants the boss and offers a deal to the guys who actually did the roughing up to be witnesses against their leader. The DA admits to Preston that his contempt for the leader, (Ben Piazza) has impacted his judgment on how to handle the case.

The Prestons themselves are being pressured by other clients to drop the case and Ken wonders why they are doing it. It all results in a dramatic hearing in the victim's hospital room where Lawrence demonstrates, even to the victim, that the speech in and of itself, was not the cause of his injuries and that to send the speaker to prison would be wrong, regardless of what he was saying. if we bend the law to lash out at those we disagree with, we are descending to their level.

The subject is right-wing extremism but it can easily be seen as an indictment of the reaction to left-wing extremism that was seen in the previous decade. The issues would be the same. Lawrence Preston achieves a victory of sorts when Piazza admits he's not sure of what to think about what has transpired and even thanks the court for being fair to him. maybe there is hope.
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The Defenders: The Hickory Indian (1962)
Season 1, Episode 24
Double Extortion
3 October 2016
George Voskovec, still another alumni of 12 Angry Men, shows up as the uncle of a pair of brother who run a business in the garment district. They have been threatened by an extortionist and Voskovec steals money from their safe to pay the gangster off, remembering what happened when he didn't do it when running in his business. His nephews refuse to prosecute but a state-appointed prosecutor insists on doing so to force Voscovec to testify against the extortionist. He refuses to do so to protect his family and is thus caught in between.

Lawrence Preston steps in to help the man. He's equally disgusted by both forms of extortion: the illegal and the legal. Complicating his situation is that the special prosecutor is his old law professor, who he has always venerated but now opposes, not just in court but, vehemently, in private discussions. it drives a wedge between the men. The old professor is played by Larry Gates, who was actually a year younger than E. G. Marshall but is made up to look older, (and do i detect an attempt to make E. G. look slightly younger to aid in the deception?)

One of the stronger episodes.
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The Defenders: The Crusader (1962)
Season 1, Episode 23
Small Towns
3 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Kenneth Preston is at a prison to talk to a client and sees a man, (Warren Stevens), break down after being denied parole. he claims to be innocent of assault and rape. Kenneth decides to to represent him on his own, with Dad on the sidelines giving advise. Other than Steven's emotional collapse, ken has nothing to go on or any reason to believe the guy is innocent.

But the whole thing unravels very neatly after a chance remark opens the way. it all ends in a dramatic, if informal hearing where the real culprit is identified and the victim's culpability revealed. The willingness of the people of a small town to believe one of their own and let an outsider take the blame is a key factor.

Two things I didn't understand: an affidavit from a psychiatrist who was treating the victim: doesn't doctor-patient privilege apply here? And why does the judge, after Stevens is shown to be fully innocent announce that he's being "pardoned"?
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The Defenders: The Empty Chute (1962)
Season 1, Episode 22
Preston without a parachute
2 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
An Army captain jumps from a plane and his chute comes out broken because the lines have been cut. He dies and the man who packed it, (Michael Strong, (normally a bad guy), is blamed because he ahd a grudge against the Captain and had made threats. Motive and opportunity.

Preston's situation is complicated as the prisoner asked for him after reading about him in a magazine and he is displacing a veteran Army counsel, (Chester Morris), who agrees to help but is resentful and questions Preston's tactics.

the biggest problem is that they really need an alternative suspect and there doesn't seem to be one, until they realize who else could have cut the cords.

The solution seems obvious before it's finally, slowly revealed. This series is more about drama than surprises. As always, it's fun to see noted actors early in their careers and it took a while to realize that one of the witnesses is a young Jerry Stiller.
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The Defenders: The Point Shaver (1962)
Season 1, Episode 20
Dome things never change
30 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
There were several scandals involving "point shaving" in college basketball in the 1950's and early 60's - the practice of winning games by less than otherwise possible margins to win money for gamblers who but against the point spread, rather then the winner.It happens at the Preston's mutual Alma mater "Rockford"

First they have along conversation with the University president about college athletics and it's inherent corruption, which leads to players deciding to break the law. They make all the same arguments we hear today. Universities have to keep the alumni happy and interested in the schools so they build spectacular facilities and offer players illegal inducements to come to college. they make millions but beyond the inducements, the players never see any of it because they have to remain amateurs. They get resentful of everybody making money off their efforts but them and are vulnerable to bribes from gamblers.

The same things are being argued about today. Players are perhaps less likely to shave points because they hope for lucrative NBA careers but the potential for further scandals still exists because the system itself continues to be corrupt and to teach the wrong values.

The episode has a nice turn-around at the end where you think one guy is the culprit but someone else is. However the hearing features too much information we haven't been presented with or even hinted at to be effective. Alan Hewitt gets a juicy role as the Senator conducting the hearing and gets all the best lines.
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The Defenders: Storm at Birch Glen (1962)
Season 1, Episode 19
Reforming attitudes
29 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A boy in a reformatory tries to escape and is found with his skull crushed. The gang the boy was part of all inst that he told them that their supervisor, played by James Broderick, (Matthew's Dad), was responsible. The Prestons have to defend him and find not only that he didn't do it, (despite a violent past), but neither did the guy they thought might have done it - or the next guy. it turns out to be someone do wasn't even apparently involved.

The show isn't just a whodunit. It examines the causes of juvenile delinquency and creates sympathy for a boy who appears to be the villain. It also examines the attitudes of the surrounding community towards the kids, whom they don't seem to want in their neighborhood.
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The Defenders: The Search (1962)
Season 1, Episode 18
Law and Justice
29 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Donald Trump said in the recent debate that "wanted law and order". So do I. It was a good show that never should have been canceled. Of course that wasn't what trump was talking about. What he was talking about has been available in many countries. I prefer Law and Justice, which is what this episode of The Defenders is about.

A man walks into a police station, (where he talks to Al Lewis of Car 54 Where Are You? which had debuted in the same year), and confesses to a murder for which another man has already been executed. His account of the crime is specific and accurate and it soon becomes apparent that the ultimate miscarriage of justice has taken place: an innocent man has been "murdered" by the state while the guilty man, (now succumbing to his guilt), has gone free.

This has a devastating impact on four key figures: the Prosecutor, (Jack Klugman), the judge, (Judson Laire) and the attorney (E. G. Marshall as Lawrence Preston). Preston and the prosecutor re-investigate the case trying to find where they went wrong. They go around and talk to the deceased defendant's wife, who just wants them to go away, the witnesses and the jurors, (one was certain of guilt after the prosecutor's case, and didn't listen to the defense: another one felt he was innocent but couldn't stand up to the other 11 jurors). They also do a lot of philosophizing about their profession.

The only thing I didn't care for in the episode, (besides the distracting appearance of Mr. Lewis), is that in the end, they find out justice was done after all. I think the story would have been more powerful if they'd left the lady blind.
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The Defenders: The Bedside Murder (1962)
Season 1, Episode 17
"We deal in truth"
27 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Lawrence Preston is brought into a case by an old friend who is a civil attorney, (Alexander Scourby). A doctor, (Sam Jaffee, who began playing Dr. Zorba on Ben Casey this season), has had an elderly patient die after she created a will leaving him $100,000 as her long-time care-giver. Her excitable son, (Barry Morse, with a toupee), is certain the doctor killed her and Murray Hamilton, the latest in a long line of ADAs, is prosecuting the doctor for first degree murder.

Preston finds out his old friend Scourby has fallen for the doctor's nurse, whose husband won't divorce her unless she pays him $50,000 to do so. Scourby is also a long-time care-giver on the legal side and will also inherit $100,000. He also wrote into her will a late change requesting a quick cremation, (which would make an autopsy impossible)- and didn't tell her about it. Preston painfully and reluctantly brings this out in court with Scourby and his unknowing current wife in the gallery.

Afterwards, Lawrence regrets what his profession and his required loyalty to his client makes him do sometimes. Kenneth tells him "At least we deal in truth".
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