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McCloud: This Must Be the Alamo (1974)
"What ELSE can go wrong?"
The worst heat wave in decades sees crime go through the roof, a riot, 2 jewelry store robberies, power shortages, an abandoned baby, a hit-and-run killing, a foul-mouthed pickpocket, patrol units reassigned to other areas, and while Chief Clifford is pulled to run the central dispatch office (and takes Grover with him), Joe Broadhurst is given command of the Precinct, with a warning that when you're in charge, you have no friends. Try telling that to Sam McCloud!
But the BIG storyline, which ties all this together, and covers about 2/3rds of the episode, involves a double-shooting over a book that can tie big-time gamblers to football players. As this slowly unfolds, it eventually leads to a pair of murders-- one inside a hospital, another right inside the holding cells of the police station! As one Officer Rizzo put it, "That guy must have had ice water in his veins, to walk in and kill somebody right here in the police station-- I never even heard of such a thing!"
And it gets even worse after this!
This most complex of all "McCLOUD" episodes, which could easily be seen as a prototype for your average episode of "HILL STREET BLUES", has so many things going on at once, it never slows down. Now this is how you do a 2-hour episode! If I hadn't picked up on it before, THIS story is the one that REALLY made me a fan of Glen Larson's writing!!!
The cast is epic. There's singer & actress Della Reese, almost stealing the show in her first of 2 appearances as Sgt. Gladys Harris; Gregory Sierra ("SANFORD AND SON") as the wise-talking Patrolman Rico Cross; Ken Scott, returning for the first time since the 1st season as Detective Polk; Michael Pataki ("STAR TREK", "WKRP", "HALLOWEEN 4") in his first of 2 appearances as Officer Rizzo; Teri Garr ("STAR TREK", "HEAD", "YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN", "TOOTSIE") in her 2nd of 4 appearances as Sgt. Phyllis Norton (and I've never seen her more adorable than she was right here); in addition to Sidney Clute, Ken Lynch, Terry Carter and the ever-irritable J.D. Cannon. And that's just on the side of the cops!
On the side of the baddies are Van Johnson (the "DR. GILLESPIE" movies, "WHERE ANGELS GO TROUBLE FOLLOWS", "BATMAN") as the high-rolling football gambler; Larraine Stevens ("BRACKEN'S WORLD") as the loose woman whose diary can sink the whole operation; actor & director Ray Danton ("THE ALASKANS", "THE NEW MIKE HAMMER") in his 2nd appearance on the show; Robert Weaver ("STONE", "THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO") in his 2nd of 5 appearances, this time posing as a newspaper reporter; and Eugene Roche ("THE CORNER BAR", "ALL IN THE FAMILY", "GOOD TIME HARRY", "SOAP", "WEBSTER", "MAGNUM P.I.", "PERFECT STRANGERS", "LENNY", and still other TV series, but who I mostly remember as Christine Sullivan's father on 'NIGHT COURT") as a hired professional contract murderer.
Over the next 3 seasons, they tried to replicate the format of this story, once per season, but they never quite topped the chaos of this one.
I'd Rather Be In Colorado
Contaminated stolen beef kills 5 people in New York, and a FDA inspector is murdered when Sam tries to arrest the shipper. When the killer is arrested near Twin Falls, Colorado, McCloud tells Clifford, "I WANT HIM!" Clifford says he's NOT going to lecture him on being on his best behavior, and avoiding the "embarrassments that seem to dog your trail"-- but it comes out as a lecture anyway. And so, in a reverse-tribute to "COOGAN'S BLUFF", Sam's sent to extradite a prisoner.
Sheriff Floyd Bevins has a problem. He's up for re-election, and he'll lose his job if he doesn't come through on his promise to bring in the cattle rustlers within a week. So the LAST thing he needs is some "know it all" cop from NYC taking away the only lead he's had in months. I realize that if Sam had sat down with the Sheriff and offered to HELP, events might have unfolded exactly as they did... but without all the confusion-- and humor. But before this can even cross his mind, the gang breaks the killer out of jail, Sam finds the deputy on the floor, and HE's arrested for helping the jailbreak!
And so, the phone call... "McCloud, WHY are you calling collect? And WHY aren't you already on your way back here?" "Well, to answer your first question, they only let you make a local call for free." Before you know it, Clifford assigns Joe to take over. "Joe, I want you to consider this a SUICIDE mission. If you have to choose between coming back without your prisoner-- or going down in flames-- TAKE THE FLAMES!"
But in the meantime, Sam has convinced Deputy Dewy Cobb (who's much smarter than his boss) to let him out of jail so they can both follow a different line of investigation than the Sheriff. This involves impersonating cattle rustlers, and staging a HANGING for a real one to shake out info.
When Joe arrives, HE's suckered into one of Sam's schemes... and winds up in jail for it. Which leads to a 2nd phone call. "Broadhurst-- WHY are YOU calling collect?" "They only let you make a local call for free. It's not as bad as it looks... " "CLICK!" "Yeah, I guess it is..." And so, CLIFFORD hops a plane... and on tracking down his errant lawman, gets punched in the FACE for it.
This may be the FUNNIEST episode of "McCLOUD" ever made. And definitely one of my favorites. Producer Michael Gleason should have won an Emmy for his screenplay.
Among the cast are Claude Akins ("RIO BRAVO", "SHERIFF LOBO", "INCIDENT AT VICTORIA FALLS") as the dumb sheriff; Patrick Wayne ("THE GREEN BERETS", "SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER") as one of the deputies; John Denver (well on his way to becoming one of the best-selling recording artists in the history of the business at this point) as the mild-mannered but smarter deputy); Ed Ames (one of The Ames Brothers singing group, and actor in 72 episodes of "DANIEL BOONE") as the head cattle rustler; Vic Tayback ("STAR TREK" and countless other TV appearances) as a NYC beef salesman; Robert Sampson ("BRIDGET LOVES BERNIE", "POLICE STORY", "FALCON CREST", and countless other TV roles) as the crooked beef distributor; and Farrah Fawcett ("CHARLIE'S ANGELS", "THE CANNONBALL RUN") as one of the girls hired by the crooks to keep and eye on McCloud & Cobb.
Of the mere 5 episodes they did this season, this was the only one that was 90 minutes (including commercials) instead of 2 hours, and the storytelling and pacing benefitted greatly for it.
McCloud: A Cowboy in Paradise (1974)
Things are slowwwww in the islands.
Chief Clifford is delighted to be going to a police convention in Hawaii, because it will get him away from McCloud... until, at the very last minute, McCloud finds out his office back in Taos is sending him to the same convention. Clifford tells McCloud it'll work out, as long as they avoid each other.
But then... a phone message, presumably from Clifford's EX-fiancee, who he hasn't seen in 20 years, lures him to a hotel, and the next morning, he wakes up on a beach next to a dead dancer. It's obvious to him and Sam that he's being FRAMED-- but by who, and why?
This episode is INTERMINABLE. Things move so slowly, are dragged out so long, so painfully, I'm not sure if this had been done as a 90-minute story if it would have worked. At 2 hours, it's excessively excessive, and my LEAST-favorite story among seasons 2, 3 & 4.
Sam spends nearly half the story just trying to talk to Clifford's ex, whose extremely-jealous business husband with political ambitions repeatedly has his paid thugs threaten, hassle, beat up and get beaten up by McCloud, and in the end, she STILL refuses to help the man who still thinks highly of her. Her husband, meanwhile, says he has a grudge against Clifford-- but under the circumstances, this is NEVER explained. The only thing I can figure, after watching this several times over the years, is that he was NEVER the man she left him for-- and in the long run, it led to her cheating on her husband with someone else.
That someone else, it turns out, has MOB connections... and set things up for the murder and framing... all to keep Clifford away from testifying against a NYC mob boss. It takes more than 3/4ths of the story before Sam & Clifford, together, figure this all out... but the path to get there, while filled with beautiful landscapes and lovely women, is a seemingly-endless dredge to sit through. Oh, well, things do get better next time.
The guest-cast this time includes Louise Lasser ("BANANAS", "MARY HARTMAN") as a NYC cop on vacation. My memory played tricks on me for many years. I thought it was Teri Garr-- it seems like it should have been her-- instead of this woman with the most annoying voice and personality in the history of Hollywood. There's also Richard Denning ("THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON", "MICHAEL SHAYNE", "HAWAII FIVE-O") as the jealous husband; James Gregory (an endless resume including "AL CAPONE", "STAR TREK", "BARNEY MILLER" and "BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES") as a fellow cop who's not what he seems; and singer Don Ho, essentially playing a fictional version of himself, who by the end of this story made me start to hate Hawaiian music.
The funniest moment in the story is when the local cop warns Sam that if he steps out of line, he'll make things VERY hot for him, and Sam replies, "Hey, I'm startin' ta feel right at home!"
McCloud: The Solid Gold Swingers (1973)
The Escort Service Murders
Sam & Joe are corraling a robbery suspect when Sam sees a dead woman on a balcony. He barges into a party and begins questioning the guests when Chief Clifford arrives, because it turns out the apartment belongs to a Senator who doesn't take kindly to police harrassment. And then the body DISAPPEARS. Which absolutely infuriates Clifford... until the next day, when he's all smiles. It seems the Senator has pulled some strings to "help" Sam get back to Taos within a week. To keep Sam out of trouble, Clifford assigns him as a school crossing guard... but we all know by now Sam won't put up with that for long!
Before you know it, we have an entire string of high-priced call-girls all being murdered by what appears to be a maniac serial-killer. But since their former boss is under investigation, and a nasty detective in charge of the case takes such a instant dislike for McCloud, Sam begins to suspect there's more going on than is obvious.
My favorite scene is probably when Clifford, In a reversal of his earlier decision, tells Sam, "In spite of every instinct I've picked up in 22 years on the force, I'm officially assigning you to the case. But if you so much as begin to cause me your usual amount of embarrassment..." "Appreciate your CONFIDENCE, Chief."
I love the fact that, for the remainder of the story, McCloud & Clifford get along fabulously-- especially the moment when they BOTH kick in a door together.
Producer Michael Gleason turns in his 2nd of 4 scripts for the show, and it's more complicated (and confusing) than usual. I'm not even going to try to explain the rest of the plot, since the individual details of this story are more memorable than the whole mystery put together. Among the highlights are Ross Martin ("EXPERIMENT IN TERROR", "THE WILD WILD WEST", "THE RETURN OF CHARLIE CHAN") as a professional hit man with a drug habit who hides what he does from his wife and kids; Neville Brand ("THE UNTOUCHABLES") in his 2nd of 3 appearances on the show, this time as a cop on the take; Steve Allen (creator of "THE TONIGHT SHOW") as a singer; Joanna Pettet (1967's "CASINO ROYALE") as a call girl who Sam struggles to protect; Denny Miller (the remake of "TARZAN THE APE MAN") as a football player who's being blackmailed; and Teri Garr, making her 2nd appearance as a harried police sergeant. Although the name's changed from the previous year, she might as well be playing the same character, since both stories she's been in so far have her repeatedly writing up reports that Sam is too busy to do on his own.
Suffice to say, Sam wraps it up neatly by the end, climaxing in his commandeering a BUS to pursue a taxi-cab.
The Wild Bunch Strikes!
Sam & Joe are picked to rob a bank as part of a demonstration of police & security techniques. Only one problem. Four guys dressed as wild-west outlaws steal the money and leave them handcuffed together. To say this is an embarrassment to the NYC Police Department is an understatement. Chief Clifford responded by saying, "If either of them as much as gives out his name-- SHOOT him!!!"
Clifford spars with Clayton Gillis, the representative of the Brinkman Security Company, over whose team might be responsible for a leak. Meanwhile, McCloud's got his own problems. His latest fling-- another "society columnist", Geri March (filling in for the missing Chris Caughlin?) repeatedly keeps putting him off for standing her up on dates, and it only gets worse when she becomes jealous of a very-aggressive and annoying TV reporter, Samantha Johnson. She's like "Lois Lane" on steroids, and gets Sam in even deeper trouble with Clifford!
Sam also befriends Elroy Jenkins, who's worked for Brinkman's for over 50 years, and has seen his station in the company threatened by his younger boss, and modern computer technology.
Before it's all over, Sam is almost killed in a burning building, commandeers a Fire Chief's car, then engages in a running chase and gun-fight-- on HORSEBACK!!!
Another fabulous cast this time includes William Daniels ("MARLOWE", "KNIGHT RIDER", "ST. ELSEWHERE") as the Brinkman's exec; Linda Evans ("DYNASTY") as the columnist who gets into a catfight a decade before it became a regular thing for her with Joan Collins; Lloyd Nolan ("MICHAEL SHAYNE", "MARTIN KANE", "SPECIAL AGENT 7", "JULIA") as the aging security man; Stephanie Powers ("THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E.", "HART TO HART") as the reporter who causes trouble wherever she goes; Roger Davis (multiple roles on "DARK SHADOWS" and the 2nd "Hannibal Hayes" on "ALIAS SMITH AND JONES"); Pat O'Brien (the lead reporter in "THE FRONT PAGE", and Jennifer's elderly boyfriend on "WKRP IN CINCINNATI"); and Robert F. Simon ("THE OUTER LIMITS", "BEWITCHED", and "J. Jonah Jameson" on the late-70s' "SPIDER-MAN"), who plays Powers' boss.
Chief Clifford was never as angry before as he was here. Although he did try his best to stay reasonable when dealing with McCloud, it really took until the end of the story before he finally-- ANGRILY-- told Sam, "Good work!"
The "classic" theme song debuted this episode, accompanied (for the 2nd time) by a montage of scenes from various episodes, which really stressed that while this was part of the "NBC Mystery Movie", "McCLOUD" was really an ACTION show!
The Saracen Horse
The tradition of complex season-finales on this show started here, along with having action-montages of scenes from previous episodes accompanying the opening credits. Writer Douglas Heyes makes his 3rd & final contribution to the series, with by far the most complicated story yet!
The main plot in a very confusing tribute to "THE MALTESE FALCON", as a number of interested parties vie to get their hands on an ancient jewel-encrusted statuette. I'd say more, but after watching this story at least 6 times over the years, I still can't quite follow all the details!
Of more interest (at least to me) is the guest cast, which includes Eric Braeden (the villain of "ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES") as a professional thief and part-time murderer; Robert Middleton ("POLICE SURGEON") as one of the would-be buyers; Nehemiah Persoff ("SOME LIKE IT HOT", "AL CAPONE", "THE UNTOUCHABLES") as a crooked antique dealer; Harry Guardino ("KING OF KINGS", "MADIGAN", "DIRTY HARRY") as a longtime cop recovering from a recent gunshot wound who's trying to regain his confidence and who momentarily slips off the narrow path; and Tierre Turner, who made his debut here as a child actor, and later had a much-longer career as a stuntman!
The sub-plots include Sam once more trying to get back to Taos, and hoping he & Chris Caughlin can "work it out somehow". Along the way, we meet Joe's wife Carol (Tracy Reed, who wound up making 5 appearances on the series) and see the first of 5 notable appearances by Teri Garr as a police-woman whose personal life Sam repeatedly gets in the way of. ("I expect you better call Fred.") Inexplicably, her name was changed from Nora Mullens to Phyllis Norton after this story.
The other major sub-plot involves "Tobe", an 8-year-old orphan who's become a thief to support himself, winds up stealing Sam's gun, and then gets his hands on the "item" worth one million dollars-- which puts his life in danger. Meanwhile, Carol seems to think adoipting him might not be a bad idea (suggesting that she & Joe may not be able to have kids), but nothing ever comes of this.
Once again Chief Clifford is seen in "reasonable" mode, and in some scenes it gets very involved since the case he & McCloud are working on at times seems almost impossible to follow. Compared to this, "THE MALTESE FALCON" was simple & straight-forward.
Murder in Three Acts (1986)
Murder In Acapulco
CBS updated a number of Agatha Christie classics for TV in the 1980s, probably to keep costs down. The results were mixed; this one, based on "THREE ACT TRAGEDY", is actually one of the better ones, and by a MILE the best of the 3 Hercule Poirot TV-movies with Peter Ustinov.
Unlike the previous 2, Poirot is not constantly mugging for the camera, and Hastings comes across as far less of a brainless idiot. I know this sounds like faint praise, but please bear with me.
One of the problems with CBS' TV-movies is in nearly every case, if you read the opening credits, you already know who the murderer is, because they're the one who get SECOND BILLING. The 4 Brabourne-Goodwin feature films were all stellar, big-budget affairs with ALL-STAR casts, and the killers (sometimes more than one per story) could hide in plain sight.
For CBS, this one, at least, manages to have some actual "name" actors in the cast (for a change!). Among them, Emma Samms ("DYNASTY" and "THE COLBYS"), Pedro Armendariz Jr. ("LICENSE TO KILL"), Dana Elcar ("DARK SHADOWS"), Diana Muldaur ("McCLOUD", "STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION", "L.A. LAW"), Concetta Tomei ("CHINA BEACH", "MADMAN OF THE PEOPLE"), Nicholas Pryor (an endless resume of roles, including "THE GUMBALL RALLY")... oh, yeah, and Tony Curtis.
This film also managed to have some genuinely picturesque locations, some very interesting twists, a moment where (if you're paying attention) HALF the plot suddenly makes perfect sense (it ties in directly with the story's title, when someone mentions, "a DRESS REHEARSAL"), and a nice summation at the end. During this, Curtis give an excellent performance which ranges from tense to exceedingly good-natured.
Had CBS continued at this level of quality, I might not have minded. All the same, it was quite a relief for me when Peter Ustinov was next seen in "APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH", a real "return to form"... although for reasons that remain baffling to me, the quality of THAT film somehow managed to be ghastly compared to his first 2 Poirot feature-films.
The Fashion Model Connection
Sam & Joe are assigned to break up a drug-smuggling ring that imports heroin using fashion models to bring in the goods. While trying to get close, Sam inadvertently makes contact with the best friend of his suspect, rather than the woman herself, who's gone missing. Attempting to learn the wherabouts of the missing model, he winds up falling in love, which causes problems on both sides.
This is at least the 2nd time this season Sam gets too personally involved. Throughout, Chief Clifford is at his best-- intelligent, highly efficient, forward-thinking, and when it comes to Sam-- REASONABLE. I like Clifford this way! Sam carefully pieces together a confusing chain of connections of one company owning another, but just as he's getting to the punch line, Clifford names the top man, who HE's been after for years.
Midway thru, Sam tells his new ladyfriend the truth, her friend turns up dead, and Sam's girl wants to quit, until she's coerced into making one more run. But instead of turning the drugs over to the mob, she steals them in an attempt to buy her freedom. It doesn't work-- she winds up kidnapped, and Sam goes straight to the top man offering to exchange the merchandise for the girl.
This very serious, and sometimes sappy story, was the only episode by Robert Hamner, who had a long career writing TV shows, including 8 episodes "HAWAIIAN EYE", 5 of "LOST IN SPACE", 6 of "VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA", 37 episodes of "S.W.A.T.", and one "STAR TREK" (a real favorite of mine-- "A Taste Of Armageddon" !!).
Another great guest cast is headed by Jaclyn Smith (years before "CHARLIE'S ANGELS"-- she later had her own "Mystery Movie" series with "CHRISTINE CROMWELL"); Bradford Dillman ("ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES", "THE ENFORCER", "SUDDEN IMPACT"); Arthur Batanides ("BRANNIGAN"), the ubiquitous Bruce Kirby ("COLUMBO"and countless other shows), and Lee J. Cobb ("12 ANGRY MEN", "EXODUS", "OUR MAN FLINT", and, funny enough, "COOGAN'S BLUFF", the movie "McCLOUD" was inspired by, where he played the police captain that Clifford was inspired by! --here, he plays the top-level mobster who's miffed when Dillman's college-educated middle-man loses 30 MILLION worth of heroin).
The tense ending takes place at the remains of the New York World's Fair, and the bit where Sam grapples down from the top of a tower became a staple of later opening sequences.
Not for the first or last time, the episode is punctuated by a song, this one mushier than most-- "There Ya Go", sung by David Somerville.
While the 1st season of McCLOUD were one-hour episodes, and the 2nd, 90 minutes, the next 2 seasons had the flexibility to alternate between the 90-minute format and 2 hours, depending on the demands of each story. The first of the 2-hour stories proved to be the most insane and complicated yet, and involved a quartet of stewardesses who moonlight as international jewel thieves.
No less than 3 writers were involved. B.W. Sandefur came up with this very off-beat story. Because the tone of various scenes kept changing, I'm guessing producer Michael Gleason did most of the finished screenplay, while executive producer Glen Larson probably handled all the character scenes with McCloud, Clifford & Broadhurst.
Despite being assigned to New York City, each season saw McCloud traveling elsewhere. This one takes the cake, as he hits London, Paris, Rome, Monte Carlo, and Boonville. (Oddly, the script didn't specify New York, Missouri or California!)
Chief Clifford slowly began his journey to increasing apoplexy in this episode, each time he received news on WHERE his errant exchange student wound up, though amazingly, he managed to calm down and even exude bemusement once he came face-to-face with the recurring bane of his professional life. As he points in in one scene, while Sam is behind bars, that things "don't work that way" (meaning, Sam needs to follow procedures instead of being a lone wolf), Clifford also can't help but realize that McCloud's reasoning DOES make sense-- which no doubt only adds to his recurring frustration.
There's so many twists in the plot, it's easy to see why they had to give the story an extra half-hour to unfold. By the end, I was downright exhausted! One girl gets killed while pulling a job, another turns out to be skimming items off the top for her own private retirement scheme, one of their victims is actuially broke and doesn't want his creditors finding out, the private dick he hired gets crooked ideas of his own, and another girls falls under Sam's more polite and romantic overtures.
The most tense sequence has to be when the remaining thieves decide to pull off their final job, even knowing that the cops are on to them, and, "Mission: Impossible" style, pull it off ANYWAY!!
Among the usual impressive guest cast are Patrick O'Neal (returning from the previous season, this time as a stolen jewel "fence"); JoAnn Pflug (MASH, THE NIGHT STRANGLER) as the most intense of the thieves; Britt Eklund (THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN) as the sensitive member of the gang; John Williams, Marcel Hillaire and Jacques Aubuchnon as the English, French and Monte Carlo police inspectors; and Lincoln Kilpatrick as "Calvin Jones", a musician-thief who plots a double-cross from inside the group.
One of my favorite moments is probably when Clifford asks Inspector LeLouch, "Is he under arrest?" "No..." "You're SLIPPING, McCloud!" This is not one of my favorite stories... but the bar tends to be rather high on this series, and even a mid-level episode is an impressive, amazing thing to sit through.
Glen Larson rides again!
While on a stake-out, Sam recognizes a man who took part in a bank robbery in his home town of Taos 3 years earlier. Before long, Clifford says he has good news and bad news. "The good news is, you're going home. The bad news is, you're coming back."
Back home on business having a reunion with his friends on the Taos police force, Sam suddenly receives a threatening phone call, made from Chris Caughlin's apartment, saying she's been kidnapped, and Sam must release his prisoner within one hour, or she'll be killed. Back in NYC, while Clifford has his men checking her apartment for clues, Chris returns home, confused, as she's spent the entire weekend in Connecticut interviewing a singer and his manager!
Glen Larson must have had my ideal dream job-- that of being both writer and executive producer. So he could very personally direct the characters of a show he'd work on, while leaving the heavy work to someone like producer Michael Gleason, who takes over this season from the departing Dean Hargrove (who went on to such series as MADIGAN, PERRY MASON, etc.). After having created McCLOUD and done the pilot and short 1st season in 1970, Larson went on to ALIAS SMITH AND JONES in 1971. I never quite made the connection before, as to why Larson was missing from McCLOUD's 2nd season, but there it was. Following the death of AS&J star Pete Duel, ratings fell, and the show eventually ended. Which left the door open for Larson to return to his modern-day western-of-sorts!
I'd watched the series practically from the beginning, and enjoyed it all the way. But THIS is where it really came together. The relaxed, laid-back feel of the previous season made way for a more urgent, fast-paced-- and funnier-- 3rd season. In addition to the 4 regulars all returning (Dennis Weaver, J.D. Cannon, Terry Carter & Diana Muldaur), this episode introduces 2 new recurring characters in the form of Grover (Ken Lynch) and Simms (Sidney Clute) who would be with the series from here to the end.
Among the guest cast this time out is Jackie Cooper (TREASURE ISLAND, SUPERMAN); Murray Hamilton (JAWS); Ricky Nelson (RIO BRAVO); Gilbert Roland (I remember him from episodes of THE FUGITIVE); Ray Danton (who soon switched from acting to directing); and a cute, young Sharon Gless (CAGNEY & LACEY).
Chief Clifford was still in his "reasonable" period here. Clearly annoyed when Sam wouldn't work through channels, yet smart enough to appreciate the results Sam keeps getting via instincts and playing long shots. I was also amused when Sam talks Joe Broadhurst out of a pleasant evening with his girlfriend (wife?) on the chance that by helping out, he might be in line for a promotion.
For half the story, there seem to be 2 plot-lines running parallel that have no connection at all. This is perhaps not-so-subtle foreshadowing on Larson's part, as in the 2nd half, one of the characters you've been wondering, what is this guy even doing in the story, suddenly reveals HE was involved in the bank robbery 3 years earlier.
Apart from the sequence where the hired hitman tries to kill Sam in Penn Station (well, that's what it looked like to me), the most memorable set-piece has to be the climax, where Sam and the main villain wind up getting into a fist-fight on top of a speeding horse-drawn stage-coach! "I'm not really SEEING this, am I?", asks Joe, as he & Clifford supply the color commentary.
Yes, Glen Larson returned with a BANG. And for the next couple years, McCLOUD only got better and better! It's no wonder it was my favorite show for most of the 7 years it was on.
The Not-So-Peaceful Conference
Betty Leonard is kidnapped & hypnotized into drugging an ambassador trying to prevent a worldwide crisis involving radiation technology. Before things are over, an impostor tries to disrupt the peace conference by instilling distrust among the delegates attending. Naturally, this is all the work of Dr. Fu Manchu, who never does anything the simple way when more complex methods are available.
I've seen many different versions of the characters in this series, but I have to admit, after seeing only 4 episodes of this TV series, the actors and their portrayal here of Sir Denis Nayland Smith & Dr. John Petrie MAY be my favorites! The TV series stresses Nayland Smith's role as a representative of law enforcement, while Petrie's role as a doctor is at the forefront.
Betty Leonard, who was Petrie's assistant throughout the series, is introduced here in a way that made me suspect this may have been her first time working with Petrie. I had the same feeling when Sir Denis described in vivid language Dr. Manchu to the conference delegates. So I wasn't surprised to find this episode listed FIRST-- even though, strangely enough, the DVD I have has this one LAST. Go figure.
Glen Gordon is adequate as Fu, although his manner of speaking is so clipped and unnatural, it keeps reminding me of the rumor that Fu may not actually have been Asian at all-- but an evil Englishman POSING as a Chinese villain! Gordon doesn't really measure up to Christopher Lee-- or Boris Karloff-- yet the show is so well done, I find he is at least acceptable.
Laurette Luez as "Karamaneh" is suitably beautiful, seductive, and treacherous.
This episode features Leonard Strong as Professor Hugh Yan and his impostor. A decade later he played "The Claw", a Fu Manchu-like villain on 'GET SMART"! This TV series apparently inspired the short-lived comic-book "THE YELLOW CLAW", which featured stories by Al Feldstein & Joe Maneely, and Jack Kirby. I was very surprised when I first saw the TV series, as the title sequence, with Fu playing CHESS, was paid tribute to by Jim Steranko when he brought The Yellow Claw back in 1967-68 in the "NICK FURY" series.
Several elements in this series, including the portrayal of Sir Denis & Dr. Petrie, the use of kidnapping & hypnotism, and the presence of Karamaneh, were all later reused in the "MASTER OF KUNG FU" comic-book series, by Doug Moench & Paul Gulacy. It surprised me that this series seemed the most similar to "MOKF" of all the various "Fu" films I've seen.
And what really cracked me up was that some of the episodes were directed by William Witney, whose work I have also been watching this week on "THE WILD WILD WEST", a series where Fu Manchu would have fit right in!
Doctor Who: Logopolis: Part One (1981)
Right Off A CLIFF
In my latest DOCTOR WHO marathon-- this time, watching the individual episodes for the 1st time since the 80s (I have "Inferno" up to "Terminus" that way). I just reached the point where I was painfully reminded that the writing FELL RIGHT OFF A CLIFF.
I swear... Christopher Bidmead is like the exact opposite of Eric Saward. He's a MUCH better story editor than he ever was a writer. Plus, this was his first of ONLY 3 scripts he ever did on his own. And it was a rush job. What you get is a mixture of fascinating ideas... and REALLY terrible characterization and dialogue. Tom Baker, Mathew Waterhouse, Sarah Sutton, Anthony Ainley... all were wonderful in "The Keeper Of Traken". Yes, even "Adric". And NONE of them come off good in this one. In fact, more than ever before, I was reminded of what a WONDEFFUL character "Tremas" was... so intelligent, reasonable, warm... he deserved better. He deserved a return appearance... not to be MURDERED so that a ONE-dimensional erratic bad parody of Roger Delgado should take his place.
Frankly, I think they only come off looking acceptable because Janet Fielding-- who I KNOW is a nice person off-camera-- came across as such a TOTAL B**** as "Tegan" (my LEAST-favorite WHO companion of all time).
I swear, the ONLY actor in this who comes across well in this is, surprisingly, John Fraser as "The Monitor".
Looking back, I wish to God that John Nathan-Turner had left after this one year. Because I KNOW... as wonderful as Peter Davison is as a person and as an actor... the BULK of his 3 years was EVEN WORSE than this. BAD writing, BAD directing, BAD acting across the board.
This time around, I've been skipping any stories I just don't like. I managed to get all the way through Tom Baker's 7 years and ONLY skip one single story (one that I simply have seen too damn many times for something that horrifically downbeat and disturbing). I'm wondering if I'll even watch HALF of Davison's stories? I know one thing... as soon as I'm done with his, I'll be pulling out CAMPION to watch again. Man, I LOVE that show!!!
I've seen WORSE!
This movie has a TERRIBLE reputation... but, frankly, I've seen far worse, and, lately! (I know, hardly high praise-- heehee.) I was mainly interested because it featured 2 of my favorites-- William Katt & Alexandra Paul (SIGH!), plus, with Monte Markham as the slimy corporate developer baddie, it wound up with no less than 3 PERRY MASON alumni (I can't believe that was a coincidence). Katt played Paul Drake Jr. in the first 8 Raymond Burr TV-movies in the 80s, Paul was in the first 2 movies after he left (along with William R. Moses-- I was always surprised that she didn't stick around longer), and Markham starred in the ill-advised revival in the early 70s.
All I can say is... it HELD my attention, and I managed to plow through it with fewer breaks than a LOT of Corman-produced films. (It was funny how they actually made reference to several of his 70s films in the dialogue, including one of the "women in prison" films.)
King of Kings (1961)
A Study in Contrasts
Just finished KING OF KINGS (1961). This is a study in contrasts. It reminds me a bit of another film Harry Guardino was in-- MADIGAN (1968). Now let me explain that. MADIGAN is-- supposedly-- a story about a tough detective and his partner trying to track down an insane killer, while the main character's marriage slowly disintegrates. But more than half the film focuses on the Police Commissioner and HIS problems, and except for a couple of very brief scenes where they cross paths, the two parts of the film have nothing in common. Perhaps it was an early example of "parallel" storytelling. All I know is, the first time I saw it, it left me very frustrated.
With KING OF KINGS (which, as someone rightly pointed out at the IMDb site, is, in NO way a remake of the Cecil B. Demille silent film of the same name!!) more than half the film is a "Roman Empire" movie, all about opulence, excess, depravity, evil, etc. Until about the time of the "sermon on the mount" scene, Jesus is reduced to a bit player in what is allegedly "his" movie. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the same was done in THE ROBE and BEN HUR (the latter appears to be the film MGM most deliberately was trying to copy in style, right down to the movie poster art). But depending on what you're looking for, this film can be baffling, maddening, frustrating, or simply inspiring. Take yer pick.
For example... virtually all the miracles are described, not shown. The scene where the crowd shouts to free "Barrabus!" --is DESCRIBED, not SHOWN! (When that happened, my jaw dropped, even though today was probably the 5th time I've seen this over the years.) Even the death of Judas-- Barrabus finds his body just as the tree branch breaks, you don't actually see him kill himself.
It is interesting how they expanded certain characters, like Lucius (Ron Randell), the Roman Centurion, who we wind up seeing all the way back to the slaughter of the newborns, the tax census-check-up 12 years later, in Pilate's court, and in charge of the crucifixion. (I've only seen Randell in one other movie-- THE LONE WOLF AND HIS LADY, which was really bad, even by "B"-movie mystery standards.)
Barrabus, as someone said at the IMDb, is expanded from a mere murderer to a freedom-fighting rebel leader (like Judah Maccabbee), and is virtually the main character in the entire film. As for Harry Guardino, I've lost count of how many times I've seen him in DIRTY HARRY or THE ENFORCER.
One of the most prolonged scenes in the film involves Herod Antipas, his wife, and their daughter (his wife apparently hadn't bothered to get a divorce from HIS BROTHER at the time). Someone noted it's almost surprising that after going to such lengths to show Salome's erotic dance for her father, and then the long, long, dramatic scene where she asks for the head of John The Baptist ("HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND???") they don't follow-up and show what happened to HER, afterwards. During the trial of Jesus, she's sitting there on the side, looking as if she has lost her mind. She seems totally in a trance or something, as if all life has gone out of her...
Pilate (Hurd Hatfield, who some years back I finally got to see in THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY) turns out to be a real bastard. They totally skipped the scene where Jesus is interrogated by the Jewish elders, but the trial before Pilate is shown in more detail than in the Bible, with Lucius arguing in Jesus' defense. When Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate, his anger & annoyance grows and he seems to relish having him whipped just for getting on his nerves, rather than breaking any law.
What's interesting is... I read that some 45 minutes of footage was CUT just before release. Makes me wonder, WHAT did they cut? Could it have been any of the scenes merely described in remaining dialogue?
It's still a fascinating film, but now I'm really looking forward to sitting thru Jesus OF NAZARETH again. I remember at the time that was made, it seemed the whole point to it was the do the "definitive" Jesus movie-- and in many ways, I think they succeeded. Even if it has the strange thing where they DON'T actually show any miracles on screen-- and you never see Jesus after he dies. It struck me the person who did the film may have aimed it at atheists-- to show them it doesn't matter if you believe he was the son of God or not-- his words and his actions were what counted.
Caine decides to stay
With Tan & Chan out of the picture (but not gone forever), a smaller-time racketeer, "Clarence", decides to make Chinatown HIS now. Standing in his way are a Shaolin priest (Kwai Chang Caine) & his detective-son (Peter Caine). So first Clarence decides to plant a bomb in the previously-firebombed building Caine is in the processing of rebuilding, hoping to take out Caine and "make an example" of him to the community. When that doesn't work (thanks to Peter), he & his thugs, including a couple of crooked cops on the take, lure Peter to a notorious drug den, ambush him, and pump him full of enough drugs to kill ten men. This time, Kwai Chang returns the favor and saves Peter's life.
Before it's over, Clarence, his thugs, and the crooked cops all converge of Caine's new home, determined to kill both father and son. You can guess how this ends.
First and foremost, this episode SHOULD, by all means, be watched immediately after the 2-hour pilot. As far as I can tell, it was probably filmed immediately after the pilot. Why it was "held back" to 2/3rds of the way into the season, and presented as a "flashback" to a framing sequence where Peter is ambushed again and winds up in a hospital, well, the logic of this escapes me. Watching it in broadcast order does nothing except to confuse the viewer on many levels.
Among the best scenes in the story are when Peter asks Blaisedale why he has so much trouble talking with his father, when he can ask Blaisedale anything; when Blaisdale refuses to believe the alleged "common knowledge" rumor (spread by the crooked cops) that his adopted son Peter is a drug addict; and the scenes with the little girl sent to deliver a "good luck" cricket to Caine (hoping he'll decide to stay in Chinatown), and later, when she comes to warn him of the approaching killers, and winds up hiding in a closet for her safety. She's such a sweetie!
I was surprised to check the IMDb credits and see that this was (apparently) Clarence's only appearance. That can't be right... can it? (I know a lot of series listed at this site have a LOT of info missing... until someone adds it in.)
At the end of the (alleged) "flashback", Peter gives his father a ceremonial dagger he says he saved from their temple after it was destroyed. It figures in a later episode (though I don't recall which one at the moment).
Just a suggestion for any fans wanting to re-watch...
1-2 -- (PILOT)
3 -- "THE LACQUERED BOX"
4-5 -- "SATURDAY AT THE HOTEL WITH GEORGE"
6 -- "SHADOW ASSASSIN"
Why couldn't they run this show more in an order that made sense???
Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960)
Hammer does "Robin Hood"
A real oddity from Hammer Films, SWORD OF SHERWOOD FOREST (1960) is their only film based on a popular UK TV series which actually features the star of the show in the movie. The rest of the cast has still been replaced, however, and because of the nature of the story, it almost has to be an "alternate universe" continuity as I see no way it could fit into the run of the TV show.
Robin Hood (Richard Green) faces off mostly against the Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter Cushing), which means you've got "Sir Henry Baskerville" fighting "Sherlock Holmes"-- although Cushing comes across more like "Baron Frankenstein" in this one.
Also in the cast, I realized on my 3rd viewing, are no less than 3 actors who were in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS-- Little John is Nigel Green (Hercules), the Archbishop of Canterbury is Jack Gwillim (King Aeetes of Colchis), and Friar Tuck (the film's comic relief) is Niall MacGinnis (Zeus). Of course, having Richard Green & Nigel Green together also means you have 2 different "Sir Dennis Nayland Smiths" side-by-side for most of the picture!
Oddly enough, the REAL villain turns out to be "Edward, Earl of NewarK", played by Richard Pasco, who I've never seen in anything else, but apparently played baddies in 3 different episodes of the TV series.
Also in the cast are Derren Nesbitt (WHERE EAGLES DARE) in one of his rare "good guy" roles, Edwin Richfield ("The Sea Devils") as a minor villain, and Oliver Reed (THE BIG SLEEP) as a total bastard, who, inexplicably, had his entire performance dubbed by another actor.
It's a "nice" film, but not a great one, as the plot tends to ramble and never quite builds any kind of momentum, resembling more than anything a 30's serial with the cliffhangers removed. Richard Green was one of the producers, and it's not by one of Hammer's regular writers, either. Still, anything with Peter Cushing, directed by Terrence Fisher is worth a look.
Night of Dark Shadows (1971)
Haunted by the Past
As has been pointed out over the years, the 2nd DS feature, "NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS", starts out as a loose variation of the show's "1970 Parallel Time" story. In that, Quentin & his new bride Maggie arrive at Collinwood, where everyone is obsessed with Quentin's late wife Angelique, and are convinced she will return from the dead. That story itself was a variation on "REBECCA"-- right down to a "Mrs. Danvers" character (mentioned in NODS), though with a supernatural twist, in that Quentin's dead wife actually does come back, murders her twin sister and takes her place. On the show, it was one of the best-structured and paced story lines they ever did... until its rather ABRUPT ending, which left me unsatisfied and frustrated.
As for this movie... while elements of "REBECCA" and "1970 Parallel Time" definitely find their way in here, I find this is much more of a remake of the Roger Corman classic, "THE HAUNTED PALACE" with Vincent Price & Debra Paget as the married couple who inherit a mansion with a spooky housekeeper (Lon Chaney Jr.). Price's character, Charles Dexter Ward (the film was a very loose adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft story) sees a portrait of an ancestor who he is a dead ringer of-- and the spirit of his ancestor spends most of the film trying to POSSESS his descendant. (There is a difference between reincarnation and possession, which sometimes got blurred on the DARK SHADOWS TV series.) The scene where David Selby roughly embraces his wife Tracy, leaving her in tears, then says, "I'll touch you ANY way I like, WHENEVER I like, and if you don't like it, you can always LEAVE!", is straight out of the Corman flick, when Price-- POSSESSED-- tells Debra Paget he wishes "to exercise my husbandly prerogative"-- and then almost RAPES her!! (I'm surprised no one else has brought up this blatant comparison before.)
Another Corman POE film that found its way into this one is "THE TOMB OF LIGEIA", where Verden Fell (Price again) marries Rowena (Elisabeth Sheppard), but is haunted by the memory of his late wife Ligeia (also Sheppard). The multiple camera shots of the tower where Quentin is drawn by Angelique are almost IDENTICAL to the shots of the tower of the abbey where, each night, without his own knowledge, Fell goes to tend to his DEAD wife-- who placed him under hypnotism before she died.
I've always thought "HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS" was too short, and should have been at least 2 hours long, to allow for better pacing and character development of its huge, complex cast. By comparison, the first time I saw "NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS", I thought it was painfully slow, dull and too long for its own good. When I discovered that a full 35 MINUTES had been cut from it before release, I could hardly believe what I was reading. But on further investigation, it appears this film would have been MUCH better if the story as originally written had been allowed to see release without being butchered.
Even so, from reading in detail about what was missing, something tells me that EVEN the uncut version of this film is actually missing its "3rd act". If even the uncut version still ends with Angelique coming back, Quentin fully possessed, and everyone else DEAD, what's the point?
Try watching this-- then "THE HAUNTED PALACE" back-to-back. The moment Price is about the leave the house-- but then stays for "one last thing"-- and becomes FULLY possessed-- is where that film REALLY starts to get interesting! "NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS", in either form, ends TOO SOON for its own good.
Mike Hammer: Dead Pigeon (1986)
What, No Jury?
A possibly-crooked cop Hammer never liked is killed (a real change from it being one of Mike's "best and oldest friends") and HE's framed for the murder! After an increasing number of episodes in which Larry Barrington was slowly getting more mellowed-out, he's back to his old tricks again, OBSESSED with nailing Hammer to a wall, no matter what it takes. Pat Chambers is angry, more than usual-- at Mike for not staying off the streets while HE tries to clear him, at a group of crooked cops for assaulting Mike outside a bar, and at Barrington, for letting his personal feeling totally cloud his judgment.
And in the midst of this is the dead man's sort-of widow (they were never officially married), who was once Mike's EX... and who seems to want him back in her life again-- among other things.
Elaine Wilkes plays Mike's defense lawyer Nancy, looking far too young to have actually graduated both college AND law school (in fact, the actress was only 21 when she appeared in this episode-- having been in SIXTEEN CANDLES 2 years before). Robin Curtis (the 2nd "Saavik", from STAR TREK 3 and 4) plays Peggy Ryan, another cop who's being blackmailed by the real killer. And Randi Brooks (THE LAST PRECINCT) plays Sheila Forbes, one really HHHHHOT number who winds up appearing in the sexiest scene ever filmed for this TV series!!! (When I saw this, in the 8-9 PM time slot on a Saturday night, I knew "Family Viewing Hour" was dead and gone.)
Fred Freiberger, infamous as the producer of STAR TREK's 3rd season (and SPACE: 1999's 2nd) wrote this, and even wide awake, I still couldn't quite make sense of the ending. Why is it so hard to keep track of the logic on this show's mysteries sometimes? The most memorable thing was the climax-- a direct SWIPE from Mickey Spillane's "I, THE JURY". Only without the "How could you?" and "It was EASY."
One thing that baffles me about the 3rd season-- apart from the really STUPID name-change to "THE NEW MIKE HAMMER"-- is how, while the show got MUCH more serious and intense and stylish, the theme song became more upbeat and frivolous. If anything, the slower, moodier version from seasons 1-2 would have been a much better fit here, and vice-versa.
Who Mourns For KULKULKAN?
HOW SHARPER THAN A SERPENT'S TOOTH was yet another "variation on a theme" regarding aliens who were either obsessed with Earth in the past or had visited there and had an impact on Earth's history: THE SQUIRE OF GOTHOS, WHO MOURNS FOR ADONAIS?, THE MAGICKS OF MEGAS-TU, or, in DOCTOR WHO terms, THE DAEMONS. Here's it's the winged serpent Kulkulkan, who influenced the Mayan civilization (and apparently also influenced The Toltecs and The Chinese). The closest parallel here would be "Apollo", and this almost feels like a remake of his story, only with more "sci-fi" elements, and about a hundred times the budget (if it had been live-action instead of a cartoon).
Once more "predicting" much-later developments (despite incessant protests, it seems painfully clear the people who worked on the various STAR TREK spin-offs were influenced by THESE CARTOONS) is helmsman "Ensign Walking Bear", a member of the Cherokee tribe who says he's studied the history of many Native American cultures. ("Chakotay" on VOYAGER is rather similar-- a Native American turns up, and his whole personality seems to be summed up by being the "expert" when it comes to "Native American" things. George Takei objected to that sort of thing-- it's why in THE NAKED TIME he used a rapier and was obsessed with D'Artagnon, instead of using a samurai sword as originally suggested.)
Once again we have an alien being who "helped" mankind in the distant past, is bugged that they have "forgotten" him, and still insists on thinking of them as his "chidren". It takes quite a bit of effort of Kirk's part, but, EVENTUALLY, he convinces Kulkulkan that mankind has "grown up", that while still a violent species they use their minds and put every effort into living in peace, and that "any intelligent species cannot be simply led by the hand".
Some of the design work in here is impressive, including Kulkulkan's spaceship, the Mayan city (presumably some sort of holographic creation), and the "zoo" which collects various animals in such a way they they each believe they're in their natural environments, and are unaware they're really in tiny glass enclosures).
Perhaps the most annoying thing in this episode (apart fro Kulkulkan's general attitude for most of it) is the way William Shatner MIS-PROPNOUNCES Kulkulkan's name every single time he says it (as "Ku-KLU-Kan"-- did he think the serpent was wearing a white robe or something?).
I got a laugh when Kirk injects the savage "power cat" with a tranquilizer and is knocked aside, then McCoy asks him, "Did you inject the cat, or yourself?"
The ending of the story manages to find an excuse to squeeze in yet another Shakespeare reference, which is where the story gets its name-- "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have an ungrateful child."
Writer David Wise has had a long career, mostly writing cartoons, while his collaborator, Russell Bates, only ever did this and an episode of ISIS. In both cases, this was their first TV work.
Not one of my favorites, but I still wish this series had continued on a lot longer than it did. It's just disgraceful that Filmnation only did 6 episodes the 2nd season, and then that was it.
McCloud: The Park Avenue Rustlers (1972)
One of my favorite McCLOUDs begins with Sam assigned to a "pilot program" where for the first time in NYC, women patrolmen are teamed with men for patrol car duty. "Who are you? WHAT are you?" asks his new partner, Margaret Sareno, played by spunky Brenda Vaccaro. Within 15 minutes, he saves her from being run over by a car-thief, and has a high-speed pursuit interrupted by an 18-wheeler, sending their car thru the front window of a clothing store.
Next, Sam winds up on late-night stake-out with a longtime veteran of the stolen car unit, Lt. Ed Feldman (Norman Fell). But when Feldman turns up murdered the next day, McCloud proposes what turns into one of the most outrageous undercover scams he ever pulled in his career. Stealing cars from the stolen car-ring, he quickly gets their attention, then, gets hired by them, in an attempt to find out as much about the ring as possible, and discover the identity of the top man. Along the way, he's watched like a hawk, forcing Officer Sareno to pose as his girlfriend so they can pass information along.
I remember watching this when it was first-run, and being delighted from the start, especially with Vaccaro. It seems a shame that, like so many characters on shows like these, they never brought her back for further appearances. The 70's was also a time when the endless flood of cop shows saw many actors known for playing good characters turned up as crooks, killers or worse. So it was that Eddie Albert (the former star of GREEN ACRES) played Roy Erickson ("middle-management", as Sam put it), while Roddy McDowell (PLANET OF THE APES) played Phil Sandler ("psychotic hit-man"-- actually a misnomer, the proper word here would be psychopathic).
Also in the cast were Lloyd Bochner (the top man, Glen Larson would bring him back for "NIGHT OF THE SHARK" and 2 episodes of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA); George Murdock (who would later become a recurring character on BG), and Diana Muldaur (Sam's on-again/off-again girlfriend Chris Caughlin, who shows up at JUST the wrong time and place, to blow Sam's cover!! --OOPS).
Writer Sy Salkowitz, in his only McCLOUD episode, manages the proper tone and balance to things, getting the relationship between Sam & Chief Clifford "just right". The following season, Glen Larson would push Clifford further and further into apoplectic fits of rage, for comedy's sake. This was fun to watch, but it could undermine the believability of things, as the longer the two worked together, the more confidence Clifford should have had in Sam and his way of doing things. As seen here!
Midway thru the story, when it looks like Sam may have been found out (his "references" didn't check out), he suddenly switches gears and ups the odds by "revealing" to his crooked employers that he actually runs a huge car-rental operation in the southwest. The fact that he managed to con the crooks so successfully was somewhat astonishing, and would have made Simon Templar ("The Saint") proud.
The most memorable set-piece is no doubt when the jig is up, and as Sam pursues the baddies, he winds up hanging underneath a helicopter flying over Manhattan. This became one of the scenes used when the opening credits became a montage of flashbacks starting in the 4th season. I also note that during the flight, one of the places they flew over was the remains of the New York World's Fair-- which would be the site of the climax of the following episode!
Finally, the "new" theme song only turns up briefly near the end of the story, while the end credits, strangely, use ANOTHER theme song I've never heard before or since. I wonder how many shows take until their 4th year to finally settle on a theme song they like?
More Than Murder (1984)
A year after Stacy Keach's debut as Mike Hammer in "MURDER ME, MURDER YOU", the powers-that-be finally stopped twiddling their thumbs and gave the go-ahead for the follow-up. "MORE THAN MURDER" was the result, and anyone who's ever watched the Stacy Keach HAMMER TV series can attest, many of the regular elements of the show made their debut here. We already got Mike, his office, his '64 Mustang, his "cowboy" mustache, Pat Chambers & Barrington. This time around, we got Lindsay Bloom as Velda, Danny Goldman as "Ozzie the Answer", "The Face" (WHO IS SHE?????), and the catch-phrase, "I'll make a note." There's also Mike's gum-ball machine, and Velda always trying to help him quit smoking. One almost wonders why they bothered doing this as a 2-hour movie, instead of a 2-parter, since the ongoing weekly series began only ONE WEEK after this aired.
There's a lot to like here... the endless parade of large-breasted beauties wearing dresses with low neck-lines, all of whom seem to want to sleep with our favorite P.I.; the endless succession of shoot-outs, punch-outs, and tough-guy wise-cracks. There's also Robyn Douglass (who'd I'd seen in that "1980" show whose full title I make a point never to utter, or even type out), and Lynn-Holly Johnson (my FAVORITE "Bond girl"-- who DOESN'T get to sleep with Mike, either, poor girl).
However, a trend that, while I suppose does go back at least as far as "I, THE JURY" in 1953, continues here and, if anything, escalates totally out of control. That being, the plot is COMPLETELY incomprehensible. Believe me, I know. I've seen this at least 6 times since it first aired. When you've watched as many cop shows, detective shows, murder mysteries and the like as I have over the decades, and you STILL can't follow the plot, I figure it isn't me. And, as I recall, this trend became a fixture of the entire Stacy Keach HAMMER series, from start to finish. It makes me wonder... did they include all the gorgeous women, all the brutal fights and murders, all the hot-tempered ego-posturing, and the cool jazz music score, to distract viewers from the fact that the plots are INDECIPHERABLE? Or are all those elements-- as they were in the Bogart-Bacall BIG SLEEP-- the REASON it's impossible to understand the stories, EVEN at the end when they spell it all out for you?
As much as I did like this (despite itself), and as much as I loved the weekly series, there's one thing I always regretted about it... that because they waited SO LONG to do the 2nd one, they weren't able to get Tanya Roberts to come back as Velda. Damn shame. Of all of them, she was my favorite (with Margaret Sheridan a close second). Lindsay Bloom (who dyed her blonde hair black and lost a lot of pounds because she wanted the role so much) is terrific... but she never made me forget the girl she replaced.
Bullets On Broadway
The night Sam swaps duty with another officer (he wanted to see the football game, which did not thrill his date Chris Caughlin one bit), the man who took his place gets killed during a "routine" investigation. Sam, feeling guilty ("It should have been me!") gets depressed and begins to think maybe it's time he went back home to Taos.
But then he receives an anonymous note indicating the killing wasn't random, and wasn't an accident. Before long, he's looking into it, and discovers that Det. Arthur Franz, who'd been investigating Broadway producer Malcolm Garnett, abruptly closed the file on the case, shortly before his daughter was offered the lead in Garnett's next show. VERY suspicious!
The trail also leads to Louise Blanchard, an apparently wealthy widow whose husband was swindled by Garnett. She seems very nice on the surface, and appears to find Sam very attractive... until we find out that she's also having an affair with Julian Franco, the man suspected of KILLING Det. Franz! Before this complex web plays out, nearly everyone involved winds up being guilty of something, whether it's bribery or conspiracy to commit murder.
Topping the guest cast this time out is Milton Berle as "Malcolm Garnett". Though famous as a comedian, Berle has repeatedly proved over the years he can do straight drama as well, and be very convincing at it. Barbara Rush (PEYTON PLACE) is "Louise Blanchard"; Rush reminds me a bit of a 60's version of Dana Delany, in that I rank her as one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, but she always seems to be playing very disturbed or corrupt characters (as seen in her guest-shots on THE OUTER LIMITS, BATMAN, or here). Arthur Mallet (YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, HALLOWEEN, a guest-shot on WKRP IN CINCINNATI) is "Leonard", one of Louise's rich friends who married a wife much younger than he is. Reginald Owen (whose career goes back decades) is "Orville", another of Louise's friends. Vic Tayback (STAR TREK: "A Piece of the Action") is "Thomas", Garnett's bodyguard. Jeff Pomerantz (founder of "Hollywood Says No To Drugs") is "Julian Franco", the painter-sculptor boy-toy of Louise who looks like a porn star and is easily talked into committing murders for her. Lane Bradbury (several episodes of GUNSMOKE and a long list of other credits) is "Carol Harrington", the sweet, talented dancer who's shocked to learn her father may have accepted a bribe to get her a career break. (She was also the wife of actor-turned-director Lou Antonio, who helmed this episode.)
Between the film montage of McCloud roaming around NYC to the tune of Dennis Weaver warbling the song "Another Way", the scenes at the beginning and end of Sam & Chris having dinner together, and an extended "rehearsal" sequence in the theatre, this episode feels very much to me like it was written for the one-hour format of the previous year, but painfully padded out to fit the 90-min. slot.
Also, while the climax, with Sam getting the drop on a killer who was waiting to take him out, was clever, with the 2 main plots, both of which end in rather downbeat fashion, this episode may be my least-favorite of the season. Oh well. Things would change-- BIG-time-- the following year.
Classical Music, Mystery & Murder
A concert conductor is stabbed in an alley. A student of his, who had a crush on his daughter, just happens by and is accused of the killing. As McCloud investigates, he finds wildly divergent descriptions of the suspect in custody. His landlord calls him a weirdo, the lawyer helping raise funds for a music conservatory says he was potentially dangerous, but all his friends say he was utterly focused on his music and incapable of hurting a fly.
But as his investigation continues, McCloud finds something far more twisted was going on behind the scenes, involving a (supposedly) reformed mobster who's up for the job of harbor commissioner; his lawyer who (coincidentally?) is the one helping to keep the music conservatory open with "anonymous" donations, and who happens to be dating the murdered man's daughter; and how the murder was really meant to bring the conductor's brother, who's been on the run from the mob since he witnessed a hit years ago, out of hiding. (It somewhat blew my mind when this dawned on me, about a third of the way into the story.) McCloud gets somewhat reluctant help from the suspect's friends, the other 3 members of his string quartet, who all work at a deli.
As usual for this show, the cast includes an interesting assemblage of known actors and future familiar faces. This time around there's Rick Weaver (Dennis' son) is "Louis Brocco", the shy, sensitive violin player conned into being in the wrong place at the wrong time, just so he could catch a glimpse of the girl he admires. Gary Collins (THE SIXTH SENSE) is "Kevin Mallory", the "helpful" lawyer whose boss pushes him to commit murder. Neville Brand (THE UNTOUCHABLES' own Al Capone) is "Fred Schultke", the crook-turned-politico who no doubt sees the job as harbor commissioner as an open door to controlling all the narcotics coming into the city for his own profit. Alex Henteloff (the sleaze-ball attorney "Arnold Ripner" in 8 episodes of BARNEY MILLER), Richard Haydn (AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, THE SOUND OF MUSIC) and Avery Schreiber (MY MOTHER THE CAR) are the 3 musicians who wind up helping Sam clear their friend of the murder charge. Shelly Fabares (THE PRACTICE, ONE DAY AT A TIME, COACH) is "Natalie Rudell", daughter of the murdered man. Timothy Carey (HEAD, THE NEW MIKE HAMMER) is the "Apartment Manager" who paints a bad image of the murder suspect, then surprisingly seems to make a pass at McCloud (who departs rather nervously). Lilia Skala (LILIES OF THE FIELD, GREEN ACRES) is "Eugenia Rudell", the conductor's wife, who proves the be the most outspoken defender of Louis Brocco, McCloud's staunch ally and perhaps the most interesting character in the story. Dick Miller (THE PREMATURE BURIAL, ROCK & ROLL HIGH SCHOOL) is the hit-man in the "green hat". Finally, Joseph Wiseman (DR. NO, CRIME STORY) is "Paul Rudell", who is shocked and cannot believe his brother could have been killed for the reason McCloud suggests (until he finds out that's exactly the truth).
This story continues to steer slowly back toward the style of the 1st season, with more action to balance out the long stretches of mystery and character scenes.
"The Loved One" -- Part 2
Some people are just plain greedy. Marvin Sloan run a nation-wide chain of expensive, exclusive funeral parlors and cemeteries called "Tranquil Valley", where, for "surprisingly reasonable rates", you can be buried like a millionaire. You'd think that would be satisfy some people. So why is he ALSO in the business of hijacking medical supplies, watering them down and then shipping them to South America to sell on the black market?
Marvin's also got a problem. His wife Lucy has been nagging him for months to let her half-wit brother Ralphie (the one with the mind of a 5-year-old) join the operation, because he wants to get out of TV repair. And against all his best instincts, he agrees. You just know things are going to go bad when, with childlike glee, Ralphie, on getting a gun (gift-wrapped!) excitedly asks, "Where's the bullets? Where's the bullets?" Sure enough, during a routine hijacking at a warehouse, Ralphie, nervous and over-anxious, accidentally drops his gun in front of a security guard-- who he then proceeds to SHOOT, before being wounded himself. Now, while he's in a hospital under police guard, his sister Lucy is nagging her husband because HE let her brother get shot and beaten and arrested and what's he going to do to get him out of it? You can bet Marvin is wishing he'd gotten a divorce years ago.
So Marvin does two things. His 2 henchmen KIDNAP McCloud (the arresting officer) and demand a trade of prisoners. Meanwhile, Marvin's lawyer goes to visit Ralphie, at first mistaking him for a whiplash case. "I'm here on a MURDER charge!" "I'm sorry, I had the wrong file." After questioning his client (the guard never pulled his gun, Ralphie shot him in front of 7 witnesses, he gave the police the murder weapon), the lawyer makes an unusual proposal. "I'd like to suggest that you might consider saving yourself a lot of hassle by taking your own life." "WHAT? What kind of a lawyer ARE you???? GET OUT OF HERE!!!"
If you haven't figured out by now, this episode is more of a comedy than usual. I found myself laughing so hard at that last scene.
As usual, producer Dean Hargrove has lined up an impressive cast for this low-key loony-show. Joyce Van Patten (THE GOOD GUYS, UNHAPPILY EVER AFTER) is "Lucy", the pushy, bossy, complaining wife and overly-loyal and loving older sister. Moses Gunn (SHAFT, SHAFT'S BIG SCORE, BATES MOTEL) is "Morgan", the Shakespeare-quoting hired thug. Vic Morrow (THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, COMBAT, THE TWILIGHT ZONE movie) is "Richard", the brutal, hypochondriac sidekick. Alfred Ryder (STAR TREK: "The Man Trap") is Dudley, the chemist who branches out into a little murder on the side. Arlene Martel (STAR TREK: "Amok Time") makes her 2nd appearance in a row on the show, this time as the blonde-haired "Tour Guide" whose long-winded spiels about Tranquil Valley pepper the entire length of the episode. Bruce Kirby (COLUMBO and countless other shows) is the "PR Man" who takes photos of Marvin. Burgess Meredith (BATMAN, ROCKY, CLASH OF THE TITANS) is "Marvin", who probably brings the best performance as the story's main villain. But the kicker is Allen Garfield (THE FRONT PAGE, MOTHER JUGS & SPEED, CONTINENTAL DIVIDE) as "Ralphie", the idiot's idiot who should have stayed in TV repair.
No sign of Joe Broadhurst or Richard Thatcher in this one. I seem to vaguely remember Chris Caughlin, but it must have been a brief cameo. At least Peter B. Clifford got to make an impact, when he solemnly stands on the steps of the Criminal Courts Building and silently shakes his head "NO", knowing that by doing so he's probably sealing McCloud's death sentence.
This is just one really WEIRD story, but considering most of the NBC MYSTERY MOVIES tended to have humor alongside the drama, crime & mystery, and given that I LIKE humor with my dramas, I got a real kick out of it.
McCloud: The Disposal Man (1971)
Who Hired the Hit-man?
Sam's evening with Chris Caughlin is interrupted when a low-level crook assaults him in a bar, then informs him of a "hit" planned against a prominent businessman. He later denies it, but following McCloud's instincts, Clifford assigns him to act as bodyguard. Sam soon finds himself in a viper's nest, as it seems Arthur Yerby (Patrick O'Neal) has a way of offending everyone whose path he crosses, including, it seems, every member of his family. He's like the murder victim in an Agatha Christie story, except here, McCloud is trying to prevent the murder before it happens, as well as find out who's behind it.
Along the way Sam manages to interview a retired hit-man (Arthur O'Connell), who gives him tips on how someone in that peculiar business operates.
After the last 3 episodes, this is a real step back toward the "traditional" McCLOUD of the the 1st and all later seasons. His occasional girlfriend Chris (Diana Muldaur) is around, writing stories about him that anger his boss, and hob-nobbing with the rich and famous. Clifford gets to be angry & irate in some scenes, while clever enough to "play along" with McCloud's schemes in others. And Sam gets help from-- no, wait, that isn't Joe Broadhurst, it's Richard Thatcher! I don't know what happened to Terry Carter, but James McEachin fills in nicely. His Thatcher, while filling the slot of "helpful black detective" (I don't know what else to call it) is quite different from Broadhurst, if anything he's got a lot more "personality". 2 years later, McEachin would get his own short-lived TV series as part of the NBC MYSTERY MOVIE cycle. If "McCLOUD" was based on "COOGAN'S BLUFF", then "TENAFLY" surely was inspired by "THEY CALL ME MISTER TIBBS!" 15 years later, he could be seen semi-regularly as "Lt. Ed Brock" on the revived PERRY MASON movie series (like this episode, produced by Dean Hargrove).
Also in the cast are comedian Jack Carter as "Frank Gordon", the crook who tips Sam to the contract; Nita Talbot as "Rosalie Hudgins", the hooker who fails to take Sam's advice (I always remember her as the Russian spy on HOGAN'S HEROES); Arlene Martel as "Linda Farley", the strange, long-winded girlfriend of Frank Gordon (she's probably best remembered as "T'Pring" from the STAR TREK episode "Amok Time"); Randolph Mantooth ("EMERGENCY") as "Phillip Yerby", perpetually put down by his father; Pat Morita (HAPPY DAYS) as "Felix", the bartender at the beginning of the story; Murray Matheson (BANACEK) as "George Lincoln", Yerby's business manager; and James Olsen as "Thomas Dane", the hired killer of the story title. Olsen's had a long career playing mostly psychos and killers, this episode being a prime example, but I often remember him as the lead scientist (and hero of the film) in "THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN".