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Columbo: A Matter of Honor (1976)
Season 5, Episode 4
4/10
Columbo...don't go on vacations!
15 September 2019
The episode begins with Columbo in Mexico. He's in trouble because a group of folks staged an accident and Columbo barely speaks Spanish. Fortunately a local policeman intervenes...unfortunately, he has to stay in the country for a few more days AND this policeman asks him to help on a case. It seems that on the estate of a great retired bullfighter, Don Montoya (Ricardo Montalban), there have been a couple accidents. First, a young bullfighter in training was severely injured. Second, shortly after that the injured man's father is torn to pieces by the same bull. Soon, Columbo is convinced that the death was NOT an accident...the bull was 'helped'. But why??

This is a sub-par episode because by the end Columbo found a good reason for the murder but in no way did he prove that the murderer killed anyone....no evidence at all. Yet, inexplicably, the man surrendered to police and the credits began to roll! Overall, quite weak...and a disappointment.

By the way, this as well as episodes of "Mannix", "Quincy", "Murder She Wrote", "Cannon" and "Columbo" have convinced me that crimefighters should NEVER go on vacation....bodies are sure to begin piling up wherever they go!
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3/10
How did this film ever get made?!
15 September 2019
"He Stayed for Breakfast" is a strange film with a plot that defies logic. Think about it....the leading man (Melvyn Douglas) in this romantic comedy is a communist agitator! To say this is weird in an American film of the era is an understatement to say the least!

When the film begins, Paul (Douglas) is out trying to recruit folks to join the Communist Party in Paris. Soon after this, as he's working his job as a waiter in a cafe, he loses control of himself and shoots the cup out of the hand of a nasty plutocrat (Eugene Pallette)! Not surprisingly, he's soon a wanted man. And, when he hides out he just happens to pick the apartment of the estranged wife of this rich guy! And, inexplicably, she agrees to hide him from authorities!! Eventually, you KNOW that pair will fall in love...though HOW this could even happen defies common sense.

The plot is insane and you wonder if perhaps the studio head, Roy Cohn, had lost his mind by making such a film! Making it a rom-com is also pretty bizarre...especially with Paul spouting Stalin and Trotsky all the time! How did they expect the American public to embrace this sort of thing?! Now if it had been written well or with SOME subtlety, it could have possibly worked. As it is, it's just a bad, weird film with little to recommend it.
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Nature: India's Wandering Lions (2016)
Season 34, Episode 14
9/10
It makes you want to head to Gujarat!
14 September 2019
Only a few years ago I learned that there was a portion of India in which lions STILL live....Gujarat. So, when I saw a documentary about this I was thrilled. And, fortunately, I was also pleasantly surprised. Why pleasantly surprised? Because unlike the slaughter of animals in Africa, the folks in India have embraced the lions and they love and protect them. This success story makes the documentary enjoyable and optimistic....and well worth your time. See this one.
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Columbo: Identity Crisis (1975)
Season 5, Episode 3
5/10
A bit of a disappointment for me.
14 September 2019
The show begins with Nelson Brenner (Patrick McGoohan) murdering A.J. Henderson (Leslie Nielsen). Not surprisingly, when the body is found, Cloumbo is on the case. His leads bring him to Brenner but when this occurs, he's shocked to have the CIA come to him--asking that he drop considering Brenner as a suspect.

So why did I only give this one a 5? A couple reasons. First, the mystery wasn't that mysterious and Brenner gave up and confessed too easily. Second, and I know it won't matter to many, but I was annoyed that the writer didn't do their research...specifically they didn't understand that a T-33 trainer is called a 'Shooting Star'...not a 'Silver Star'....and having a pilot referring to it the wrong way seemed odd and took me out of the story.
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Columbo: A Case of Immunity (1975)
Season 5, Episode 2
8/10
Columbo isn't exactly a master of diplomacy in this one!
14 September 2019
"A Case of Immunity" is an episode of "Columbo" that is very good. However, I should note one thing. Altough the show is about folks from a mythical Muslim nation, the main actors in it were not--one being a Sicilian-American and the other a Puerto Rican/Basque-American. This isn't very unusual though it might have been nice to have Muslim actors in these roles.

The story begins with a staged murder and robbery meant to discredit dissidents from a fictional nation. Then, to keep things secret, the diplomat organizing all this kills his accomplice. Now Columbo is investigating two murders and is spending much time in diplomatic circles. What makes this tough is that the killer has diplomatic immunity....so what is Columbo to do??

I enjoyed the change of venue in this story, though it does seem impobable that such a case would be handled by the Los Angeles Police. Still, it is enjoyable and Columbo's interactions with the killer are amazingly fun to watch.
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The Twilight Zone: Long Distance Call (1961)
Season 2, Episode 22
7/10
Grandma is a real jerk here!
13 September 2019
This is the first of three appearances by young Billy Mumy on "The Twilight Zone"....as well as the sixth of six episodes which were videotaped. The most famous of Mumy's appearances was where he was a monster with incredible psychic powers...and he terrorized all those around him. Here, however, he's a much more benign character!

When the story begins, five year-old Billy is having a birthday dinner with his parents and grandma. Grandma is deathly ill and shortly after giving the boy a toy phone, she dies. However, her will is apparently quite strong as she begins calling the boy on his phone....and giving him instructions to off himself so he can join her!

This is a fair episode of the series--neither a particularly good one nor a bad one. The story offers few surprises but the acting is decent. An episode that is hardly a must-see....but one that is intelligently written and enjoyable.
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The Twilight Zone: Mr. Denton on Doomsday (1959)
Season 1, Episode 3
8/10
Dan Duryea takes a trip through The Twilight Zone.
13 September 2019
"Mr. Denton on Doomsday" is well worth seeing because it stars one of the lesser-known but best actors to have guest starred on "The Twilight Zone"...Dan Duryea. Duryea generally played scummy supporting characters....villains or pusilanimous cowards. But occasionally he got to play roles outside this narrow range...and he never disappointed. Here, he plays a sad drunk who used to be a gunslinger in the 'good old days'.

The show begins out west. A young punk (Martin Landau) is getting his kicks by tormenting the town drunk, Al Denton (Duryea). Again and again, he delights in slapping him around and getting him to sing for a drink...calling him 'rummy' and treating him like dirt. However, when a gun somehow appears in Al's hand, his life story changes....and that is what makes this a nice installment of "The Twilight Zone".

I will admit that this is NOT one of the more memorable stories from the series and it lacks the creepiness we all love. But the acting...well...that is well worth seeing. Landau, as usual, was a great professional but seeing Duryea...that was a treat. Well worth seeing and exceptionally well made.
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Columbo: Forgotten Lady (1975)
Season 5, Episode 1
9/10
Janet Leigh...lookin' like a ninja in this one!
13 September 2019
Of all the episodes of "Columbo" I have seen, "Forgotten Lady" seems to take the prize for the most amazing enemble cast. It stars Janet Leigh and is supported by John Payne (in his final performance), Sam Jaffe and Maurice Evans (whose greatest work, apparently, was on the stage). Together, the four make for an especially memorable show.

When the show begins, Grace Wheeler Willis (Leigh) is contemplating a comeback. It seems she was a huge star during the heyday of Hollywood and she thinks the world is ready for her return. However, her rich husband (Jaffe) isn't about to finance this vanity project....and so she murders him! How does she essentially get away with it....especially with Columbo on the case?!

This story differs from the average "Columbo" in many ways. There is a greater emphasis on comedy (with his dog in far more scenes than usual). There is an ending where the expected does NOT happen. And, you get to see Columbo dressed NICELY for once...just near the end. Overall, a very well written and rather sad episode despite its comedic elements.
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Columbo: A Deadly State of Mind (1975)
Season 4, Episode 6
8/10
I'd consider using a different doctor!
13 September 2019
Dr. Mark Collier (George Hamilton) is a psychiatrist whose moral compass is a bit bent to say the least! For example, he's having a sexual relationship with a patient he's currently treating! Then, when they arrange to meet for another round of hide the sausage, the angry husband shows up and confronts them. A fight ensues and Collier bashes the man over the head to get him off his scared wife. Not surprisingly, the husband is dead. And, instead of telling the police what happened, the doc insists his lover create a story about two masked men entering the house and killing the husband. The problem is that the wife (Lesley Ann Warren) is rather unstable and eventually the psychiatrist comes up with a hard to believe way to silence her using hypnosis.

The story is enjoyable and interesting. Unfortunately, the writer assumed hypnosis is MUCH more powerful than it really is, as you couldn't use it to kill anyone. I have training in hypnotherapy....and if I COULD use it for evil, I might! But such stuff is more the creation of TV and movie screenwriters than fact. Still, it IS enjoyable and Hamilton is very good as a suave killer.
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Columbo: Playback (1975)
Season 4, Episode 5
6/10
An odd choice for a guest star
13 September 2019
According to IMDB, Peter Falk himself traveled to Switzerland to meet Oskar Werner and to ask him to guest star on "Columbo". This is a bit strange, as Werner had a very strong German accent....and it was a bit hard to understand in the show and I am glad I was using closed captions.

As for Werner, he played Harold Van Wick...a guy who obviously did NOT like his mother-in-law. When she announced that she was firing him from his job because she felt he wasn't spending money wisely, he responded by murdering her. Using his knowledge of video recording equipment, he altered the surveillance tapes to make it appear she was killed while he was away at a gallery.

This is a decent episode but as I mentioned above, Werner was not great as the killer. Because of this, I'd knock off a point and think it's a weak show.
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Columbo: Murder, a Self Portrait (1989)
Season 9, Episode 1
6/10
Columbo didn't produce one of his better cases here.
10 September 2019
By the time "Murder, a Self Portrait" was made, more than 20 years had passed since the first "Columbo" movie. This, combined with a relatively unexciting case make this a must-see for fans. Others might just wanna try one of the earlier installments.

When the episode begins, you see that the artist Max Barsini has a most unusual living arrangement. His marriage seems very open and strange. His ex-wife lives next door and is very actively involved with Max's second wife as well as his lover...and the four of them eat and spend their time together! At first, it appears as if they are one big happy, albeit strange, family. However, when the first wife wants to leave and start a new life, Max's narcissism and co-dependence kick in and he murders her....making it look like a simply drowning. However, Columbo is on the case....and there seems to be nothing like a simple death to him!

The guest actors in this one are okay....but not particularly memorable or exciting to watch. The same goes with the finale, which has little in the way of fireworks or excitement.
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John Wick (2014)
7/10
Probably NOT a film to watch with your kids or mother.
10 September 2019
When the story begins, John (Keanu Reeves) has just lost his wife. After her death, he's a bit lost but tries to rebuild his life. One day, he's getting gas and a young Russian-American punk notices Wick's classic car...and tries to buy it off him. But Wick isn't interested and declines. Soon, the punk arrives at Wick's home with some goons where they surprise him--beating him senseless, destroying his stuff, killing his dog and stealing his car! This is when you then learn that Wick is a super-assassin....and the punk chose the wrong guy to attack. The jerk's father is a big-time Russian mobster....and it's a contest to see who will win...the mobster and his gang or Wick on his own. Considering there are (so far) two MORE John Wick films, it pretty much seems certain who will win this battle.

To say "John WIck" is a violent film is a gross undestatement. Once the dog dies, it's pretty much a bloodbath from then on...with Wick dispatching countless goons VERY realistically on his way to ultimate revenge. And, he doesn't just kill a few...he makes sure to kill them by double and triple-tapping his prey. Blood and mayhem make this a lousy film to show your kids, mother or Father O'Reilly when he comes over for a visit!

So, aside from being a bloodbath, is it any good? Yes, it's an excellent all-action film...but....it IS hard to watch and is essentially a giant gore-fest. In many ways, it's like the Sonny Chiba 'Street Fighter' films....that violent and that dedicated to making sure all the victims are indeed dead! Mindless violence....albeit well choreographed violence. Not really my sort of film...perhaps it will be yours.
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The TV Set (2006)
8/10
Step-by-step...how Hollywood produces crap for the TV.
10 September 2019
Mike Klein (David Duchovney) is trying to produce a TV show he's written. And, while the network folks SAY they love the idea, the vacuous idiot from programming (Signourney Weaver) does her best to slowly destroy all that is original and brilliant and reduce it to yet another banal sit-com.

I read a book some time ago that talked about the creative process by which movies are made in Hollywood. Essentially, a story is written, re-written and changed so much that by the time the film gets to theaters, if at all, it's absolutely nothing like the original story. This, then, is very much like you see in "The TV Set", as a very good television show idea is created and how, over time, idiots manage to destroy everything that made it so good.

The story is very insightful and clever....and a must for TV/movie buffs. My only reservation is that some folks will not like the movie because it lacks a happy ending. Some others might not like it as well because the film calls out crap TV...and those who LIKE crap TV might be offended....though offending folks like that is hardly a problem.
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Columbo: Troubled Waters (1975)
Season 4, Episode 4
7/10
Yes, you CAN get fingerprints from inside rubber gloves.
8 September 2019
Columbo and his neverpresent wife win a trip on a cruiseship. I say 'neverpresent' because you never see her on this or any other "Columbo" episodes....and the Lieutenant spends much of the trip looking for her!

Since Columbo is aboard, the same thing happens to him as other TV investigators like Quincy and Mannix....crime occurs aboard the ship. In this case, a singer is murdered and the killer concocted an elaborate scheme involving hanging out in the infirmary to allow him to slip into the victim's room unnoticed. His only real mistake? Rubber gloves.

This is a very good episode and provides a nice change of venue for the series. The only shortcoming is a common one for "Columbo"....he narrows in on the real perpetrator too quickly. Still, it was entertaining and worth your time.
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3/10
A good idea for a short film....but one that most likely helped no one.
8 September 2019
"The Bottle and the Throttle" is a short film about the dangers of drinking and driving. It is very well intentioned but also comes off as rather dull and difficult to believe...making its effectiveness rather limited. This is because instead of just telling the story, it has heavy-handed narration....dull narration at that. It's because it dispenses LOTS of information (most of which is absolutely correct) but most heavy drinkers are likely unaffected by facts and statistics. Had they emphasized the damage the young drunk driver did when he hit the two people, it would have been a much better and more effective film.
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The F.B.I.: Passage into Fear (1967)
Season 2, Episode 16
7/10
I would have taken a plane.
8 September 2019
Hanna Crandall is a witness in an upcoming hearing. However, despite being in protective custory, she has no intention of testifying against the accused spies and she unexpectedly disappears...heading to Canada. But with communist agents and the FBI chasing her, it's uncertain who will reach her first on the train bound for Quebec.

To me, the most interesting part about this episode is the choice of who played one of the communist assassins. Virginia Christine was famous for playing the Folger's lady on old TV commercials and almost exclusively played nice folks....but here she's a cold-blooded killer! Of course, she is NOT the only killer and not knowing who might be after Hanna makes for an interesting story......one well worth seeing...especially since it keeps you guessing throughout who the killers might me.
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The F.B.I.: The Raid (1967)
Season 2, Episode 15
9/10
The Iceman cometh.
8 September 2019
The 'Iceman' is a killer whose weapon of choice is, not surprisingly, an ice pick. Soon after the story begins, the Iceman sees a guy he knew in prison....and the Iceman wants to remain incognito. So, he does what you'd expect...he stabs the guy and leaves him for dead. However, he doesn't die immediately and he's able to alert the FBI that this criminal is on the loose. And, since the Iceman has been working for the notorious Martin gang, the agency is very interested in finding him, as Scott Martin (Ralph Meeker) is one on the 10 Most Wanted list.

Once the agents figure out where the gang is held up, they cannot just storm the apartment complex since there are neighbors to consider. Little do they know that in addition, Martin has a girlfriend and she and her young son are also in harm's way.

I liked this one a lot because it was so interesting once the standoff began. This takes up most of the episode and it works well for many reasons. It's tense, difficult to predict and quite exciting.
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The F.B.I.: The Death Wind (1966)
Season 2, Episode 14
7/10
Would you go THAT far to keep your spouse happy?!
8 September 2019
Captain Jennerson (Ralph Bellamy) owns an aging merchant ship...one in dire need of expensive repairs. But Jennerson cannot afford this...much of it because his young wife is VERY expensive. So, he deliberately runs the ship into a WWII Japanese mine and claims it for insurance purposes. The maritime court finds him innocent but the FBI decides to investigate. One of the big reasons is that the ship was hauling chlorine....and if the tanks break loose, nearby Hawaii would be in danger. And, there just happens to be a major storm heading their way!!

Had this episode just been about the sunken ship, it would have been less interesting. Adding the tsunami made it more tense and interesting. Combined with some nice guest stars, it's well worth seeing.
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The F.B.I.: List for a Firing Squad (1966)
Season 2, Episode 13
7/10
It didn't follow the expected formula.
7 September 2019
When the story begins, a Eastern European spies are meeting in a New York City restaurant. An anti-communist from the same nation arrives to stop the meeting and soon there's a shootout--one commie is dead as is the anti-communist. Agent Istvan Sladek managed to shoot his enemy and get shot in the process. Soon the FBI arrives and they attempt to find Sladek before he's able to give a list of agents within his communist country to his handlers.

A monkeywrench to all this is Sladek's girlfriend (Suzanne Pleshette). She adores him and cannot imagine he's a spy. And, when Erskine and Rhodes visit her, she's surprisingly open about loving Sladek. What's she going to do when she learns that he's not just a spy but a murderer? See the show and find out for yourself.

I appreciated this episode because the girlfriend does NOT follow the usual formula you'd expect in such a show. Not a great episode but a very good one.
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Columbo: By Dawn's Early Light (1974)
Season 4, Episode 3
7/10
A change of venue for the series.
7 September 2019
Patrick McGoohan stars as Colonel Rumford, the commandant of a military academy. For this role, he receives an Emmy Award.

When the story begins, Rumford is meeting with Mr. Haynes, a man who is the chairman of the board of the school. It seems that Haynes is NOT a fan of Rumford or the school and he tells Rumford he's planning on turning this college into a co-ed community college. At this point, EVERY viewer knows that soon Rumford will kill Haynes...which he soon does. But the method...that's something else. See the show....see what I mean.

This is a decent episode, though I was not 100% sure why McGoohan got the Emmy, though I will admit he was a very good actor. I enjoyed the odd plot and location, though I thought the resolution of the case at the end seemed a tad farfetched. Still, it is worth seeing. And, if you care, apparently the episode was filmed at the Citadel in South Carolina.
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Columbo: An Exercise in Fatality (1974)
Season 4, Episode 1
5/10
If you are getting cheated, don't confront the cheat....just go to the cops!
6 September 2019
Eugene Stafford has bought one of Milo Janus' health club franchises. However, in going over the bills, he realizes that Janus (Robert Conrad) was taking advantage of him...cheating him out of all the promised profits. But, instead of going to the police or District Attorney's office, Stafford confronts Janus. And, we know from detective shows like "Columbo" that Stafford will soon assume room temperature! And, that's exactly what happens and which brings Columbo into the case. And, as usual, the brilliant rumpled detective is able to spot tiny details and inconsistencies which convince him Stafford's death was NOT the accident it was staged to be.

So is this a good episode? In some ways yes. But Columbo NEVER proves his case...and there is no way the man would ever be found guilty of murder based on the inconsistencies Columbo finds. In other words, Janus COULD have killed the man but so could someone else...and, interestingly, the man simply could have died the way it was staged. As a result, it's a very weak episode...one that is enjoyable to watch but one in which Columbo simply didn't prove there was murder. See it...and see what I mean.



"An Exercise in Fatality" is interesting because generally movie and TV stars play folks younger than themselves. However, here Conrad plays a man much older than his chronological age. It did make sense, as his character was supposed to be an exercise guru--much like Jack LaLanne or Richard Simmons.
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6/10
Should you watch this documentary? It depends....but prpbably not.
6 September 2019
Margaret Rutherford made quite a few charming films....films where you just cannot help but love her. Because of this, I was excited to see "Truly Miss Marple". However, in hindsight, I am not sure if I should have seen it. It's because although the film does a great job in telling her life story and film/stage work, it also delves into her later years....which were, to put it kindly, were very sad. Depression, dementia and sadness mark this period....and left me feeling a bit down as a result. I would have really preferred to have seen LESS of her personal difficulties....though, this also would have made a fake film...one lacking integrity.

So, it's up to you. Do you want to see the good AND bad? If so, then by all means see the documentary. It IS well made....I must give it that.
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8/10
Worth your time.
5 September 2019
"Police Story" was an exceptional police show from the 1970s. Unlike a traditional cop show, this one had different characters and different sorts of officers and detectives in each show....showing a gamut of different police activities. In the 1980s, a couple "Police Story" made for TV movies appeared....and I assume they were attempts to revive the series which didn't take hold.

Officer Chick Stacy (Robert Conrad) is an old school beat officer. In other words, while he's mostly a good cop, he also has his own may of handling some cases which are NOT by the book. It's bad enough that his partner requests a new partner and he's got a long record of complaints from folks he's arrested stating he used excessive force.

After arresting a really nasty prostitute, the woman alleges that Stacy used excessive force. Soon after, she is drugged and set up in a situation where she appeared to be shooting at Stacy. He returned fire...killing her. But, because it is a set-up, her gun is missing and it appears as if Stacy murdered her!

In addition to following Officer Stacy, the film has a parallel plot--showing the Internal Affairs officers (Anthony LaPaglia and Ed O'Neill) working their various cases...including Stacy's. The pair are unusually sympathetic...unlike the stereotypical IAD cops seen on other shows.



Overall, this is a very good film and it might have been nice to see a series. My only complaint is that there is way too much sax music in the film--so much that it was a bit annoying...but otherwise pretty good.



By the way, this made for TV movie was directed by James Darren. I had no idea he'd directed any shows or movies and perhaps he was chosen since he was a series regular on a cop show, "TJ Hooker". I checked and was surprised at how many TV shows Darren has directed.
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Police Story: Breaking Point (1975)
Season 3, Episode 11
9/10
What really happened that night?!
5 September 2019
The story begins with two cops chasing a narcotics suspect into a hotel. One of the cops bursts into a room in order to apprehend the man. Seconds later, many shots ring out....and the man inside the room was killed. But he was NOT the suspect they were chasing! When officers come to investigate, the story the shooter gives them has some inconsistencies....and you wonder what REALLY happened after all.

This episode stars Tony Musante...a very good actor who was excellent as the investigator. I do think the interview with the wife, however, was poorly written....and I can't blame him for that. It's a shame, as otherwise it's one of the best episodes...well worth seeing and very exciting to watch.



A couple final comments. First, when an undercover cop enters the police station, one of the cops says "Are you Serpico or something?!". This is a reference to a famous undercover vice cop from New York City...and the film about it (starring Al Pacino) is great. Additionally, the investigating cop was played by Tony Musante--who played a Serpico-like cop in the TV series "Toma". Second, the gun found on the dead man was a 9mm magnum....a very, very unusual gun to say the least....and not many of them have been made.
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Police Story: Vice: 24 Hours (1975)
Season 3, Episode 10
8/10
David Doyle plays a killer?!
5 September 2019
"Vice: 24 Hours" is a bit unusual in that instead of focusing on a cop or two cops, it's about several who all work for the vice unit. The main plot involves an evil pimp named Madden. After getting arrested, he decides to harass the family of the cop who arrested him--and scaring the wits out of the man's wife. Because of this, he and his partner are intent on putting the guy away for good...but how? Additional cases involve a report of a priest who is a bookie as well as someone trying to order a hit on his wife. The weird part is that the man is played by David Doyle...who is one of the last folks you'd ever think would play a killer!

Overall, a very entertaining episode and one that as a few funny moments as well. Well worth seeing...as are nearly all the episodes of this intelligently written series.
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