TV mysteries



   This review by Mike Doran first appeared on this blog as Comment #28 to my review of “Legend of Crystal Dark,” an earlier episode of 77 Sunset Strip, one from season two. Thinking that his comments deserved a wider audience, I asked Mike if I might post it here as well. He most graciously agreed:


REVIEWED BY MIKE DORAN:


77 SUNSET STRIP “The Target.” ABC, 24 January 1964 (Season 6, Episode 18.) Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Stuart Bailey), Keith Andes, Jeanne Cooper, Joan Staley, Lyle Talbot, Les Tremayne, Forrest Lewis, Shirley Mitchell, Lawrence Dobkin, James Lydon, Tony Barrett, William Conrad. Producer: William Conrad. Associate producer: James Lydon. Executive producer: Jack Webb. Writer: Lawrence Dobkin. Director: Tony Barrett.

   As of last week, MeTV completed the 6th season of 77 Sunset Strip, which means it is no longer “lost.”

   I suppose someone will be writing up the whole season for you, someone far more knowledgeable than I.

   That said, I’d like to talk about “The Target,” which was third from last to run on ABC (the rerun season went back to the Version Originale).

   “The Target” was about an ex-reporter (Keith Andes), just out of prison on a bum rap, who gets shot at just as he arrives home.

   It seems that Andes has been writing The Book that will blow the lid off some racketeers old and older; these make up Stu Bailey’s suspect pool.

   On a hunch, I held off watching this one until the end, after seeing all the others — the majority of which, in my view, could have easily been done on the old show in the old style.

   I’m talking about the plots; the main difference between old-style and new-style was amputating Efrem Zimbalist’s manners; the suave, well-spoken Bailey of old-style became a snarling wiseacre who was grubbing for a buck, insulting everybody along the way.

   This approach didn’t last long; as season 6 progressed, Bailey became less gratuitously nasty. (He’d suddenly developed a ferocious hatred for police, which would have definitely shocked Lt. Roy Gilmore; this was the first characteristic of nu-Bailey to go.)

   About midway through the cycle, Bailey’s unseen stenographer Hannah suddenly became seen, in the person of the above-average-looking Joan Staley; her presence turned Old Stu into a major flirt (and don’t think that certain recent headlines about a Major Hollywood Figure didn’t occur to me while I was watching).

   I might also mention that the 77SS opening titles were changed about the same time; Zimbalist’s mournful ascent within the Bradbury Building gave way to a long tracking shot of Old Stu walking the Mean Streets at night.

   I digress; back to “The Target.”

   I mentioned above that I saved watching this to last. Beforehand, I learned something about it that led me to believe that “The Target” was intended to be the Final Episode of 77.

   It was the casting of three of the to-be-exposed mob types:

       Bill Conrad (Producer) as a semi-crooked fight promoter.

       Lawrence Dobkin (Director) as a publisher who started out in nudie books.

       Tony Barrett (Writer) as a retired procurer.

   … And as a Bonus for the dweebs in the crowd: James Lydon (Associate Producer) as a convict who starts Stu Bailey out in his investigation.

   About this last:

   During this time, one of our local Chicago stations was running a well-known series of comedy features from the ’40s, which my family watched faithfully every Saturday afternoon.We’d stopped watching 77 by this point, but now I wish we hadn’t.

   Thinking back, my brother, sisters, and I might have gotten a charge out of our Dad telling us all:

   “Look at that, guys – Henry Aldrich is in the clink!”

   Anyhow, this sort-of group appearance by the 77 Sunset Strip front office seems to be to be a grand gesture of a kind from Old Hollywood Pros who knew the end was near and decided to have a little fun on the way out.

   * … unless, of course, I’m wrong …

POLICE STATION. Syndicated. Official Films / Paramount-Sunset Television Productions, 1959-? Untitled episode (Season 1, #8?). Baynes Barron, Larry Kerr, Henry Beckman, Roy Wright. Guest Cast: Ron Masak, Michael Vandever. Produced, written & directed by Sandy Howard.

   A Dragnet wanna-be that lasted one season of 39 syndicated episodes, of which only one, perhaps two, have managed to survive. It’s not very good, and I’m covering it here only because.

   There are two cases the cops are working on throughout this episode. The first is that of two 16-years-olds who have been killed in a gang war, city not specified. The second, not nearly as serious, is that of a aged female con artist who gratefully promises to quit the racket. Does she? Wait for the ending to see.

   As for the gang war deaths, the cops have two possible suspects, and they play them off each other until they can be sure which one is the one who pulled the trigger. It’s competently done, but not by late 1950s standards, done in by the cheap sets (furnished from a local second-hand furniture store), uninspired camera work, and the mediocre acting by one of the participants.

BERNIE GUNTHER, P.I. STILL COMING TO HBO
by Gilbert Colon

   At Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop in April to promote his twelfth Bernie Gunther private eye novel, Prussian Blue, author Philip Kerr was asked by an audience member about whether a Bernie series or movie was still in the works.

   “Like everything in film, it’s glacial,” he answered. The project (which would draw from the Berlin Noir trilogy) was at HBO in 2016 when Kerr was at the same venue while promoting his previous entry, The Other Side of Silence.

   Since then, HBO experienced a change in management, “and the new management was going to sweep it out with everything else that was old.” But to Kerr’s surprise, it turns out that it remains in “quite active development, whatever that means,” that concluding qualifier dripping with a cynicism worthy of Bernie himself.

   Maintaining a hopefulness from the jaded romantic side of Bernie, he adds, “It took Harry Bosch 20-25 years to get where he is.” Tom Hanks was connected with the Bernie project as executive producer at least as far back as 2012 when, per Kerr, “He came to my house in Wimbledon for dinner.”

   More recent industry news indicates that he likely is still involved. If that remains the case, perhaps Hanks, who directed the Raymond Chandler episode “I’ll Be Waiting” for Showtime’s superb but forgotten Fallen Angels series (1993-1995), should direct one episode. At last report, Peter Straughan, who scripted the 2011 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, was mentioned as screenwriter.

   Bernie Gunther, for those who do not know, is an ex-SD officer who worked for Reinhard Heydrich before becoming a private investigator. Kerr has taken Bernie through three decades, five continents, and a dozen novels to date. Prussian Blue sees him in both 1939 and 1956. As Kripo’s superlative homicide detective, Bernie is assigned by Martin Bormann to the murder case of a low-ranking bureaucrat at Obersalzberg, home to an elite Nazi community and Hitler’s mountaintop retreat.

   The clock is ticking before the Führer returns to celebrate his fiftieth birthday and discovers a shocking crime has been committed on the terrace of his own residence. The past explosively collides with the present when, seventeen years later on the French Riviera, the freelance Bernie is strong-armed by East German Stasi to poison a female agent in London with a vial of thallium.

   Questioned about casting Bernie for any adaptation, Kerr rattles off the same list of names he did last time, as reported in The Strand Magazine: Klaus Maria Brandauer (Mephisto), Arnold Schwarzenegger (“believe it or not”), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones), and Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method). (Fassbender, incidentally, will be playing another series character this year, Jo Nesbø’s Detective Harry Hole, in The Snowman.)

   New names surface during this appearance though. “Jon Voight wanted to be Bernie, and Woody Harrelson said so in magazines. For all I know they’ve cast [Bernie] already.” The author is always the last to know.

   “I won’t be doing any cameos,” he assures, “the way Lee Child does in the Jack Reacher movies. Except if they offer me a scene as a really nasty Gestapo officer. I could really bring something to that.” With a smart-alecky smirk, he wisecracks, “I really just want one of those leather coats, that is the bottom line.”

   While Kerr has a wicked sense of irony, he is never flippant about the grave historical aspects of his series. When the question is raised about comparisons between Bernie Gunther and Philip Marlowe, Kerr says, “Chandler [and his L.A.] had corrupt politicians and nightclub owners, but my novels have the crime of the century – the millennium – as a backdrop.

   “I don’t think I’m exploiting the subject matter. The books are an essay in understanding.”

GILBERT COLON has written for several print and online publications, including Filmfax, Cinema Retro, Crimespree, Crime Factory, and Strand Mystery Magazine. He is a contributor-at-large for both the St. Martin’s Press newsletter Tor.com and bare•bones e-zine. You may reach him at gcolon777@gmail.com.

HOLLYWOOD OFF-BEAT
by Michael Shonk


HOLLWOOD OFF-BEAT. Syndicated, 1952; United Television Programs. Cast: Melvyn Douglas as Steve Randall. Executive Producer: Marion Parsonnet. Produced by Theodore Lewis.

   This series reminds me much of Cases of Eddie Drake as another example where DuMont gets credit when it deserves none. Eddie has been a personal crusade for me for awhile, and I have written about him here four times (here, here, here and here ) and finally at the website “Criminal Element.”

   Hollywood Off-Beat was always a syndicated series. United Television Programs (number two in TV syndication behind Ziv) had “already started a test run in some cities” before its “official opening” March 30, 1952 (Broadcasting 3/17/52). DuMont is credited with airing the series November 17, 1952 through January 30, 1953.

   Besides the episode that Steve just reviewed (“The Trial”) there is another episode available to watch on YouTube:

“The Unlucky Three.” Guest Cast: Berry Kroeger, John Griggs and Marion Brash. Original screenplay by Franz Spencer. Directed by M. Milton Schwarz. *** Did the famous actress kill herself or was she murdered?

   The script gives a nice peek at behind the scenes of Hollywood filmmaking, as well as a serviceable mystery. Fortunately Douglas doing narration in third person is limited to the opening, with the rest of the episode narration is the typical fourth wall breaking talk to the audience.

   The only place I found the series called Steve Randall was in one article in Broadcasting (12/8/52) reporting the series would air on DuMont as Steve Randall at Friday 8-8:30pm.

   The article in Broadcasting (3/17/52) named Rip Van Ronkle (Destination Moon) as writer and Marion Parsonnet (Gilda) as producer. It reported the series filmed its background shots in documentary style in Los Angeles and the rest of the series in Parsonnet Studios (according to screen credit Long Island NY).

   Both Broadcasting and Billboard always called Hollywood Offbeat a syndicated series. The ARP ratings printed in Billboard had it as a “Non-Network” TV Film Drama series. Hollywood Offbeat got honorable mention in poll for popular non-network film drama series (Billboard, 9/6/52). The press listed the series as Hollywood Offbeat but the on air screen title spelled it Hollywood Off-Beat.

   Now about the confusion over its time on CBS, the answer can be found in Billboard (9/13/52). The trade paper was reporting on the networks problems with “clearance” – number of local affiliates that would carry the network program.

   The makers of Serutan owned the CBS Saturday at 10:30 to 11 pm slot. The series CBS carried was Battle of the Ages that only 12 CBS stations aired. CBS could not find a series that Serutan wanted. Serutan decided it wanted Hollywood Offbeat. CBS TV Films, CBS syndicated side, negotiated with UTP for a temporary deal for the series to appear on the CBS network. The series had only 13 episodes and it gave CBS time to find another series that more affiliates would carry and would make advertiser Serutan happy.

   It is hard to actually know what a true DuMont series is as the network often used syndicated shows to fill its schedule. CBS TV Films’ Cases of Eddie Drake and UTP’s Hollywood Off-Beat are just two examples of series misremembered by history.

HOLLYWOOD OFFBEAT “The Trial.” Syndicated / Dumont Network / CBS. 11 September 1952 (WJZ). Dates: 30 January 1953 (Dumont). Not aired on CBS. Episode 13 of 13. Series also known as Steve Randall. Melvyn Douglas (as Steve Randall). Guest cast: Olive Deering, Neil Fitzgerald, Steve Gethers, Melville Ruick, Harry Sheppard, Ed Peck. Executive Producer:Marion Parsonnet. Produced by Theodore Lewis. Original story by Frederick Stephanie. Screenplay by James Cavanaugh. Directors: M. Milton Schwarz & Frederick Stephanie.

   All of the information above came from the Classic TV Archive website. The credits themselves I am sure are correct. The complicated history of when the series was on, where, and under what name is perhaps more iffy.

   That this is the final show of the very short-lived series is definite. The premise is that Steve Randall (Melvyn Douglas) is a disbarred lawyer is is now working as a Hollywood PI, but in this episode he is promised by the D.A.’s office that he will be reinstated if he helps persuade a balky female witness to testify in an upcoming murder trial.

   Which indeed he does. The story is somewhat confusing at the beginning, with each of the several characters and the basic story line needing to be introduced all at once, in only a few minutes time. Compounding this are the flashbacks in time used to set the stage for the trial that takes up most of the less than 30 minutes running time.

   Although the names of the cast members were totally unknown to me (other than Melvyn Douglas, of course), I thought the acting was much better than most of similar relics of early low budget TV. The gimmick that cracks the trial wide open is one of the oldest in the books, but all in all, I’d watch another in this series, if there was one that’s available to watch.

   You can see this one at www.archives.org.

  I’M THE LAW “The Killer.” Syndicated; Cosman Productions / Television Corporation of America. 3 July 1953. (Season 1, Episode 21). George Raft (Police Lt. George Kirby). Guest Cast: Lawrence Dobkin, Nestor Paiva, June Vincent. Screenplay: Jackson Gillis. Director: Robert G. Walker.

   I’m the Law was a syndicated mystery series starring George Raft that ran for 29 episodes in different markets in 1953. Raft played a New York City police lieutenant who wore a hat and a a bulky overcoat no matter the weather, inside and out (if this one episode I recently happened upon typified the rest of the series).

   And let me say up front that this particular episode is not very good. It begins with a public stenographer being bumped off by a mobster because she was given too many secrets to type up. And whose fault is that? Her death is made to to look like an automobile accident (I think), but the marks on her neck indicate right away that she was strangled.

   The black and white photography is good, and it’s always fun to see familiar actors’ faces again, but you can turn your mind off while watching rest of this one, in case you ever do. George Raft is no better (or worse) than many similar roles he played over the years.

JESSICA JONES “AKA Ladies Night.” Marvel/Netflix. 10 October 2015 (Season 1, Episode 1). Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones), Mike Colter (Luke Cage), Rachael Taylor (Trish Walker), Erin Moriarty, Eka Darville, Carrie-Anne Moss, David Tennant (Kilgrave). Created and written by Melssa Rosenberg. Based on the Marvel comic book character created by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos. Director: SJ Clarkson.

   To tell you the truth, I’ve already watched the first three episodes of this series, mostly since it took me a while to be sure I had a solid grip on the story line. The goal of a first episode of a TV series is to get viewers interested enough to be sure come back for the next one, but not necessarily to reveal all of their secrete at once, especially if there is a long connected story line, and not just a bunch of one-off episodes.

   Maybe it’s me, and I haven’t adjusted to a new type of storytelling, but I think the producers of this series may have erred in not telling enough, or (perhaps) telling it too subtly. It could also be that they expected viewers to be more familiar with the characters from their background in comic books than I think they are. (It’s certainly not one of Marvel’s best known titles.)

   Jessica Jones, currently a private eye working on her own, is a flawed character, there’s no doubt about that. Something has happened in her past that makes it difficult for her to sleep at night, and worse, requires her to have a bottle or a flask of whiskey within arm’s reach whenever she’s awake. The first episode is designed to get us intrigued into learning more about what’s tormenting her, but it did take me all three episodes before I decided that, yes, I finally was sure was the overall story is about and the possible ways it could be going.

   I’ll get back to that. In this first episode she’s hired by a man and woman from Omaha, Nebraska, to find their daughter, who has dropped out of school and has gone missing. I don’t want to spoil anything to anyone who would like to see the show and hasn’t yet, but I will have to leave some hints, such as saying the same thing has happened to the missing girl that happened to Jessica, only in Jessica’s case, the consequences were so bad that that is the reason she is in the severe funk she is in.

   Another hint. The ending of this first episode makes it emphatically clear how bad the situation is for the missing girl — in a word, horrific — and if so, how bad was the experience for Jessica?

   Other characters in the story are brought in, including a sexual dalliance between Jessica and the black owner of a bar. I don’t believe his name comes up, but he will be important in episodes to come. The female lawyer who often hires Jessica to do jobs other PI’s can’t do is having a lesbian affair with one of her staff while she already has a full-time relationship with another. A talk show host named Trish seems to be (or have been) very close to Jessica, but if it was stated what the relationship is, I still didn’t catch it after three episodes.

   The other thing that is shown is that Jessica has superpowers. Super strength at least; perhaps super speed and/or agility. She doesn’t hide her powers, but she doesn’t go out of her way to show them off, either. Superpowers are, of course, only to be expected with a Marvel Comics heroine.

   The whole episode is filmed in what I call “comic book noir.” Brightly colored, with lots of off-kilter angles in what are some of the toughest areas of Manhattan, and they mean to show you exactly that every time they can.

   There is a lot of potential here. I have not gone into several other threads of the plot, many of which come to light only in the second and third episodes.. I’m sorry for rambling on the way I have, but if my objective to help you decide whether to watch this series or not, if you haven’t already, have I succeeded?

Reviewed by MICHAEL SHONK:          


THE TELLTALE CLUE. CBS. July 18, 1954 to September 23, 1954. CBS Television / Charles E. Martin Productions. Cast: Anthony Ross as Detective Captain Richard Hale, Chuck Webster as Sgt. Kohler, and Nat Frey as Sgt. Riley. Produced and directed by Charles Martin.

   As with many early television series, the roots of THE TELLTALE CLUE trace back to radio. In 1934 NBC radio aired a program entitled JOHNNY PRESENTS. Johnny was Johnny Roventini, a midget who played a hotel bellhop with a unique cry of “Call for Philip Morris” that would open and close various Philip Morris shows on radio and TV (you will see a sample in the first video below).

   Philip Morris was one of radio and early television biggest sponsors. In its beginning radio’s JOHNNY PRESENTS featured fifteen minutes of orchestra music followed by various fifteen-minute dramatic programs.

   JOHNNY PRESENTS would switch networks to CBS in 1937. In September 1938 JOHNNY PRESENTS added the fifteen-minute drama called THE PERFECT CRIME (Philip Morris & Co. through agency Biow Co. New York.) The program ran through March 1941. JOHNNY PRESENTS returned to NBC November 4, 1941. THE PERFECT CRIME returned May 26, 1942.

   “THE PERFECT CRIME, a series of detective episodes, with action taking place at the morning lineup at police headquarters…Listeners are given time to figure out the correct solution of the crime towards the end of the program before the case is explained.” (Broadcasting, May 25, 1942)

   A review by “Trau” of Weekly Variety (July 14, 1954) states that: “TELLTALE CLUE stemmed from the old radio series THE PERFECT CRIME.” It also supplies a good deal of information about the series.

   It was the summer of 1954, and Philip Morris needed to find a summer replacement to take over PUBLIC DEFENDER time slot, as CBS and Philip Morris moved PUBLIC DEFENDER to Monday to give I LOVE LUCY a summer break. Charles Martin had been involved in radio’s JOHNNY PRESENTS and PHILIP MORRIS PLAYHOUSE. Martin had produced the TV version of PHILIP MORRIS PLAYHOUSE for Biow agency, Philip Morris and CBS the summer before and was returning with TELLTALE CLUE.

   The Weekly Variety reviewer found the first episode “The Armitage Case” to possess “good production trappings and a know-how cast.” He described star Anthony Ross as “always reliable legit hand.” The episode itself he found routine, and described the audience invited to solve the case with the Detective “an OK though hardly unprecedented participation gimmick.”

   As criminologist detective Captain Richard Hale tells us, there is always a telltale clue that solves the mystery. Each episode opens as we watch the crime take place. Then we are at Hale’s office as the character breaks the fourth wall offering the viewer a chance to follow along to see if they can find the telltale clue and solve the case. This procedural crime series featured nearly all forms of detective work from legwork to forensics.

   “The Case of the Talking Garden.” (July 15, 1954) Written by Haskel Frankel. GUEST CAST: Darren McGavin, Phyllis Hill, Pat Breslin and Frank Campanella. *** A mugging that leaves a man’s wife dead may not be what it seems.

   This second episode of the series is not very good. The mystery is weak, focusing not on whodunit but what clue would catch the killer. Written by Haskel Frankel this would be his only credit listed at IMDb. According to his obit in the New York Times (November 10, 1999), he would become a successful author (as Frank Haskel), ghostwriter, and theatre critic in New York.

   Pat (Patricia) Breslin (PEOPLE’S CHOICE) portrayal of the tramp’s daughter was noticeably flawed from a common problem of this era of live New York TV drama. TV was new and the actors were just learning the difference between acting on stage and reaching the back row and acting on television with its close-ups and camera angles.

   Experienced actor of film and TV Darren McGavin (KOLCHAK THE NIGHT STALKER) hammed up his part, especially the early scenes. Three months after this role he was performing on Broadway in the original run of RAINMAKER (he played Bill Starbuck).

   Charles Martin’s direction was fine for the time, but the camera occasionally stayed too long in the Master shot (the angle including all in the scene) and contributed to the stagy feel of the TV mystery.

   The production for the series was fine, considering the limitations of the time. Today the production shows its age and is too studio bound.

   The Weekly Variety review favorably examined Charles Martin role as long-time Biow agency and Philip Morris producer, and noted the writers for the series would include Harry W. Junkin (THE SAINT), Alvin Sapinsley (HAWAII FIVE-O), Sid Edelstein (no credit at IMDb), and Gore Vidal (JANET DEAN, REGISTERED NURSE). Wait, Gore Vidal wrote for this forgotten TV series?

   A site examining Gore Vidal early TV and radio work has a detailed look at Vidal’s teleplays. It also was where I found the Weekly Variety review.

   While it is believed that Vidal wrote two episodes, the site found proof at the Guide to Harvard Library holdings of Gore Vidal’s papers of only one, “Case of the Dying Accusation” (July 29. 1954). No copy of that episode is known to have survived.

   The Gore Vidal Teleplays page quotes Vidal in “The Art of Fiction, No. 50″ in THE PARIS REVIEW, 1974-07. “Absence of money is a bad thing because you end up writing THE TELLTALE CLUE for television – which I did.” Vidal claimed he used a pseudonym he could not remember, but I doubt it as the Weekly Variety review named him. And the link above has Vidal’s contract dated June 30, 1954 with Charles E. Martin Productions, Inc, producer and copyright owner of THE TELLTALE CLUE saying, “You agree that in the event we use the said script, which we are not required to do, we have the option of making use of your name, if we so desire.”

   Episode five offers a much better mystery, a good fair-play whodunit with enough twists to keep even the modern audience interested. Writer James P. Cavanagh would win an Emmy for his teleplay “Fog Closing In” (ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS October 7, 1956). He also was the writer for the 1963 film MURDER AT THE GALLOP (Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple).

The Case of the Hit and Run.” (August 5, 1954) Written by James P. Cavanagh. Produced and Directed by Charles Martin. GUEST CAST: Peg Hillias, Patricia Smith, Joseph Sweeney and House Jameson. *** A man is run down in the street by a hit and run driver but it was no accident, it was murder.


   THE TELLTALE CLUE starred Anthony Ross, best remembered for his work on the stage (Tennessee Williams’ GLASS MENAGRIE and ARSENIC AND OLD LACE) and in films (KISS OF DEATH and ON DANGEROUS GROUND). His work in television was mainly in anthologies such as SUSPENSE and THE FORD THEATRE HOUR.

   After the series ended in September 1954 Ross returned to Broadway in the role of The Professor in BUS STOP. After the October 26, 1955 evening performance Ross returned home and died of a heart attack in his sleep. He was 46 years old.

   THE TELLTALE CLUE aired on Thursday night at 10pm. The thirty-minute mystery aired opposite the last half-hour of ABC’s KRAFT TELEVISION THEATRE and the first half-hour of NBC’s LUX VIDEO THEATRE. The still alive Dumont network did not schedule any network programming for that time slot.

   Today these are the only two of THE TELLTALE CLUE’s thirteen episodes that are known to survive.

      ADDITIONAL SOURCE:

(ON THE AIR: THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF OLD-TIME RADIO by John Dunning (Oxford University Press, 1998)

77 SUNSET STRIP “Legend of Crystal Dart.” ABC, 15 April 1960 (Season 2, Episode 28.) Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Roger Smith, Marilyn Maxwell, William Schallert, Kurt Kreuger, Jacqueline Beer, Patricia Michon. Teleplay: Gloria Elmore. Director: Montgomery Pittman.

   While the series has not yet officially released on DVD — and why not, I don’t know — scattered episodes of 77 Sunset Strip are being shown on a cable channel called MeTV, which is how I managed to see this one, the first episode I’ve seen since it was first on the air. (Complete seasons are available on the collectors’ market, but in absymal picture quality, even as advertised.)

   Unfortunately, I had no choice as to which one came up first, and this one was it. It’s not representative, I don’t believe. Roger Smith, as Jeff Spencer, co-partner in the firm, shows up in the office only at the beginning and at the end. Kookie (Edd Byrnes) isn’t in this one at all. It’s up to Stu Bailey (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) to work this case completely on his own.

   He’s hired by a former famous French entertainer named Crystal Dart (a very buxom Marilyn Maxwell) to serve an eviction notice to her soon-to-be ex-husband in their isolated mountain lodge up in the mountains. Trapped in a snowstorm with them (as it turns out) are the ghostwriter for her memoirs, his wife, and the nurse/girl friend of Miss Dart’s wheelchair-bound husband.

   Sizzling resentments and vicious arguments quickly break out, some dealing with secrets from the past. Miss Dart has not a friend among them, or so it seems. Bailey is mostly content to sit back with his pipe and casual sweater wear, watching as he does in bemused fashion. It takes a while for a murder to occur, but surprisingly enough, it is not Miss Dart who is the victim.

   Some mild detective work takes place, that plus Stu Bailey’s obvious growing attraction to Miss Dart. In spite of the classic setting, that of an isolated snowbound haven from the elements, the slow pace manages to eliminate all but the smallest hint of suspense. Not the best example to begin with, I suspect.

HARMFUL INTENT. CBS, made-for-TV; 14 December 1993. Full title: Robin Cook’s Harmful Intent. Tim Matheson, Emma Samms, Robert Pastorelli, Kurt Fuller, Alex Rocco, John Walcutt. Based on the book by Robin Cook. Director: John Patterson.

   Based on the movie longer, more complete title, I’m sure that Robin Cook’s only intent was to make a few bucks from it. All seriousness aside, it’s a pretty innocuous movie, when it comes down to it. An anesthesiologist makes a mistake in OR, is sued for malpractice, eventually gets convicted for second degree murder, then tries to clear his name while trying to avoid a persistent bounty hunter.

   Emma Samms, as the widow of a former colleague, cheers him on, but she really doesn’t have much else to do. As the fugitive doctor, Tim Matheson quotes most of his dialogue as though it were formed from wood. Robert Pastorelli, as the no-holds-barred bounty hunter, complete with a wild, bushy hairdo and one long earring, was obviously having more fun than anybody.

— Reprinted from Nothing Accompliced #4, November 1993 (slightly revised).

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