Wed 28 Dec 2011
DEATH RAY 2000. NBC-TV Movie; aired 05 March 1981. (aka T. R. Sloane) Pilot for NBC-TV series A Man Called Sloane (1979-1980). QM Production/Woodruff Production. CAST: Robert Logan as Thomas R. Sloane, Dan O’Herlihy as The Director, Ann Turkel as Sabina, Maggie Cooper as Chrissy, Clive Revill as Erik Clawson, Ji-Tu Cumbuka as Torque, Michele Carey (voice) as Effie. Written and produced by Cliff Gould. Executive Producer: Philip Saltzman. Director: Lee H. Katzin.
A gang of nuns walk into Gideon Peak Observatory where a scientist is testing a new top-secret “weather machine,” a device that can control the weather by removing all moisture from the atmosphere. The lone security guard informs them closing is in five minutes. The nuns, with the aid of Torque, a seven foot giant with a metal hand, dismantle the giant ray gun and take the large pieces out the backdoor to their van.
Torque is most helpful when he substitutes a screwdriver for his index finger to remove some stubborn screws. The screws put up a better fight than the humans did, since security was virtually non-existent. When the scientist interrupts the heist, one of the nuns kills him with deadly thimble like devices on two of her fingers. The nuns and Torque with his Swiss army hand escape with the device.
OK, I am hooked all ready. But this classic continues to produce more cheese than Wisconsin. Seems the ray gun is so powerful it can drain water for miles, through any object including mountains, and it can dehydrate people into nothing but bones and cute hair.
Naturally the government is upset that someone has stolen a top-secret weapon that could destroy the world, a weapon they had left in a public building with only one friendly guard as security. They come to UNIT looking for help and begging for our hero Thomas R. Sloane.
UNIT is a top-secret agency located in the farmlands of Kentucky where The Director works out of his house. This being a spy movie the house is of course not your typical home. It contains a six-ton computer named Effie, complete with a sexy female voice. And as all females in this story, Effie has fallen for the only man who can save the world, Thomas R. Sloane the 3rd.
Sloane, following in the famous footsteps of his father, is a top secret agent and owner of Sloane & Sons, a successful art and antiquity business. We first meet the great spy as he successfully completes his mission in Cuba. He escapes the soldiers by rocketing an elevator through the roof and into the air where a waiting helicopter catches it.
Robert Logan (77 Sunset Strip, The Adventures of the Wilderness Family) gives Sloane all the passion of someone wanting to take a nap. The rest of the cast is more animated, adding ham to all this cheese.
The story travels the usual path, Sloane drives a great car, the evil mastermind has his pets (this time he cuddles with snakes and a spider), recurring fight scenes, sex interrupted or off stage (this is 70s TV), Rube Goldberg death traps, an evil organization named Kartel (“with a K”), and the villain meeting his end at his own hands.
My favorite moment is when writer Cliff Gould (Mod Squad, Streets of San Francisco) makes his motives clear and uses cheese as a vital clue. Ian Fleming should be so clever.
The most shocking twist didn’t come from the story, but the production credits for this cheese fest that would have made Aaron Spelling giggle. This was from Quinn Martin! The QM Productions of The Fugitive, The FBI, Cannon, etc.
It was the final QM series to debut on television (Barnaby Jones would be the last on the air). There is no better example of how television changed during the seventies than compare Quinn Martin’s first series of 70s, Dan August (1970) to Quinn Martin’s last, A Man Called Sloane (1979).
The movie was released on VHS but not on DVD. It can also be seen on YouTube in ten parts, starting here.
There were changes made when this pilot lead to the series, A Man Called Sloane. Most notable was Robert Conrad replacing Robert Logan as Sloane and Torque the Swiss army hand bad guy becoming Sloane’s good guy sidekick.