Tue 31 Jan 2012
REHEARSAL FOR MURDER. Made for television. CBS-TV. First broadcast May 28, 1982. Robert Preston (Alex Dennison), Lynn Redgrave (Monica Welles), Patrick Macnee (David Mathews), Lawrence Pressman (Lloyd Andrews), William Russ (Frank Heller), Madolyn Smith (Karen Daniels), Jeff Goldblum (Leo Gibbs), William Daniels (Walter Lamb). Writers: Richard Levinson, William Link. Director: David Greene.
And it’s likely this movie will surprise you. Of all the productions Levinson and Link did for television, this one comes off as probably their best. While there are several twists in the tale that seemingly come out of nowhere, in retrospect we must admit we were prepared for them with carefully placed clues.
It has been a year since Alex Dennison (Preston) lost the love of his life, Monica Welles (Redgrave). The coroner had ruled her death a suicide, but from the night she died until tonight Alex has had his doubts. He’s convinced it was murder, and he’s determined to catch her killer.
So Alex calls together everyone who was involved in the production in which Monica was appearing on that fateful evening, ostensibly to discuss a new play fresh from his typewriter but in reality to set a trap. Call it, if you will, the Hamlet gambit, a stratagem which several of the suspects tumble to early on:
“Now that you mention it … no.”
“Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2, a play within a play to catch his father’s killer: ‘I have heard that guilty creatures sitting at a play, have, by the very cunning of the scene, been struck so to the soul that presently they have proclaimed their malefactions’.”
“‘The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.’ Right?”
Exactly — but to discuss the plot any further would be to spoil the fun. You can watch Rehearsal for Murder on YouTube here — but beware of popup ads!
It almost goes without saying that Richard Levinson and William Link dominated American television crime dramas throughout the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, either as writers, producers, and/or creators of some of the most fondly remembered programs of the era, among them: 7 Alfred Hitchcock episodes; 3 Burke’s Law; 3 Honey West; Prescription: Murder, the Columbo pilot film, plus 66 more episodes; 194 Mannix; 23 Ellery Queen; several non-series TV movie mysteries, including Murder by Natural Causes and Guilty Conscience; the pilot for Tenafly; and 264 installments of Murder, She Wrote.
You might recognize William Daniels by his speech. He was uncredited as the voice of K.I.T.T., the supercar, in 84 episodes of Knight Rider.
Patrick Macnee will forever be identified with the character of John Steed in 160 episodes of The Avengers, as well as 26 segments of The New Avengers reboot.
Regular TV viewers might remember Lawrence Pressman from 97 episodes of Doogie Howser, M.D.