REVIEWED BY DAVID VINEYARD:


KRAFT SUSPENSE THEATRE. NBC, 1963-1965, 60 minutes:

      “One Tiger to a Hill.” Season 2, Episode 8. 03 Dec 1964. Barry Nelson, Diane McBain, James Gregory, Peter Brown, Warren Stevens. Teleplay: Robert Hamner. Directed by Jack Arnold.

      “Four Into Zero.” Season 2, Episode 15. 18 Feb 1965. Jack Kelly, Martha Hyer, Robert Conrad, Sue Randall, Joe Mantell, Jessie White, Bill Quinn. Teleplay: Don Brinkley. Story: Milt Rosen. Directed by Don Weiss.

   What these two episodes of Kraft Suspense Theatre (syndicated under the title Crisis) have in common is the fact that both are caper stories, and in both cases ones with happy endings. Not that the anthology series didn’t have its fair share of crime does not pay tales like any other series from the sixties, but at least these two episodes are different.

   “One Tiger to a Hill” opens with a jewel thief breaking into a safe and relieving it of close to half a million in goodies. That draws the attention of the head of the Burglary division. James Gregory who is enjoying a bit of fine dining and a good cognac when he receives the call — only to find that sharing the restaurant with him is jewel thief extraordinare Colin Neal (Barry Nelson) and his girl Diane McBain, making Gregory Neal’s alibi.

   Neal and Gregory are friendly adversaries, Gregory the only cop to ever catch Neal and Neal the only thief to ever elude Gregory. Not so much Gregory’s subordinate Lt. Hadley (Warren Stevens) who wants nothing so much as to put away all thieves — in any condition he can catch them in.

   The secret to Neal’s latest success is bartender Peter Brown who is his apprentice and pulled the latest caper in Neal’s style. There are complications though. Aside from Hadley and the much smarter and more dangerous Gregory, Brown is ambitious. He not only wants Neal’s career, he wants his woman, and he isn’t above framing Neal for a crime he never committed. Even worse he shoots a policeman while committing it.

   Now Neal has to stop Brown, recover the stolen gems, and get the increasingly driven Hadley off his neck while not getting caught by Gregory.

   This could all be done darkly and in a noirish mood, but it is much more a low budget TO CATCH A THIEF, and thanks largely to good players and a light script, it doesn’t pause long enough to let you question the obvious gaps in the story, and it works for what it is.

   Next up is a somewhat more serious caper. “Four Into Zero.” Jack Kelly is the husband of wealthy Martha Hyer, tired of feeling as if he has been bought by his beautiful wife and determined to do something on his own. The something is a heist, and on a moving train across country from Chicago to Los Angles.

   The train will be carrying the currency plates for a new banana republic in South America, and the plot is lift the plates being shipped from Chicago from the baggage car, use a printing press built by failed artist and engraver Jessie White to print a million dollars in the new currency, and return the plates unsuspected for delivery. Also mixed in the job is Robert Conrad, whose fiance has been working for the South American dictator and unwittingly providing all the details needed for the job.

   Joe Mantell is the final part of the scheme, an alcoholic circus performer Kelly rescued from the gutter and dried out for a vital part of the caper, crossing the top of the train while it is moving with the plates.

   And complications ensue as you might expect. Kelly’s wife and Conrad’s girl (Sue Randell) are suspicious, and when they meet decide to fly to Los Angles to meet the boys. Meanwhile railroad cop Bill Quinn is taking the same train on vacation, and there is this annoying little boy who keeps seeing men climbing outside on the train …

   For once the caper goes fairly smoothly, until Mantell breaks his wrist, ironically on a crate of whiskey, and Kelly has to replace him on the final leg of the heist. It ends fairly happily with Kelly and Conrad rejecting their part of the spoils for love, and a nice ironic touch (actually foreshadowed in the script for once) ends the episode.

   Everyone gets at least one good scene, and what more could television actors ask?

   Neither the best or the worst of the series, this is your parents comfortable sixties television done with professionalism and style. Both episodes could easily have been expanded to features and both make for a tightly packed forty-eight minutes.

   I can’t say either generates much actual suspense, but both are fairly handsomely done and the dialogue is intelligent and revealing in both, making you wish they had been more interested in the suspense end of the thing.

   Of the two “One Tiger to a Hill” is the standout, but I recall seeing “Four Into Zero” when it first aired and surprisingly remembered almost every detail when I watched it again for the first time, so there is more here than may meet the eye