THE HOUSE ON GREENAPPLE ROAD. Made-for-TV movie. ABC-TV, 11 January 1970. Pilot film for the Dan August TV series. Christopher George (Lt. Dan August), Keenan Wynn, Janet Leigh, Julie Harris, Tim O’Connor, Walter Pidgeon, Barry Sullivan, [Peter] Mark Richman, William Windom. Based on the novel by Harold R. Daniels. A Quinn Martin Production. Director: Robert Day.

   I don’t know the background behind the making of this far better than average TV movie, whether it was considered a “pilot” film for a possible series from the very start, or or if after did well in the ratings, and only then, they (the people at the network) decided to see what they could do to take advantage of its success.

   Which I believe it was. For one thing, just look at that cast. Some standard TV stalwarts, to be sure, but some actors whose names were big enough to catch anyone’s attention. True, the production was TV level, not big budget movie level, but it wasn’t running in pinch-penny mode, either.

   Of course when it came time to cast the part of Dan August for the series, they chose Burt Reynolds. I have never seen any episodes of the series, but Reynolds’ usual cheeky if not cocky screen presence is to my mind quite the opposite of Christopher George’s calm and sedate portrayal of the role. (He reminded me at times of Jack Lord in that other series you may know about.)

   Lots of people will remember this one for its opening scene. A young blonde girl, maybe 10 or so, comes skipping home from school, calls out for her mother. No answer. She goes into the kitchen, sees broken dishes all over the floor, and a huge amount of blood smeared on the walls and the refrigerator. No one home, she realizes, and off she goes next door to stay with her aunt.

   Suspicion falls immediately on the woman’s husband, even though there is no body to be found. August’s leisurely investigation, in spite of hurry-up pleas from the mayor himself, turns up the fact that the lady was pretty much a tramp. Flashbacks show in detail the missing woman’s various affairs, giving August plenty of other suspects.

   There is a twist in the story, which is a good one — which includes the possibility that there is no twist, so I’m not giving anything away — and the acting is top notch all around. It’s pretty much a routine investigation, but it’s also one that builds in tension as it goes, and it’s told well.