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Key plot point isn't well executed
I saw this last night on MeTV at 3 a.m. so maybe part of the episode was "edited for time"--cut out to make room for more advertising. But anyway, I wasn't entirely convinced (at first) that the old millionaire's death was homicide. The way it's shown, he just clutches his chest and falls as he's coming down some stairs; I assumed he'd had a heart attack, and it's mentioned in the story that he suffered from a long time heart ailment. No one's feet or anything is seen behind him, nothing that I saw to indicate he was pushed. For a good part of the story I assumed that this was one of the rare occasions in which Jeff's certain intuition that the guy had been murdered wasn't on the beam--in fact, that would have made the script a tad more interesting; the surprise baddie in the story could still have been prosecuted for the attempted murder on Parmenter. But no, the killer confesses to the murder at the end. Speaking of which, while I won't say that the identity of the culprit behind the whole michegoss is a complete stunner, there's enough doubt in play up until the last few minutes to make it worthwhile. Also--in the version I saw there's no mention of who actually ends up with the murder victim's $100,000 bequeathal; two of the "Odettes" are obviously disqualified by 1) the terms of the will and 2) their murderous actions. So it should go to the first "Odette"! The old woman living in shabby circumstances who was the old who the old guy was actually fond of, the one who I thought was a heavily made up Barbara Bain for a few minutes; alas, it's never addressed. These quibbles aside, the episode contained the typically sharp dialogue and nice character beats of a 77 SUNSET STRIP episode. I tell ya, this series was never shown in syndicated reruns in my area when I was growing up, so catching it on late night TV has been a revelation; it's very good. While I had certainly heard of the series before, and knew a little of the "Kookie" teen craze that attended it in its initial run, 77SS seems to be one of those gems that has faded largely from public memory. Perhaps it's hour-long length made it less attractive for syndication, though that didn't hamper other popularly rerun shows that I saw as a kid like THE BIG VALLEY, LOST IN SPACE, and THE AVENGERS, so I dunno.
Haunting, unresolved question
The plot of the episode has been recounted in numerous reviews prior to this one, including the ending, so I won't bother with that, but if you haven't read them then this is really going to SPOIL it for you.
What happened to Numa??
Where is she??
Eva, the little white girl in the story, threatened to exchange places with Numa, the black doll that could come to life like the mannequins in THE AFTER HOURS and, well, MANNEQUIN, and go "Where the woodbine twineth". And apparently at the end of the episode that's just what she did; the doll's likeness changed from that of Numa's to Eva's.
"Exchange" is the key and worrisome word. Does that mean that Eva is in Woodbine Land, with the Eva-doll remaining in our world as a sort of avatar and/or bridge between dimensions, and Numa is now stuck in our reality as a flesh-and-blood child (as Eva had been before the exchange), without I.D., without cash, without shelter, without means of support, without anyone to take care of her? Not a pleasant thought. Or did Numa retreat permanently into Woodbine World and just give the "keys" to the door between dimensions (as represented by the doll) to Eva? I hope the latter was the intended result; however it's a question that haunts.
Ironside: Death by the Numbers (1972)
Burr gets a chance to stretch
Slight change of pace for IRONSIDE as the Chief has to go undercover, and Raymond Burr plays a dual role with the kind of special effects used in THE PATTY DUKE SHOW and THE PARENT TRAP.
I bet this was a fun one for Burr; he certainly seemed to be enjoying cocking his leg up on furniture as the Duffy character, something Burr had at this point been prohibited from doing for several years because of Chief Ironside not having any feeling in his own legs. I thought Burr was pretty good as Duffy, but I thought the Chief didn't do a very good job of impersonating Duffy, which, since Chief Ironside isn't supposed to be a professional actor, may have been really good acting from Burr. Hurting the credibility of the impersonation is that the Duffy character clearly has a degree of albinism, yet nothing's done to lighten Chief Ironside's skin tone whilst he's playing at being Duffy. So it doesn't make sense that the William Katt character, who is on fairly familiar terms with Duffy, should buy into the charade for as long as he does.
This is another one of those episodes in which the Chief is able to outmaneuver a murderous automobile through fancy wheelchair rolling.
John McGiver sounds drunk in this one; hint of incest
Maybe the lead actor had a cold or was on some sort of medication, but he sounds and even acts a little tipsy in this episode. It would be interesting to find out which possibility was the real one. Perhaps he intended for the character he was playing to come across as "under the influence"; that might explain the odd course of action he takes in his quest for significance. McGiver's strange demeanor and detached affect might also be seen as a sign of autism or Asperger's today.
The belittling, grasping sister displays the outrage of a wronged wife when she thinks her brother has a girlfriend; she even refers to the presumed sweetheart as "another woman". She's never let her brother get within spitting distance of a romantic relationship with anyone, and more to the point she herself never married. One has to wonder how deep and in what track her feelings run.
The story was by Miriam Allen deFord, noted for her mystery and science fiction writing. This is one of those tales that has a light, bemusing tone, but is pitch black and misanthropic at its heart. There are no winners here. Perfect for Hitchcock.
I Couldn't Take Any Of It Seriously
This one stood out to me as being more goofy than anything. I guess it can't be called unintentionally funny, as several other reviewers here seem to think that that was exactly the goal, but it still seems to me like there was supposed to be an underlying tension, a risk that something seriously awful could result from the conflict here, that was completely undercut by the way the story was executed.
It amounts to two gunfighters having a staring contest. They refuse to take their eyes off of each other and maintain a barrage of taunts that only heighten the silliness. They are seated at a little table covered by a checkered tablecloth; they stab blindly at the food before them and overturn cups of coffee. Grandma Walton keeps running in and out of frame trying to distract them with different things. It felt like an SNL skitch. There's even a comically over-sized prop that plays a crucial part in the "twist ending". This was all MEANT to be funny, right?
Hitch's epilogue, a much-needed acerbic twist upon the twist, was the part of this episode that I enjoyed the most.
I just watched this on Hulu.com so I thought I'd correct a few mistakes given in the synopsis of the events of the story and in another review. SPOILERS follow.
Jessica Tandy's character isn't told by her driver that the sedan that has been purchased for her use was formerly a canary yellow color, she's told that by the salesperson at the dealership. Also, she doesn't "track down" the address of the house used by the former owner of the sedan as a trysting place, she learns of the address by "overhearing" it spoken by the disembodied voice in the car. And finally, the former owner of the sedan, the French countess, didn't die and Tandy doesn't find her grave at the house. It's clearly mentioned earlier in the episode that the countess left Hong Kong alive if not happy. What Tandy finds in the Chinese garden of the house is a stone engraved with some poetry precious to the countess and her illicit lover, under which they've signed their initials. THAT'S the "twist" of the story--Tandy recognizes the initials of the countess' lover to be those of her husband, and it hits her like a punch in the gut; while they were apart he was carrying on a secret life full of the romance and passion he never shared with her.
This has haunted me for years
Oh my word! I was starting to believe that I had just imagined seeing this on television when I was a little kid! I saw it at my aunt's house in Cape Girardeau, Mo., when I was staying over. I thought it might have been on a weekend, but the original air date, 11/25/75, was a Tuesday; but that also means it must have been right before Thanksgiving that year, so maybe I was staying with my aunt and uncle for the entire week. Anyhoo, that's neither here nor there; I only remembered bits and pieces of this episode, just the general plot and that final image, but whoo boy! Did those small chunks stick with me! I've searched for this on internet sites under every conceivable iteration of the ABC Movie series title, and here it was, a WIDE WORLD of Mystery movie! No wonder I couldn't find it. And to discover it starred Mrs. Columbo's Kate Mulgrew, currently of NTSF:SD:SUV! And also Trapper John's Pernell Roberts! Man, hoping the entire show has somehow found its way onto the web; next stop: YouTube!
Rarely shown on TV? This used to be on TV all the time.
When I was a kid living in southeast Missouri in the early '80s, this movie was frequently shown on television; there was a cable station out of St. Louis, I believe, that would show this. It would be shown as an afternoon movie from around 2-4 p.m., maybe, and then AGAIN in the evening, from 8-10. Captivated me the first couple of times I saw it, with its slick, stylish production values and quiet, slowly-escalating suspense, but I have to admit I got a little tired of seeing it. So I don't know what all this talk about it not being on TV is about. Well worth seeing if you never have, though, or if it's been awhile. All the performances are top notch, the story keeps you hooked and guessing--at least if you haven't seen a lot of these kinds of movies, I guess; to be honest, I think even as a kid I had a vague idea of how it would turn out. But getting there is fun.
The IMF take down some mobsters so funny-looking that they would have been right at home in a "Dick Tracy" strip
I found this two-parter to have some of the most hilarious suspension-of-disbelief-required moments yet, though it was all the more fun and exciting because of it.
I don't know which part had me howling the most: 1) That Cinnamon could get major newspapers to publish a fake story about a fake but "well-known" U.S. Senator with fake pictures, or 2) that she could remove Rollie's disguise whilst pretending to give him silicone injections when they were being closely observed on ALL SIDES by mobsters, just by holding a towel kinda sorta over her hand as she was peeling away the latex, or 3) Peter Graves walking around with this false, hollow, half torso on his back as he gets into a car, then ducking down, leaving the half torso in the driver's seat, so it looks like he's still sitting there as seen from behind, then dropping through a hole cut in the floor of the car into a sewer manhole. Actually, I DO know; it's that last bit that really had me holding my sides.
Still, lest anyone think I didn't enjoy these episodes, rest assured that's not the case. Pretty exciting and interesting as always, especially watching all the effort they go to with the drilling and the sawing and the elaborate preparations. And there's a neat use of split screen toward the end, which I hadn't seen M:I use before, showing parallel elevator shafts that come into play with some nifty "sleight of hand." All in all, not very believable, but don't let that get in your way of the fun.
The Killing of Sister George (1968)
Too long and rather awful, but not uninteresting
"Sister George" turns out to be an unpleasant person to spend 2 1/2 hours with. She's loud and obnoxious, with a hair-trigger temper, and is prone to throwing screaming tantrums over even trivial matters; one wonders how she managed to keep her job as long as she did. This doesn't help the movie, which as a whole is big and broad and overstated; there's a slapstick quality to even the dramatic moments. The dialogue is fatuous and artless; people shout and argue a lot but no one really says anything. I'm no film student, but even the direction seemed bad. As if the words weren't obvious enough, there are lots of lingering close-ups of the actors giving exaggerated facial reactions to slam home the idea of what they're supposed to be feeling. There's a scene in a very small, very crowded lesbian club, and the way the camera weaves through the crowd, showing various same-sex couples slow-dancing, is supposed to be shocking and salacious, but only comes off as rather clumsy. Most of the subtlety in the film is reserved for the glimpses we get of "Applehurst", a gentle soap opera (parody) on which "Sister George" is a featured character. I've read that the author of the play from which the movie is taken has said that it wasn't supposed to be a serious study of lesbianism, and that's good, because it isn't. The relationship between Beryl Reid and Susannah York is distasteful: verbally and psychologically abusive with hints of sado-masochism. The film reinforces those awful stereotypes of older, butch lesbians preying on younger, more feminine women.
One of the few elements of the movie that kept me watching was Coral Browne. She made an interesting contrast with Beryl Reid; Browne is actually more mannish-looking than Reid, with a large, strong face, but this is offset by her elegant style of dress and manner. Whereas Reid is all bombast and outwardly-exploding emotion, Browne's character is controlled and well-spoken, exuding an icy, almost reptilian vibe. Her sex scene with York is the movie's apex of unintentional humor, though; the faces she makes as she's bringing York to climax had me rolling.
I would say the film's chief merit is as a curio of its time, and the then rarity of the subject matter with which it deals, however ridiculously.
La Celestina (1996)
Good performances in a speedy, period piece tragedy with a fair amount of skin
Interesting movie to look at, but failed to make me really care about the characters. The dialogue and manner of speaking was rather artificial and overly-theatrical; as if it were trying to go for a Shakespeare-lite effect. The characters' actions sometimes seemed to be nonsensical and in service to the plot rather than being the way people in such a situation would really behave; they would often act against their own obvious best interests with little to gain. If there was any kind of theme here I'm not sure what it was: Greed is bad? Let love take a natural course, without resorting to supernatural means to advance it? And I'm not even sure that Celestina really did any "magic" to get the two lovers together; she was just more of a persuasive facilitator than potion-brewing sorceress. I myself didn't have any problem with the sex/nudity; there's nothing wrong with looking at beautiful bodies and people enjoying each other. In the DVD I saw, however, some of the full-frontal nudity was blurred out, and some--a scene of Mr. Botto arising out of a bathtub--was not, so I guess someone somewhere DID have a problem with it.
The Oh in Ohio (2006)
More like "the Uh-Huh in Ohio"
The movie does try something a little interesting, hopefully intentional, perhaps accidental, at the beginning: it presents the audience with two main characters who aren't all that likable, in a marriage it doesn't really ask us to care about. You don't get any back story with their relationship, whether it started off 10 yrs ago as happy and fun--presumably so--and therefore you don't really know why they let themselves trudge along so miserably for so long, especially since they don't have kids. He (Paul Rudd) is depressed and defeated and retreats behind a screen of semi-hostile humor; she (Parker Posey) won't confront the big (pardon the pun) hole in their marriage. It's to the credit of those two performers that they give their characters the modicum of charm they do possess. Then they go their separate ways, each finding a little bit of happiness here and there, and finally Posey meets someone who just might be really good for her. People balk at Devito's lack of, uh, conventional good looks, but I can kind of see why she prefers him: he's upbeat, energetic, he likes to talk to her; he's not sullen and hostile like Rudd. Their scene in the restaurant exudes some real warmth, I thought. But there's not really enough of that or enough dramatic tension or engaging humor for me to really recommend the movie.
Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)
Worthwhile idea for an animated Batman anthology, but results are mediocre.
Just watched this tonight; I'm glad I did, but surprisingly the misses outnumber the hits.
1) "Have I Got A Story For You" - cute idea, with 3 different skatepunks relating their separate versions of witnessing the Batman battle the same villain, creating a sort of "camel" version of the Dark Knight. Totally get why some people don't like the art style here, it's very Mignolaesque, which is an acquired taste, but I kinda liked it. The only criticism is that it's been DONE BEFORE -- on B:TAS no less.
2) "Crossfire" - Manages to be both ridiculous and unmemorable, my least favorite of the sextet. Nice animation and visual style, though.
3) "Field Test" - very mixed feelings on this. Didn't care for the so-young-looking-he-should-be-in-6th-hour-Algebra-class version of Bruce Wayne, and I actually found the story and dialogue a wee bit hard to follow. Wayne/Batman was out of character somewhat, too, using his new gizmo to play a spiteful prank on a fellow golfer. Much too punky anime for me. What kept it from being a total loss was the way in which the story was resolved, with Batman choosing human vulnerability over Superman-like resistance to small-arms fire. Nice way to go.
4) "Darkness Dwells" - Appealing animation and action, atmospheric setting--was Batman not MADE to battle evil in the sewers?--but it crams in two interesting villains who are barely made use of; they deserve better and so do we.
5) "Working Through Pain" - My absolute favorite of the bunch. A good, moving story, well-told. It's basically Batman making his way through a sewer, suffering from both blood loss and a haunting reverie. I like my Batman to be a human being, and this was a great showcase for that. That ending stays with you, too.
6) "Deadshot" - Excellent animation and visual style, good use of what is probably a relatively unknown villain for most people, great action, but I found myself getting hung up on Bats doing things that really should be beyond his physical capabilities. Was it my imagination or at one point does he punch a bullet out of the air? There's some lip service given to Batman being only *partially* bullet-proof, depending on the range, but--meh. And I'm sorry, but Batman should never FLY. He just doesn't do that. Leave that for BATMAN BEYOND. All in all, though, probably my 2nd favorite story in the film.
I have to give the editors of this collaborative effort praise for managing a through-line motif to the stories: Batman's human limitations are kept very much in the foreground here, and I appreciate that. There's a cost to what he does; he hurts, he bleeds; it takes effort to be the Batman. You feel like there's actually something at stake. The animation in general was definitely top notch, especially compared to the daily made-for-television quality. I just wish I had come away from it more "wowed".
Really well-written animated super-hero fare
I've seen a lot of these animated super-hero movies and this is in my opinion by far the best. It's no coincidence that it was written by Dwayne McDuffie, who also penned the wonderfully absorbing story arcs in Cartoon Network's JLA and JLU. I won't recount the plot, others have done that before me, but suffice it to say the script is intelligent, mature, doesn't talk down to the viewers, yet is also accessible to people of almost any age. There's a preponderance of action over story here, but when the characters do settle down for some exposition, McDuffie makes the most of it. The characterization, especially of the villains, never seems two dimensional. The nihilistic Owlman, especially, is fascinating and well-handled; I also think that James Woods probably gave the best voice performance in the feature among many very good ones. McDuffie has fun drawing parallels between the way the team of super-villains organize their crime empire with the real life Cosa Nostra, in one scene going into quite a bit of detail that you wouldn't necessarily expect from a cartoon kiddie show. Another standout scene has the JLA discussing the philosophical implications of taking on powerful crime figures in a parallel dimension where they have no jurisdiction, and the hardship this may place on its native inhabitants; they can stop the bad guys in the immediate present, but what happens when they leave? Are they willing to stick around forever to prevent retaliation? Are they willing to kill to make sure there isn't any? And I've become convinced no one writes better, more well-choreographed action sequences than McDuffie. An early one makes good use of suspense as two characters are fleeing pursuit through a series of massive doors that come together and lock behind them, and the sounds they hear as their pursuers batter the doors down just out of eyesight. My favorite mix-it-up action fight scene has to be the one that takes place in in a stormy sky involving several characters that fly under their own power and a sophisticated fighter jet. It really engaged a feeling of wonder in me, and envy, to be one these gods who can zoom around and play in the cloud banks. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention McDuffie's wonderful ear for dialogue; he can make the discussion of fantastic elements sound so natural. A good example is when Wonder Woman brings home an invisible plane from the alternate dimension:
Flash: I can't believe you kept that thing ...
Wonder Woman: Spoils of war!
Flash: What do you even need it for? You can fly!
Green Lantern, to Flash: You drive a car ...
Flash: That's completely different!
Don't you think that's probably the kind of things super-folks would say if they were real? Ah, to be a member of that club ... well, I can't, and neither can you, but you can do the next best thing and watch this film.
Pushing Daisies (2007)
I can certainly understand the negative criticism ...
... but I enjoyed this show anyway. I've been reading some of the comments prior reviewers have had to say about this show, and I'm having a hard time completely nullifying all the criticism in my own head (except one: that the show was stale; this program was ANYTHING but stale). A lot of the stuff people take issue with about this show is on the money: pretentious; forced; overwrought; desperate for attention; self-satisfied; annoying ever-present narration. But you know what? I really liked it. It was different, it was original, it really, really TRIED; and that made up for all the minuses. The show was bright, verbal, quick, witty, interesting, fun to look at ... you know, it was only on once a week, I could take it once a week and look forward to it and enjoy it. I will mourn its passing. But I guess nobody will be bringing this back to life.
Tyron Leitso is dreamy
But no great shakes as an actor. At least not here. I remember him being a bit better in "Wonderfalls." In "Dinotopia" he's rather robotic. This mini-series is playing right now on the SciFi Channel so it's really fresh in my mind. In fact, I'm gonna go back and watch some more of it after I've finished with this. I have to say, it's rather enthralling in spite of itself. Dinosaurs are just fun to watch, no matter the context, and did I mention Tyron Leitso is easy on the eyes? But as a whole it doesn't really hold up very well to scrutiny. I have to echo some other reviewers' comments as to being more than a little uncomfortable with the way Dinotopian society is run. The cities have mayors, who I assume are democratically elected, but they also have a "Queen", who more or less controls everyone's destiny. Seems like the writers wanted to have it both ways, both modernly democratic and fairy-tale-like autocratic as well. Aside from the villain, played by David Thewlis, there was never any sign of dissent or dissatisfaction. Was there something in the water keeping the people docile? Maybe that quasi-mystical, orgasm-inducing, dino-foot-stomping rite keeps them all hyp-mo-tized. (Wentworth Miller: "There are just not words to describe it..." Good work, writers.) At least there seemed to be a high degree of gender equality, though really, this came off being more of a concession to pc'ness on behalf of the writers rather than a "realistic" depiction of a pre-industrial society. A lot of the dinosaurs seemed kind of like slaves. And no other animals except reptiles? Amphibians and small mammals and eventually birds lived side-by-side with dinosaurs for quite a while, you know. All in all, Dinotopia would be fascinating to visit, but I sure as heck wouldn't wanna live there. I found myself sympathizing with Karl (Tyron Leitso) on that point. Oh, by the way, he has a skinny-dipping scene, but you don't see anything, darn it.
Much has been written about Erika Eleniak ...
... so I thought I'd throw in a few words about William McNamara. Not a bad way to spend a couple of hours if you want to see him in his tighty-whities -- it's obvious he pumped up for this role and he looks pretty darn good in them -- or less. There's an extended sequence in a cave where he has to strip down to his undies. There's a nice bit where he has to chase after Miss Eleniak in the buff, with only his hands cupped over his groin. William McNamara is naturally a little on the skinny side, but he has a nice, generous handful of a booty. Also, there's a moment when he's getting out of bed that if you pause the action at just the right moment you can see the whole enchilada. If you're inclined to do so, and come on, half of the people who choose to watch a movie about Navy men on a "road trip" are. I'd just like thank Dennis Hopper for his equal opportunity gratuitous nudity. Can William McNamara act? Heck if I know.
Miss Guided (2008)
Judy Greer and Chris Parnell are very good; this show really deserves a chance
You can't really miss with a comedy about high-school, and this show doesn't disappoint. It somehow does a better job evoking a real high school experience than other shows like "90210" or "Gossip Girl", and that's probably by focusing more on the teachers; "My So-Called Life" was the only show with a high-school milieu as seen from the kids' angle that I think came close to getting it. "Miss Guided" is a light, funny, smart way to spend a half-hour, a definite notch or two above programs of its ilk, something ABC seems to be showing a talent for lately with other efforts like "Carpoolers", "Notes from the Underbelly", "Pushing Daisies", and even though I'm going to get crap for it, yes, "Cavemen". Judy Greer has a deft comic touch and carries the lead well, but Chris Parnell as the assistant principal steals every scene he's in. Sometimes the episodes seem almost to be written more to his strengths than anyone else's. He's to this show what Alec Baldwin is to "30 Rock".
Isle of the Dead (1945)
The last 15 minutes make it worth watching; for Lewton completists more than anyone
I just saw this over the Halloween holiday on TMC...interesting find, but not great. As there are already 35 comments for this movie, I'll also direct anyone reading this to find Telegonus' review, as I think his concise summation really best captured the strengths and weaknesses of the film, but will give my two cents as well:
I thought it was an interesting premise, with a novel location--can't think of too many other films set during the Balkan War of 1912--complex dynamics between the characters, and a well-executed change-of-pace role for Karloff. It was kind of a cross between Poe's "Usher" and the movie "The She-Wolf of London"; but overall it was too talky, which diluted some of the suspense.
The best bits that help earn this movie a place in the horror category, are when a catatonic woman awakens to find herself sealed up in a makeshift coffin left in a cave: you just see the outside of it, and hear her terrified screams and frantic clawing; the film returns to this shot more than once over the following days before a bit of lucky moisture warps the wood and allows her to escape, homicidally insane. And the other scene really worth mentioning is in the last ten minutes, when the heroine, a beautiful Greek serving girl, suspected of being a vampire, and threatened with destruction by Karloff--how's that for a switch?--who's also going batty, wanders out into the woods to investigate some weird calls and sounds. She eventually makes her way to the cave, and calls out for the formerly entombed woman: it's really just a moment, and it's dimly shot--there's just a suggestion of movement and a faint blur of white, but it really is the money shot of the movie, quite spooky and startling. I'm sure it must have had even more of an impact on the moviegoers of 1945. It's the kind of quick scene which makes me wish I had been recording it so I could watch that part again and really dissect it.
Columbo: How to Dial a Murder (1978)
A young Merlin (from Excalibur) is featured in this one!
This one's fun thanks to the unusual murder weapon(s), the movie buff trappings, and above all Nicol Williamson as the murderous self-help guru. But it's a bid odd, too: Columbo's a little out-of-character here; he waltzes through it radiating enough smugness to make you choke. He even acts like he knows the doctor is the killer before they've even met!
Fortunately Columbo is able to show up at just the right moment to prevent the doctor from killing his own dogs (death by chocolate!) and from doing away with Kim Cattrall--here, centuries away from the jaded and worldly Samantha of "Sex and the City."
Another unusual aspect of the episode is that the murderer even makes a last-ditch attempt to kill Columbo! I don't recall that happening in any other entry in the series.
Overall a good episode, but kind of a weird, off-putting performance by Falk. It's worth watching, though, just for the clever word association game the Lt. and his quarry play; the highlight of the show.
Columbo: The Greenhouse Jungle (1972)
You have to remember that Columbo is about CATCHING the villain...
... not trying him and keeping him locked up. Holding that in mind helps you look beyond the circumstantial nature of the bit of evidence that helps nail the murderer (Milland) in this one. After all, there's no proof that Milland himself planted the gun or the briefcase in the wife's house...they both had acquired their guns years ago, the murder victim knew they both had guns, and he hung out with Milland quite a bit...who's to say the victim himself hadn't switched the guns however long ago? I think the murderer would have a pretty good shot at getting off...unless one took into consideration the MONEY, which never seems to happen in Columbo episodes. It's interesting to contrast this series with today's police procedurals like Law & Order, where "follwing the money" and checking bank accounts and money transfers and tracking large cash purchases beyond the means of the suspect is frequently a big factor. But admittedly that's not fair, and besides the point when it comes to enjoying a Columbo episode. You're supposed to watch for Falk's "schtick" as much as for the actual detective work. And it is satisfying to see the obnoxious (and loud! Jeez, Milland is always such a loud actor; he shouts every line!) Milland get caught, though once again, it would be nice if the villain got a little indignant or gnashed his teeth or threw a tantrum or something more than just glumly accepting his fate and walking out the door. But I think avoiding those kind of obvious dramatics was also one of the details that set Columbo apart from other detective shows back in its day.
The Stranger Within (1974)
The best part about this is the speech she makes at the end...
*** spoiler signal! ***
... that is presumably coming from the alien fetus inside her, speaking through her mouth. I don't remember it verbatim, but the alien fetus explains its origin and speaks of Earth as a "...hot, heavy land..." It was a nice, little haunting bit of writing, and the makers of the TV movie knew it was the best part of the whole production, because they use it TWICE. The rest of the move is rather flat and lethargic; it's not really scary or even all that suspenseful. I saw this when I was a little kid, when it originally aired on TV in '74, and I remember I was looking forward to it and hoped it would be good because I liked (and still like!) spooky movies and because it starred Barbara Eden who was still pretty fresh from Jeannie at the time, but even as an indiscriminate 7-yr old viewer I was bored and disappointed.
A Name for Evil (1973)
A muddled, unsatisfying "ghost" story...
...the only upside of which is that Robert Culp has his only--as far as I know--full frontal nude scene. At least he got it in before he went too much to seed. It's amusing to watch him as Debra's Dad on "Everybody Loves Raymond" and think to yourself, "I've seen this man completely, utterly, stark raving naked!" Other than that and the beautifully photographed surroundings of the house and woods, there's not much to recommend it, especially if you like leaving a movie with some small insight as to what the heck happened. The ending is particularly unsatisfying, with Samantha Eggar apparently being murdered by Culp. Did Culp's ancestor--the builder of the house--possess him and make him do it because he resented the renovations to his home? Did he also make him participate in a hippie orgy? The spirits are silent on this matter.
Columbo: Lovely But Lethal (1973)
The best reason to watch this one is Vera Miles!
I didn't really know much of this actress other than "Psycho," but it was a real treat to see her at the focal point of this episode. I was just fascinated by her; the way she spoke, looked, etc. She was well cast as a cosmetics mogul, because she was in her early forties when this was made and the closeups show not one wrinkle! Her hairdo I believe was a big inspiration for Charles Busch's character in "Die, Mommie Die!" The story was pretty good but not fantastic, with a young, cute Martin Sheen as the victim. I enjoyed the cosmetics industry milieu, and there were some priceless 70's moments, such as when someone is seen smoking a ciggie as she browses in a clothing store. Those were the days! The crime itself was one of passion, and with no thought put into (that) murder, the villainess couldn't really cover her tracks very well, making her ultimately an easy catch for the Lt. I have to admit I was thrown off by the itchy rash everyone was getting, thinking--as did the murderess--that it was caused by the wrinkle cream. Didn't see the poison ivy coming; but then who ever does?
Columbo: A Stitch in Crime (1973)
I never realized what a long face Leonard Nimoy has...
This one was pretty good for a number of reasons:
The unusual murder weapon of dissolving sutures; at the end, the villain has to subject his intended victim to a 2ND operation and save his life in order to cover up the initial crime! How often have you seen that one?!
Anne Francis is always a treat to watch; I was sorry to see her bumped off so early. And the comedic actress Nita Talbot, who should have had a bigger career, has a couple of funny moments.
Columbo loses his temper with the murderer--the only other time I can remember this happening is with Robert Conrad's murderous gym owner character. Nimoy is so arrogant and imperious it's a little gratifying to see the Lt. let him have it rather than sucking up to him the way he often does with other suspects.
One thing that almost ruined this for me is the very, very end--it was so abrupt! Columbo announces his discovery of the final damning piece of evidence, and then the credits are plastered over Nimoy's face! It was so unsatisfying! There was no "Oh, you got me!" moment! No emotion! Well, I guess that's appropriate for the former Mr. Spock. And the abrupt ending is, unfortunately, all too typical of this series.