Word Games (TVM 1979)

US / 94 minutes / color / Gambit, Universal, NBC Dir: Boris Sagal Pr: James McAdams Scr: Richard Alan Simmons Cine: Isidore Mankofsky Cast: Kate Mulgrew, Henry Jones, Lili Haydn, Robert Culp, Edie Adams, Bob Dishy, Rene Auberjonois, Priscilla Pointer, Allan Rich, Frederic Forrest, Barney Martin, Christopher Allport, Herb Armstrong, Neil Flanagan, Susan Connors, Miriam Nelson.

This was the pilot to a series spun off from Columbo and featuring the detection adventures of the wife whom the lieutenant constantly cites but never names. The series, by contrast, experienced a surfeit of names during its short lifetime (13 episodes), beginning as Mrs. Columbo, then becoming Kate Columbo, then Kate the Detective and finishing as Kate Loves a Mystery. As you’ll have guessed, in this spinoff the otherwise anonymous Mrs. Columbo is given a name, Kate; after a mid-series divorce from her more celebrated husband, she becomes Kate Callahan.

Kate Mulgrew as Kate Columbo.

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Permission to Kill (1975)

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Alpine scheming!
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vt Kickback; vt The Executioner
UK, Austria, US / 97 minutes / color with occasional brief bw / Sascha–Film, Jungbluth & Lazek, Warner, Columbia–Warner, Embassy Dir: Cyril Frankel Pr: Paul Mills Scr: Robin Estridge Story: W.I.L One to Curtis (1967) by Robin Estridge Cine: Freddie Young Cast: Dirk Bogarde, Ava Gardner, Bekim Fehmiu, Timothy Dalton, Nicole Calfan, Frederic Forrest, Klaus Wildbolz, Anthony Dutton, Peggy Sinclair, Dennis Blanch, John Levene, Alf Joint, Vladimir Popovic, Ratislav Plamenac, Oliver Schott, Erna Riedl-Tichy.

Released at the height of the Bond era—this came out between The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), a time when the Bond franchise was for legal reasons undergoing a (very) brief hiatus—Permission to Kill could hardly, despite its title, be more distanced from the technical hijinx, passionate encounters, shootemups and protracted action scenes that characterized its glitzy counterpart. Perhaps aspiring to the gravitas of Le Carre, it focuses on intrigue and the interplay between characters. It’s not entirely successful in this, but it does have a fair amount of appeal in its own right.

Alexander “Alex” Diakim (Fehmiu), a charismatic populist leader in exile from his Middle European homeland because of the repressive government there, has halfway decided to go back to lead the struggle for liberation, even at the likely cost of his life.

Dirk Bogarde as Curtis.

For reasons unstated—perhaps just a fear of rocking the boat—the British secret services don’t want him to do so. A controller who calls himself Alan Curtis (Bogarde) is put in charge of the effort to persuade Alex to delay his plans or, if he proves intractable, to kill him.

Curtis, using various means of blackmail and claiming to be working for the nonexistent Western Intelligence Liaison, assembles a disparate group of people important for some or other reason in Alex’s life and Continue reading