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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Step Down to Terror (1958)

US / 76 minutes / bw / Universal International Dir: Harry Keller Pr: Joseph Gershenson Scr: Mel Dinelli, Czenzi Ormonde, Chris Cooper (i.e., Sy Gomberg) Story: Gordon McDonell Cine: Russell Metty Cast: Colleen Miller, Charles Drake, Rod Taylor, Josephine Hutchinson, Jocelyn Brando, Alan Dexter, Rickey Kelman.

Alfred Hitchcock has been reported as saying that SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943), starring Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten, was his own personal favorite of all his movies. It’s safe to say that this remake—the first of two in the English language, the other (which I haven’t seen) being Strange Homecoming (1974 TVM) dir Lee H. Katzin, with Robert Culp, Glen Campbell and Tara Talboy—isn’t as good as Hitchcock’s version, but it does have some strengths; it’d be erroneous to dismiss it as just a lukewarm imitation.

After an absence of six years, Johnny Walters (Drake)—for some reason called Johnny Williams in the closing credits—returns to the small California town of his birth, Middletown, to stay with his widowed mom, Sarah Walters (Hutchinson), his widowed sister-in-law, Helen Walters (Miller), and Helen’s young son Doug (Kelman).

Charles Drake as Johnny.

At first Helen finds herself attracted to the genial, open-handed Johnny, but then odd things start happening to make her uneasy in his presence. Matters come to a head when Continue reading

Farewell, My Love (2000 TVM/DTV)

US / 90 minutes / color / Frontline, Montage, World International Dir & Scr: Randall Fontana Pr: Deverin Karol, Eric Weston, William Ewart, David Peters Cine: Rex A. Nicholson Cast: Gabrielle Fitzpatrick, Phillip Rhys, Brion James, Ed Lauter, Mark A. Sheppard, Steffen Gregory Foster, Sarah Wynter, Adam Baldwin, Robert Culp, Hamilton Mitchell, Constance Zimmer, Craig Aldrich, Kimberlee Peterson, Catherine McGoohan.

Years ago, the criminous Russian Karpov family—Peter (Foster), George (Mitchell), Natalya (Wynter) and patriarch Sergei (Lauter)—paused in their journey across Europe at the small Pyrenean vineyard of the Fauré family, where they murdered M. Fauré (uncredited), gang-raped and murdered Mme. Fauré (McGoohan) and left the Faurés’ adolescent daughter Brigit (Peterson) severely injured. Brigit was saved by the timely arrival of a neighbor, Renault (James, who is surely rocker Richard Thompson moonlighting; wrong accent, though).

Brion James as Renault.

Now the Karpovs live a life of organized crime in LA, which is where an older, harder Brigit (Fitzpatrick) has just arrived, athirst for vengeance. Renault is Continue reading

Dark Summer (2000)

vt Innocents
US, Germany, Canada / 92 minutes / color / Cinerenta, Cineinnocent, Credo, Adagio Dir & Scr: Gregory Marquette Pr: Terry Carr, Gail Tilson Cine: Bruce Worrall Cast: Jean-Hugues Anglade, Connie Nielsen, Mia Kirshner, Keith David, Joseph Culp, James Quill, Robert Culp, Anne Archer, Frank Langella, Trae Thomas, Charles Knecht, Kent Allen, Jack Semple.

Dark Summer - 0 opener

Parisian cellist Gerard Huxley (Anglade), in the US to teach at the Juillard School in NYC, is driving cross-country when he’s forced off the road and into a cornfield. The next he knows he’s in hospital being tended by pretty nurse Megan Denright (Nielsen). On his discharge, she invites him back to her remote home for dinner before he continues his journey to Seattle. He meets her younger (and very much shorter) sister Dominique (Kirshner), who’s obviously somewhat eccentric, and their bedridden father Robert (Langella), who gives him a dismissive criticism of his cello-playing.

Dark Summer - 1 Langella as the bedridden father

Robert (Frank Langella) minces no words in his critique of Gerard’s cello playing.

Soon afterward, Gerard learns that Robert has died. After the funeral, he again goes back to the Denright home, this time sleeping with Continue reading

Floater, The (1961 TVM)

US / 49 minutes / bw / Hubbell Robinson, NBC Dir: Herschel Daugherty Pr: Boris D. Kaplan Scr: Winston Miller Story: The Con Man (1957) by Ed McBain Cine: Lionel Lindon Cast: Robert Lansing, Ron Harper, Norman Fell, Gregory Walcott, Gena Rowlands, Robert Culp, Natalie Norwick, Paul Bryar, Wally Brown, Andy Albin, Victor Sen Yung, Dal McKennon, Ralph Manza.

Floater - 2 the magazine ad set to lure gullible gals

The pilot for the shortlived (1961–2) TV series 87th Precinct, this sees the boys of the 87th tackle the case of a floater found in the river. The medical examiner reports that she didn’t drown but was dead of arsenic poisoning before going into the water, and that she has a small tattoo of a heart with “MAC” inside it on the sensitive flesh between her right thumb and forefinger. Detectives Steve Carella (Lansing) and Meyer Meyer (Fell) soon identify her in the Missing Persons records as Scranton native Mary-Louise Proschek, who ran away from home to the big city to escape boredom and find love. The tattoo is recent, and so Carella, Meyer and Detective Bert Kling (Harper) start combing the city’s tattoo parlors to see if anyone can recall Mary-Louise.

Floater - 1 Lansing as Carella

Robert Lansing, more than adequate as Steve Carella.

Steve is accompanied on one such visit by his mute wife Teddy (Rowlands). Although the tattooist, Charlie (Yung), has never done such a tattoo—he explains it would be painful—Teddy becomes fascinated with the idea of having a tattoo of her own: a butterfly on her shoulder. Some while later, Continue reading