Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Americans, "The Guerrillas"

“The Guerrillas”
March 20, 1961
Starring Darryl Hickman and Dick Davalos
Guest starring Robert Culp, Berry Kroeger, Sonya Wilde, Strother Martin, Norman Alden, Cyril Delevanti, Gertrude Flynn, Pauline Myers, Peggy Stewart, George Kennedy, James Seay, Ken Mayer, Patrick Waltz, Terry Ann Ross, Paul Lambert
Music by Van Alexander
Produced by Frank Telford
Written by Andy Lewis
Directed by John Florea

One of the most unusual television westerns was set during the Civil War. THE AMERICANS starred former child star Darryl Hickman (THE GRAPES OF WRATH) and Dick Davalos (EAST OF EDEN) as brothers from Harpers Ferry who fought on opposite sides. Like MAVERICK, most episodes featured either one brother or the other, and rarely did Hickman and Davalos appear together.

“The Guerrillas” features Davalos as Jeff Canfield, the brother who joined the Virginia Militia, but the best part in the script by Andy Lewis (KLUTE) goes to the great Robert Culp (I SPY). It wasn’t unusual for dramas during this era to act as disguised anthologies, crafting stories around colorful guest actors and leaving room for the stars to just drop in.

Culp plays Finletter, a sensitive sort who joins up with a band of deserters, creeps, and thieves from both sides of the Conflict that use the war as cover for their criminal mischief. He doesn’t seem into it, though; one of the guerrillas calls him a “right peculiar fella.” He got tired of killing for the Union and deserted, joining up with the guerrillas a few days later.

Led by the stuttering Keezer (Berry Kroeger), the cutthroats lay siege to the town where Jeff’s grandfather (Cyril Delevanti) lives, burning homes and hassling the womenfolk. Jeff, on leave from the Confederate Army, doesn’t meet up with them until the end of the second act. Indeed, Lewis and director John Florea are more interested in the bad guys and their internal politics. Paine (Norman Alden) tries to organize an overthrow of Keezer’s leadership, but when it fails, he frames Finletter.

In addition to the actors already mentioned, “The Guerrillas” is of interest because of supporting roles taken by Strother Martin and George Kennedy, whose Internet Movie Database profile neglects his part as a friendly deaf-mute who helps Jeff rescue the town from Keezer’s men. A friendship of sorts begins to develop between Jeff and Finletter, who call each other “Yankee” and “Reb,” as they band together, but one feels that it isn’t destined to be a long relationship.

THE AMERICANS premiered on Monday night in RIVERBOAT’s old timeslot against ABC’s CHEYENNE and CBS’ combo of TO TELL THE TRUTH and PETE AND GLADYS. The ratings weren’t there for either brother, and NBC cancelled the series after seventeen episodes.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Death Follows A Psycho

It used to be common for television studios to squeeze extra revenue out of their failed series by cutting together two disparate episodes and selling the new “movie” into syndication. Usually, the only overhead was a new title sequence, some clumsy inserts and voiceover to tie the episodes together, and an editor (who was probably already on salary) to do the splicing.

And that’s why the obscure DEATH FOLLOWS A PSYCHO doesn’t appear in film reference guides or the Internet Movie Database.

Just nine months after BONANZA aired its 430th and final episode, Lorne Greene returned to series television as the star of GRIFF, in which he played Wade Griffin, a veteran Los Angeles policeman who quit the force after thirty years to become a private eye. Ben Murphy, whose ALIAS SMITH AND JONES ended the same week as BONANZA, joined GRIFF as Griff’s partner and legman, young Mike Murdock.

At least one of DEATH FOLLOWS A PSYCHO’s creators was displeased with the film’s cobbled nature, as the writing is credited to Peter S. Fischer, Steven Bochco (who produced GRIFF), and Victor Laszlo—an obvious pseudonym, it being the name of Paul Henreid’s character in CASABLANCA. True to the “genre,” DEATH FOLLOWS A PSYCHO (great title, by the way) is typical 1970s cop-show fare interrupted by bonzo narration and editing that fails to disguise the fact that the stories don’t have anything to do with one another.

In “Elephant in a Cage,” Griff tries to clear an old friend, an honest but hot-headed cop named Aaron Steiner (Harold J. Stone), who is accused to murdering a crooked restaurant owner (Jack Donner). Usually these movies just bump one episode up against the other—one story ends, the next one begins—but the editor here got clever and wove the two plots together. So while Griff is working the Steiner case, he also goes up against a “Countdown to Terror,” in which terminally ill Aldo Karabian (Ricardo Montalban, great as usual) takes hostages in a bank vault and demands that Griff and Murdock bring him the man who killed his son six years earlier.

Vic Tayback (ALICE) co-stars as Captain Barney Marcus, Griff’s police contact, and Patricia Stich is Griff’s secretary Grace. GRIFF got killed on Saturday nights opposite THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW and was cancelled after twelve episodes. Murphy moved on to GEMINI MAN, and Greene soon returned to weekly TV on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Jack Reacher

Paramount released this adaptation of a Lee Child novel to underwhelming box office, probably because of its dull title (what the hell is a Jack Reacher?) and the miscasting of diminutive Tom Cruise as the title character, described by Child as close to six-and-a-half feet tall and a total badass with his fists or pretty much any weaponry.

Despite Cruise being unbelievable as a man who can kill with one punch, JACK REACHER is quite a good mystery, directed by Christopher McQuarrie (THE WAY OF THE GUN) in a lean, tough manner.

Reacher is a nomad, a former military policeman who lives off the grid with his only possessions literally the clothes he’s wearing. An ex-Army sniper named James Barr (Joseph Sikora) is accused of shooting five random victims from a parking garage near Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, and the district attorney (THE VISITOR's Richard Jenkins) and the detective (David Oyelowo) investigating the case are convinced it’s a slamdunk. So is the idealistic attorney defending Barr, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), the D.A.’s daughter, until Reacher starts poking his nose into the case and discovers a conspiracy involving an elderly Russian supercriminal called The Zec (FITZCARRALDO director Werner Herzog).

As the screenwriter, McQuarrie (an Oscar winner for THE USUAL SUSPECTS) does a good job adapting Child’s ONE SHOT (such a better title), except for a few unnecessary scenes that bloat the running time to 130 minutes (Helen visiting one shooting victim’s family adds nothing to the drama, for instance). Mostly eschewing CGI and fancy editing trickery to cover for directorial shortcomings, as most contemporary directors do, McQuarrie shoots the action head-on with Cruise and the other actors up to the physical challenge. A mid-film car chase hits the spot, and Reacher’s final assault on The Zec’s base during a rainstorm is as thrilling as it is old-fashioned.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


NBC gave six hours of prime time to this glossy adaptation of two soapy bestsellers: Burt Hirschfeld’s ASPEN and THE ADVERSARY by Bart Spicer. Producers Roy Huggins (MAVERICK) and Jo Swerling Jr. (THE ROCKFORD FILES) and writer/director Douglas Heyes (TWILIGHT ZONE) had collaborated on THE CAPTAINS AND THE KINGS, a critical and popular NBC series one year earlier.

The sprawling plot is spread over three decades, but nobody makes any attempt to make any scene look or sound like any other year than 1977 (unless “turkey” was a popular insult in 1965). Heyes’ teleplay centers around the messy murder trial of Lee Bishop (Perry King, later the star of RIPTIDE), a reckless tennis pro accused of raping, killing, and mutilating a promiscuous 15-year-old girl (Debi Richter). To add meat to the dish, Heyes interlaces a second story involving millionaire land developer Carl Osborne’s (BURKE'S LAW's Gene Barry) plan to buy out the local ranchers and build a massive ski resort.

Told in flashback (and flashback within flashback) form by Bishop’s attorney, ambitious cowboy Tom Keating (the excellent Sam Elliott, who was in the miniseries ONCE AN EAGLE the year before), ASPEN introduces a colorful slate of characters: sexy, irresponsible Gloria Osborne (Michelle Phillips), Carl’s daughter and the woman whom Bishop came to Aspen to marry; Max Kendrick (Roger Davis), Keating’s best friend and the son of the wealthy Miles Kendrick (William Prince), the judge at Bishop’s trial; Kit (Jessica Harper), with whom both Max and Tom are in love; Alex Budde (Tony Franciosa), local business owner with Mob ties; the dangerous Budd Townsend (Bo Hopkins), Lee’s old Army buddy; sheriff Sam Dinehart (Lee de Broux); and prosecuting attorney Abe Singer (George DiCenzo, previously prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi in HELTER SKELTER).

Dripping with empty calories and produced on a shoestring (most of Aspen is represented by Hollywood soundstages), ASPEN is undeniably entertaining. Elliott is great as a principled, centered young attorney who butts heads with the good ol’ boy network of lawyers and judges more concerned with protecting their backdoor deals than applying justice. At least, Keating starts out that way, and his growth over the eight years of the main storyline is an unheralded highlight of Elliott's career. Originally aired November 5¬-7, 1977, the miniseries was retitled THE INNOCENT AND THE DAMNED when NBC reran it in 1979.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Destination Inner Space

Low-budget monster movie is basically an underwater riff on IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE. Scott Brady, who looks uncomfortable in a wet suit, leads the cast as Wayne, a Naval commander who is summoned to an undersea base to investigate a mysterious craft. He takes crew members Hugh (Mike Road, whose voice is immediately recognizable from Hanna-Barbera cartoons like JONNY QUEST) and Sandra (the gorgeous Wende Wagner, a regular on THE GREEN HORNET) over to investigate the spaceship, where they find some small cylinders about the size of scuba tanks.

Of course the dingbats bring one back to the sealab, of course it breaks open, and of course a man-sized amphibian that walks on two legs bursts out of it. From then on, Wayne and the others, who also include Dr. Peron (Sheree North) and Dr. LaSatier (Gary Merrill), run around sealing off compartments and scrounging for spear guns to protect themselves from the murderous monster.

Considering the participation of normally staid director Francis D. Lyon (CASTLE OF EVIL, also with Brady) and writer Arthur C. Pierce, who penned such bad sci-fi as WOMEN OF THE PREHISTORIC PLANET and CYBORG 2087, DESTINATION INNER SPACE is better than I expected. Granted, it looks cheap (the miniatures of the sealab and the spacecraft aren’t fooling anybody), and the opening reels really drag.

However, Pierce makes an effort to give the main characters some sort of characterization for the actors to play. Nothing original or groundbreaking—for instance, Wayne and Hugh have an adversarial backstory involving an earlier mission that they work out—but at least the film attempts to make them people.

Lyon isn’t shy about showing the monster—no atmospheric shadows or quick cuts to hint at its menace—and while it looks exactly like what it is—a man in a rubber suit—it’s imaginatively designed with a bit of a hunchback and a large orange head-to-butt fin (this is to hide the stuntman’s air tanks in the underwater scenes). Paul Dunlap (SHOCK CORRIDOR) composed the score, and a young James Hong runs around as a Chinese cook.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Time Travelers

Ib Melchior, a science fiction author and screenwriter (his SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON concept became a Gold Key comic book and the basis for LOST IN SPACE, not that Irwin Allen ever acknowledged it), wrote and directed THE TIME TRAVELERS using more ambition than bucks, thanks to the clever special effects work of co-writer David L. Hewitt. It seems possible that Allen may have cribbed this idea too for his TIME TUNNEL TV series.

The acting is stilted, the sets cheap and unconvincing, Richard LaSalle’s score obnoxious, and Hewitt and Melchior’s screenplay clunky and badly paced. No, THE TIME TRAVELERS isn’t a good movie, but it’s loaded with low-budget charm and clever ideas. Hewitt created many of the special effects “in camera” without opticals. By using ordinary stage magic, he achieves an amazing shot of an actor playing an android walking into the shot, laying on a table, and having his head removed and reattached by technicians before standing up and walking away. The shot serves no purpose except to show off, but it’s fun.

On an unnamed college campus, four scientists—stern older Dr. von Steiner (a soporific Preston Foster), who wears a monocle so we’ll remember he’s German; hot-headed Dr. Connors (Philip Carey); blonde Carol (the appealing Merry Anders); and youthful comic relief Danny (Steve Franken), who annoyingly exclaims “Holy McKee!” to express astonishment—accidentally open a time portal to the not-too-distant future—the year 2071, to be exact.

Stumbling through, the party is shocked to discover the Earth is a burnt-out wasteland—the result of a nuclear holocaust. Unable to return to 1964 while chased by mutants (played by various Los Angeles Lakers), the scientists are rescued by Gadra (Joan Woodbury) and a gaggle of faceless androids, who take them to their leader Varno (John Hoyt). Varno explains that the Earth is becoming completely uninhabitable and shows off his spaceship, which will take the remaining humans to a new colony on Alpha Centauri IV.

One of Melchior’s most ingenious ideas is THE TIME TRAVELERS’ downbeat twist ending, which was innovative in 1964—so much so that Hewitt copied it in his uncredited 1967 remake JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF TIME. Overall, despite the rough patches mainly caused by not enough money to spend (I guess Preston Foster came cheaply), Melchior does a nice job getting his imaginative vision on the screen. It helps that he had two terrific young cameramen helping—Vilmos Zsigmond (CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND) and Laszlo Kovacs (GHOSTBUSTERS)—who enliven the dully dressed cave sets with bright colors.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Forbidden Noir, Volume 9

Hammer and Robert Lippert joined forces on 1952's SCOTLAND YARD INSPECTOR, a British crime drama produced by Anthony Hinds and cast by Michael Carreras (he can also be seen as an extra). It has hardly anything to do with a Scotland Yard inspector, though one does appear (played by stuffy Campbell Singer).

Cesar Romero (best known as BATMAN’s Joker) stars as dashing American journalist Phil O’Dell, whose plane is grounded by fog and is killing time inventing crazy drinks at an empty saloon for the bartender’s entertainment. Ending his boredom is Heather McMara (Bernadette O’Farrell), whose brother was just killed in a nearby hit-and-run. She has no evidence to back it up, but she believes Danny was deliberately murdered and enlists Phil to investigate. A clue is discovered on a wire recording that Phil accidentally erases (“Why don’t they perfect these things?!”).

Director Sam Newfield shoots most of it on small soundstages with two walls and not much furniture, which makes viewing a tad claustrophobic. Writer Orville H. Hampton adapts a BBC radio serial by Lester Powell called LADY IN THE FOG (a much better title), and Romero, who had just wrapped THE JUNGLE in India for director William Berke (THE MUGGER), breezes through it with his usual charm. Most of the comic relief is heavyhanded and unfunny, but everything Cesar does is spot on. You should recognize second-billed Lois Maxwell as 007’s Moneypenny. You won’t recognize a before-he-was-famous Richard Johnson (KHARTOUM) as Danny, because of all the fog and shadows.

Hugh Beaumont, later to become one of America’s favorite dads on LEAVE IT TO BEAVER, starred in three films as San Francisco troubleshooter Denny O’Brien. All three were directed in 1951 by William Berke, a veteran of Jungle Jim quickies, and each consisted of two separate half-hour plots cut together to form a one-hour feature—as if they were intended as six episodes of a half-hour Denny O’Brien TV series.

In PIER 23, O'Brien works from his boat shop base on San Francisco’s titular pier, where he also lives with the loquacious Professor Shicker (Edward Brophy). He investigates the murder of a man posing as an escaped cop killer and the death of a pro wrestler killed in the ring. The screenplay with ridiculously simile-stuffed O’Brien narration is based on radio scripts from PAT NOVAK FOR HIRE or, more likely, JOHNNY MODERO, PIER 23. Why the writers changed the main character’s name is a mystery and a more involving one than the two presented here.

Beaumont is solid enough, and PIER 23’s supporting cast is of interest: DETOUR’s Ann Savage, Richard Travis (THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER) as O’Brien’s rival on the force, Margia Dean (THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT), big Mike Mazurki (MURDER, MY SWEET), and voomy Joi Lansing in sexy cocktail waitress duds. DANGER ZONE and ROARING CITY were Beaumont’s other two Dennis O’Brien films for Lippert Films.

Tom Neal (DETOUR) and Allen Jenkins (SH! THE OCTOPUS) starred in two 1947 quickies as private detectives named Russ Ashton and Harvard, respectively. One was THE HAT BOX MYSTERY. This one is THE CASE OF THE BABY SITTER, and it’s played as much for comedy as for thrills. Carl Hittleman and Andy Lamb’s plot is rather busy for a film that runs a mere 39 minutes!

Jewel thieves posing as a Duke and Duchess hire Russ’ detective agency to watch their baby (Joseph de la Cruz, who gets his own special credit, despite the fact that he’s, well, a baby). The fake royals doublecrossed the gang they pulled the La Paz Diamond heist with, and those mugs are hot after the shiny stone too. A fake La Paz gets switched for the real one, and Harvard spills milk on his borrowed suit. The writers and director Lambert Hillyer (the 1943 BATMAN serial) get confused and have characters call Harvard by two different last names: Quinlan and Herkimer.

I imagine Hillyer made this picture in a big hurry, probably back-to-back with THE HAT BOX MYSTERY. For what it is, it’s okay, I guess, but it’s not easy to create a good mystery in less than forty minutes. Neal gets top billing, but really doesn’t do a whole lot, as Jenkins does much of the sleuthing and most of the comedy. Pamela Blake as Russ’ girlfriend and secretary gets second billing and does almost nothing.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Bosch, "Pilot"

February 6, 2014
Starring Titus Welliver, Jamie Hector, Lance Reddick, Amy Aquino, Amy Price-Francis, Annie Wersching, Scott Wilson
Music: Jesse Voccia
Producer: Tara Duncan
Teleplay: Michael Connelly & Eric Overmyer
Director: Jim McKay

One of ten pilots for original series created by Amazon for 2014—five dramas and five comedies—BOSCH is based on the successful series of detective novels written by Michael Connelly, who served as an executive producer and wrote the script with Eric Overmyer (TREME). Playing the title role of Los Angeles police detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch is Titus Welliver, a good actor who has bounced around television since the early 1990s in series like NYPD BLUE, MURDER ONE, BIG APPLE, DEADWOOD, LOST, SONS OF ANARCHY, and more recently as corrupt Cook County State’s Attorney Glenn Childs on THE GOOD WIFE.

Welliver doesn’t look like Connelly’s Harry Bosch—nobody does (though I’ve always pictured him as resembling schlock film producer Harry Novak)—and he doesn’t precisely act like him, which may be to the show’s advantage. In the seventeen Bosch novels to date (as well as appearances in short stories and other Connelly novels), Harry is, quite frankly, a pain in the ass to everyone around him. Short on patience and even shorter with people he deems lazy or incompetent, even his partners and especially his one-time boss, martinet Chief Irvin Irving, Bosch is a loner (though he seems to do surprisingly okay in the ladyfriend department).

Despite the changes from book to screen—Irving is now black and well-cast with FRINGE’s Lance Riddick, and Jamie Hector’s character of Bosch’s partner Jerry Edgar is a more competent detective—everything works extremely well. Welliver, an intense, internalized actor, nails Bosch’s singlemindedness, his bullish humor, and his passion for victims of violence. BOSCH’s plot is based on Connelly’s 2002 novel CITY OF BONES, in which Bosch plunges headlong into the case of a child murdered two decades earlier. Discovery that the child was daily brutalized and beaten brings up memories of Bosch’s own abusive childhood.

While Bosch digs into the case, against orders from his superiors (of course), he’s also dealing with a civil suit brought against him by the widow of a suspected serial killer he shot to death two years earlier. The department declared it a “clean shoot,” but there’s no denying there are many boys in blue, primarily Internal Affairs and probably Irving, who would like to see Bosch nailed and ruined.

But that’s Harry Bosch—his life wouldn’t be normal unless he was smack in the middle of a shitstorm, even if he has to brew one up himself. Excellently directed by LAW & ORDER alum Jim McKay in Los Angeles (no Harry Bosch production could be accurately filmed anywhere else) in thirteen days, BOSCH is a remarkably strong crime drama with an absorbing mystery and a strong star turn by Welliver.

Thursday, February 06, 2014


Leslie Stevens, the creator of THE OUTER LIMITS, was the creator, producer, and writer of this feature-length pilot for SEARCH, an adventure series with science fiction overtones. Hugh O’Brian, once the star of THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF WYATT EARP, plays Hugh Lockwood, an operative of a high-tech spy/detective agency that uses futuristic gadgetry to aid its agents in the field.

A team of technicians led by Cameron (Burgess Meredith) works with computers and monitors to guide Lockwood through his mission. He wears an implant behind his left ear to hear Cameron’s relayed instructions, carries a miniaturized and magnetized television camera on his ring or pendant (it also serves as a lie detector), and relays non-verbal information back to Probe Central by clicking a special filling in his tooth.

While Stevens had the germ of a good idea here, saddling the hero with a permanent babysitter that can feed him pertinent info at any given time takes some of the danger out of his mission. It also makes Lockwood seem more like a good-looking puppet rather than a smart, independent adventurer who can think for himself. Whenever he does make a decision, he’s usually overruled by Cameron. In the pilot, Cameron even sticks Lockwood with a sidekick played by, of all people, Sir John Gielgud in a rare American television appearance.

Directed by journeyman Russ Mayberry (THE REBELS), Stevens’ plot sends Lockwood to Austria to track down nine diamonds that were stolen during World War II by a Nazi war criminal and never recovered. Along with diamond expert Harold Streeter (Gielgud), who can identify the gems, Lockwood starts his investigation with the Nazi’s widow (Lilia Skala) and daughter (Elke Sommer). Albert Popwell (DIRTY HARRY), A Martinez (SANTA BARBARA), and Angel Tompkins (THE TEACHER) play some of the young technicians spinning dials and pushing buttons back at Probe Central.

PROBE’s ratings were good enough for NBC to buy Stevens’ series. SEARCH could be accurately described as MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE meets THE NAME OF THE GAME, and like the later series, it features a trio of rotating leads. O’Brian’s Lockwood appeared in approximately every third episode with Doug McClure (THE VIRGINIAN) as C.R. Grover and Tony Franciosa (THE NAME OF THE GAME) as Nick Bianco taking up the slack. Scheduled against CBS powerhouse CANNON and saddled with grumbling stars Franciosa and O’Brian, SEARCH netted terrible ratings and was cancelled after one season.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Quinn Martin's Tales Of The Unexpected, "The Force Of Evil"

"The Force of Evil"
March 13, 1977
Starring Lloyd Bridges, Pat Crowley, Eve Plumb, William Watson, John Anderson, Cindy Eilbacher, William Kirby Cullen
Theme: David Shire
Executive Producer: Quinn Martin
Produced by William Robert Yates
Written by Robert Malcolm Young
Directed by Richard Lang

By 1977, television producer Quinn Martin had amassed enough hits (THE UNTOUCHABLES, THE FUGITIVE, BARNABY JONES, THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO, THE FBI…) to get his name above the title, and so QUINN MARTIN’S TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED premiered on NBC that February. The hour-long horror/suspense anthology was cancelled after just six episodes, despite notable guest-star turns by Roy Thinnes, Rick Nelson, David Birney, and Ronny Cox. The last episode aired before NBC dropped the axe (the network burned off two more during the summer) was a special two-hour suspenser penned by Robert Malcolm Young, who had penned many Quinn Martin shows, as well as three segments of ROD SERLING’S NIGHT GALLERY.

Directed by Richard Lang (HARRY O), “The Force of Evil” is, quite frankly, a blatant ripoff of CAPE FEAR with William Watson a suitably nasty substitute for Robert Mitchum. Paroled after serving seven years for rape and murder, Teddy Jakes (Watson) begins stalking and terrorizing the family of Yale Carrington (Lloyd Bridges), a successful surgeon he blames for his incarceration. Jakes blows up the family barn, runs down Yale’s daughter’s friend (Cindy Eilbacher) with a motorboat, makes suggestive remarks to Yale’s wife Maggie (Pat Crowley). Yale’s brother, the local sheriff (John Anderson), can’t touch him, and Yale’s offer of $25,000 to lay off is ignored.

The material is derivative, but Martin and producer William Robert Yates jazz it up with first-rate production values, shooting almost entirely on location and assembling a strong cast. It can be tough to find an opponent who can realistically threaten the macho Bridges (SEA HUNT), and Watson is up to the task. Instead of scowling and acting menacing, Watson makes the more interesting decision to play Jakes as happy-go-lucky, grinning and laughing even while getting socked in the jaw. Laying on the charm makes Jakes an even scarier force.

TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED normally aired on Wednesdays (where it was hammered in the ratings by CHARLIE’S ANGELS), but “The Force of Evil” landed a special Sunday timeslot. It was NBC’s idea to have Martin produce the series and put his name above the title. He was also originally supposed to introduce the episodes, but CANNON star William Conrad ended up narrating them. David Shire composed the driving theme.