This little work of genius develops an idea in Columbo, “Double Shock”. Twin brothers, one conservative and well-off (a plastic surgeon, in fact), the other a ne’er-do-well with a bankrupt auto shop who borrows money from a gangster and can’t pay it back. The gangster is indicted, the plastic surgeon operates to repay the debt, but a colleague threatens to spill the beans and is murdered. Which brother did it?
They both did.
The original (dir. Robert Butler) took Link & Levinson and Jackson Gillis and Peter Allan Fields and Steven Bochco to write. Anne Collins profits by their labors.
The performances and the direction never betray the slightest whiff of anything like political satire.
It begins in the past, a bank president masterminds a robbery but a guard is killed, he pays a lawyer friend and his young associate to suppress evidence and convict an innocent man.
Leanne is the victorious prosecutor, the associate marries her. Now they are divorced, the older man is dying and wants to come clean, he’s found murdered in a Perry Mason posture, Leanne’s ex-husband is bending over the body.
She is expected to defend him in court. The murdered man was having an affair, his wife stabbed him in the back with his colleague’s butcher knife.
The defendant confesses to obstruction of justice, Leanne suspects a trick. “I’m not just trying to impress you,” he exclaims.
The script is rather mysteriously signed “J.I. Henderson & Michael Moore”, and is a development of Harper set in Hollywood. It pictures the situation described by Beckett as a bill of divorcement without cognizance of which no realization on what we may distinguish as the artistic plane can hope to do aught but burke the question anyway.
Hibler has taken Blake Edwards into account in measuring the time before a shot of a couple embracing behind sliding glass doors finally tilts and pans to the operative suspended above the pavement, clutching the bars of the balcony railing just outside. Below, the investigator and the murderer (a film director) are engaged in idle chat, ending in an announcement of tangible evidence that sets in motion the events of the conclusion, wherein the murderer dies on a sound stage by a shot from his own weapon.
Death by Extermination
Dr. Sloan’s sister Dora is a globetrotting travel agent who buys a mansion in Los Angeles to settle down. The house is vacant, in its last stages of refurbishment by the realtor. Dora takes over her brother’s house for one night, during the fumigation. Next day, the two inspect the new premises, which in no wise meet Dora’s exacting specifications. The eggshell tone has not been matched, errors abound, the fireplace is smudged with soot. That’s usual in a fireplace, Dr. Sloan insists. “Not in my house,” says Dora. She opens a closet and out drops the realtor, dead.
His widow is a charming blonde with a personal trainer, and happily relieved. The harried girls in the office aren’t grieving, his many mistresses are recorded in a missing appointment book. An angry client was sold a cliffside seaview house that descended to the highway below with the side of the cliff, and no insurance. This man is a pharmacist, the realtor was drugged with phenobarbital.
The soot is a clue and a means, the culprit’s name was assuredly in that book. In fact, she was jealous over the realtor’s affair with the pharmacist’s wife, in the vacant house that had been a love nest until Dora’s arrival.
A tender portrait of the slumlord in all his glory, just heightened sweetly to take the mickey out of it.
The oddest detail, remarked by Matlock himself, is the bare finish of his absolutely uncluttered desk, nothing but a telephone mars the unbroken surface of its rectangle.
The Murder of Mark Sloan
A predacious entrepreneur has his sights on the hospital, and the opposition is forced to take to its bed. The idea is not at all to acquire a facility but to arrange for its destruction. The authenticity of this is registered in the villain’s reply to a properly indignant physician, unhesitatingly, that oh yes he can do that.
Steve Hattman’s teleplay is thus an invaluable witness, like Asher’s Return to Green Acres (another statement of fact), and he furthermore adds an astonishing metaphor, to wit, a lady lawyer who murders an elderly client with flowers so as to garner the estate.
Dr. Sloan is a witness to her knowledge of the old lady’s allergy, so his car is rigged to explode...
The son of an expatriate American businessman is accused of his murder. Matlock and associates do a fine bit of sleuthing in London and a gangster’s gambling rooms, connected by tunnel with the underground vaults of the businessman’s firm.
The gang find Tyler cracking their safe with an acetylene torch, and hire him to get the diamonds of a sheik with the help of an inside man on the victim’s staff. This Englishman is found in court to be the culprit, by means of a scar on his wrist from a brass seal for wax, bearing the dead man’s family crest.
Matlock is graciously allowed to forgo the wearing of a wig.