Case of the Velvet Claws
The beautiful construction is a trapdoor that supports the accused when she is finally placed there, and then opens to hang the culprit. A congressional candidate visits a roadhouse with his married mistress, illegal gambling is carried on there, gangsters fire shots, she leads him out through the ladies’ room, a photographer snaps his picture blurrily and sells it to a scandal sheet that nets a hefty income for its owner, the lady’s husband, with chantage.
He’s found dead, she reluctantly admits after much prevarication that she shot him in self-defense, and misled the police to protect her lover.
But it was the inheriting nephew who took the gun that had missed and, after laughing with his uncle about a bullet in the bathwater, killed him with it.
The canny housekeeper is a witness, the heir is immediately betrothed to her innocent daughter.
The Case of the
Jones directs this with almost brutal honesty and rigor in simple, direct shots, to take the mickey right out of the thing.
The script by Ernest Frankel and Orville H. Hampton is frankly surrealistic. Jewels are taken from a Central American shrine and used to enrich a facsimile of the title object, which is passed off as the real thing.
In order to accomplish this, it’s necessary to frame for murder the one man in the world who can identify the original stones. On top of that, it’s placed to avoid scrutiny in an art museum (the writers’ crowning touch).
“I was victimized,” complains Leonid Kinskey on the witness stand, “vic-ti-mized!” The theme also figures in “The Case of the Twice Told Twist” (dir. Arthur Marks). The opening scene of a cat burglar switching the stones for paste with an elaborate apparatus anticipates I Spy’s “To Florence with Love” (dir. Robert Butler) by a little more than half a year.
The Case of the Unwelcome
Ernest Frankel & Orville H. Hampton describe in no uncertain terms a deliberate cessation of oil production in the U.S. (new oil production, that is), and the importing of Arab oil. The purpose is to conserve oil and prices.
There is a construction here out of Oglethorpe’s diaries that leads to Richardson’s The Border. The oil company head is a man of unlimited greed “and let the other fellow be hanged.” He changes mistresses with the same cold aplomb.
Jones has an especial feeling for night exteriors (nuit américaine) in the desert oil fields, to the sound of crickets and a passing car or pumps amid the resonant storage tanks.
The murderer’s counteroffer is a restoration of equity.
Don’t Worry We’ll Think of a Title
“Boy, I’m not gonna eat in a joint like this.” Short order cook who addresses his boss as “Your Majesty” mistaken for Jascha “whose space capsule came down without him” Nudnik, absconded cosmonaut (“Good Yontiff” he says in a farewell note announcing his defection, the enbassy says “we didn’t know he was Jewish”). “Good thinking!” A sort of Catskills James Bond (who also figures). Homage to Tashlin (Who’s Minding the Store?), “noon hour rush”. Homage to Capra (It Happened One Night) in bloomers, “lemme show ya how to stop a car.”
“Do you have any soup on the menu?” The heiress of Updike, a college town, Ye Old Booke Shoppe there. “Yeah, we did have, but we wiped it off, ha ha ha—” Homage to Brooks & Henry (Get Smart), “Comrade Seed, where are you?”
“Back up your car two feet and you’ll find out.” Moe Howard’s impression of E.G. Marshall, one of many guest appearances. Morey Amsterdam’s impression of Tom Wesselmann painting a girl and an orange for the beatnik set, following the first sight of a modern daub with flute flourish to match, “oh, any idiot would know what that is.”
“All right, idiot, what is it?”
“Sunset at the City Dump.” Homage to Hitchcock (Psycho), a stuffed raven, “it’s a canary that used to work in a coal mine” (and Amsterdam’s immortal riposte, “what are you lookin’ at?”). The Sphinx, no less (Blackmail). “Sure, whaddya expect with McKinley president?” Burns & Allen in The Babbling Book (dir. Aubrey Scotto), Robert Benchley on biology, spies and counterspies. “If it’s good enough for my kid, it’s good enough for you.” That old rocking chair...
Gargantua et Pantagruel. Homage to Lubitsch (Ninotchka), an incapacitating comedy with an astoundingly homely Olga incognito who has a camera in her flowered hat (contraposed by an electric carving knife on a “Civil War veteran” in the opening scene) carrying images back to her boss loomed over by “‘The’ Button”, and a Polaroid for traffic accidents.
The case of the transistorized turtle. “This could be as important as the H-bomb.”
“Charlie, gimme a hand, will ya?” Cf. Cassavetes’ A Woman under the Influence. “Looks like my mother’s house in Jersey.” Question of tapes and documentation “of the utmost importance to the space program of our beloved country, Klabiasha” (the fired cook turned bookstore clerk, whose name is Yukapuk, says “gee, what a hokey name for a country”). The Cold War in a ghostly basement, “gesundheit.”
“Thank you.” An impromptu lecture on Pablo Pizzicato, Paul Gogoon, and “who’s that guy with a name like a chicken, oh, uh, Pu—uh, Jackson Pullet.” The TV set they pull the plug on and there’s still shooting. Cowboys in India, just ahead of Blake Edwards’ The Party (cf. Satyajit Ray’s Agantuk).
Tashlin again (The Man from the Diners’ Club) at the beatnik frat party (where Richard Deacon, called “beachhead” earlier as the man from the Daredevil Diner, now playing the police chief undercover in a longhair wig but wearing a badge offers to remove his wide checkered hat and so pass unrecognized), to say nothing of Roger Corman at all... Brooks & Henry again, for Mr. Big. Homage to Bacon (Larceny, Inc.).
TV Guide, “abominable”. Sandra Brennan (All Movie Guide), “crummy”. “Only your chicken plucker knows,” as Rose Marie would say.
Fire and tiger beset the region like two scourges, the one a mask of hypocrisy like the other.
The Borgesian teleplay by Jackson Gillis pits an irrigation engineer against the stubborn tribal chiefs who are slowly turning to agriculture, and a proselytizer against their wisdom, which is very old, old as trees and sun.
A tiger haunts the place inexplicably, a fire is set to rout it. Each man confronts his own image, and loses a subordinate to it. The tribesmen have the last word.