The Chaperone
The Monkees

Davy falls for a general’s daughter. Mickey presents himself as a British colleague from the Battle of the Bulge, no recognition, and no party for the girl without a chaperone.

The English cleaning lady is pressed into service with an Eliza Doolittle treatment, her alcoholic aitches breathe a roar of flame over the candle, she passes out.

Mickey fills in as Mrs. Arcadian. The party goes swimmingly until the general sees through the ruse and marches everyone out. “You and your medieval attitudes,” says his daughter. The general is stunned by this, “I’m not an unreasonable man.”

A very fine bit of surreal writing from Gardner & Caruso.


Guess Who’s Coming to Rio?
It Takes a Thief

The classical serenity achieved by Glen A. Larson in his later scripts for McCloud has the same virtuosity as in this prime instance of his more baroque style (and Kessler, and much the same crew).

Alex Mundy has two days to spend with the Contessa del Mundo (Dana Wynter), but he’s waylaid by freelance operatives trying to sell a defector (Arlene Martel) back to Russia.

The chief of Brazilian intelligence (Michael Ansara) wants to marry the girl, she fears for his life and gives herself up to Mundy. The SIA think she’s in Switzerland, their man in Rio (John Russell) tries to keep Mundy under his thumb.

The intelligence chief’s aide (Alejandro Rey) is directing the sale and wants to kill his boss. The two operatives shade in as Greenstreet and Lorre.

An American tourist (Teri Garr) on the plane has saved up to catch a husband somewhere in the world.

Bossa nova at a penthouse nightclub, Kessler in his unflappable comic domain, the Contessa at her “country estate in São Paulo.”


Mission: Impossible

The remote-control truck filled with explosives figures in Jeremy Paul Kagan’s The Big Fix. The Republic of Ajir (or Azhir) has signed a peace treaty with its neighbor Karak, whose General Zek is greatly unhappy and plans to blow up his own King Said during a televised speech at Government House, backed by the head of Najiid, Ltd.

Barney goes to this firm as a computer programmer to punch in “increased production” for peacetime uses, but opens the explosives vault for Rollin, who withdraws three bottles of nitroglycerine.

General Zek has hired a saboteur, Skora, but Rollin makes himself known as the faceless international terrorist Col. Hakim, and then takes Skora’s place to adopt Hakim’s plan while the former is drugged, disguised and found “dead” as the latter.

The essence of the IM Force plan is to make General Zek believe that Government House has been bombed, so that he will go on the air and “lead an aroused nation to war”.


Horse Stealing on Fifth Avenue
Manhattan Manhunt I

McCloud is becoming famous thanks to press coverage. It doesn’t endear him to the boys in blue, who have to deal with a string of drugstore holdups.

The oblique pun never turns (at least in the shorter combined version) on heroin but finally on Officer Shannen’s Toby, borrowed by McCloud for a quick ride to Central Park.

“The Marshal from Manhattan” is the title of Chris Coughlin’s feature article in her father’s newspaper. All the hubbub about the press and all the to-do about the Vietnam veteran robbing drugstores to support his habit come down to the little boy’s line at the end of The Green Berets, “I’ll try.”




This Must Be the Alamo

“Return to the Alamo” exactly one year and one week later carried forward the work to the fullest McCloud potential, but even here it’s a flabbergasting production, excruciatingly funny when it’s not exquisite, and handled by TV veteran Kessler (I Dream of Jeannie, The Monkees) with cool professionalism (which is to say, he misses nothing).

This peculiar style of extenuated comedy requires the finest acting, and for television there must be exceedingly quick takes. The model is in the range of Captain Newman, M.D., a sequential comedy by comparison.

Kessler adopts the classic technique for this virtuoso melding of plot strands, and is always there at the scene for each new development, or monitoring pivotal junctures (which are given as conversational meetings in the squad room between two or more characters).

Obviously the study to be made is of Walter Doniger’s adaptation of these means to the three-ring circus of discrete simultaneous tales or facets this became. Kessler’s treatment is the solid basis, the “irrefutable negative.”

He has no leisure to design shots, but none are faulty; at the same time, the features of the comedy spell out what was required: a sure hand at registering a string of nuances as thin as beaten gold or Stan Laurel.


The Gang That Stole Manhattan

McCloud is typically saddled with more routine duties than average, to keep him out of Chief Clifford’s hair. Here, he is sent as Director of Crowd Control to a Thirties-style crime caper being filmed on location (The Gang That Took Manhattan).

The film’s star, Larry Harris (Larry Hagman), is “TV’s favorite detective.” He horns in, to improve his image, when a body is discovered during filming in Central Park.

The producer, Max Cortez (Fernando Lamas), has financed the film with $1,000,000 of mob money from Vito Gilardi (Marc Lawrence), as a front to cover a jewel heist.

An old compatriot of Cortez’s remembers the plot from earlier discussions, tries to take a piece of the action, and is killed. McCloud’s homicide investigation leads to a last-minute discovery of the robbery in progress during filming of the climactic shootout.

“Real Bonnie and Clyde stuff—that’s what we want on that screen,” says Cortez, though Stu Phillips’ music quotes The Sting. There is much amusing sidelight material on the movie business, including Toni Holt’s performance as a television entertainment reporter (Vito becomes quite cross over all the publicity). Cortez asks Edward Binns as the director (“Wild Bill Hickok”), “Now this sequence here—how many setups you got?” Hickok answers, “Depends on how it goes—maybe seven, eight—I don’t know.” So it goes on a $40,000-a-day shoot. Earlier, Hickok rehearses an action scene with an eyepiece and silent-film vocalizations (“You’re suspicious! Crouch down!”, etc.).

The story’s provenance is perhaps earlier than a 1965 episode of The Andy Griffith Show called “TV or Not TV,” about a gang of crooks who rob the bank by pretending to be shooting a TV series (alert Andy notes the absence of lights, cameras, etc.). In this beautiful development ten years later, the actors and film crew don’t know the production’s a phony (and what’s more, it might not be).

During discussions of the robbery (timed to coincide with setups of the final shootout), a henchman asks, “What if they do retakes?” “Too expensive,” says Cortez.

“Everything I know about the police,” says actress Lynne O’Connell (Leslie Parrish), “I saw in the movies.” McCloud replies, “Well, that about makes us even, Miss. Everything I know about show business I saw in the movies.”

Kessler’s location footage shows the New Amsterdam side of New York to better advantage than anything since Theodore J. Flicker’s The Troublemaker. When Larry Harris joins in a fire escape chase and loses his footing at the top, Kessler has a brief wheeling POV shot with a fisheye lens for effect.

The final scene is an effective representation of the film crew at work. McCloud rides a crane to the second floor, standing by the camera to kick open a window and jump inside, etc.

As Wild Bill Hickok says, “Cut! Print! Perfect!”, the crooks attempt their getaway in a van marked “G.A.L. Incorporated—Motion Picture Rentals.” The assistant director addresses the crowd: “All right, everybody, settle down. This is a picture now.”


Shivaree on Delancy Street

An epithalamion, or perhaps a dithyramb on Debussy’s observation that “sometimes it’s necessary to spit in the censers.”

Kessler follows Mort Fine’s meticulously constructed script point by point, mostly in close-ups, interspersed with much fine location filming of New York and Miami. He concludes with a complicated chase on Biscayne Bay (this looks to have been filmed off Long Beach, Calif. with the Gerald Desmond Bridge in the background, but appearances on McCloud can sometimes be deceiving).

At the hospital, a nurse can be heard paging “Dr. Satlof,” and again later at the end of the scene in the waiting room between McCloud and Sgt. Ashby of Internal Affairs (who has a copy of Intellectual Digest on his lap). This episode was produced by Ron Satlof.


Three Guns for New York

The subtle and elusive theme is paranoia. Chief Clifford tells McCloud not to sound so paranoid, he’s getting to be a real New Yorker. Between High Noon and the one about paranoiacs who aren’t imagining things, this is a surreal treatment of “Butch Cassidy Rides Again”.

Great glowing night exteriors, as McCloud and Grover (or rather Broadhurst, who lets Grover off the hook) are on night burglary detail, which tends to interfere with your dinner engagements. No-one wants to be on stakeout with McCloud because he will “make waves”.

There is a large-scale suite of movements back and forth from New York to Albuquerque, which the script dissolves in some lightly parodistic material (McCloud in disguise looks like Father Guido Sarducci in mufti). A flashback to the robbery twelve years earlier is handled as if it happened “only yesterday”.

McCloud is badly beaten by the crooks (and ruins the Broadhursts’ anniversary celebration at the ballet), while later on he has to feign acceptance of the kidnap demands.

The moon always photographs smaller than it appears, so Kessler zooms out from a close-up of it and back in to the Broadhursts’ skyscraper apartment building. His dreamlike conclusion at the ghost town resembles Zinnemann by way of Eastwood.

McCloud deduces that one of the crooks has hidden the loot and is trying to distract the others. The main course of action (touched on by Bullitt) is between the diurnal world of women and the nocturnal one of senseless violence, or is it?


Hot Ice, Cold Hearts

This is filmed by Kessler on Catalina Island with aplomb and bravura in brilliant sunshine that is fairly breathtaking. Sean Baine’s teleplay is a minute construction showing the various degrees of a large-scale caper.

Diamonds are stolen à la Topkapi from the National Museum in Mexico City, where the ringleader also takes on a deck hand for his yacht. The poor fellow is a policeman, who’s dumped in Avalon Bay after being caught probing for the gems, but first he’s injected with the poisonous spine of a stonefish, and so is a marine biologist who knows the fish is native to the African coast and thereabouts.

Quincy is vacationing with Lee, it’s the Fourth of July, he’s called off his boat to attend the sick deck hand, and stumbles upon an international auction of the gems.


The Moscow Connection

The central image is Johnny Starbuck (Hoyt Axton) in a sudden access of lunacy after that last needle, holding a broken bottle to a woman at the reception following his New York performance (at which he sings “Bony Fingers”).

Characteristically, the image is decorated with the second theme in dialogue. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has reported cases of radiation poisoning, the Soviet government is suspected, a Red Army officer offers information in exchange for help with his daughter, whose involvement with a drugrunning filmmaker threatens to compromise them both with the KGB. Marshal McCloud and Chief of Detectives Clifford go undercover with Starbuck’s band on its Russian tour.

The themes are joined at DOM KINO or The Movie House, a semi-psychedelic Moscow nightclub where the music is “Strangers in the Night” sung in Russian. Yalta is where Turkish drugs are smuggled in, the deal is made, and Starbuck gives his last show before heading to Switzerland for the cure.

In the midst of this rather fantastic hallucination, there is a device Mark Twain had a hand in developing. Tereshkoff (Nehemiah Persoff) of the KGB calls McCloud’s bluff on the train to Yalta by obliging him to play that guitar. The Marshal hems and haws a bit, then launches into a song that provides entertainment for the passengers in the dining car. “I’m a cop in a little bitty town,” he sings, “and I don’t get much pay.” The song describes this peace officer’s practice of stopping out-of-state cars and letting his friends go. It’s a lucrative profession, “this year so far I’ve made four hundred thou... I make more’n the President now” (with the spoken afterthought, “o’ course, he’s honest”). The moral is—

If you’re drivin’ down the road
And flashin’ lights ya see,
If they’re on top of a red Rolls-Royce
You can bet yer boots it’s me.

Britt Ekland in her second McCloud episode is altogether a different persona as Tatiana, with a peculiar nervousness shading the diffident ennui of her cat-burgling stewardess in the third season. Axton sings all or part of half-a-dozen songs, and acts the part. Persoff as a KGB man under Brezhnev is naturally subtle. His home town was recently struck by an earthquake, a thousand lives were lost, “but that’s a statistic,” he tells McCloud while questioning him, “the suffering of one man is a tragedy.” Morgan Paull comes alive in the Crimea directing a nineteenth-century battle epic. L.Q. Jones, Rick Traeger and Arthur Malet form the background.

Kessler films on and around the back lot with interjections of location footage and a superb matte. The saloon fight at Dom Kino calls for a large pair of spangled spectacles to be smashed.

In a gag from “The Man with the Golden Hat”, a KGB man on the train to Yalta inspects McCloud’s Stetson in his absence. McCloud introduces a couple of new sayings among the old comrades (“I feel like I’ve been rode hard and put away wet,” which puts KGB research to work, and “hang tough”) before reverting to type.


McCloud Meets Dracula

This superb two-edged satire invokes the Hammer model at the outset and throughout, pivoting on an interpolation established almost immediately.

Sundown in New York. A candlelit chamber, a coffin on a bier, the lid opens, a figure in evening dress (whose face is not seen) slowly emerges, takes a gibus and a walking stick with a silver pomme, departs.

Another figure is seen on a rooftop, armed with a military rifle and a nightscope. The vampire strikes, the sniper shoots. Two dead, with more to follow.

Both appear to strike randomly, but the vampire’s victims display a sort of pattern. One is a “bloodsucker,” as Det. Grover describes him, which is to say he works for a collection agency. The second is filling in on the job for her boyfriend, who makes deliveries for a pharmacy. The third works for Con Ed shutting off electricity.

The sniper is not, as Chief Clifford theorizes, a crazed Vietnam vet, but a boot camp washout.

Chris Coughlin has received an advance to write a book about vampires, and is greedily devouring Dracula films on television. The great actor Loren Belasco (John Carradine), whose talents encompass Stratford-upon-Avon and Transylvania, is interviewed by Tom Snyder, and Chris believes a fan of his is dementedly aping his hero.

All are skeptical regarding vampires, except Belasco (who claims to be a descendant of the original Count), and the medical examiner (Michael Sacks), whose interest in ancient medicine provokes this riposte from the coroner (Booth Colman), “working in the morgue, I'm not at all sure I believe in the virtues of modern medicine.”

McCloud captures the sniper while chasing Belasco across the rooftops, and the ending is correctly ambiguous.


The Rabbit Who Ate Las Vegas
The A-Team

The script is a typically amusing joke about a mathematics professor with a system who’s held captive in a casino by a mobster, freeing him opens his captor to pressure from underlings.

Just before it hypertrophied, the city is seen by Kessler as (exterior) a garden spot and (interior) a saloon town.