Home from the Sea
The 4th of July is best observed with “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” (T.C. and his Little Leaguers), or alone with the girl (Rick on his yacht, King Kamehameha II), or beating the British (Higgins) at polo.
Magnum spends it in the ocean a day and a night, treading water longer and longer as he was taught by his father, who was shot down during the Korean War and buried on the 4th of July.
The friends all have a sinking feeling and search for Magnum in Bellisario’s great teleplay, heroically directed by Laidman in high seas amid six-foot swells day and night, a particularly fine memory of PT 109.
Nowhere to Turn
Matlock, who is a member of the Bar in several states, flies to California to defend a man whose Fifth Amendment right is denied by a judge. The plane is delayed, Matlock’s suitcase is lost, his hotel reservation is canceled, and he arrives late at the hearing. A heated exchange with the judge lands him in jail on a contempt charge. Later, he finds the judge dead in his chambers, and is then knocked out and drugged, thrown out of a bar, mugged, left unconscious in an alley Downtown, arrested and charged with the murder. This all takes about half an hour, which is about twice as fast as the going rate on television, not to mention the opening scene where a jogger on the Sepulveda Dam acquires a truckload of arms.
Later still, Matlock is knocked out and drugged a second time, but he isn't dumped in a dark alley. The CHP finds him dazedly roaming the San Diego Freeway at high noon. He decides to take the case himself, in propria persona.
Four Green Berets in Vietnam, now an attorney, a psychiatrist, an FBI agent, and the late judge, have set themselves to spreading democracy by selling arms for drugs for cash, first in Central America and then against a “religious dictatorship” in the Middle East. Seeing their ventures come to nothing inspires them to keep the cash, but the judge objects, on principle. Ergo, he is eliminated.
Many fine location shots enliven this telefilm, which is noteworthy among other things for its portrait of the attorney in his beach house, wearing a pink polo shirt and baggy beige trousers, surrounded by etched glass and serving crab salad and Chardonnay to distract a visitor while her hotel room is being searched.
The central image, of a woman played by Brynn Thayer as above average in her cunning and brought to utter ruin, goes about as far as one can. She takes up with a fellow who robs her well-to-do friends, then kills him, and finally has to stand up in a manner of speaking under Matlock’s examining. One by one, every scrap of femininity and wiliness and dignity is stripped away or revealed as compromised, and there’s nothing left but a woman with nothing left.
Now this is a great performance, and not to be missed, but the whole construction is of great and lively interest, with a counterimage of the case on at the same time for good measure.
The Evening News
A useful precedent is “Lease with an Option to Die” (The A-Team).
A real estate scam is put over by firebombing residents from their property. A neighborhood gang gets paid for this service.
A TV news producer in on the scam feigns his own death, Matlock faces a second judge on his own account for missing a stop sign partially obscured by verdure.