A Little Plot at Tranquil Valley
Stolen penicillin is diluted and sent south of the border by the director of a famous cemetery.
This incomparable vaudeville begins at the zoo’s Beaver Lagoon, where McCloud has been sent by dispatch to counsel a keeper on a New Mexico beaver that won’t eat.
Meanwhile, a tour guide at Tranquil Valley explains the vision of eternal peace for all fifty states starting at two hundred dollars plus tax and limousine charges. The place is run by Marvin Sloan, a fierce man of enterprise who boasts of his firm’s success and of “the biggest independent smuggling outfit east of the Missouri River.” His wife is greatly occupied with getting her brother Ralphie out of TV repair and into the business.
Ralphie is an imbecile (a “ziphead,” Sloan calls him), and makes a mess of Sloan’s master plan. Morgan and Richard, who are “graveyard technicians” at Tranquil Valley, are to go with Ralphie to Olton Pharmaceuticals in the uniforms of Security Transfer, Inc., present an invoice and drive out with half a million dollars worth of penicillin, which Sloan will dilute and sell for two million dollars south of the border. Ralphie shoots a guard, is shot himself and captured.
The tour guide leads a party through the grounds and buildings, describing some of the famous clientele, a silent film actress, for one, and a protest leader “who was the first to advocate non-violence while confronting the police.”
Sloan has his picture taken for publicity, and deals with his wife’s wrath. An attorney, Walter McKay, pays a call on Ralphie in the prison ward, thinking he’s a whiplash case, and departs hurriedly after suggesting Ralphie make it easier on everyone by taking his own life.
McCloud is kidnapped at a rendezvous at the Statue of Liberty, but the Commissioner won’t swap prisoners. Richard blurs his vision with eyedrops, and Morgan (who likes to quote the Bard) counsels patience, but McCloud escapes from his waterfront hole and brings back the police by remembering sounds along the way.
Richard’s had 72 head colds in the past year, and is developing a limp. Morgan senses it’s worriment over mortality, counsels patience.
Embalming Rooms 8 through 15 are busy diluting the penicillin, reports Dr. Dudley, a Tranquil Valley embalmer with a nursing credential at the hospital, who is dispatched to dispatch Ralphie. Chief Clifford keeps the body under wraps, provoking a second attempt.
McCloud investigates Tranquil Valley, passing by a funeral for the incredible Judge Harper. One of the bereaved asks the Marshal if the Judge owed him money as well, then offers to sell him Everglades property, “the whole thing’s going to be built around an amusement park, we call it Reptile Land.”
McCloud drives off in a hearse full of penicillin followed by Morgan and Richard in a Tranquil Valley van.
Sloan blames his troubles on “some bad-apple employees who have banded together for some criminal purpose, but to accuse me, a mortician!” Chief Clifford puts him in irons. McCloud marvels to the Chief, “down in Taos, the only time they’ll escort you through a cemetery is when you’re in the box!”
The tour guide’s voice is heard at closing time announcing a 9AM re-opening “under new management.”
The main lines come from The Third Man by way of The Loved One. There is ample material from various sources. Much of the vaudeville seems to reflect The Night They Raided Minsky’s. The concealment gag comes from Bullitt, and there is a direct citation of D.O.A. (McCloud jabbed in the belly by Richard retorts like Frank Bigelow upon Chester). Philip Dunne’s Blindfold supplies the mode whereby McCloud retraces his steps to his captors. There is even a joke on Jack Smight in the judge’s eulogy (Judge Harper, that is, “think not of the lies and libelous accusations flung at him by the pseudo-intellectuals of the Northern press...”).
The aim of the satire is revealed by the initials of the funeral home (just as the key of Spellbound is partly found in the name of the asylum).
A most brilliant episode, filmed on location in New York.
Burgess Meredith Marvin Sloan
Written by Peter Allan Fields
Directed by Jack Smight
Chief Clifford’s deskplate reads:
Peter J. Clifford
Chief of Detectives
(McCloud is dispatched to the zoo to advise a worried keeper
on his ailing Western fauna.)
McCLOUD: There’s all kinds o’ beavers. I’ve seen some with habits you wouldn’t believe.
McCLOUD: A good beaver’ll usually snatch up anythin’ ya set in front of it.
(McCloud knows why the beaver won’t eat.)
McCLOUD: Ya see, nothin’, nothin’ will get as lonesome as a New Mexico beaver.
TOUR GUIDE: And the people were happy, for Tranquil Valley gave them eternal peace, starting at two hundred dollars, plus tax and limousine charges.
MORGAN: “You do unbend your noble
strength, to think so brainsickly of things.”
RICHARD: What’s that supposed to mean?
MORGAN: That’s Macbeth, Act Two, Scene Two.
MARVIN SLOAN: ‘Twill be as simple as a pimple.
PR MAN: Mr. Sloan, I have seen clients come and go, but you, you are sincere.
MARVIN SLOAN: I will tell you why your brother gets caught! He gets caught because he’s a ziphead, and an idiot, and a shlub, that’s why!
WALTER McKAY: (Ralphie’s lawyer.) Well, if we do beat the murder rap, we can always go for the whiplash, huh?
WALTER McKAY: You’re in a mess o’ trouble, no decent lawyer would take this case.
WALTER McKAY: This alleged guard, did he draw first?
WALTER McKAY: There’s no need to be insulting, I’ve been dismissed off of cases before!
WALTER McKAY: Who’s handling your estate?
RALPHIE GOODBODY: (Lunging at him.) I’ll give you my estate! (McKay exits hastily.) I’ll kill him!
MORGAN: Slight coordination problem, Dicky-boo?
RICHARD: I’ve got perfect coordination, I just had it tested out.
MARVIN SLOAN: How many technicians do we have
working on those antibiotics?
DR. DUDLEY: Oh, I’ve got Embalming Rooms 8 through 15 going full blast!
CHRIS COUGHLIN: (Dozing in a chair.) The
lights are going out all over Europe.
McCLOUD: No, just in this room, before it gets to be a fire hazard.
(McCloud is in captivity under an expressway on the
MORGAN: You can be quite content here. One need only learn to expect that society will do its worst. If you expect it, you’ll accept it. Contentment. Try, Tex. Be content.
(Dr. Dudley flees from Det. Lester in the hospital, goes
tumbling over a cart.)
ELDERLY PATIENT: Young man flies very well!
TOUR GUIDE: The finest artificial flower money can buy.
McCLOUD: I just thought I’d dig around awhile, sort o’ contemplate
the beauty of it all.
RECEPTIONIST: Well, we do request that the tour which pays together stays together.
CHIEF CLIFFORD: Send in the sagebrush Sherlock Holmes, will you?
MINISTER: (Presiding at a burial.) So I admonish you, dear friends of J.W. “Earl” Harper, we all have known him as a jurist of great promise, who had he lived might have risen to a position on the highest court of the land, think not of the lies and libelous accusations flung at him by the pseudo-intellectuals of the Northern press... Wherever he may be, there’s a better day a-comin’.
McCLOUD: (Making his way into the crowd to escape Morgan
and Richard.) Excuse me.
MOURNER: He owed you money too, huh?
MARVIN SLOAN: (Apprehended.) It’s perfectly obvious that some bad-apple employees have banded together for some criminal purpose, but to accuse me, a mortician!
McCLOUD: (Amazed at Tranquil Valley’s tour guide, to Chief Clifford.) Down in Taos, the only time they’ll escort you through a cemetery is when you’re in the box!
TOUR GUIDE: (Voiceover.) As the sun sinks over the monuments of Tranquil Valley, we are closing our gates, to reopen tomorrow morning at 9 A.M., under new management.