Chris Coughlin’s high-rise apartment building is torched by an arsonist for hire.
George Gaynes, who speaks very good French, plays a stockbroker who helps out his clients by running an arson ring enabling them to collect on insurance from the buildings they own.
His best client is Jason Carter, an architect and speculator who just happens to own the building Chris Coughlin lives in. We see him in the stairwell, consulting with an expert arsonist.
There follows a pretty picture of the pro at work igniting a fast-moving fire that looks to all the world and the NYFD arson squad like an electrical fire caused by faulty wiring.
The fire is intensely filmed, with hair-singeing gags.
Carter’s ex-mistress, a fashion photographer, confronts him and is found “face-down in a vat of developer solution.”
McCloud assumes the role of an Albuquerque businessman, Jake Porter. The real Porter feels “flattered.” He’s to be portrayed as a colorful character. “Colorful,” he says, “wow.” Beautiful exteriors of Albuquerque belie the rather dismal city of today, but of what city can that not be said?
The establishing shot of a skyscraper is utilized by Antonio to exalt his theme, as dazzling shots preface each scene.
Later, McCloud again appears in mufti as Lonny Springer, a “top flame” from Texas and New Mexico.
At the end, the leading figures in what McCloud describes as “the top arson ring in the country” are playing cards at the Arthurian Club when the last call comes. McCloud pursues them across town in the only available transport, Fire Engine No. 3.
The script is a meticulous, tight construction allowed to breathe at points by McCloud’s “wild surmise”.
Robert Reed Jason Carter
Written by Lou Shaw, Robert Hamilton
Directed by Lou Antonio
(McCloud is upset at being kept in the file room.)
MAGGIE: No, McCloud. The Chief told me that when you came in bellowing like a bull with his tail on fire, and those were his exact words, I was to stop you.
McCLOUD: Maggie, you got a sawed-off shotgun under that typewriter?
McCLOUD: Well, you just tell the Chief you didn’t have enough ammunition to stop me.
(Still upset, he calls Chris Coughlin.)
McCLOUD: Chris, this is Sam!
CHRIS: Well, it sounds like I’m in for a bit of police brutality tonight.
McCLOUD: Yeah, well I’m anxious to see you too.
FLO: (Doing her crossword while tending the desk at
Chris’s apartment building.) Sneak, six
FLO: Coyote, that fits! Now I just need a nine-letter word for onomatopoeia starting with y.
(Carter’s mistress gets wise to the arson.)
CARTER: Everything all right with us?
CLAIRE: Not precisely. I’ve been working out a puzzle.
CARTER: I don’t like games.
SPENCER: You have a fatal flaw, Carter. Greed.
CARTER: No, not greed. I have a high standard of living.
(Sgt. Broadhurst is to act the part of a bartender at
McCloud’s undercover cocktail party. What drinks does he know?)
SGT. BROADHURST: Daiquiri. Only I don’t know what goes into it.
CHIEF CLIFFORD: In that case, bullshot!
SGT. BROADHURST: (To McCloud.) I never heard him swear before.
CHIEF CLIFFORD: I didn’t. That’s a drink.