‘Twas the Fight Before Christmas...
On Christmas Eve, an assassin stalks McCloud, a spurned mistress attempts suicide, a sidewalk Santa turns mugger, junkies raid a hospital pharmacy, Chris’s newspaper organizes a party for orphans at Westside Hospital with Chief Clifford as Santa, and the junkies take hostages.
A further development of “This Must Be the Alamo” and “Return to the Alamo” (comparison to Shakespeare’s early, middle and late periods is not amiss, nor to television style in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties—and beyond). Chief Clifford, incredibly, leaves Sgt. Broadhust in charge again, on the theory that lightning doesn’t strike thrice. Feints of this order lead to the surprising deflection: headquarters is not the target but Westside Hospital, whither all the various strands tend by roundabout measures.
An assassin with a grudge (he keeps a scrapbook of McCloud’s press clippings, with such headlines as “LORD BRIDGES ARRESTED” and “MARSHAL KILLS CABBIE”, and has a considerable arsenal) brings a suitcase to headquarters and asks for the marshal, who’s off duty (but on call all night). Finally, the fellow betakes himself to a rooftop.
Sgt. Broadhust steps out for thirty minutes (“We’ll be here,” says Det. Grover) to buy his wife a last-minute gift at Saks. While he’s away, Chief Clifford is stopped by a traffic cop and arrested in his Santa suit with no identification on suspicion of being “the sidewalk Santa mugger” (a sidewalk Santa who robs his patrons). He’s placed in a lineup and selected by a victim, but McCloud arrives in the nick of time.
William Sylvester and Linda Gray enact the suicide from The Apartment, with McCloud pulling the girl from an eighth-floor ledge he sees while looking out Chris’s window. Meanwhile, Peggy (Ann Dusenberry) is in withdrawal, so her friends (Dean Stockwell and Robert Weaver) take her to Westside Hospital’s pharmacy for morphine at gunpoint. There is a shootout, and the junkies hole up in the fourth-floor ward where Chris and Chief Clifford are regaling orphans.
The real Santa Claus mugger is stabbed by a victim with a hat pin, and makes his way to Westside Hospital, where he’s briefly mistaken for Chief Clifford. Captain Hellman is a gung-ho go-getter, but McCloud has a better way. Fifty feet of rope down from the roof and through the window into the ward, presto! First, however, he must deal with the assassin on the roof, who wants to “cut the big man down to size,” because he diminishes those who lead “one-room lives.” In a matter of seconds, this poor fellow, who only identifies himself as “Jim from the Southwest,” falls into tears and is subdued by Sgt. Broadhurst.
Weaver’s direction is uncommonly good, seizing upon a natural rhythm in the first half, while pivoting on Terry Carter’s resemblance to Vince Edwards for a droll evocation of Ben Casey, and glorying in a long slow pan-and-tilt over Christmas trappings and dropped boots in Chris’s apartment, to the sound of Diana Muldaur at her most insinuating urging McCloud to “relax,” until both are seen relaxing on the sofa. “Good will toward men... and toward women,” says Sgt. Broadhurst as he explains to Chief Clifford why the duty roster is scantier than customary.
William Sylvester Jason Howard
Story by Allan R. Folsom, David H. Balkan,
Directed by Dennis Weaver
The other cases cited in the assassin’s scrapbook are from the same season, “London Bridges” and “The Great Taxicab Stampede”.
(Headlines in the assassin’s scrapbook.)
LORD BRIDGES ARRESTED
MARSHAL KILLS CABBIE
(Chief Clifford is at Westside Hospital, if anyone wants
SGT. BROADHURST: Just tell them to report to Santa.
(A sidewalk Santa pulls a gun on the clientele.)
LADY: Are you mugging me?
SANTA: It’s been a bleak year at the toyshop!
(He tries it again.)
SANTA: Come on, I can’t stand here all night, I knock off at twelve!
(The victim strikes back with a hat pin.)
SANTA: She stabbed me. She stabbed me!
(After a bit of derring-do.)
SGT. BROADHURST: McCloud you... did it.