Encounter with Aries
The wife of an astrologer and widely-syndicated newspaper columnist is kidnapped in broad daylight.
Sidney Cantrell (Sebastian Cabot) is a world-famous astrologer, a man of wealth, most of it his wife’s (Louise Latham). He arranges to have a client (Peter Haskell) kidnap her for ransom, then during negotiations he kills the man in an apparent fit of rage, with McCloud and Sgt. Broadhurst as witnesses.
A bomb is set to kill Mrs. Cantrell if the ransom isn’t paid. She is a nervous, talky person, who is given tranquilizers by her kidnapper to help her sleep out her ordeal.
The subtle, dry action is full of parallelisms. Cantrell’s secretary (Jill Jaress) is another frazzled wreck, what with her employer’s fussiness and stinginess and the very odd people who form his clientele. The kidnapper’s girlfriend (Susan Strasberg), who is innocent of the plot, is nevertheless abandoned before their getaway to Malaga when he dies in the hospital after being struck from behind.
Mrs. Cantrell’s chauffeur is forced out of the car at gunpoint and threatened with one in the back if she doesn’t get in the front seat. She’s kept in an abandoned building in Queens. McCloud comforts the secretary, uses the girlfriend to snare Cantrell, and defuses the bomb.
The title is explained by a tattoo of a ram’s head on the kidnapper’s arm. McCloud is a Virgo. He’s at a desk when it all begins with Mr. Rafer (Elisha Cook, Jr.), who complains of “alien gamma rays.” The Marshal, who is having lunch, reassuringly folds him a hat made of wax paper from a sandwich, so as to provide an “anti-gamma ray magnetic field.” Elmer (Woodrow Parfrey), a patrolman, brings in maps for the kidnapping investigation, including one he drew himself. “You think any of those kids downstairs could do one like this? You bet they couldn’t,” Elmer growls.
Sebastian Cabot’s resemblance to Richard Todd gives the acuity that is required to set up the droll punchline. The kidnap plot, which is not disclosed at first, is made manifest in a wink, and all that remains is for McCloud to ferret out the motive, principally from Cantrell’s business manager (Alan Oppenheimer).
McCloud reveals himself as a great student of Mr. Wong’s skills, from the delicately dissembled interrogation to the culminating coup de théâtre.
Sebastian Cabot Sidney Cantrell
Written by Peter Allan Fields
Directed by Russ Mayberry
The character played by Elisha Cook, Jr., Mr. Rafer, is listed in the credits as Mr. Diller.
(In the Cantrell mansion.)
McCLOUD: I’d hate to pay taxes on this place.
CHIEF CLIFFORD: I don’t think you’ll have that worry this week.
SGT. BROADHURST: (Reporting on his search of Rick Stevens’s apartment.) All I can tell you is that the man lives neat, very neat.
MERVIN SIMMONS: (To McCloud.) That’s quite a clever getup you’ve got there. Very clever. Sort of a reverse mod, right? Very clever.
DET. FINNEGAN: Uh, McCloud. Chief Clifford just
called. He expressed a rather definite desire to see you. At your convenience,
McCLOUD: He did.
DET. FINNEGAN: He did.
McCLOUD: (To Cantrell, of the latter’s secretary, Gloria.) Ya know, she was very cooperaytive. You oughta pay her parkin’.
SIDNEY CANTRELL: (Reunited with his chatty wife.) I prefer to go quietly.
CHIEF CLIFFORD: I would have liked to have been part
of your little scheme.
McCLOUD: Yeah, well. All’s well that ends well. (Chief Clifford glares at him.) Shakespeare.
McCLOUD: Will you hold my bomb just a minute? Just a minute. I got
a pebble in my boot.
CHIEF CLIFFORD: Must have fallen out of your head.