Showdown at Times Square


The gag material is opulent and fairly extensive. McCloud makes his entrance carrying a kitten that he’s just rescued from a tree. At Chief Clifford’s weekly bull session, in New York’s fiscal crisis, Sgt. Broadhurst presents a scheme for installing a gym next to the locker room. McCloud, bored, looks out the window and begins notating the smoke signals he sees coming from the Endicott Building—they’re evidently in Apache (White Mountain), but as he reads back his notes out loud at Chief Clifford’s behest, he concludes they “don’t make much sense.”

Chief Stillwater is seated cross-legged on the roof, wearing a strangely familiar feather head-dress and holding a tomahawk which McCloud says is “about as dangerous as a baby’s first goo” (it develops that this Chief is merely seeking publicity so as to locate his missing grandson, and purchased the articles “from a costume shop on 42nd Street,” he says, “they guaranteed them to be genu-wine”).

The gang robs the safe deposit boxes at the Antoine Hotel, and afterward is eliminated piecemeal by mischance. Donald is accidentally stabbed in a fight with Johnny Stillwater (the Chief’s grandson, whose father was an employee at the hotel in Phoenix robbed by the gang before the episode begins). At a Las Vegas casino, B.G. gets in the line of fire and is shot by Linus’s hit man when McCloud ducks. Cookie is tricked into revealing his beloved suitcase full of money, which bursts open on a New Orleans street during Mardi Gras, and he dies when a float runs him over.

Donald’s mistress, Holly Dayton, a failed actress and musician (a brilliant performance by Sharon Farrell), auditions at a dive (singing “I Remember April” at the piano) and is hired. “Most of the people start drifting in about ten,” Fields tells her, “come in about eight, we’ll have a little dinner in back first, get acquainted.” Her face is a studied mask of recognition.

On the other side there is unusual drama in the confrontation with Chief Clifford, which ultimately brings McCloud to turn in his badge and pistol. The gang kills Johnny Stillwater, his grandfather resolves to die (“my purpose is over”) and is taken to a hospital, where Dr. Brand is mystified.

Satlof shows his mettle in fine aerial shots which characterize the piece, and a particularly fine view of Central Park from several stories up, panning-and-tilting up to the Plaza Hotel (standing in for the Antoine). The cast is remarkable for its assurance in difficult roles such as Henry Gibson’s Cookie, of poor background but obsessively frugal (“Hey Cookie! Let me see one of your fives,” they used to say, “I’d like to see what Lincoln looked like when he was a boy!”), and Don Meredith’s Linus, a vicious killer who’s also a black belt. He takes on McCloud in the finale, and gets rocked and socked like a robot.

McCloud tells Holly that he bought a “brand spanking new” trombone as a young man, and thought he could “play the fool out of it.” His lesson was perseverance. “Made it in my senior year.”

McCloud’s time off the force (a technicality, Chief Clifford tries to counter) entitles him to share the reward with Holly, but they have something else in mind, as Holly says: “Are you a sucker for Indian Chiefs and trombone players, too?”


Night of the Shark

McCloud feels at one point he’s made himself unintelligible to his Australian hosts and is about to explain when Inspector Hale stops him by saying, “That’s all right, we’re into Roy Rogers.”

Sydney’s Opera House is the site of a major scene, and the climax takes place at the Australia Day Parade. The theme is Australia itself, at about the time it began to emerge onto the world scene.

The simple mechanism of the plot is designed so as to throw a shaft of poetic light onto this city of transportation.

The opening scene is peculiarly grisly, as a confab of gangsters (under surveillance from a police raft) ends in a murder by poison and sharks.

Sydney’s Police Superintendent Caldwell’s Anti-Organised Crime Task Force is establishing a New York-Sydney mob connection when the superintendent is shot at JFK Airport, and an American police commissioner is killed. McCloud merely happens to be there on one of his routine boring assignments.

The McCloud unit does very well in Australia, repeating its earlier success in Mexico City with “Lady on the Run”.

We know, on the authority of Sgt. Broadhurst in that episode, for example, that McCloud doesn’t drink. Yet here, exceptionally, and under the imprimatur of the show’s creator, McCloud not only accepts an Australian beer, he gets drunk, buys drinks for the whole pub, and has to be carried out. Even in Hawaii (“A Cowboy in Paradise”), McCloud drinks fruit juice.

He knows Alf Donnelly as Albert Donahue, a New Mexico land developer who himself says, “Half of Albuquerque lost money on my deal.” When Donahue’s wife was discovered dead, homicide was suspected and a warrant was issued.

Nevertheless, the mob has spent ten years and millions of dollars establishing him on the Sydney Police Board in advance of expansion plans (“It’s official, Eric,” says Officer McGee to her surveillance partner, “we’ve been invaded,” though neither of them can see from their vantage point who is the odd man out at the confab). If his delicate past were known, the operation would be spoiled. (Inspector Hale, too, is bought or sold.)

So Donnelly attempts to kill McCloud, and at the Sydney Opera House in broad daylight. McCloud is on his way to the airport and desperate measures are called for. Satlof’s direction shows pretty clearly, I think, Utzon’s design in its original state, and the compromises forced upon it later, in some degree. It’s a very close view, though not exhaustive, beginning with a shot inside the restaurant before the wide picture window looking out on Sydney Harbour and the Bridge. McCloud clambers over a balcony and down an exterior wall, there’s a bit of a chase. The word “concourse” is used in the script to link Saarinen’s JFK and Utzon’s Opera House, poetically.

McCloud cracks the case in time to intercept the Australia Day Parade, whose Grand Marshal is Donnelly on horseback with his wife (“you’re the boy who leads the parade” is the explanation for not killing him when his bosses find out he’s been gunning for McCloud). McCloud takes Mrs. Donnelly’s horse, and the chase is on right through downtown Sydney across the Harbour Bridge and onto a football (soccer) field, where Sydney are leading Melbourne 1-0. The announcer describes events: “Now one of them’s pulled a pistol, and he’s shooting at the other.” A footballer knocks the gun from Donnelly’s hand with a well-placed throw or kick, and McCloud wraps the culprit in the goal net. He tricks Chief Clifford into buying a round for everybody at the pub.

Satlof has some action here that’s interesting. He tracks back at a low angle with a wrong lens on McCloud and Inspector Hale walking down a corridor, and gets a unique effect. On the Bridge’s pedestrian walkway, he lines up a straight shot to good effect, then cuts to a helicopter side shot. Stu Phillips is again inspired during the chase to his best work.

The script by Glen A. Larson is of course authoritative. There is some brilliant use of symmetry to set up the gag. Mrs. Donnelly spills the beans that Supt. Caldwell is not dead but incognito at Sydney Hospital. There, Donnelly almost bumps into McCloud, but slipping away is stopped by Officer McGee (“Remember me from the Academy?”), who introduces him to the visiting American marshal.


Quincy M.E.

The securely understated structure has a euthanizer at Valleyview Sanitarium put a grandfather out of future misery, a young girl out of her “pain and nightmares”, a nurse out of present witness and a very nearly a father out of despair over losing his family in a car crash.

The method is curare, administered among needle marks or beneath one of the nurse’s fingernails, which are then painted. This is the clue that solves an otherwise baffling case for the coroner’s office.

The motive is mercy, particularly in the last instance, a desire to induce “peace of mind”.


Holding Pattern
Quincy M.E.

Terrorists hold an airliner on the tarmac at LAX. The Federal agent in charge plans a gung-ho raid, Quincy observes symptoms of sickness among those on board, a lab analysis reveals a form of plague.

Between murder and mayhem, he finds the right course, delaying the assault and averting a last-minute demolition of the plane.

His reasoning outbursts catch a layover on Midway with a north-south connection, the dictator’s intransigence, the terrorist leader’s illness and the female second-in-command’s love, in time to assess the situation on the spot and provide alleviation.

Satlof has his POV on a mobile passenger ramp approaching the open cabin door, la 2001: A Space Odyssey.


The Case of the Lost Love
Perry Mason

This writer’s father, an avid and discerning television watcher, once expressed his disdain for Perry Mason by saying, “he pretends to knowledge he doesn’t have.” Who knew a quarter-century later he’d show us all his cards on the table like this? It’s a masterpiece from top to bottom, take it all around. There’s a flashback to the scene of the crime that seems uncharacteristic, but it’s thematic.

The closest thing to it is an episode of the original Star Trek series that has Capt. Kirk exchanging bodies with an ambitious female officer, and for once you can see an improvement in American television writing over the years, even with so fine an example.

This fulfills the promise of The Case of the Twice-Told Twist, the last of the original Perry Mason episodes and the only one filmed in color.