Click here for my previous episode review.
Season #1, Episode #15
My Enemy, This Town
Original Air Date - February 6, 1964.
Setting/Time - a small California town (Santa Marta) in the present.
Of all of the first 15 episodes (not counting ## 1 and 2 which I have not yet seen), this one is my least favorite, mainly because this episode lacks a strong plot.
Scott Marlowe plays a man recently released from prison. He returns to the home town where he was wrongly convicted of assaulting a local woman. He is rebuffed by his family and everyone else in town.
The story consists mainly of a series of confrontations/arguments between Marlowe's character and (1) his family, (2) the sheriff and his deputy, (3) a realtor, (4) the woman that falsely accused him, (5) the woman's husband, (6) his parole officer and (7) local thugs paid to assault him.
All of these confrontations follow a similar pattern, with Marlowe indignantly yelling at the people that want him to (1) leave town, (2) stop being indignant, (3) pay too much money for an apartment, (4) stop painting pictures of his victim (or at least paint better), (5) violate his parole so they can "get" him again, etc.
These confrontations are somewhat random and interchangeable - the order in which they occur is not terribly important. The plot does not follow any sort of progression until near the end when Marlowe's character is falsely accused again (by a different woman) and placed on trial.
The story also plays the race card to a certain extent by making Marlowe's character hispanic and playing slow spanish guitar music when Marlowe drives into his old neighborhood to see his parents. The deputy sheriff came across like the stereotypes of old southern lawmen persecuting the minority, with the victim's husband playing the "Boss Hog" role. (These stereotypes, of course, were played much more subtly than in programs like the old Dukes of Hazzard.)
The music score is far less subtle than in most KST episodes. The music tends to walk the viewer through the expected emotions/reactions of some scenes a little too awkwardly. The Spanish guitar at the beginning is one example. The worst example occurs in the fight scene involving the local thugs. Each blow that Marlowe lands is accompanied by a blast from the trumpets (or some brass instrument) that make the scene vaguely reminiscent of a Batman episode.
Marlowe's character was in error when he told the realtor that the realtor could not refuse to rent to him. Even today, landlords are permitted to perform background checks and are not required to rent to people with criminal records.
Despite these shortcomings, the confrontations were well acted, as was the plot when it finally showed up. I found myself rooting for Marlowe's character, but that could just be my own anger issues bubbling to the surface.
Scott Marlowe played the part of Johnny Baroja, the main character. This was the first of his two KST episodes. He acted for nearly 50 years, including both regular series work and guest starring roles on shows such as Star Trek: TNG (although that does not count as a Star Trek Connection).
Twenty-three year old Dianne McBain played the role of the original victim. She would later act in KST in Season #2. She received work as a guest star on major television programs through 2001, including roles with future KST actor Jack Kelly on Maverick in 1959.
William Smith played the deputy sheriff. He has worked since 1942 in various roles, including a well-known part in Red Dawn.
Barbara Nichols played the second false accuser. She was usually typecast in similar roles calculated to take advantage of her voice and physical appearance. This typecasting garnered roles for her in a few major movies and television programs from the 1950's through the 1970's.
The defense attorney was played by John Zaremba who acted for nearly 40 years. His most famous role came with his regular part on The Time Tunnel (along with KST actor Whit Bissell and others) 2 years after this episode aired.
Marlowe drives a light blue tutone 1955 Ford convertible. While this car would undoubtedly attract much attention at a car show today, it would have been decidedly second hand in 1964.
The viewer can glimpse a mid 1960's Ford Thunderbird during one of the outdoor scenes.
Lessons I learned from My Enemy, This Town.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Kraft Suspense Theatre; My Enemy, This Town; Scott Marlowe; Diane McBain; Barbara Nichols; John Zaremba
Click here for my previous episode review.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Kraft Suspense Theatre; Leviathan Five; Arthur Kennedy; Hobbes; Harold Stone; Andrew Duggan; Robert Webber; Frank Overton; Frank Maxwell
Season #1, Episode #14
Original Air Date - January 30, 1964. This was the 4th episode aired during 1964. Twenty-nine (29) total episodes were aired during 1964 - more than any other year and almost half of all KST episodes.
Four scientists and a security guard are trapped by an accidental explosion in an underground laboratory. (I do not remember how deeply underground they were, but I recall the elevator clearly indicating a descent of more than 1,000 feet.)
After the explosion, the scientists calculate how long their limited air will last and how long it will take rescuers to reach them and reopen the air vents to the surface. They determine that they cannot survive unless they kill one man quickly. They devise a method where one man will be selected by lottery either to commit suicide or kill one of the others at his own discretion.
The story takes place in a courtroom as the surviving four men are placed on trial for the murder of the fifth man. We do not see exactly how the man died or who killed him, but that is not the point of the trial. All of the survivors face trial, even though only one man presumably pulled the trigger.
Many of the KST episodes focus on a choice between right and wrong. This episode includes the same focus but with a different emphasis. In "Leviathan Five" the choice has already been made and the characters must fight over whether that choice was right or wrong. The survivors' very method of choosing one among them to die is the basis for the charges against all of them. There is no obvious bad guy, only a near impossible situation and plausible arguments on both sides of the issue.
The survivors defend the charges on the basis that they were cut off from society and had to create new rules. They argue that they were not subject to the laws of their (unnamed) state anymore. [The writers' avoidance of any reference to any particular state is a source of awkwardness.] The issue comes down to whether it is right for a small group to kill one of their members if it will save the rest and if they are cut off from civilization. In this episode, the question depends also on the fact that all five men voluntarily took part in the plan.
The story is not as scientific or philosophical as I am making it sound. Other reviewers (at IMDB.com) have focused on Hobbes or an article by a Harvard law professor, but one need not be familiar with these works in order to enjoy this episode. The dispute is presented thoroughly through crisp and simple dialogue - mainly the cross-examination between the prosecutor and the lead scientist.
The writers needed to separate the scientists and the guard from civilization in order for the plot to work. In doing so, the plot lost some credibility. They never made clear why the scientists needed to perform their duties so far underground in the first place. All the audience sees of the underground laboratory are books, papers, a wall control panel and some living quarters.
More interesting is the question of why they needed an armed guard so far underground (aside from the fact that the presence of the guard and his gun are important to the plot). Who was the guard expecting to shoot? What kind of trouble was he expecting 1,000 feet below ground? Is scientific work prone to erupt in violent arguments? If not each other. who was the guard protecting the scientists from? There already were guards and a checkpoint at the entrance to the facility. Notwithstanding the protection above, were they expecting prowlers to make the long journey down the shaft?
If the scientific work involved something so dangerous that it had to be kept more than 1,000 feet below the surface, was it really safe to risk gunplay down there? [This is never explained, but maybe that is what caused the explosion - a guard in another underground shaft at the same facility got trigger happy - with disastrous results.]
And speaking of safety, why did the scientists wear labcoats (aside from the television/movie stereotype of scientists wearing labcoats as some sort of uniform)? They did not seem to be doing anything that could get their clothes dirty (aside from dealing with the consequences of the explosion that trapped them all below ground with limited air). Maybe the facility owners would have been better advised to spend their safety money on preventing explosions instead of issuing useless labcoats.
And not to be overly picky, but the motorized golf cart that carried the scientists from the elevator down the long hallway (the guard would later reveal the exact distance) seemed to be pointless too. Come to think of it, they could have done without that entire hallway. There did not appear to be any other offices down there. Why not simply place the lab near the base of the elevator and avoid some very difficult tunnel construction (not to mention the expense of maintaining the golf cart)?
While others (for example Star Trek fanatics) might try to explain these points with reference to some implausible scenario (e.g. 'this is how laboratory work is done in a parallel universe'), I am content to suspend disbelief just enough to enjoy the plot despite these questions. In fact, a viewer is not likely to notice these things upon seeing the episode for the first time.
I noted also that the courtroom objections seemed to be handled correctly, especially the judge's treatment of the hearsay rule and the fifth amendment (although the main character's use of the fifth amendment would turn out to be improper and might result in contempt charges). This contrasts sharply with modern courtroom dramas.
This episode is one of three KST episodes in which William P. McGivern received a share of the writing credits. His writing focus was usually on crime and police work. I suspect he contributed some of the courtroom and legal knowledge to supplement "Leviathan's" philosophical conflict.
As far as classic cars are concerned this episode featured quantity over quality.
The opening to the flashback featured a shot of a full parking lot of early 1960's models. The only one you see actually moving is a 1962 Dodge Dart station wagon that carries the lead scientist from his home to this facility. And this brings to mind another question about plot awkwardness. The scientist testifies that he drove, even though he had a driver in the car with him. This is never explained, although it does place the "driver" in the same category as the armed guard. The scientist should have suspected trouble at this point, seeing that he had a driver that served no purpose. This fact should have tipped him off that the armed guard that met him at the shaft entrance would serve no purpose either - except to fill a plot hole that might involve shooting.
As the Dart wagon moves through the parking lot, we catch glimpses of two early-mid-1960's Ford Thunderbirds and a 1963 Mercury Monterey (among many others). Those were all definitely quality cars, but it is much less fun when you see them parked instead of moving along the highway.
Arthur Kennedy played the lead scientist, who provided the testimony during the trial. Kennedy acted for fifty years until his death in 1990. He received five Oscar nominations.
Harold Stone played another of the scientists. Stone played numerous roles on television and movies for almost 40 years, including guest roles on Big Valley (with fellow KST actor Steve Ihnat) and KST spinoff Run For Your Life. I remember him as gangster Frank Nitti in The St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1967.
Robert Webber played the prosecutor. Webber was a well-known character actor for almost forty years until his death in 1989. This was the first of his two KST appearances. I remember him as a drug kingpin in Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978). He guest-starred in many of the most famous TV shows of his time.
Frank Maxwell played the armed guard in the first of his three KST appearances. He did character work for almost 50 years, including guest and regular appearances on network television. His roles usually were authority figures (police, military, etc.).
Andrew Duggan portrayed another of the scientists in the first of his two KST appearances. He is known for playing presidents, including Eisenhower and Johnson numerous times. He also played military leaders in modern settings and in westerns, such as Big Valley. He enjoyed many starring roles in television for nearly 40 years until his death in 1988.
Star Trek connection.
This episode's Star Trek actor is Frank Overton, who played the defense attorney. Overton starred in Star Trek's "This Side of Paradise" (directed by KST's Ralph Senensky). Overton played in one of the more well-known episodes of Twilight Zone, opposite KST's Gig Young. His IMDB "trivia" bio mentions his Star Trek appearance to the exclusion of the remainder of his 20 year career.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Internet Movie Data Base (imdb.com) updates info - Kraft Suspense Theatre; A Hero For Our Times; William Bramley, Victor French; Berkeley Harris
At that time, the IMDB database entry for that episode did not include the names of various guest stars, including William Bramley, Berkeley Harris, Victor French and David Lewis. While all of these actors played only supporting roles, all of those roles were crucial to the plot. Such roles included the murderer, the prosecutor, the defense attorney and the boss of the main character. All of these actors enjoyed substantial careers with numerous additional roles recognized by IMDB.com.
At the time I wrote my review (June 14th) I had not seen "Hero" for almost two years. I noted the absence of Berkeley at IMDB.com:
Berkeley Harris played the defense attorney. Despite having many speaking lines, his role is uncredited at IMDB.com. Many of the IMDB.com cast listings are incomplete for KST. (I believe this is starting to change with the show's newfound popularity on RTV.) Harris also played in 2 other KST episodes, which are credited at IMDB.com.
On July 1st, 2010, RTV broadcast "A Hero For Our Times" for the first time in almost two years. The next day, I updated my review to reflect Bramley, French and Lewis, all of whom I had either forgotten or did not recognize the first time I saw "Hero."
I noted on the update that IMDB had omitted all four actors. IMDB is the most widely used database for those seeking information on actors, movies and television episodes.
At some point since July 2nd, IMDB has updated its data base to include all four of those actors. That IMDB entry had sat incomplete and dormant for two years and one rebroadcast has resulted in an update. I do not know exactly how IMDB discovered the error, but I think it is safe to say that the IMDB update reflects, to some degree, increasing popularity and recognition of KST.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Kraft Suspense Theatre; Crisis; RTV syndication issues; Equity Media Holdings Corporation; Universal-NBC
All the Shows do exist - the only one not in the syndication packages (Either as "Suspense Theater" or "Crisis") is the Two-parter as it was later released theatrically.
RTV doesn't have all the episode for a plain simple fact - they don't want to spend the money for master-tapes. The current owners of RTV didn't receive all the master-tapes to most of the shows they air when Equity Media Holdings Corporation severed the partnership.
Equity is holding them for ransom, literally, as well as owning Universal-NBC back rerun fees. So, RTV only ended up with some of the episodes and only slowly getting a few episodes across the board here and there.
The story is "Not all the episodes are cleared for Broadcast" is Bull. I've spoken to several people involved with the affiliates.
RTV's other issue, not running what they have in the proper order is due to the way they program the automated system.
I believe that RTV does run their KST episodes in order of the original broadcast. But they obviously leave out many episodes from that order. Over the past two years, RTV has broadcast some episodes nearly half a dozen times, while other episodes have not been broadcast at all or have been broadcast once or twice only in the past month or two (or only a year or two ago and never again).
I have no explanation other than Barnum's, so I will use it as a working theory until I learn something different.
Equity Media Holdings Corporation was a founding owner of RTV and declared bankruptcy in 2008. RTV is now independent of Equity's ownership, but apparently suffers from insufficient funding at times. The details of RTV's ownership status and the financial dealings with Equity are beyond the scope of this blog.
It is my hope that by promoting Kraft Suspense Theatre and its various qualities, we will hasten the day when it becomes a true classic that is not dependant on one fledgling network.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Ralph Senensky directed episodes of Star Trek, Kraft Suspense Theatre and many other shows. He has commented recently on Star Trek's legacy and compared it to that of his other work:
STAR TREK was indeed a phenomenon. I directed six and a half episodes of the original series. I would guess (and I’m sure my guess is very close to being accurate) that I worked a total of ninety days on the series. I worked more days than that on just the pilot of DYNASTY. I directed twice as many episodes of THE WALTONS and two and half times as many episodes of THE FBI; I directed more episodes of THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY and more episodes of THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE’S FATHER than I did of STAR TREK. And yet today if you google-search my name on the internet, you will think I spent most of my career directing STAR TREK. As I said, STAR TREK was indeed a phenomenon.
As I have written before, Star Trek did not enjoy success during the 1960's. Yet its legacy exceeds that of the more popular shows of that era. Senenky's quote above is but one indicator of that relative legacy.
I will not explore all of the factors that made Star Trek successful only after its first run ended. That is a subject for another blog. But the fan base that has grown around Star Trek clearly has reason to be interested in KST. The overlap between Star Trek and KST exists not only with the actors, but with writers, directors, plots and miscellaneous program information. Star Trek fans would undoubtedly enjoy seeing their Star Trek heroes in other roles, especially where multiple such characters appear in the same episode. I believe this because (1) I enjoy seeing the Star Trek actors in KST roles myself and (2) memory-alpha.org often focuses on non-Star Trek shows where Star Trek actors appeared together. By not being aware of KST, Star Trek fans do not know what they are missing.
I have always regretted that Star Trek ran for only three seasons. I never really enjoyed the spinoffs. Episodes of KST and other contemporary shows seem closer to the old Star Trek than do the recent Star Trek spinoffs. My own experience with KST (and other shows) indicates to me that it was not so much the science fiction that I liked about Star Trek, but the stories. KST provides the kind of plots (plus the actors) that come closer to replacing Star Trek than anything else I have found.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Season # 1, Episode 13
Who is Jennifer?
Original Air Date: January 16, 1964
Setting/Time: A California town - the present.
This story is about two people who are trying to deal with their past.
"Jennifer" is a young transient who is secretive about her identity and history. She claims to have lived in orphanages as long as she can remember. There is even some question about whether she is 18 years old. Police charge her with some minor offense and then investigate whether she is the long missing child of a local woman (Mrs. Heaton). The police become convinced that she is not the same girl, but they do not inform Mrs. Heaton of this finding. (Police methods at this time differ sharply with what you might see on CSI - never once do you hear the acronym "DNA.") Instead, they use the girl as part of a ruse to determine if Mrs. Heaton was responsible for her child's disappearance years ago. The police tell Mrs. Heaton that Jennifer might be her child in order to induce Mrs. Heaton to let Jennifer move into Mrs. Heaton's home.
The plot is essentially a mystery story. We are faced with the question of Jennifer's true identity and the mystery of what happened to the local woman's child.
As with many KST episodes, this episode is about choices. Jennifer agonizes over the police scheme in which she takes part. Mrs. Heaton agonizes over choices in the past. It is the resolution of the conflict from those choices that resolves the plot and solves the mystery.
The plot is weak and confusing as it relates to the mystery of Jennifer's identity. [Or maybe I am just used to being spoonfed by less subtle stories in modern television.] It is possible that the Jennifer mystery was added to the plot because the story of Mrs. Heaton's past was not enough to fill up an entire episode. That is just my own speculation. The episode was enjoyable notwithstanding those weaknesses.
This is the first KST episode that I know of that features the 1960 Mercury Monterey.
1960 Mercury Monterey
I do not have a picture of the car from this episode, but here is a similar model in Mission Impossible. It has a very distinctive look and appears in at least two more episodes. The car had the same light blue color in all three episodes. It was featured more prominently in the later episodes.
One also sees a 1964 Ford Galaxie station wagon pass by Jennifer on the road. Those Galaxie models usually appeared as police cars in television episodes of that era. It is rare today to see them as station wagons.
Gloria Swanson plays the local woman (Mrs. Heaton) whose daughter disappeared years ago. Swanson was a legend of silent films dating back to 1914. Her most prolific period occurred in the mid to late 1920's. Her roles decreased when the silent era ended, but her most noted role was in 1950's Sunset Boulevard. She continued to get movie and tv roles until the mid-1970's.
Brenda Scott played Jennifer. She acted regularly in the 1960's and 1970's, but her roles appear much less often after that.
Dan Duryea starred as the police detective attempting to solve the mystery. He acted for almost 30 years until his death in 1968. He guest starred in numerous well-known television programs and had a regular role on Peyton Place. He was the father of Star Trek's Peter Duryea (who also played a role in KST in season #2), but that is not this episode's "Star Trek connection."
Star Trek connection -
There are two Star Trek connections in "Who is Jennifer?"
David Brian played Mrs. Heaton's attorney, who helped her confront the mystery of Jennifer while becoming suspicious of the police investigation. Brian would later play John Gill (the "Fuhrer") in Star Trek's "Pattern's of Force." He enjoyed a quarter-century career.
George Slavin received writing credits on this episode and Star Trek's "Mark of Gideon." There were no obvious similarities or parallels between the plots or characters in those episodes (except that the Star Trek episode was also a mystery of sorts).
Friday, July 16, 2010
A Truce to Terror; Kraft Suspense Theatre; Steve Forrest, John Gavin, Frank Silvera, William McGivern; Michael Ansara
Season #1, Episode #12
A Truce to Terror
Original Air Date - January 9, 1964.
Setting/Time - Los Angeles in the present.
A businessman finds himself in an altercation with a hispanic man on a downtown street, resulting in an injury to the businessman. The businessman decides to seek revenge. We see the businessman's attempts to find the hispanic man in East Los Angeles. The situation escalates as his search intensifies. The plot culminates in a gun battle on the street and in a basement near the businessman's office.
In this episode, the businessman faces a choice between hunting down his attacker or forgetting the issue. The police, his business partner and a local community leader advise him to let it go. He presses on anyway. We see and hear his decision making process as he resists and ignores everyone's advice. The suspense is more about his decision than about the action that follows. There is no right or wrong decision, but we see the consequences as he presses forward and the conflict escalates.
The story is essentially an anti-war message, as reinforced by the written text on the screen at the conclusion of the show. The politics of the show detract from the plot. The message comes across as naive in light of the events of the past five decades.
The running gun battle/chase scene near the end is the closest (in the entire series) that KST comes to literally recreating the action and the atmosphere of the silhouette images in the opening credits.
William P. McGivern was the writer. He was mainly a crime novelist and mystery writer (even though this episode was not a mystery). He had been a police reporter and was noted for his realistic protrayal of urban life. That background comes through in this episode. This was the first of three episodes that he wrote for KST. He also wrote for police dramas such as Kojak, Adam-12 and other shows.
Cars - I did not recognize most of the vehicles, as they were older models from the 1940's in the hispanic section of the city. I did see the obligatory 1963-1964 Plymouth Fury taxi.
Steve Forrest plays the businessman in the first of his two KST appearances in this episode.
John Gavin plays Forrest's hispanic antagonist. His most famous roles were in Psycho and Spartacus. Gavin later served as Ronald Reagan's ambassador to Mexico in the 1980's.
Frank Silvera plays the policeman that advises Forrest to abandon his search. His dialogue with Forrest in their second conversation is crisp and entertaining. He later starred in "That Time in Havana" with Forrest in the second of each of their two KST appearances. Silvera guest starred in many of the major television programs of the 1960's, including Rawhide, Hawaii Five-0, Gunsmoke, Hitchcock, The Flying Nun and KST spinoff Run For Your Life.
Star Trek Connection - The Star Trek connection is Michael Ansara, who plays the community leader/bar owner in the Mexican neighborhood. He advises Forrest's character to back off of his search (somewhat more forcefully than Silvera's character). He also helps Forrest's character and advises him as the situation escalates. Ansara played Kang on the "Day of the Dove" Star Trek episode. His other roles included small parts in Ten Commandments and Julius Caesar as well as larger roles in what seems like every major television program of the past sixty years, including a reprise of his Kang role on various Star Trek spinoffs. His original role on Star Trek, once the only thing I knew of him, now seems minor in light of the body of his work.
click here for the next episode review.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Kraft Suspense Theatre; The Deep End; Travis McGee; Whit Bissell; Tina Louise; Ellen Burstyn; Clu Gulager; Aldo Ray
Season #1; Episode #11
The Deep End
Original Air Date - January 2, 1964. The Christmas/New Year season apparently did not interupt the original broadcast schedule for KST.
Setting/Time - A modern small California town and nearby lake.
The story opens with a dramatic murder. The main character is a private investigator who is not satisfied that the victim's death was a suicide or an accident. By investigating the death, he becomes embroiled in small town intrigue, including financial disputes and romantic tension involving the victim's boyfriend's company.
This episode is essentially a mystery/crime story. There is some discussion of the motivations and internal conflicts of the killer, but those factors are too extreme in this case for the audience to identify with.
Part of the story deals with solving the mystery of the murder. The identity of the murderer becomes known well before the end of the episode. The episode then focuses on trapping and catching the murderer.
The original story is based on a novel by John D. MacDonald, the author of the Travis McGee mystery series. This story contains similarities with other MacDonald writings.
The ending is somewhat clever (maybe too clever) and adds a new layer of complexity to the plot. The story differs from a Hitchcock story of that era only in the absence of some vague supernatural connection and the absence of the smugness that characterizes the Hitchcock plots. [I would explain further, but this blog is not about Hitchcock.]
MacDonald wrote one Hitchcock story in the early sixties. He also wrote the story upon which Cape Fear was based as well as the novel for one episode of the KST spinoff Run for Your Life.
The final moments of the episode reminded me (too much) of Psycho.
Jonathan Hughes wrote the teleplay, as he did for the first season episode "Knight's Gambit," which was similar in some ways with the mystery and investigative aspects of "Deep End."
The main character drives a 1963 Mercury Monterey. An early 1960's white Jaguar is parked outside the home of one of the suspects. The accountant drives a 1957 Ford Fairlane that was destroyed as part of the plot (the Fairlane was hard to figure out, as the shots of the car took place at night and were incomplete).
It is noteworthy that today's classic luxury cars (60's Jaguar) were once simply ordinary luxury cars. Today's classic cars from the 1950's ('57 Fairlane) were considered disposable for the purpose of television by the 1963-1964 season.
This episode is just as interesting for the actors as for the story.
Clu Gulager plays the investigator. He is noteworthy for his strange clenched-teeth way of speaking. Later in 1964, he would play a major role in The Killers (written by Ernest Hemingway and Star Trek's Gene Coon) with KST actors Ronald Reagan, Lee Marvin and Claude Akin. He continues to get small roles in movies and television.
Tina Louise plays the boyfriend's secretary. She is most notable for her role in Gilligan's Island that began eight months later. In one scene with Gulager, she continuously moves her eyebrows in an annoying way that detracts from the dialogue. Her character is not fully explored and is explained away superficially by the other characters.
Aldo Ray plays the boyfriend (around whom much of the plot revolves). He served on Iwo Jima during World War II and starred in television and numerous movies from the early 1950's until his death in 1991.
Ellen Burstyn (credited as Ellen McCrae) plays both the victim and the victim's sister. She continues to get movie roles, including some set for release in 2010 and 2011. Her biggest period of success came in the early 1970's when she received numerous awards and nominations for such movies as The Exorcist and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.
Star Trek Connection
This episode's Star Trek connection is Whit Bissell, who played the space station manager in the episode "Trouble With Tribbles." He starred in television and movies for more than four decades, including roles as the mad scientist in I Was a Teenage Werewolf (opposite Michael Landon), as a lawyer in 1957's Disney production of Johnny Tremain, a supporting role in The Time Machine (1960), a starring role in The Time Tunnel and a supporting role in the now discredited Soylent Green (1972) (and many, many more roles). He usually played authority figures, such as generals, governors, lawyers and even President Wilson. In "Deep End," he played the accountant whose self-dealing and bungling moved the plot forward.
Many Star Trek fans probably know Bissell solely as "Mr. Luray." But that role appears almost as an afterthought when one considers all of Bissell's work. Yet that one Star Trek episode probably gets more exposure for Bissell at this time than any other role he played.
update - click here for the next episode review.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
The Name of the Game; Kraft Suspense Theatre; Jack Kelly; Nancy Kovack-Mehta; Pat Hingle; Grace Lee Whitney
Season #1, Episode # 10.
The Name of the Game.
Original Air Date - December 26, 1963
Setting/Time - The present in a Las Vegas casino/hotel.
Jack Kelly plays a professional gambler, who, while knowledgeable about casino gambling, is broke. He is approached by a "high roller" at the casino with a proposition. The high roller is long on cash but short on knowledge. The high roller will bankroll Kelly for the purpose of making a big score overnight and splitting the proceeds.
The conflict centers on disputes between the two main characters over strategy and control. The action is often interrupted by romantic distractions involving each man. The plot does not simply involve beating the casino. The plot revolves around the battle between the two main characters as they gamble.
There is an element of surprise and mystery to this episode that is not revealed until near the end.
This episode gives the appearance of class to casino gambling. The men wore suits and the women were elegant, even while losing large amounts of money at the table (I cannot remember whether they played craps or roulette). This image, while unrealistic, makes for a nice contrast with actual players in casinos now popping up all over the country.
The KST casino was unrealistically small and simple in contrast to actual casinos or casinos featured in modern television or movies.
The plot is believable. When the surprise element is introduced, it is apparent to the viewer that it was present all along. All elements of the story are brought together in the conclusion and resolution.
A conflict over control of casino strategy (coupled with romantic side stories) may seem weak, but it works in this case. Not every situation need be life-or-death to generate audience interest. Whether they gamble or not, an audience might more easily identify with the two gamblers' conflict than with much of what appears on television today.
Miscellaneous - This is the first of two KST episodes to focus on casino gambling.
Cars - Vehicles played a small role in this episode. I believe a Lincoln Continental was visible in the casino parking lot from the manager's office window toward the end of the episode. [I will update this portion if RTV reruns this episode.]
Jack Kelly plays the professional gambler. Kelly made the first of his three KST appearances in this episode. Kelly began acting at age 12 and continued for more than 50 years. Kelly previously played in Maverick as one of the title characters. Kelly also played a major role in Forbidden Planet and played the lead in one episode of Kraft Mystery Theatre with future KST actor Broderick Crawford.
Pat Hingle plays the high roller that bankrolled Kelly's character and spent most of the episode fighting him. Hingle's career lasted more than 50 years (until his recent death) and included such series as Twilight Zone, KST spinoff Run For Your Life, Magnum, Murder She Wrote, the 2001 Christian movie Road to Redemption and many others.
Sydney Pollack directed this episode (and two later KST episodes - "Watchman" and "Last Clear Chance").
Star Trek Connection -
Even though the plot was not as strong as some earlier episodes (episodes ## 3, 4, 5 and 6), this one is a favorite of mine largely because of the Star Trek connection. As far as I know, only season #2's "Eddie Carew" features more Star Trek connections than "Name of the Game." [My knowledge is incomplete, as I have not seen about 12 episodes and IMDB.com is unreliable.] This episode and "Eddie Carew" each featured 4 Star Trek actors, but "Eddie Carew" also featured a Star Trek director. The Trek actors in "Eddie Carew" also played more important roles, while two of the Star Trek actors in "Name of the Game" were less important.
Nancy Kovack (now Nancy Mehta) played the romantic interest for Kelly's character in "Name of the Game." She would later play a pivotal role in Star Trek's "Private Little War." Her character in KST would be almost unrecognizable to Trek fans, as it is so different from Kovack's Trek character. Her KST character is one of the most enjoyable parts of "Name of the Game."
Kovack enjoyed a 25 year career in radio and in Hollywood and elsewhere, winning eight beauty pageants and guest starring in such shows as Bewitched, Mannix and the Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Numerous of her episodes are available on Hulu.com.
She became a historical footnote more than a decade ago, as she was on the periphery of the Bill Clinton scandals of the 1990's. She was the victim of an embezzlement scheme of Susan McDougal, who also served jail time in connection with Clinton's Whitewater scandal. McDougal escaped conviction on charges related to Kovack-Mehta when McDougal's attorney, future Michael Jackson and Scott Peterson defender Mark Geragos, denounced the prosecution as part of a conspiracy to harm Bill Clinton.
Barry Atwater plays the Casino manager. Atwater later played Spock's Vulcan hero Surak on "The Savage Curtain." Atwater and Jack Kelly each have the distinction of having played opposite Robby the Robot; - Kelly in Forbidden Planet and Atwater in an episode of Thin Man (with Peter Lawford). Atwater acted until his death in 1978 on such shows as Gunsmoke, Mission Impossible and Twilight Zone. In every role in which I have seen him, his character is very similar to that of Surak.
Steve Ihnat plays a brief, but important, role as the pit boss. The role is important because the pit boss' (and later Atwater's) approval of certain large bets makes those bets more dramatic. Ihnat later played the main guest star in Star Trek's "Whom Gods Destroy." He died at age 38 of a heart attack in 1972. He played on numerous TV episodes, usually as a villain, including a guest role on Big Valley opposite KST guest star Harold Stone.
The most interesting Trek connection is Grace Lee Whitney, who plays a gambler that briefly wins before losing it all at one of the tables. This role is uncredited at IMBD.com and unmentioned in Whitney's autobiography. (I know of Whitney's role only because I noticed her name in the closing credits). Whitney's KST character is not similar in appearance or temperament to Yeoman Rand.
That KST remains so unknown at this time is so unfortunate because the Trek fans would surely enjoy seeing the Star Trek actors play in other roles, especially when there are so many in one episode. Few fans are as familiar with their favorite series as Trekkies are with every detail of Star Trek. I am sure they would appreciate seeing some of these details rearranged and in a new light. Many Star Trek fans are unaccustomed to seeing most of the television shows of the 1960's. As I commented weeks ago:
Those of us that grew up in the 1970's watching reruns of classic Star Trek became accustomed to seeing each of the guest stars solely in his Star Trek role. It is surprising now for us to see these actors in other roles. Many of these actors (the guest stars as well) have become well known more for their Star Trek role than for anything else. Those guest stars that survive make frequent appearances at Star Trek conventions. Many of their other roles are forgotten, even though the Star Trek appearance was often only one of many, many roles in their long careers.
"Name of the Game" was one of the first KST episodes I have seen. This episode helped get me hooked on KST, as picking out the Star Trek connection(s) added another enjoyable element to each episode.
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Friday, July 9, 2010
Original Air Date - December 19, 1963.
Setting/Time - The California Mountains in the present.
A surfer bum is caught by a corrupt and sadistic local sheriff in the mountains of California on his way to the beach. This story is essentially an action story instead of a story focusing on choices and internal conflict.
The story falls into the cliche' of the small town sheriff, beyond the reach of the outside world, terrorizing an innocent passerby. The cliche'd premise makes the story somewhat weak, but the story is told well. The suspense builds slowly until the final confrontation.
The plot is composed of three parts:
- The small town sheriff cliche;
- A mystery set in motion when the sheriff's posse kills a local criminal near the beginning of the episode; and
- The action-intensive climax that results when the main character solves the mystery and must face the consequences.
The intensity of the climax overcomes its predictability.
Cars - The only vehicles I recall are the surfer's panel van, an old jeep and an old truck or two.
James Caan plays the main character/surfer, in one of his earlier roles. This role is mentioned in Caan's Wikipedia entry, unlike those of other KST actors.
Mickey Rooney plays the sheriff.
Bruce Dern plays one of the sheriff's allies. Dern remains active today after more than 50 years in Hollywood. He is set to star in next year's movie release of the Big Valley remake. He played a recurring guest role on the KST spinoff Run For Your Life.
Star Trek Connection - Harry Townes plays in the first of his four KST appearances. He played in "Return of the Archons" three years later on Star Trek.
Monday, July 5, 2010
The Long, Lost Life of Edward Smalley
Original Air Date - December 12, 1963
Setting/Time - The main story takes place in a modern office building. The flashback (occupying most of the show) takes place at the end of World War II as the allies march through Western Europe.
This episode presents a challenge to review because the real plot is more subtle than simply waiting to see the outcome of the trial.
James Whitmore plays J. Marvin Bean, a modern attorney that cares only about winning. We see him in the opening scene upbraiding his employee for caring about right-and-wrong instead of winning. That dialogue sets the stage for the plot of the episode.
Bean is then confronted by an armed visitor to the office (Smalley), whom Bean has forgotten. Smalley tells Bean and his associates (at gunpoint) the story of Bean's representation of Smalley during World War II. The action switches to Smalley's flashback of World War II Europe, as Smalley shoots his superior officer. The issue in Smalley's court martial is whether he intended to shoot the officer or whether it was an accident. Bean is appointed to represent Smalley.
It becomes apparent through the flashback that Bean cares little for the actual truth, a position that is consistent with his instructions to his young associate in the beginning of the episode. But he develops an effective strategy for winning the case, relying on technicalities and strategy instead of anything that reflects faith in Smalley's story. That Bean was concerned only with winning weighs heavily upon Smalley, as he apparently lacked any other source of validation in the two decades since his trial. Bean was thus forced to confront the issue of a client's actual guilt or innocence, instead of a mere checkmark in the win or loss column.
While Smalley was the main/title character, Bean's confrontation with his entire approach to clients and the practice of law provided the main conflict in the story. That conflict was more important to the final resolution than the outcome of the court case. Rather than simply waiting to find out who wins in court, the viewer sees the attorney forced to confront the truth. That is a much more interesting conflict.
Cars - Vehicles played no part in the episode, except for possible military vehicles.
James Whitmore starred as attorney Bean. Whitmore starred in film and television from the late 1940's through 2007. This was the first of two KST episodes for Whitmore. His credits include many of the well-known television shows from the past generation, including Twilight Zone, Big Valley, Bonanza and KST spinoff Run For Your Life. He had a commanding presence and often played military/authority figures, including Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
Richard Crenna played Edward Smalley. Crenna worked as an actor and director from 1950 until his death in 2003. His most famous role came as Luke McCoy in The Real McCoys.
Ron Hayes enjoyed a long career that included a second KST episode in season #2. Philip Abbott, John Alonzo and Arch Johnson also starred in season #2. Alonzo and Abbott both starred in "Once Upon a Savage Night."