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I also write for Influx Magazine--where many of my opinions and reviews are also posted.
Brooklyn Bridge: Saturday (1991)
A day that will long be remembered.
The episode takes place on a Saturday. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it will be a fun one. Mom and Grandma are going to the laundry and the guys are supposed to guy buy underwear and socks....and Alan and Nathaniel are NOT amused. Fortunately, the adults forget to do their tasks and instead Mom and Grandma go to movies and the guys go to Coney Island. Can they keep this a secret?
This is a cute episode. It is NOT deep at all....but a nice and enjoyable one. Well written, cute and quite nice to watch.
Brooklyn Bridge: Old Fools (1991)
"Old Fools" is an unusual episode because for once, Grandpa Berger is a bit of a jerk. Normally, he's very sweet...and the person everyone would love to have as a grandfather.
The story begins during Berger's poker night with his old friends. Apart from Grandpa, little Nathaniel loves poker night....as he loves the men's stories. However, on one of the nights, Grandpa and his old partner get into a fight. It's not about anything important....but it reveals that there were some unresolved issues between them. Sadly, his old friend walks out and both men refuse to talk to each other. Can old wounds be patched up and set aside?
I liked but didn't love most of the show. But the final meeting between Grandpa and his friend is amazing...very touching, very sweet and I found myself on the verge of tears. Well done...one of the better episodes.
Brooklyn Bridge: Dinner at Six (1991)
What would you do if your parents leave you home alone?
The boys' parents and grandparents are going away for a couple days. This makes Alan the man of the house and he has to look after his little brother. Soon, Alan's friends come to him with an odd idea....to throw a dinner party for some girls. In other words, they want to be sophisticated adults and have a party just like 'big folks'. So, they dress up and make a dinner consisting of TV dinners and Chef Boy-R-Dee and have the girls to the apartment. Unfortunately, things don't go quite as they hoped. See the show to see why.
This is a decent but unremarkable episode of "Brooklyn Bridge". In other words, it's very watchable and well made but also easy to skip. Pretty ordinary for anotherwise extraordinary show.
Like oil and water...
Katie and Alan would love to date. But there are some problems. First, they are awfully young. Second, and more importantly, Katie is an Irish Catholic and the Silvers are Jewish. So, to try to smooth out these differences, Alan suggests that the two families have a dinner together. Unfortunately, the evening turns out to be a disaster...and the differences between them are accentuated. Is there any saving the evening or working out what unites them?
This was a very awkward show to watch...and deliberately so. Watching the families in such an awkward situation is funny...but in a very dry way. Fortunately, it was also very sweet and enjoyable. Well worth seeing.
Shady goings on in the Silver/Berger households.
"What I Did for Love" is not one of the better episodes of "Brooklyn Bridge"...mostly because its message is pretty obvious and a bit heavy-handed.
Alan's girlfriend, Katie, is disappointed that her science project didn't work out like she'd hoped. She tried raising snails in varying environments but they all seem happy and alive...which should NOT be the case. At the same time, George wants to surprise his wife with tickets to a concert....and he goes to pretty extreme lengths to get the tickets.
Overall, this is an expisode that is all about how dumb guys can be when they try to make women happy WITHOUT thinking about it and the consequences. As I said above, the message is a bit too obvious. Still worth watching...just not among the better ones.
"She wasn't being satisfied sexually...."
A Jewish holiday is upon them and so family is coming for dinner. However, when Aunt Sylvia (Carol Kane) arrives, it's obvious she's NOT a typical 50s housewife. She is clearly a free spirit...sort of a beatnik who loves beat poetry and wants more out of life. So, when she announces that she's getting a divorce, it's not a huge surprise....but Sophie has a very hard time accepting it. In her world NO ONE gets a divorce and being happy isn't a major concern. How is all this going to play out for the Bergers?
This is NOT a fun or funny episode. This is NOT a complaint...many wonderful episodes from the series focused more on characters and life problems. However, it does have some powerful moments....especially when Grandpa makes his speech at the dinner table. Well worth seeing.
Brooklyn Bridge: Boys of Summer (1991)
Packed with wisdom and goodness.
Alan has been given an amazing opportunity--he's going to be on television! The show picks some of the best ball players in Brooklyn and they get to do warm ups with Pee Wee Reese before a Dodgers game...and his family is really excited. Alan ends up doing very well...one other kid ends up doing even better. How does he handle this and how is Dad able to use his wisdom to make this a nice learning opportunity?
This episode is one of the bit reasons I loved "Brooklyn Bridge"...its decency. The show was full of wisdom and heart and you see it in spades here. Well worth seeing.
Columbo: Double Shock (1973)
What do you do if you have twins and you suspect one of them is the killer?
"Double Shock" poses a serious problem for Columbo. It seems that a rich old man (Paul Stewart) is planning on marrying a sexy young lady (Julie Newmar). But he doesn't realize that his nephew or nephews don't want him to marry, as the new wife will inherit all his wealth. So, just before he marries there is an 'accident' when someone tosses an electric mixer into his bathrub! But the problem is BOTH nephews (Martin Landau in both roles) are suspects....and Clumbo needs to learn which one is responsible.
The identical twin connundrum is an interesting twist....and it makes for a very good episode. Well worth watching. It's also worth watching to see someone who hates Columbo with the intensity of a dozen burning suns...simply because he's sloppy!
Columbo: The Most Dangerous Match (1973)
Only a big jerk would kill someone over a chess game!
Emmett Clayton (Laurence Harvey) is the world champion chess player. However, when he earned this title, the previous champion, Dudek, was retired. Now Dudek has come out of retirement to see if he can beat the great Clayton. However, when Clayton realizes Dudek IS better, he decides to kill the man in order to preserve his precious ego as well as his reputation.
Someone watching this show today might not understand the context for the show. Just a year before, there was a huge match between Bobby Fischer and the Soviet champion, Boris Spassky. During this match as well as before it even began, Fischer's extremely neurotic behavior made newspaper headlines all over the world. His antics were so bad, many Americans were rooting for Spassky! Clearly the match and odd behaviors in "Columbo" are highly reminiscent of this well-publicized match...though, of course, no one tried to murder Spassky...and Fischer actually won.
Laurence Harvey was excellent here as the highly strung and neurotic champion. This didn't surprise me at all, as Harvey was AMAZING at playing scum-bags and did so in many movies. Sadly, this handsome and talented man died shortly after this episode...and he was only 45 years old.
Overall, this is a fascinating and well written episode. Well worth seeing and full of great twists and turns. Very well done.
Columbo: A Stitch in Crime (1973)
I think this doctor took the Hypocritical Oath, not the Hippocratic one!
Dr. Mayfield (Leonard Nimoy) is a very good surgeon and researcher....though as a human being he leaves a lot to be desired. Following surgery on his boss at the hospital, he gets in an argument with his operating room nurse. Moments later, when she's in the garage, he bludgeons her to death! But this isn't just an isolated incident...and soon this doctor is out to kill again....and possibly again!
"A Stitch in Crime" is a very interesting story...one that took a bit of research and imagination to create. I appreciate this and how unique the plot is. Add to that some very nice performances and you've got a very watchable program!
A rare chance to see AND hear Edith Head.
I know that many of you won't care about this, but in this episode of "Columbo" you have a cameo by Edith Head...the 8x Oscar winning fashion designer. There just aren't that many opportunities to see and hear Ms. Head. For old movie fans, this is reason enough to see the show. Add to that Anne Baxter, Mel Ferrer and Kevin McCarthy and you've got a pretty incredible cast in this show!
Nora Chandler (Baxter) is a super-famous aging actress. She also happens to be a dandy murderer! Early on in the show, she blows up her assistant and it appears that she meant to blow up someone else instead. But killing folks is like eating potato chips to Chandler, as soon she tries another killing and it turns out killing is something she's pretty good at doing! Columbo eventually figures it all out...and you realize HE is the better actor!
This is a neat behind the scenes episode where you get to see how films are made. Add to that the cast and a few interesting twists and you have the recipe for a better than average installment in the series.
By the way, this is a very, very minor quibble. On TV and in movies, cars blow up MUCH faster and easier than in real life. The exploding gas tank happened way too quickly to be realistic....but again, it's a very minor problem.
Columbo: Dagger of the Mind (1972)
Columbo in London...and investigating a murder?!
There really is no logical reason for placing this episode in London. After all, Lieutenant Columbo is a Los Angeles detective and he has no authority in Britain. But here it is...an episode set in the Old Country.
The cast for this one is very interesting. British actors Wilfred Hyde-White, Honor Blackman, Bernard Fox and John Williams are on hand to give the show a Britishy feel (though is was filmed almost entirely in the States). Additionally, the excellent actor Richard Basehart is there playing a Brit...and reasonably so.
The show begins with a couple in their dressing room at the theatre. An old enemy of theirs shows up and attacks Roger...and his wife responds by throwing something at the intruder. Surprisingly, the mug that hits him kills him. Oddly, they don't report it to the police, as the death was clearly accidental. But instead they try to hide their actions and it's up to Columbo to sort it all out for the London police.
The show simply makes no sense whatsoever. First, Columbo has no jurisdiction there. Perhaps if someone had paid him to work as a private detective it might have made some sense. Second, I can't believe Scotland Yard would let him work on the case...especially alone most of the time. It just doesn't make sense. And, finally, their actions late in the show (involving the butler) REALLY made no sense!
So, if you ignore the stupidity of the setting, is it any good? Well, yes and no...but mostly no. Why? Because the crime might not have even been a crime at all....and only became one when the pair hid the death. And, as such the pair probably would have been given little in the way of jail time. Overall, a sad, sad episode.
Columbo: The Most Crucial Game (1972)
Robert Culp's character seems incredibly on-edge and tense...
An unusual feature of the show "Columbo" is that they recycled actors rather frequently. For example, in season one, Ray Milland (without hair) and Robert Culp were featured. Now, in season two, both are back--Milland (with his wig) and Culp. In fact, Robert Culp would make two additional appearances on the show...a testament to the loyalty the producers showed to many of their guest stars.
Paul Hanlon (Culp) is the high-strung manager of a pro football team. The owner (Dean Stockwell) is a drunk playboy...with little interest in the team or his other business interests. Apparently, this or something else rubbed Hanlon wrong, as he killed the owner and made it look like he died in his swimming pool by accident. But to do this, he dressed up like an ice cream man and did the vile deed during one of the team's games. Is this plan fool-proof or will he end up being caught because his plan wasn't quite so perfect.
In addition to Stockwell and Culp, this was a rather star-studded episode. Additionally, James Gregory, Valerie Harper and Dean Jagger appeared in the show. Together, they are all excellent...and it helped that the script was intelligently written and interesting.
By the way, I am no lawyer but I wondered about something. Someone in the show was involved in doing illegal wiretaps. Later, Columbo was listening to recordings of these illegal taps. Is that legal? It seems if they were illegal that the police cannot use them in any way...but I certainly am no expert.
When Tomorrow Comes (1939)
Sort of like "Jane Eyre"...but with a twist.
Helen (Irene Dunne) is a waitress and Philip (Charles Boyer) is one of her customers. Soon, he seems infatuated with her and follows her about town...which is a tad creepy, actually. Eventually they fall in love but he has a secret...and she soon learns that he is married and his wife is mentally ill. What's next? Well, it's NOT a remake of "Jane Eyre", so although it's similar, there is a big twist!
The acting is the best part of this film. Dunne and Boyer were magnificent in "Love Affair" and here they are also excellent. However, the script, though interesting, is a tad disappointing...see it and you'll likely see what I mean. Still, it is interesting and worth your time.
High, Wide and Handsome (1937)
The story itself is interesting...the singing is unnecessary.
Without all the unnecessary singing, I'd score this on a 7 or possibly an 8...as I really did enjoy the plot. But the singing was a distraction...and what's worse is that it wasn't very good. I love Irene Dunne as an actress but as a singer...well, she was a fine actress.
The story is an unusual one because it's about the nation's first oil wells which were created in Western Pennsylvania in 1859. It begins just before this and a medicine show arrives in town. After a freak fire breaks out and leaves the show stranded, some of the locals take in the medicine show folk. One of them is Sally (Irene Dunne) and soon she is in love with the son of the old lady who took her into her home. As for Peter (Randolph Scott), he looks like a perfect catch for Sally...but little does she know that he's about to strike oil and the oil business would dominate their marrage and sour it as well.
In many ways, this reminded me of the later MGM film "Boom Town", as it's also about the oil business as well as its negative impact on a new marriage. Both are worth seeing, but I'd prefer "Boom Town" simply because it lacks the pointless songs of "High, Wide and Handsome"....none of which are memorable and just seem unnecessary.
Overall, worth seeing IF you don't mind the songs. The finale is pretty neat and the acting quite good.
Fans will love it...others will be confused and might possibly have their heads explode.
After an absence of about 15 years, "Invader Zim" is back as a special on Netflix. Interestingly, this Nickelodeon show returned to Netflix just a few days after another, "Rocko's Modern Life". Of the two, I prefered the Rocko special but they both are well worth seeing...particularly if you are a fan. As for Zim if you are NOT a fan or if you haven't seen it before, then this is something you might want to skip.
In the show, Zim has been missing for many years. During all this time, the obsessive Dib has been spying on Zim's house...waiting and hoping to see him again. Suddenly, Zim appears and Dib is pretty much powerless to do anything, as he's become a disgusting blob who hasn't slept nor showered nor left his computer chair since who knows when. But, after a montage, Dib is back to his old self and just in time to try to twart Zim's latest plan...one that involves fake dad, pudding and Mini-Moose.
I have watched all the "Invader Zim" cartoons, so this one did not make my head explode. However, this is a distinct possibility and the new show is incredibly weird...even compared to the old show. Fans of the series will adore it and shower it with 10s, non-fans will just be confused and I think a reasonable overall score is 7.
Alan isn't too keen on going to a funeral....go figure!
When this episode begins, Alan is excited that he's collected 50 ice cream wrappers--and that means he gets two free tickets to the upcoming Dodgers game. He plans on taking his girlfriend, though this plan is upset when he learns that his great uncle Ira has died and Alan is expected to be there for the funeral. It seems BOTH are at the same time and his grandmother really looks forward to him coming...though Alan didn't even know the guy. What is he to do?
This is a very ordinary episode of "Brooklyn Bridge"--certainly not one of the more memorable or exciting ones. But considering the super high quality of the show, this still means "Death in Brooklyn" is well worth seeing.
Run of the Arrow (1957)
Jay C. Flippen is a Sioux Indian?! Huh?!
I was excited to see that Sam Fuller wrote, directed and produced this film. After all, Fuller was a genius in squeezing the most out of a buck...making some amazingly good low-budgeted films. Sadly, however, this movie turns out to be among Fuller's weakest...and it is deservedly not among his his famous pictures.
When the film begins, O'Meara (Rod Steiger) is bitter because the Civil War ended and his beloved South lost. So, he packs up his stuff and heads west...unsure where to go but hating the United States. There he eventually meets up with Natives and he becomes one of them. However, when the tribe later attacks the US Cavalry, O'Meara's loyalty is tested.
The major problem with this film is the casting and Fuller's allowing this. Jay C. Flippen was a fine supporting actor...but him playing a Sioux was about as realistic as having Keye Luke play one! He neither looked nor sounded like a Native American....and never even tried to approximate an appropriate accent. But it wasn't just him....Steiger sounds nothing like a Southerner and rarely like an Irishman (though occasionally he remembered and used an Irishy accent). Add to that Charles Bronson as a Sioux and you've got a film that not only is insulting but really stupid--after all, he sounds EXACTLY like the same Charles Bronson who made "The Dirty Dozen" and "Death Wish"! It's sad, as MANY Native Americans DID appear in the film....but were all relegated to non-speaking rolls! What a huge missed opportunity! They could have played very convincing characters if given the chance.
So, if you look past the crappy accents and bad casting, it the story any good? Not especially so. It's different enough that it's still worth seeing but the overall picture lacks the Fuller touch and instead seems like a cliched western so typical of the era. There are a few interesting bits (hence my score of 4), such as the speech made by Brian Keith...but otherwise a bit let down.
By the way, I am NOT a super politically correct guy. My biggest quibble is simply realism....and few of the principle actors were realistic.
Columbo: The Greenhouse Jungle (1972)
Another good episode.
While I have some quibbles here and there with this one (such as Columbo working a kidnapping AND a murder), it is a strong episode and it has an excellent villain.
The episode begins with a fake kidnapping. Tony and his Uncle Jarvis (Ray Milland) have staged it in order to get to Tony's trust fund. Jarvis also hates Tony's wife...and secretly thinks Tony is a weakling. That is why, following the successful kidnapping, Jarvis kills Tony....and later tries to pin it on the wife. Now, it IS easy to dislike the woman...and she seems angry and awful. But Columbo needs to keep personality out of it and focus on the crime and the evidence. Along for the ride is a young Detective Sergeant.
I liked this episode because although Columbo too often tends to focus in too much and too immediately on the real killer (as if he has ESP), here it's not as obvious AND the meticulous Jarvis does leave behind an important clue which Columbo catches. Overall, well written and well acted....and worth your time.
Amateur Crook (1937)
Why would a guy risk his freedom for a woman he just met and who is wanted by the police?!
"Amateur Crook" is a bad movie...cheap, very badly written and not especially memorable. Aside from a chance to see an Olympian (the shotputter Herman Brix), there isn't a lot to recommend this one.
When the story begins, Mary barges in to Jimmy's room (Herman Brix). She tells him she's being chased by the police. So what would he logically do...with a strange woman running from the law? Yep...he hides her and becomes her accomplice in crime! He has no idea if she's innocent or a serial killer...he just helps her no questions asked! Then, as a consequence, they spend the rest of the movie running from the law and two jerks...until a magical ending occurs and everything is right with the world!!
Does ANY of this make sense?! Nope. The only thing I appreciated was seeing Fuzzy Knight in a supporting role where he was pretty good AND didn't use his annoying stuttering schtick. Overall, a nonsensical film with little to recommend it.
Columbo: Étude in Black (1972)
Orchestrating more than just a concert.
Alex (John Cassavetes) is a very rich and successful conductor. However, he is in a difficult situation....his mistress insists he must marry her and make an honest woman of her or else. But Alex is married and likes his current life, so he decides to kill her. His plan is excellent and well executed and initially it looks like the victim committed suicide. But Columbo is doggedly determined to investigate the likelihood it was murder....after all, he read the script and it IS the "Columbo" show!
I liked the intricate way the murder was orchestrated....it was the highlight of the show. I also liked the introduction of Columbo's new dog....and it's the first glimpse viewers get of a look at Columbo's family (he always talks about his wife but you never see her). Overall, quite good and a pretty typical story for the series.
Columbo: Blueprint for Murder (1972)
No mo' Bo.
When the story begins, a rich millionaire is angry and is looking for his architect. It seems that Bo Williamson (Forrest Tucker) is not at all happy with his latest project. And, soon after this rampage, Bo has disappeared and his ex-wife contacts the police. Soon, Columbo is rooting about and his first lead is an odd one...finding Bo's car radio is set to a classical station...and the man NEVER listened to anything other than country. Add to that the discovery of Bo's blood-stained hat, it sure look like something bad has happened to the man.
Unlike most episodes of "Columbo", you never see a murder in this one and there isn't a body. Plus, you have Columbo involved in the case long before they think that a murder might have been committed. This seems odd, as the Los Angeles Police would most likely have sent someone other than a homicide detective to initially investigate the case.
So is it any good? After all, it was the one and only episode directed by Peter Falk...and I am pretty sure he wanted to do his best. And, it turns out to be a decent episode...not among the best but still very good and enjoyable.
A very auspicious beginning.
"When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" is the pilot episode for one of the great and sadly neglected television shows of its era, "Brooklyn Bridge". And, like most episodes, it's well worth watching and at times very sweet.
The episode centers on both the Silver boys, Alan and Nathaniel. Alan is a young teenager and, not surprisingly, he's interested in a girl...a Catholic girl. But he also must contend with his friends. It seems they have a club and they want to throw out the dorky member of the club...and Alan doesn't know what to do. He wants to be loyal to his friends...but he also doesn't want to upset his other friends. As for Nathaniel, he's mostly concerned about meeting Gil Hodges--which eventually leads to an incredibly sweet scene with his grandgather and Mr. Hodges.
Overall, a great episode for many reasons. First, unlike many series, it seems as if the show is beginning mid-season--without the usual growing pains. Second, the show has its funny moments but like the other episodes, the integrity of the characters and their basic humanity is more important than laughs. Well worth seeing and, fortunately, many of the episodes (including this one) are on YouTube. Sadly, there is no other way to see the show...I've been waiting and waiting for DVDs or BluRays for years.
Ralph is now Rachel.
When the show "Rocko's Modern Life" ended in 1999, it ended with Rocko being blasted into space. Now, two decades later, the show picks up where it left off. After being in space all those years, Rocko's back and he wants one thing more than anything else...to see his favorite old TV show. At the same time, Ed Bighead makes a mistake at work that destroys Conglom-O. So, Rocko suggests that they find Ed's son, Ralph, so that he can make more episodes of "The Fatheads" and save Conglom-O in the process. But there are some problems. First, they cannot find Ralph. Second, when they find him he's now a She. Rachel is willing to write more episodes...but Ed doesn't want anything to do with Rachel...he just wants his son back.
I appreciate how the show looks and sounds like the old show. Additionally, it makes reference to many of the old episodes and folks who loved the original will be excited by most of the changes and reverence for much of the old, though some might balk at the show's transgender character....which is a bit unusual for a cartoon.
Overall, a lot of fun and I would hope that this would lead to more episodes...not just this one-off example.
Oddly, the first episode was not a particularly great one.
Often, the first episode of a new series is a good one...and often the networks will move around the shows to get the best one on first. Well, this was not the case with "The Case of the Restless Redhead", as it was very weak in many ways...all due to the writing.
When the story begins, a rather hysterical woman contacts Perry. It seems a gun has just appeared in her apartment and she's afraid because she has already been in trouble with the law....and doesn't want it again! However, as she drives to Perry's office to meet with him, a hooded stranger tries to run her off the road. She responds by firing at that car with the gun she just found. The mysterious car runs off the road and she manages to escape.
When she arrives at Perry's, she seems not just hysterical but a really bad actress. Terrible in fact. Regardless, soon the police contact Perry. It seems that the car chasing his client had run off the road and the masked driver was dead. Soon, she's brought before the court for a pre-trial to see if there's enough evidence for a prosecution. However, during the cross examinations, Perry is able to demonstrate that the gun she had might not be the same one that killed the masked man. Further, he's able to get the real killer to divulge it on the stand...even though he might have been able to get away with it had he kept his fool mouth shut!
So, the show features a woman who wasn't a good actress and relied on the awful cliche of the real killer breaking down on the stand and admitting their guilt. All in all, a very disappointing show.