Monday, August 8, 2022

Atragon: The Super Submarine That Flies...and Drills!

Atragon's flying submarine.
The 1963 Japanese sci fi adventure Atragon is another one of those movies that played frequently on television when I was a youngster. Like many of those films, it seemingly disappeared into the ether for several decades before popping up unexpectedly on Amazon Prime Video. Except for a few images burned into my brain (e.g., a flying submarine!), I remembered very little about the plot--which is pretty wild.

The Empress of Mu and her minions.
It starts with the near kidnapping of Makoto, the daughter of a famous scientist/submarine commander who has been missing and assumed dead since the end of World War II. It turns out that the would-be abductor is an agent of the undersea Mu Empire, which announces--via a 16mm film--that it intends to conquer the world. The Mu are confident that no country in the world can stop them. Indeed, their only concern is a super submarine being developed by Makoto's father, Captain Jinguji, who turns out to be very much alive.

The disappointing Manda.
Jingjui is still bitter over Japan's defeat in World War II and has no interest in helping the rest of the world defeat the Mu Empire--despite even his daughter's pleas. Meanwhile, the Mu attack Tokyo and revive a giant serpent creature called Manda to wreak further destruction.

Atragon unfolds much like a 1940s serial with chapters devoted to the kidnapping, the rise of Mu Empire, Makoto's reunion with her father, the attack on the Mu, and so on. Even the film's "hero," a magazine journalist played by Tadao Takashima, reminds one of an intrepid protagonist from an old Hollywood serial. The comparison is intended as a compliment, for even though Atragon boasts a choppy narrative, it's rarely dull.

A sub that can drill through rock!
Eiji Tsuburaya, Toho Studio's special effects mastermind, created the often dazzling visuals in Atragon. Jinguji's flying submarine (which can also drill through rock) and the intricately-designed undersea Mu kingdom are the film's highlights. Sadly, the dragon-like Manda, the film's climatic "monster"--comes across as a disappointing afterthought. Its marionette movements lack fluidity and its fiery ray is too derivative of Godzilla's more memorable atomic breath.

Based loosely on the 1900 Japanese novel The Undersea Warship, Atragon performed well at the international box office. It was called Atoragon in many countries, which appears to be a combination of "atomic" and "dragon" (apparently in reference in Manda). However, in the U.S., its distributor American International Pictures, referred to the flying sub as Atragon in its publicity materials. That's confusing because the submarine's name in the movie is Gotengo. But, as often the case with movies retitled for their American release, the new title has persisted over the years.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Classic Film Photo of the Week: Suzanne Pleshette and Troy Donahue

Embed from Getty Images

Suzanne Pleshette and Troy Donahue were married in a civil cermony at the Beverly Hills Hotel on January 4, 1964. The guests included Rock Hudson, Richard Chamberlain, Gig Young, and Carl Reiner. The couple divorced just nine months later.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Seven Things to Know About Buddy Ebsen

Ebsen as Jed Clampett.
1. In his autobiography, The Other Side of Oz, Buddy Ebsen recalls Beverly Hillbillies creator Paul Henning pitching the show to him by reenacting scenes from the first script: "We were all laughing and wiping tears, and then I got a chilling thought. Most of the laughs were coming as a result of Granny, Jethro, Elly May, and (cousin) Pearl. Jed was not funny, it seemed. Granny and Jethro were. Jed had an occasional dry, philosophical, or naïve laugh line, but essentially he was the straight man. A guy could get lost in such a situation. The show sounded like a lot of fun, and I was supposed to be part of it, but how could I survive in it? Then the answer came: These hillbillies were rich. Worth $35 million. If Jed could always control the money, he'd never get lost."

With Lee Meriwether in Barnaby Jones.
2. When Buddy Ebsen's private eye show was being developed, producer Quinn Martin settled quickly on the first name of Barnaby. However, the last name did not come easily. Martin considered Flint or Cobb (which Ebsen didn't like). It was only after Ebsen described his character to Martin as "a cool, methodical human being, a shrewd judge of character" that Martin blurted out "Jones" and the show became Barnaby Jones.

3. Director Ron Howard originally offered the role of Art Selwyn in Cocoon (1985) to Buddy Ebsen. However, Ebsen was contractually obligated to the Matt Houston TV series at the time and he couldn't accept the part. Don Ameche went on to win a Best Supporting Actor for that role in Cocoon. Ebsen and Howard knew each from working together in the made-for-TV movie Fire on the Mountain (1981) and on The Andy Griffith Show (where Ebsen guest-starred in the episode "Opie's Hobo Friend").

4. Buddy Ebsen was not only originally cast as the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz (1939), but he filmed several scenes with Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, and Bert Lahr. The make-up for Dorothy's three companions proved tortuous, especially for Ebsen. His costume and make-up were altered several times, but he could barely sit down and dancing was "an ordeal of pain." However, it was the aluminum dust used in his make-up that almost killed him. He began experiencing severe cramps and shortness of breath. He wound up being hospitalized for two weeks and recuperating for an additional six weeks. In the meantime, MGM recast the role of the Tin Man with Jack Haley.

5. Ebsen played a lighthouse keeper opposite orphan Shirley Temple in Captain January (1936), one of her most successful films. Of his young co-star, Buddy once said: "Of all the moppet stars to come down the pike, the most classic, enduring, and once-in-a-lifetime package of talent and stardom was Shirley Temple."

Ebsen as Georgie Russel.
6. Buddy Ebsen was set to play the lead role in Walt Disney's Davy Crockett (1954) limited series--before Disney saw Fess Parker in Them! and chose him as Davy. Ebsen's consolation prize was playing Crockett's sidekick Georgie Russel. Due to their heights, Ebsen (6' 3") and Parker (6' 5") had to perform most of their own stunts. In a scene in which Ebsen was loading a musket, the muzzle exploded in his face: "I lost my eyelashes, my eyebrows, and a good patch of my front hairline."

7. Buddy Ebsen was married three times and had seven children: two daughters with first wife Ruth Cambridge and four daughters and a son with second wife Nancy Wolcott. He and third wife Dorothy Knott had no children. Daughter Kiki Ebsen is a singer-songwriter who has released several albums.

Monday, July 25, 2022

An Interview with Will Hutchins on Sugarfoot, Elvis, and Working at Warner Bros.

Will Hutchins in 1971.
Star of the beloved Western TV series Sugarfoot (1957-61), Will Hutchins remains a familiar face to fans of 1960s and 1970s films and television series. In addition to Sugarfoot, he starred in the 1960s TV shows Hey, Landlord (the first sitcom created by Garry Marshall) and Blondie (with Patricia Harty, Pamelyn Ferdin, and Jim Backus). On the big screen, he co-starred in the Elvis Presley musicals Spinout (1966) and Clambake (1967) and alongside Jack Nicholson and Warren Oates in the unusual Western The Shooting (1966). He also guest-starred on TV series such as Gunsmoke, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Emergency, Perry Mason, and The New Perry Mason. In 2002, Will Hutchins received the Golden Boot Award, presented by the Motion Picture & Television Fund, in recognition of his “significant contributions to the genre of Westerns in television and film.”

Café:  How did you get into show business?

Will Hutchins:  I was a student at Pomona College from 1948 to 1952, which is in Claremont, California. We were the mighty Sagehens! I was the very first drama major. I was a slow reader…if I had been an English major, I would have been drafted and suffered that most dreaded of all diseases: “Gonna Korea!” Dick (Richard) Chamberlain came along a couple of years later. He was an art major. After college, I served in the Army in the Signal Corps, where I was stationed in Paris, France, for two wonderful years. When I got out, I worked for the postal department as a special delivery messenger. I decided I couldn’t do that for the rest of my life, so I went to the UCLA film school. During my time there, they had an all-points bulletin at NBC for a live show called Matinee Theatre (1955-58). It was on every day at noon for an hour. It was like doing a play every day with a different cast and story. I tried out and got roles in several episodes. Audrey Totter played my mother in one of them (“Letter of Introduction”). I was so in awe of her that I forgot my lines coast to coast—but she pulled me though. Dick Clayton, the agent of Tab Hunter and Jimmy (James) Dean, saw me on Matinee Theatre and called me. I went to work at Warner Bros., where I didn’t cost them a lot of money. Warners put me in films like Lafayette Escadrille and No Time for Sergeants (both 1958). 

Café:  What led to your casting as the star of Sugarfoot?

Will Hutchins: Warner Bros. put me in an anthology TV series called Conflict, which was on every other week after Cheyenne. There was an episode called “Stranger on the Road” and I played the stranger on the road. I was on the lam and I went to work for Barton MacLane on his ranch, even though I was a dude. There was one scene where I get on a horse backwards. At the end of the show, Rex Reason, the foreman, beat the crap out of me, but my character keeps getting back up and the foreman just quits in exhaustion. Warner Bros. thought that was a pretty good show. So, they redid The Boy from Oklahoma (1954), which was a Will Rogers, Jr. movie, and adapted it into Sugarfoot. I didn’t appreciate how good all those shows were until now. I'm watching them all now because I’m writing my last article (at about my admiration for my female co-stars on Sugarfoot. They were just brilliant. That was a wonderful five years at Warner Bros.

Café:  What is your favorite Sugarfoot episode and why?

Will Hutchins as Tom Brewster in Sugarfoot.
Will Hutchins:  Monty Pittman, one of my heroes at Warner Bros., wrote, directed, and acted in some of the studio’s best shows and movies. Monty asked me if I had any ideas for a movie. I remembered a film I saw with Wayne Morris called The Quarterback (1940). It’s about twin brothers that go to college on a scholarship; one is a brain that goes to classes and one is a football player. One day, the football player gets hurt, so the smart brother has to play quarterback. I thought that was just great. That provided the idea for The Canary Kid episodes on Sugarfoot, in which I played Sugarfoot and The Canary Kid. There were four episodes: “The Canary Kid,” “Return of the Canary Kid,” “Trial of the Canary Kid,” and “The Canary Kid, Inc.” The Canary Kid was the direct opposite of Sugarfoot. He did everything that Sugarfoot couldn’t do. He drank, gambled, and helped bank robbers. I don’t think he murdered anybody. He was the evil cousin of Sugarfoot so I got to play both parts. “The Trial of the Canary Kid” was my very favorite because I had to defend my evil cousin because my aunt, played by Frances Bavier from The Andy Griffith Show, talked me into it. It turns out the Kid was wrongfully accused and I get him off at the trial.

Café:  TV Westerns dominated the airwaves in the 1960s, but their popularity faded in the 1970s. What do you think happened?

Will Hutchins:  There was a glut. There were too many Westerns. They kept doing the same shows over and over again. Bob Hope called NBC “Nothing But Cowboys.” There were over 134 Westerns at one time or another. Everything changes and nothing stays the same. It’s just a natural course of events. I’ve been doing my column on old-time movies at for 28 years. As Groucho Marx said: “Time flies like an arrow and fruit flies like bananas.”

Café:  In the mid-1960s, you starred in two movies with Elvis Presley: Spinout and Clambake. What was it like working with the King of Rock’n’Roll?

Will Hutchins:  Working with Elvis was kinda like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, leaving a sepia-colored farm and entering the three-strip Technicolor world of Oz. It was just magnificent. I’ll never forget the first day I went on the set. I played a cop named Tracy Richards (in Spinout). That was Dick Tracy backwards—no one ever got that gag. There was Elvis gyrating up there with this group of scantily-clad dancing girls. Brandon De Wilde happened to be there and I wanted to talk to him. He didn’t want to talk with me--he just wanted to watch what was going on! Elvis couldn’t have been a nicer guy, one of my favorite actors that I ever worked with. He was so natural and so much fun. However, working on Spinout was strictly business. (Director) Norman Taurog wanted to get the thing down and didn’t care about any byplay. But when I did Clambake, we had a great director (Arthur H. Nadel), who let things just sort of happen and Elvis was all for that. Clambake had kind of a Prince and the Pauper plot, where I’m the poor guy and Elvis and I change places. There was one scene when I’m on a speedboat with Elvis and he guns the motor and I fall overboard. There I am in the water—and the director doesn’t yell cut—so I call out: “Flipper!” Everybody on the set laughs. When the film is finished, I go to see it and, at the end of that scene, there goes Flipper the dolphin zooming out of the water. Clambake was also Elvis’s de facto stag party, because he married the lovely Priscilla a couple of weeks after we finished the movie. So, it was mayhem all the time and Elvis was going around saying: “He’p us out, everybody! Calm down.” So when we had the cast party, he gave me a giant picture of himself and autographed it with: “He’p us out, Will—Elvis.” It was too big for the house, so I had it in the garage. A few years later, the house was robbed and, of course, they took that portrait of Elvis.

Café:  Monte Hellman’s The Shooting (1966), which co-starred Warren Oates and Jack Nicholson, is often described as an existential Western (!). What do you recall about the making of that film?

Will Hutchins:  It was a de facto honeymoon. I had married my first wife (Carol Burnett's younger sister, Chrissie Burnett) in New York when I was doing the play Never Too Late. I had replaced Orson Bean in the lead role. I did it for two years and when it folded, I went right into The Shooting. My wife came along. We shot the film about an hour outside of Kanab, Utah, on an old Western town set that was built for the Frank Sinatra film Sergeants 3 (1962). I got top billing in The Shooting because I was better known at the time than the rest of the cast. Jack and Warren weren’t well known. Millie Perkins was famous for The Diary of Anne Frank (1959). It took a long time for the film to come out, but when it did, Jack Nicholson was the star and then Warren Oates. I saw it recently on TCM and all that Ben Mankiewicz talked about was Jack, Millie, and Warren. Just before the picture started, he said: “Oh, yes, with Will Hutchins.” Hmm.... Anyhow, I enjoyed working on The Shooting a lot. It was a beautiful script written by Carole Eastman, whose brother had a bit part in the movie. I remember one day I went back to Warners to try out for a movie by Francis Ford Coppola1—I didn’t get the part—and the guard at the gate says: “Sugarfoot, is that you? Have you learned to ride a horse yet?” I should have said to him: “Go see The Shooting.” I rode my guts out in that one, praying all the way that my horse wouldn’t step into a gopher hole. I rode like the wind.

Café:  Later in the 1960s, you starred in two short-lived TV series: Garry Marshall’s Hey, Landlord and Blondie (based on the famous comic strip). Which was the better show? 

Will Hutchins:  Hey, Landlord could have been the better show if they hadn’t cast me in it. I needed the work, so I took it. I was at a party at Lucille Ball’s house once and I was sitting there with her husband Gary Morton at dinner. He said: “Your show isn’t funny.” I couldn’t argue with that and I think a lot of it had to do with me. Garry Marshall was surprised the show lasted the whole season because our ratings were so lousy. He brought in Michael Constantine to play the cranky renter in the New York brownstone apartment house owned by my character. They also brought in Sally Field to play my sister. They tried everything. Now, I loved Blondie. My wife at the time said I was a natural Dagwood! Unfortunately, Pat Harty (who played Blondie) wasn’t happy because the producers told her she’d be another Lucille Ball and I got to do all the crazy stuff. Peter Robbins, who played my son, went on to provide the voice for Charlie Brown in the animated specials. Sadly, he committed suicide this year. Pamelyn Ferdinplayed my daughter. We were like a family. I enjoyed doing a lot of slapstick stuff. I even did an impersonation of James Cagney singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” complete with choreography. One of the Blondie guest stars was Bruce Lee (in the episode “Pick on Someone Your Own Size”). It was great working with him. He was so spiritual. We did a scene where he was showing me how to defend myself against the town bully, Bruce Gordon, and it was beautiful choreography. I‘d love to have a copy of that episode.

Café:  Two of your films have become cult favorites: the made-for-TV movie The Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973) and the Warner Bros. potboiler Claudelle Inglish (1961). Do you have any interesting stories from making those movies?

Will Hutchins and Diane McBain in Claudelle Inglish.
Will Hutchins:  We shot The Horror at 37,000 Feet at the old David O. Selznick studio and that was a big thrill. The façade for Tara was still there. We did the scenes inside the plane at CBS. The make-up artist told me one of the other actors—I won’t say his name—was wearing a toupee. He apparently didn’t want anyone to know. When the make-up artist asked him if he wanted anything done with his hair, he replied no, that he had just washed it that morning! As for Claudelle Inglish, I enjoyed working in it, but my Mom thought I stank. I did the best I could. I had a love scene with Diane McBain, who was beautiful in the movie. It was shot in the backlot at night on a Western set. You wouldn’t know it because we were mostly in a car. After the scene, the director Gordon Douglas tells me: “That was fine, but give me 70%.” I did another scene where my character is getting hysterical and gets in a fight to the death with Robert Colbert. Arthur Kennedy, who was wonderful to work with, called me to the side. He said he was in a play with James Dean3, who did this scene where he was really hysterical and it was way too much. Arthur Kennedy said he had to tone James Dean down a bit. I think that’s what he wanted me to do. I did it and I think it came out pretty well.

Café:  I always enjoy asking this question: Who were some of your favorite co-stars?

Anita Gordon, Will Hutchins, and
Peter Brown in the "Hideout" episode.
Will Hutchins: 
Three people come to mind. I had a big crush on Anita Gordon, who guest-starred on the Sugarfoot episode "Hideout." The plot was similar to The Petrified Forest with Anita in the Bette Davis role and me in the Leslie Howard role. She shines above all other actresses that I starred with. Adam West was just a brilliant and funny guy. One of his first shows at Warner Bros. was a Sugarfoot episode (“The Mysterious Stranger”) in which he played a concert pianist from Poland and had to use an accent. It was directed by Paul Henreid, who had so many interesting stories to tell about working on Casablanca. The second is Charles Bronson, with whom I did two episodes. He was not famous yet. In one Sugarfoot episode, his character supposedly killed this girl. He really didn’t do it, but knew he didn’t stand a chance of getting a fair trial. I chase him to this cave and there’s a cave-in. We spent most of the hour in that cave together. It got very claustrophobic. We finally get out and a man with a rifle shoots Charlie Bronson. He falls down, but it turns out he has a cross hanging from his neck and the bullet hit that cross. That episode was called “The Bullet and the Cross.” Charles Bronson was such a strong guy. One day, we were outside and he went up to his horse and put his hand on the saddle’s pommel and just pulled himself up like a gymnast. 

Café:  Your wife Barbara was an extra in such memorable films as Midnight Cowboy, Carrie, and Hello, Dolly. How did the two of you meet and was it love at first sight?

Will and Barbara Hutchins at a festival.
Will Hutchins:  I’ll tell my story. I was doing Never Too Late on Broadway in 1964 and I was engaged to my first wife. I’m coming to work one day and there are these sweet girls waiting to get my autograph. The first one came up to me, called me Mr. Hutchins, and said: “May I have your autograph. My name is Barbara Torres and I’m a national thespian.” And I said: “Just call me Will.” And that became the beginning of a beautiful friendship. We stayed in touch over the years and we eventually got hitched. We’ve been married 33 years now. We were living together in sin for five years—sin is a small town outside of Glendale.

Barbara Hutchins:  It’s sort of right. I was in the city with some girlfriends who adored him. I didn’t have much of a stake in the game, but I took them into the city. We did wait for him to come to the theatre. I walked up to him, but I didn’t ask him for his autograph. I said: “Hello, Mr. Hutchins. My name is Barbara Torres and I’m a national thespian.” And he looked down at me and said: “Call me Will.” And the moment he said “call me Will,” my heart stopped and I fell in love with him. As luck would have it, I was in the city going to acting classes. I was just out of high school. And he let me come and see the show from backstage and that’s where it all began. We started to write to each other. Of course, it was all very platonic. He married Chris and did The Shooting. I thought, well, it’s a show business marriage and it will never last. Three years later, it didn’t. In 1970, I chased him out to L.A. and the rest as they say is history. We got married in April of 1988 and here we are.

Will Hutchins at home in 2022.
Café:  I strongly encourage any classic film & TV fan to peruse your column A Touch of Hutch at westernclippingscom. It’s grand fun! It also leads me to my last question: Is there anyone who made Westerns in the 1960s that you didn’t know?

Will Hutchins:  In those days, we all knew each other. It was like a brotherhood. We’d get together for Western film festivals and reunions. We were always running into each other. Most of the guys I knew really well were at Warner Bros. 

Café:  Thanks so much to both of you for taking the time to talk with me today.

Barbara Hutchins:  It was fun...hope that it was for you, too!

The Francis Ford Coppola movie was Peggy Sue Got Married (1986).

Pamelyn Ferdin later provided the voice for Lucy in the animated Peanuts specials. So, the child actors who provided the voices of Charlie Brown and Lucy both starred in Blondie with Will Hutchins.

James Dean and Arthur Kennedy appeared together in the 1952 Broadway play See the Jaguar, which closed after five performances.

Monday, July 18, 2022

A Disappointing Ride Up the Elevator to the Gallows

Maurice Ronet as Julien.
Florence and Julien are madly in love. The only obstacle to their happiness is Florence's husband, Simon, who happens to be Julien's boss. Julien devices a near-perfect plan to murder Simon and make it look like suicide.

"Near-perfect," I said. After Julien coolly commits the crime, he realizes a critical mistake and quickly heads back to retrieve an incriminating piece of evidence. There's only one problem: It's Saturday and, as Julien rides the elevator to the dead man's office, a security guard shuts off the building's power and departs for the weekend. That leaves Julien trapped between floors.

A revolver to the head.
The opening twenty minutes of Louis Malle's debut film Elevator to the Gallows (1958) provide a master class in efficient filmmaking. The murder sequence contains minimal dialogue, relying on its stunning black-and-white visuals to grab the viewer's attention. A highlight is when Malle cuts from a close-up of the revolver pointed at the victim's head to a secretary sharpening a pencil, which substitutes for the sound of the gunshot. One suspects it's the kind of intelligent film craftsmanship that would make Hitchcock smile.

However, the trouble with Elevator to the Gallows is that the rest of the movie can't live up to its brilliant opening. Julien's dilemma in the elevator takes a backseat to two other stories: a rebellious young man and her girlfriend who takes Julien's roadster for an extended joyride and Florence's confusion over Julien's failure to rendezvous at the appointed place and time. 

Moreau bathed in natural lighting.
The only thing that saves the latter plot thread is that Florence is played by Jeanne Moreau. Few actresses of her era used their facial expressions to convey their thoughts and emotions with such visual dexterity. Director Malle bathes her face in deep shadows, blinking neon lights, and rain. It's just a shame that Moreau's role consists mostly of walking around a lonely Paris at night.

In contrast, too much time is spent on the youths played by Georges Poujouly and Yori Bertin. The young man's disenchantment with his monotonous life leads him to assume Julien's identity with disastrous consequences. Malle's challenge is that these characters are not compelling, even though one could argue the angry young man is the forerunner to Jean-Paul Belmondo's reckless "hero" in Godard's 1960 New Wave classic Breathless.

Fans of jazz music may enjoy the improvised soundtrack by jazz legend Miles Davis. It was supposedly recorded in one night while Davis and four other musicians watched scenes from the film. 

While Elevator to the Gallows fails to live up to its reputation, it did launch Louis Malle's impressive career, make a star of Jeanne Moreau, and cement Miles Davis's reputation as an influential jazz artist. Those may be sufficient reasons to watch it. However, I still can't help but wish that Elevator to the Gallows could have sustained the brilliance of its opening scenes.

Monday, July 11, 2022

The Alternate Movie Title Game (Kirk Douglas Edition)

Here are the rules: We will provide an "alternate title" for a Kirk Douglas film and ask you to name the actual film. Most of these are pretty easy. Please answer no more than three questions per day so others can play. You may have an answer other than the intended one--just be able to defend it!

1. Einar in Love.

2. Carnival.

3. The 21st Precinct.

4. Whiskey and Burns.

5. To Tell Jocelyn?

6. Nightingale for Senate.

7. Esmeralda and Me.

8. Saboteurs in the Snow.

9. The Magic Note.

10. Build My Gallows High.

11. Gloves of Steel.

12. Timber Baron.

13. Tribute to a Bad Man.

14. The Exploding Head.

15. Doyle & Long.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Chandler: Not Raymond, but Warren Oates

Warren Oates as Chandler.
After a long career as a supporting actor, Warren Oates was ready to headline a major motion picture in 1971. He had garnered good notices in Sam Peckinpah's controversial Western The Wild Bunch (1969) and earned more acclaim as the lead in Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), a low-budget film that became a critical darling. He was poised for a star-making role, but then he made Chandler (1971).

Mike Laughlin, who had produced Two-Lane Blacktop, signed on as producer. Leslie Caron was cast as the female lead. MGM planned to distribute it. In the biography Warren Oates: A Wild Life, Caron notes that her husband, whom she considered a good judge of film properties, was impressed with the script. Chandler must have sounded like a promising endeavor, but, alas, the final product is a convoluted mess.

Oates plays the title character, a washed-up private eye in contemporary L.A. who has gotten desperate enough to pawn his Smith and Wesson. When an old friend offers him a job trailing a woman, Chandler senses something is amiss. However, he needs the money...and perhaps a little self-respect.

Leslie Caron as Katherine.
The woman turns out to be Katherine Creighton (Leslie Caron), the mistress of an East Coast gangster, who wants to start a new life. Neither she nor Chandler realize they are serving as, respectively, the bait and the patsy in an elaborate plot to lure Katherine's ex-boyfriend to Monterey and then kill him.

I suspect the idea behind Chandler was to transplant a tough private eye and a mysterious lady--familiar characters in 1940s film noir--to modern times. The two leads, especially the world-weary Oates, are up to the task of playing a couple of lost souls who find each other. Unfortunately, they are saddled with a muddled plot and esoteric dialogue. (Katherine: "What are we going to do now?  Chandler: "Nothing. Something.") And since Chandler was made in the early 1970s, that means there's always a chance that the ending will be left up in the air (at least partially).

I will say that writer-director Paul Magwood makes maximum use of the on-location filming in Carmel and Pebble Beach. The ocean views almost had me calling a travel agent. However, in addition to the pretty backdrops, Magwood adds some realism to his film by shooting scenes in a real hotel, a pest extermination office building, and along the winding roads of Carmel.

Mitchell Ryan as one of the villains.
It would turn out to be Magwood's only directorial job. He would spend the rest of his career working as an assistant director on TV shows and an occasional movie, like the excellent Time After Time (1979).

A nice surprise in Chandler is what amounts to a cameo by Gloria Grahame as one of Oates' friends.  In the biography Gloria Grahame, Bad Girl of Film Noir, author Robert J. Lentz writes that Magwood and producer Laughlin took out a full page ad in The Hollywood Reporter to apologize for Chandler. They claimed that MGM executive James T. Aubrey had the film re-cut, added scenes, and changed the music score. That is likely true given the film's running time of under 90 minutes and its horribly inappropriate music.

Monday, June 27, 2022

The Movie Quote Game (Billy Wilder Edition)

This month, we're focusing on quotes from Billy Wilder films. We will list a quote from a movie co-written by Wilder and ask you to name it. Try to answer these questions on your own without resorting to Google searches. As always, please answer no more than three questions per day so others can play.  If you have a response other than the intended one, just be able to defend it.

1. "I'd better take that thermos of cocoa with me. It helps me wash down down the pills."

2. "Do you realize that Otto spelled backwards is Otto?"

3. "Story of my life. I always get the fuzzy end of the lollipop."

4. "If I ever run into any of you bums on a street corner, just let's pretend we've never met before."

5. "You know, you see a girl a couple of times a week, just for laughs, and right away they think you're gonna divorce your wife. Now I ask you, is that fair?"

6. "I don't go to church. Kneeling bags my nylons."

7. "From the sound of your footsteps, I gathered that you were not in a particularly amiable mood."

8. "We're both trying, Don. You're trying not to drink, and I'm trying not to love you."

9. "Now, I don't propose to sit on a flagpole or swallow goldfish. I'm not a stuntman; I'm a flier."

10. "The poor dope--he always wanted a pool. Well, in the end, he got himself a pool."

11. "In Italy, the lunch hour is from one to four."

12. "Why don't you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?"

13. "I'm his brother-in-law, Sister. And this is his mother, Sister, and this is my wife, his sister, Sister."

14. "It's just like the first time I came here, isn't it? We were talking about automobile insurance, only you were thinking about murder. And I was thinking about that anklet."

15. "Sugarpuss, uh, before you go, would you... would you, eh, yum me just once more?"

Monday, June 20, 2022

Kolchak Returns in The Night Strangler

Things have not gone well for brash reporter Carl Kolchak since he destroyed a vampire in Las Vegas in The Night Stalker (1972). Most people don't believe his story and those who know it's true have quashed it. After relocating to Seattle, Kolchak (Darren McGavin) convinces his former editor Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland) to hire him at the Seattle Daily Chronicle. His first assignment involves the murder of a young woman who was strangled.

Kolchak quickly discovers the most recent murder is one of a series of killings with the same modus operandi. With the help of newspaper researcher Titus Berry (Wally Cox), Kolchak discovers a bizarre pattern of homicides: Every 21 years, six women are killed in the vicinity of Pioneer Square within a period of eighteen days. In each case, the victims' necks are crushed and a small amount of blood is drained by the base of their skulls. Kolchak presents his facts to the police, but they reject the notion that they're chasing a killer who is 144 years old!

The Night Strangler (1973) adheres closely to the formula that made The Night Stalker a rating smash the previous year. Once again, Kolchak proves capable of doing anything to get his story--even risking the life of an undergraduate student/exotic dancer played by Jo Ann Pflug (who admittedly agrees to serve as bait). Carl belittles the police for not doing enough and engages in shouting matches with his editor (who took a huge risk in hiring Kolchak after Vegas).

Indeed, the Kolchak character could be downright unlikable if not for the fact that he's played by Darren McGavin. The actor finds the key in portraying his larger-than-life character: For all his huff and puff, Kolchak just wants to uncover the truth. Kolchak provides his own comic relief at times, but he's also willing to do what it takes to make the streets of Seattle safe again.

Wally Cox as Mr. Berry.
Personally, I find The Night Strangler more entertaining than The Night Stalker, largely because producer-director Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows) cast a colorful group of classic Hollywood actors in supporting roles: Scott Brady plays the tough police captain, Margaret Hamilton pops up as a college professor with knowledge of the occult, and John Carradine is the Chronicle's publisher. The best supporting performance comes from the always reliable Wally Cox, whose greasy-haired researcher toils in the bowels of the newspaper's building. Also, be sure to look quickly for Nina Wayne as another exotic dancer; she is the sister of the late Carol Wayne (a semi-regular on The Tonight Show).

Richard Matheson (Duel), who wrote the teleplay for The Night Stalker, penned an original story for The Night Strangler. It also works better than the previous film, because the audience doesn't know what kind of monster is causing the mayhem. The climax in the Seattle Underground is also genuinely creepy. Note that there are two different versions of The Night Strangler, a 72-minute cut that aired in 1973 on the ABC Movie of the Week and a 90-minute cut released overseas for theatrical distribution.

Kolchak confronts his editor--again.
There are numerous stories about planned Kolchak films that were never made. In a 2004 interview, Dan Curtis said he wanted Kolchak to go to New York City and discover that Janos Skorzeny--the vampire from The Night Stalker--was not destroyed after all. Alas, that film was never made because ABC decided to make a TV series with McGavin called Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Now something of a cult show, the series only lasted for 20 episodes. It quickly became redundant with Kolchak fighting a new creature every week. I think Carl Kolchak would have lasted a lot longer had the character been featured solely in one or two movies a year.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Five Favorite Shark Movies

1. Jaws (1975) - It's an obvious choice for the No. 1 spot, but it's also the only choice, isn't it? Time has improved this impeccably-made blockbuster that functions as two films. Its first half focuses on the political and financial implications of closing the Amity Island beaches on the busy Fourth of July weekend. The island's mayor doesn't want to believe there's a people-eating great white shark lurking in the waters, while police chief Brody desperately tries to convince the locals of the impending danger. The second half of Jaws is a masterful suspense "film" that finds an unlikely trio--Brody, oceanographer Matt Hooper, and local shark expert Quint--hunting the killer beast. There's humor (the stories about their scars), drama (Quint's retelling of the USS Indianapolis tragedy), and heavyweight thrills as the vicious shark attacks their boat. Jaws set the bar high in terms of shark movies, but, alas, its sequels ranged from mediocre (Jaws 2) to silly (Jaws 3D) to just plain bad (Jaws: The Revenge).

2. Deep Blue Sea (1999) - Scientists trying to invent a cure for Alzheimer's disease genetically alter the brains of three mako sharks at an isolated off-shore research station. When a tropical storm cuts off all communications with the coast, the super-intelligent sharks set about destroying the facility--and specifically the humans trapped inside. Director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2) keeps the action going almost non-stop in a movie that successfully blends elements of The Poseidon Adventure and Alien. When one of Deep Blue Sea's best-known stars is suddenly devoured, it becomes apparent that no character is safe in this entertaining sharkfest.

3. The Shallows (2016) - Nancy (Blake Lively), a medical student coping with her mother's death from cancer, goes surfing at an isolated beach in Mexico. After noticing the carcass of a humpback whale, she is attacked by a great white shark lurking in the lagoon. Bleeding from a serious leg wound, she swims to a rock that provides temporary safety. Like the earlier, less successful Open Water (2003), The Shallows is part survivalist tale and part character study. As Nancy tries figure out how to travel the short--but potentially deadly--distance to shore, she rediscovers her own strength and will to survive.

4. Bait (2012) - A tsunami washes a great white shark into a coastal town's supermarket...yes, you read that sentence correctly. The survivors climb to temporary safety atop the grocery shelves as they strategize how to escape from the building without being eaten. With the catchy tagline "Cleanup on aisle 7," Bait (aka Bait 3D) mingles thrills and humor effectively to create a lively popcorn movie. The no-star cast works to the film's advantage, as the audience has no idea who will live or die. Bait's low budget limits the shark's appearances, which (as in Jaws) amplifies the creature's impact.

5. Sharknado (2013) - The most ridiculous of all shark movies became a pop culture phenomenon (thanks to social media) and produced five sequels. It's one of those rare films that's so silly that it's entertaining. Imagine sharks being propelled through the air courtesy of a's  such a wacky premise! The original film is played semi-straight with Ian Ziering as a beach bar owner hell bent on rescuing his estranged wife and kids during a flurry of sharknados. Sharknado wasn't the first outlandish shark movie shown on the SyFy channel. It was preceded by gems such as Sharktopus (2010), Dinoshark (2010), and Sand Sharks (2012). But none of them captured the zeitgeist of their time like Sharknado.

Monday, June 6, 2022

In Like Flint: James Coburn Returns as the Coolest Secret Agent

The 1966 spy spoof Our Man Flint was still playing in theaters when 20th Century-Fox gave the greenlight for a sequel once again starring James Coburn as super secret agent Derek Flint.

Actually, the title character is nowhere to be seen in the opening scenes of In Like Flint (1967). Instead, the plot focuses on a group of businesswomen who have set their sites on world domination. Their plans hinge on taking control of a space platform armed with nuclear weapons and replacing the U.S. president with a lookalike actor. 

The latter scheme is almost executed perfectly. While the president is playing golf, a gas is deployed that places him and his colleagues in a trance for three minutes. During that time, the real president is kidnapped and the fake one takes his place. The one hitch is that Lloyd Cramden (Lee J. Cobb), one of the president's closest advisors, was timing the commander-in-chief's golf swing. Cramden can't figure out how it took the president three minutes to hit a golf ball. When he suspects a conspiracy within the White House staff, Cramden turns to Derek Flint to find out what happened.

Flint infiltrates a top-secret government facility, eludes the KGB across the rooftops of Moscow, and confronts the villains at a Caribbean spa resort called Fabulous Face. He also finds time to dance with the Moscow Ballet, talk with dolphins, experiment with sound waves, and--of course--romance beautiful women. Yes, In Like Flint offers nothing new to the formula that made Our Man Flint a success. The differences this time around are that the premise isn't as fresh, the plot is sillier and even more sexist, and there seems to be less Flint. In the film's first half-hour, his screen time is limited to a single six-minute scene.

Coburn's charisma and Cobb's enthusiasm make up for a lot of the film's deficiencies. The typically serious Cobb seems to enjoy the chance to do some comedy, whether flirting with a younger woman or dressing in drag as a disguise. However, it's unfortunate that in a movie where gender plays a major role in the plot that the female cast members are mostly wasted. The exceptions are Jean Hale, who has an amusing scene with Cobb, and Yvonne Craig in a cameo as a Russian ballerina who banters playfully with Coburn's hero.

Composer Jerry Goldsmith recycles some of his marvelous score from Our Man Flint and adds a melodic, instantly hummable title theme. Later in the film, you can hear the unusual, playful lyrics written by the late Leslie Bricusse. The song, known as "Your Zowie Face" (a reference to Cramden's organization, the Zonal Organization World Intelligence Espionage) has been covered by Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra and jazz guitarist Russell Malone.

At its best, In Like Flint is light, frothy fun if you can ignore its 1960s celluloid view of the conflicts between men and woman. Perhaps, Our Man Flint deserved a better sequel, but I'm glad we have one. 20th Century-Fox wanted to make a third Flint film. There are conflicting stories as to why that didn't happen. In 1976, ABC broadcast a made-for-TV movie called Our Man Flint: Dead On Target, a pilot for a TV series that never materialized. It starred Ray Danton as Flint. That just ain't right--James Coburn is the only Flint!

Monday, May 30, 2022

Movie-TV Connection Game (May 2022)

It's back for this month only after a long hiatus! The rules:  You will be given a pair or trio of films, TV series, or performers and will be required to to find the common connection. It could be anything--two stars who acted in the same movie, two movies that share a common theme, etc. As always, don't answer all the questions so others can play, too. There is a single best answer for each question. Yes, that's means we're looking for something in particular! 

1. John McIntire and Ward Bond.

2. Get Smart and The Prisoner (and, no, it's not that they're both about spies).

3. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Muriel's Wedding (it's not that they were made in Australian).

4. Elvis Presley and Robert Goulet (it's not that they're both singers).

5. Alan Ladd and Cliff Robertson.

6. Emergency! and Dragnet (there are at least two connections).

7. Have Gun--Will Travel and Mission: Impossible.

8. Cornel Wilde and Robert Taylor.

9. Robert Wagner and Cary Grant (an easy one!).

10. Muscle Beach Party and Thunderball.

11. The TV series Sky King and Lost in Space.

12. Lou Grant and Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

13. The movie Gunfight at the OK Corral and the TV series Star Trek.

14. Bullitt and Vertigo.

15. The Virginian and The Big Valley (no, it's not single parents nor ranches...the connection is an obvious one--though a little tricky).

Monday, May 23, 2022

Book Review: The Films of Delmer Daves by Douglas Horlock

At long last, the career of Delmer Daves, one of Hollywood's most under-appreciated filmmakers, has received an in-depth, scholarly treatment courtesy of Douglas Horlock's The Films of Delmer Daves: Visions of Progress in Mid-Twentieth Century America (University of Mississippi Press, 248 pages). Horlock examines Daves's films through the lens of political and social values, race and civil rights, and gender. He also provides an overview of Daves's life and career, painting the portrait of a screenwriter and director who crafted his own vision within the confines of the Hollywood studio system.

Daves became interested in acting, writing, and directing theater while studying law at Stanford University. His initial foray into the film industry was as a property assistant on The Covered Wagon in 1924. After graduating from Stanford in 1927, he pursued his interest in movies and received credit for his first screenplay with 1929's So This Is College. Over the next decade, he carved a highly successful career as a screenwriter with films such as Dames (1934), Flirtation Walk (1934), an adaptation of The Petrified Forest (1936), and Love Affair (1939). 

Delmer Daves.
Daves's career took a different turn in 1943 when, after co-writing the screenplay for the World War II drama Destination Tokyo, Warner Bros. executive Jack Warner "ask(ed) an initially reluctant Daves to accept his first directorial assignment." Over the next two decades, Daves became one of the most reliable and successful writer-directors for Warner Bros. Horlock points out that Daves's films Destination TokyoHollywood Canteen, Broken Arrow, 3:10 to Yuma, A Summer Place, and Spencer's Mountain were "among the top-grossing films of their respective years." Daves also showed his versatility by working comfortably in genres such as Westerns, Biblical epics, romances, and family dramas.

Yet, Horlock notes that "Daves has remained largely overlooked in scholarly literature and film retrospectives" and has not achieved the auteur status attributed to directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Samuel Fuller, and even Douglas Sirk (whose glossy 1950s melodramas are comparable to Daves's later films A Summer Place and Parrish). Yet, like Hitchcock, Daves was intimately involved in the screenplays for his films, even those with which he did not receive a writing credit. Horlock traces recurring themes in Daves's films in chapters devoted to political and social values, race and civil rights, and gender. Horlock also includes this insightful comment from actor Glenn Ford, who worked with Daves on 3:10 to Yuma, Jubal, and Cowboy"Nothing happened in a Delmer Daves film that wasn't intentional, from the camera set-ups to the wardrobe."

Delmer Daves's The Hanging Tree (1959).
Horlock's most engrossing chapter is the one in which he analyzes gender in Daves's films, focusing on the filmmaker's use of strong, independent female characters. Horlock provides a number of excellent examples. In A Summer Place, Molly (Sandra Dee) defies her domineering mother by spending time with Johnny (Troy Donahue). In the 1959 Western The Hanging Tree, one of Daves's finest films, Elizabeth (Maria Schell) seeks independence after being rejected by the man (Gary Cooper) she loves. She forms a partnership with two other men to dig for gold and impresses them with her work ethic. Even in the romantic travelogue Rome Adventure, Suzanne Pleshette plays a young woman who defies a school board and then goes traveling in Italy on her own.

As befits its subtitle, The Films of Delmer Daves: Visions of Progress in Mid-Twentieth Century America is a scholarly volume for movie fans interested in thoughtful analyses. Still, that's not to say it isn't filled with fascinating facts (e.g., Warren Beatty was the original choice for the title role in Parrish, Daves's admirers include Humphrey Bogart, Alan Ladd, and Gary Cooper). At one point in his book, Horlock states: "Despite his working within the confines of a restrictive studio system, Daves's films deserve to be examined as the work of a serious artist of the cinema." That is exactly what the author has accomplished with his new book.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

The Four Favorite Noirs Blogathon in Support of National Classic Movie Day

As is our tradition at the Café, we are celebrating National Classic Movie Day on May 16th by hosting a blogathon. This year's Four Favorite Noirs Blogathon focuses on one of the most popular genres among classic movie fans. The goal is to pay tribute to many of the greatest films noirs, such as Out of the Past and Double Indemnity, as well as highlight lesser-known classics (e.g., Black Angel, Brighton Rock).

We invite you to check out the film noirs selected by the bloggers below!

4 Stars Films

The Classic Film Muse

Classic Film & TV Cafe

Crítica Retrô

Hamlette's Soliloquy

Hometowns to Hollywood

The Last Drive-in

Make Mine Film Noir

Once Upon a Screen

A Person in the Dark

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies

Realweegiemidget Reviews

Shadows and Satin

Silver Screenings

Taking Up Room

Whimsically Classic

Our Picks for the Four Favorite Noirs Blogathon

To celebrate National Classic Movie Day on May 16th, we're participating in our own Four Favorite Noirs Blogathon. For our quartet of noirs, we chose a bona fide classic (Out of the Past), an acclaimed cult film (Gun Crazy), and two lesser-known gems (Black Angel and Phantom Lady). Be sure to check out all the movies profiled in the Four Favorite Noirs Blogathon by clicking this link.

Jane Greer as Kathie.
Out of the Past (1947) – My favorite film noir has Robert Mitchum as a man who has put his shady past behind him and found love with a good woman in a small community where he operates a gas station. But, as is often the case in the movies, his past catches up with him when a former acquaintance passes through town. With its contrasts of bright lights and dark shadows, Out of the Past is a visual feast. It’s also a compelling tale of a man pulled back into the shadows of his past—no matter how hard he tries to escape them. Kirk Douglas nails the manipulating villain; too bad he didn’t play more bad guys. Yet, despite the presence of Mitchum and Douglas, the film belongs to Jane Greer, an underrated and under-utilized actress who created one of the genre’s best femme fatales.

Peggy Cummins and John Dall.
Gun Crazy (1950) - A film noir with a tragic love story involving a femme fatale and a gun-obsessed guy? That's the premise behind this low-budget cult film that was selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry in 1998. Director Joseph H. Lewis was a journeyman director with a resume that included some interesting "B" movies (My Name is Julia Ross and So Dark the Night). But none of his work comes close to the innovative style employed in Gun Crazy. The film's highlight is a three-and-half minute bank robbery shot in a single take from the inside of the getaway car. The climax is almost as mesmerizing with the two ill-fated lovers hiding out in a fog-enshrouded swamp as they listen to their pursuers' footsteps in the water. John Dall is superb as the gun-loving Bart, but Peggy Cummins owns the film as femme fatale Laurie. She exudes sexual energy with Dall while coming across as a cold, manipulative killer. But here's the beauty of her performance: Despite Laurie's bad girl persona and many faults, Cummins convinces the audience that her character truly loves Bart. 

June Vincent and Peter Lorre.
Black Angel (1946) - Singer Mavis Marlowe (Constance Dowling) augments her income via blackmail, so it's not surprising when she winds up murdered. The police arrest Kirk Bennett (John Phillips), one of her blackmail victims who had recently ended an affair with Mavis. Despite his pleas of innocence, Kirk is found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to die. His wife Catherine (June Vincent) stands by Kirk throughout his ordeal and never wavers in her belief that he is innocent. As Kirk awaits his execution, Catherine decides to conduct her own investigation--with the reluctant aid of Mavis' ex-husband (Dan Duryea). I'll avoid any plot spoilers here, but will note that Black Angel sports a clever twist, too. However, director Roy William Neill is the reason to see Black Angel. A "B" movie director for Universal, Neill is best known for his Sherlock Holmes films with Basil Rathbone. From the opening  elaborate tracking shot up the side of a high-rise into Mavis's apartment to the innovative use of music, Neill displays a distinctive style that indicated a promising turning point in his career. It's a tragedy that he died of a heart attack at age 59. 

Phantom Lady 
(1944) - After being stood up by his wife, Scott Henderson (Alan Curtis) meets a mysterious, distraught woman at an empty bar on a muggy Saturday night in NYC. When he ill-advisedly asks her to a show, she agrees on one condition: They exchange no names, no addresses, and never meet again. Scott agrees. Later that night, he goes home to find the police at his apartment. His wife has been strangled with one of his ties ("A knot so tight it had to be cut with a knife," says one of the detectives). Scott's alibi falls apart when he can't identify his mysterious date. Phantom Lady benefits mightily from Robert Siodmak's moody direction and Ella Raines, whose character tries to clear Scott. Siodmak creates some knockout visuals once Raines takes to roaming the city's darkened streets to find the killer. The scene in which she follows a suspicious bartender is a tour-de-force as the two move through rainy streets, a shadow-filled train platform, and partially lit arches.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Petrocelli: Night Games

Barry Newman as Petrocelli.
There are few instances of an actor reprising a character from a theatrical film in a television series. Richard Widmark and Richard Roundtree first played Madigan and Shaft in theatrical films and then revived the characters for TV. However, in both cases, the shows were part of an umbrella series and therefore required few episodes. Gary Burghoff famously played Radar O'Reilly in both the 1970 movie version of M*A*S*H and the long-running TV series that started two years later. However, Radar was a supporting character.

That brings us to Barry Newman, who introduced audiences to passionate attorney Anthony "Tony" Petrocelli in the 1970 film The Lawyer. Based on the Sam Shepard murder case, it follows the Harvard-educated Petrocelli, who has relocated from Boston to a small community out West. He soon finds himself defending a physician (Robert Colbert) for murdering his sexy socialite wife. Produced by former actor Brad Dexter (The Magnificent Seven), The Lawyer was a modest box office hit. 

Susan Howard.
Four years later, NBC broadcast Night Games, a pilot movie for a weekly TV series starring Newman as Petrocelli. Susan Howard replaced Diana Muldaur as Tony's wife/legal secretary. Albert Salmi also joined the cast as Tony's "leg man." The location was shifted to the Southwest, but Tony still drove a truck, lived in a camper with his wife Maggie (renamed from Ruth), and outhustled every other lawyer in the region.

The plot finds Petrocelli defending an attractive, wealthy woman (Stefanie Powers) accused of killing her husband. Although the evidence against her is weak, her alibi could be more convincing. She claims to have slept through the night of the murder after taking sleeping pills. With the district attorney (Henry Darrow) pushing for a quick trial, Petrocelli has his work cut out for him. He also receives some unexpected personal news: Maggie is pregnant with their first child.

Barry Newman is well cast as the aggressive lawyer whose expensive three-piece suit (his only one)  and courtroom theatrics clash with his simple lifestyle. While Tony and Maggie try to establish his practice, they live in the camper as he builds their ranch-style home twelve bricks at a time. Both he and Susan Howard would earn Emmy nominations for their performances in the follow-on Petrocelli TV series.

JoAnna Cameron.
The challenge with Night Games is that it tries to pack too much content into its brief 74-minute runnin time. One of the casualties is the strong supporting cast. Actors like Stefanie Powers, Henry Darrow, Ralph Meeker, and Anjanette Comer never get enough time to develop their characters. Even Susan Howard fades into the background as Night Games hurls toward its climax. The lone exception is JoAnna Cameron, best known for her Saturday morning TV series The Secrets of Isis. As a flight attendant who had an affair with the dead man, she projects a calculating coldness behind her innocent girl-next-door demeanor.

Still, Night Games serves as a solid introduction to the Petrocelli TV series, which ran for 44 episodes over two seasons. NBC cancelled it due to low ratings opposite Starsky and Hutch (a top 20 show in the Nielsen ratings in 1975-76). Susan Howard joined Dallas in 1979, where she played Donna Culver Krebbs for eight years. Barry Newman did not return as a regular in a TV series until the short-lived medical drama Nightingales in 1989.

Here's a short scene from Night Games, courtesy of our YouTube channel: