Another short entry: Tony Williamson’s “When Did You Start to Stop Seeing Things?” requires a lot of “TV logic” when it comes to hypnosis, doubles, masks, people alerting the heroes of the story to keep the narrative running for fifty full minutes instead of phoning Ivor Dean’s character of Inspector Large and wrapping things up much more quickly. But it’s incredibly funny and had us all laughing out loud, so why complain? Keith Barron has a small role as one of the villains; always nice to see him.
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He didn’t complain aloud, but our son really didn’t enjoy tonight’s episode of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) all that much. Guest star George Sewell plays an escaped con who is unable to take revenge on Marty, the man who put him away, so he targets his widow. The criminal’s just too mean and violent, and Jean, while occasionally possessed of quick wits, is one of the least resourceful regular characters we’ve seen on any TV series that we’ve watched together. She’s simultaneously being romanced by an old friend who has taken her in with a lie about being a widower himself. I wouldn’t say that it’s always nice to see Annette Andre take center stage when Donald James’s story makes her a double victim.
On the other hand, Kenneth Cope is so entertaining to watch that his selfish jealousy over Jean thinking about moving on is really amusing. And it’s nice to see Jeff win a fight. Unfortunately, the fight he wins is with a supporting character. Once George Sewell’s brute gets his paws on Jeff, he doesn’t last very long.
A powerhouse trio of fine actors playing villains in tonight’s episode. That’s Patrick Newell, Neil McCarthy, and Michael Gwynn, and the story keeps us delightfully in the dark for almost the whole of the episode wondering what on earth they’re up to. It really was a joy watching this story unfold, as a criminal acquaintance of theirs tries to con Jean into believing that he is the reincarnation of Marty for some reason or other. Unfortunately, the question of why in the world did he go to all that trouble – I mean, an enormous amount of trouble – to get such a simple question answered is a plot hole so mammoth that Jean and Jeff actually wonder aloud about it at the end of the show, and they can’t find a satisfactory answer.
Also, Jeff wins a fight for once. He almost wins two!
Our son wondered about Marty’s powers, noting that in ghost stories that he’s read, ghosts typically do have the power to possess people, which makes the scam sound almost plausible. But Marty doesn’t actually have that power, probably because it would be far too easy a crutch for a show like this. He was also curious about Michael Gwynn’s character being so polite by gently touching his hat with greetings and goodbyes. He asked us to pause the show so we could talk about the lost art of men’s hats and the body language that came with wearing them. He’ll probably pay more attention when we watch the next episode of Brisco County Jr. in a couple of nights, or how Steed greets people when The New Avengers returns to our lineup next month.
Our son enjoyed tonight’s episode of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) much more than the previous one, but it still left him cold for a good while. The problem is that Ivor Dean’s character of Inspector Large jails Jeff on suspicion of heisting half a million pounds of very used notes that were en route to be destroyed in a furnace. Donald James’s script leaves it open as to whether Jeff knows a lot more than he’s saying… and he’s saying nothing, not to Marty, and not even to his attorney, played by Sue Lloyd.
Once everything comes out in the open, our favorite eight year-old critic came around and started liking this one a lot more. He even noted an similarity between this story and the Hardy Boys episode “The Flickering Torch Mystery,” which we watched in the spring. He likes it when the police foil the bad guys’ plans to escape via airplane, apparently!
We resumed Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) tonight after a few weeks on the shelf, but unfortunately Tony Williamson’s “Never Trust a Ghost” isn’t one of the strongest stories. Our son just flat out said it was the worst episode we’ve watched, probably because he doesn’t like seeing anybody not able to be believed. Marty stumbles on a killing and quickly gets Randall involved in some criminal scheme being played out by a trio of baddies – Peter Vaughan, Caroline Blakiston, and Philip Madoc – but Jeff can never get to the scenes of the crimes in time to actually see what Marty has seen. This doesn’t do him any good when the police get involved.
I think I wasn’t pleased because the bad guys act really “TV bad,” and time their scheme to the television hour. And for otherwise competent baddies, they seem to have overlooked that even the least competent policemen on Earth would notice that the room that they plan to leave for the cops will have one fresh corpse and two that had been shot about three days before. It’s always nice to see Philip Madoc, but this isn’t Williamson’s best script.
Holy anna, was that ever hilarious! Our son fell off the sofa laughing; kids are big with affectations, sure, but we were all laughing up a storm as things in this adventure by Tony Williamson spiral out of control. A con man, played by Anton Rodgers, accidentally ends up with a far bigger fish than he’d anticipated: one of London’s biggest mobsters. With only a short time to cough up the bearer bonds that he promised his actual target, the con man pulls Jeff into the mess, not realizing he’s getting a ghost as well. The con man can see Marty when he gets drunk enough!
I really love stories which feature the stakes getting hilariously higher and higher as one thing goes wrong after another. During one such spectacular mess, when things couldn’t possibly get any worse, Ivor Dean’s recurring character of Inspector Large shows up. It’s the most perfectly timed entrance ever and it had us howling. It’s easily one of the best episodes of the series so far.
It’s also the last episode of the series for the time being… to keep things fresh, we’re sending this wonderful show back to the shelf for a rest, but Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) will be back in August, so stay tuned!
Ah, well, we had to hit an episode that the grownups didn’t enjoy eventually. No series bats a thousand. At least Donald James’ “All Work and No Pay” starts out incredibly entertaining, with guest villains Dudley Foster and Alfred Burke playing very well-dressed brothers who are up to something. For a good chunk of the story, it was really entertaining trying to figure out what in the world they’re actually doing, and why they’ve targeted Jean with a fake poltergeist. But the truth isn’t so much disappointing as it is utterly nonsensical, and not even Adrienne Corri, playing an actress friend of Jeff’s who ends up in the villains’ clutches, can really save this one.
But on the other hand, our favorite eight year-old critic had a very different experience. There is one moment about half an hour in where the story seems to take a very uncharacteristically gruesome turn, and he didn’t like that at all. But the rest of the episode had him on the edge of his seat and smiling. He loved the villains’ fake poltergeists, even while his fuddy-duddy parents were squinting and asking “…how?” And when Marty saves the day by exercising a little previously unseen control over the output of power plants, he was in heaven. The closing revelation that things hadn’t ended so gruesomely earlier had him guffawing, because Adrienne Corri gets to ride home wearing nothing but a newspaper. That’s not sexy to an eight year-old, that’s just funny.
“That’s How Murder Snowballs” has an absolutely wonderful opening sequence. The story is set around the Palace Theatre, and begins with the death of one of the acts, live on stage. A mind-reading trick goes wrong, and the supposed clairvoyant is killed when his assistant, played by David Jason in a very small role, shoots him dead from the seventh row of a packed house. Somebody switched the blank cartridge for a live bullet.
There is an element of the episode which has dated rather badly, and is so incredibly obvious that I believe most grownup viewers today will be able to pick out the killer almost immediately. Our kid didn’t have a clue, of course, but he loved the runaround and the hijinks. The episode is a bottle show, set almost entirely in the same theater over a couple of days, as Jeff joins the company as a new mind-reading act, whose “trick” everybody is trying to deduce. Valerie Leon has a part as one of the dancers, and if the story suffers a little from a lack of logic as the killer strikes again and again when there really is no reason at all to, that’s okay. Some killers aren’t logical, and some of them act like they’e got fifty minutes of television to fill. I certainly enjoyed this story, and it was very nice to see a police inspector who’s on Jeff’s side for once, but it does wear its “only on TV” badge with pride.