By the time they filmed Rudolph Borchert’s “The Youth Killer,” Kolchak was running behind in production and ranking near the bottom of the weekly Nielsen ratings. They pulled in their usual mob of interesting guest stars, including television’s first Captain America and first Wonder Woman, Reb Brown and Cathy Lee Crosby. They’re joined by John Fiedler, making his last appearance as Gordy the morgue attendant, and by Dwayne Hickman, who weirdly enough Marie and I just saw two nights ago in an Ellery Queen made the following season, as the new cop of the week. This one starts out being nice to Kolchak, figuring that our hero can’t possibly be as much of a “pinwheel” as his fellow cops claim, only to find that Kolchak just helps himself to evidence and personal effects from the morgue.
But the whole affair is a rushed Kolchak by the numbers. Our kid was impressed, and mildly creeped out by the young twentysomethings being aged to death, but my favorite scene is a nice little location shot where Kolchak gets some info about ancient Greek demigods from a cab driver played by George “Demosthenes” Savalas. And that moment’s enlivened by an old Bell Telephone van driving by, prompting me to say “Hey, I remember that color scheme!”
Well, I knew this would be a show with its ups and downs, but after five incredibly implausible but entertaining and cute installments, man, did we ever hit a turkey. “The Mystery of the Ghostwriters’ Cruise” is terrible. Characters don’t know things about their own pasts they should definitely remember, other characters have utterly astonishing technical skills that border on the supernatural, and other characters are just plain annoying. The direction and editing are unbelievably clumsy, too. In order to keep conveying a sense of mystery and keep everybody a suspect, the camera lingers on everybody way too long. It’s a very annoying hour of television.
A couple of interesting cast notes, though. David Wayne plays the famous mystery writer John Addams, who is retiring and taking a cruise, but somebody plans to kill him, and TV’s first Captain America, Reb Brown, is one of about six people set up as suspects. Les Lannom, who had been so entertaining as Lester Hodges in several episodes of Harry O, gets to play the ship’s entertainment director, who is pretty much the only man on the ship who doesn’t seem to want to kill Addams. Sadly, he’s so incredibly creepy and pushy and touchy in that seventies way that he’s more troubling than a potential murderer.
Also, the wannabe killer misspells “you’re” as “your” in the first threatening note. I thought that Nancy would say something about that. I’m not sure what prison sentence awaits the would-be assassin, but because of that note, I hope they threw away the key.