Film Review – CANNON: HE WHO DIGS A GRAVE (TV) (1973)

Cannon (1971)CANNON: HE WHO DIGS A GRAVE (TV) (1973, USA) ***
Action, Crime, Mystery
dist. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); pr co. Quinn Martin Productions (QM); d. Richard Donner; w. Stephen Kandel (based on the novel “He Who Digs a Grave” by David Delman); exec pr. Quinn Martin; pr. Adrian Samish; ph. Jack Swain (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); th m. John Carl Parker; m sup. John Elizalde; ed. Ray Daniels, Jerry Young; ad. Bill Kenney; set d. Frank Lombardo; rel. 12 September 1973 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 100m.

cast: William Conrad (Frank Cannon), Anne Baxter (Mayor Helen Blyth), Barry Sullivan (Sheriff Jesse Luke), David Janssen (Ian Kirk), Murray Hamilton (Arthur Gibson), Tim O’Connor (Martin Ross), Louise Troy (Louise Gibson), Lee Purcell (Marion Luke), Martine Bartlett (Hanna Freel), Royal Dano (Doctor), Robert Hogan (Deputy Coleman), R.G. Armstrong (Banner), Dabbs Greer (Windom Salter), Jerry Ayres (Deputy Reber), Lenore Kasdorf (Sherry Benson), Cathy Lee Crosby (Irene Kirk), Dennis Rucker (Wade Gibson), Virginia Gregg (Dr. Emma Savonka), Bill Quinn (Ben Salter).

Cannon  (Conrad) travels to the quiet, remote town of Mercer, California to help his friend Ian Kirk (Janssen, in a rare late career guest slot) who is suspected of murdering his rich wife (Crosby) and her paramour Wade Gibson (Rucker). As Cannon tries to prove his friend’s innocence, he gets help from the mayor (Baxter) but is stymied in his efforts by the sheriff (Sullivan)’s office. Several other viable suspects present themselves, people who had reason to hate Wade, including his stepfather (Hamilton) and the sheriff’s daughter (Purcell). This feature-length opener to season three of the popular TV series is a more complex mystery than the standard TV fare, reflecting its literary roots (it was based on a novel by David Delman). There is a great role for Baxter as the small town’s mayor who seems to be the only one in turn willing to give Conrad a fair crack of the whip. The action scenes are well-mounted, and Donner works the script well, but the camera work is largely unimaginative, lacking the hand-held realism of the pilot film. Nevertheless, the strong cast and script make this an enjoyable episode. Shot on location in Grass Valley, northern California.

Film Review – CANNON (TV) (1971)

Cannon: Season One, Volume One : DVD Talk Review of the DVD VideoCANNON (TV) (1971, USA) ***
Action, Crime, Mystery, Drama
dist. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); pr co. Quinn Martin Productions / Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); d. George McCowan; w. Edward Hume; exec pr. Quinn Martin; pr. Arthur Fellows, Adrian Samish; ass pr. Howard P. Alston; ph. John A. Alonzo (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. John Carl Parker; ed. Jerry Young; ad. Philip Barber; set d. Ray Molyneaux; cos. Dorothy H. Rodgers, Eric Seelig; m/up. Richard Cobos, Gloria Montemayor; sd. Robert J. Miller (Mono (Westrex Recording System)); rel. 26 March 1971 (USA), 21 October 1972 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 98m.

cast: William Conrad (Frank Cannon), J.D. Cannon (Lt. Kelly Redfield), Lynda Day George (Christie Redfield), Murray Hamilton (Virgil Holley), Earl Holliman (Magruder), Vera Miles (Diana Langston), Barry Sullivan (Calhoun), Keenan Wynn (Eddie), Lynne Marta (Trudy Hewett), Norman Alden (Mitchell), Ellen Corby (Teacher), John Fiedler (Jake), Lawrence Pressman (Herb Mayer), Ross Hagen (Red Dunleavy), Robert Sorrells (Tough in Blue Moon bar), Pamela Dunlap (Laverne Holley), Jimmy Lydon (Betting Clerk), William Joyce (Ken Langston), Wayne McLaren (Jackie / T.J.).

William Conrad stars as portly private detective Frank Cannon who investigates the murder of his ex-girlfriend (Miles)’s husband and gets entangled in small-town corruption. This is the pilot for the long-running series, which ran for five seasons from 1972-76. The story may be a standard mystery, but Conrad’s colourful performance and a strong guest cast make it an enjoyable movie. McCowan directs with some flair and adds a gritty realism through his frequent use of hand-held camera. A reunion movie THE RETURN OF FRANK CANNON (1980) appeared later.