TV Review – CITY OF ANGELS: THE NOVEMBER PLAN (1976)

CITY OF ANGELS: THE NOVEMBER PLAN (1976, USA) ***
Crime, Mystery
dist. National Broadcasting Company (NBC) (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Roy Huggins-Public Arts Productions / Universal Television; d. Don Medford; w. Stephen J. Cannell (based on a story by Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell); exec pr. Jo Swerling Jr.; pr. Roy Huggins; assoc pr. Dorothy J. Bailey; ph. Ric Waite (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Nelson Riddle; m sup. Hal Mooney; ed. Edwin F. England, Ronald LaVine, Larry Lester; ad. John W. Corso; set d. Jerry Adams; cos. Charles Waldo; sd. John K. Kean (Mono); rel. 3 February 1976 (USA – TV), April 1977 (UK); cert: -/PG; r/t. 3 x 47mm.

cast: Wayne Rogers (Jake Axminster), Elaine Joyce (Marsha), Philip Sterling (Michael Brimm), Clifton James (Lt. Murray Quint), Diane Ladd (Laura Taylor), Meredith Baxter (Mary Kingston (as Meredith Baxter Birney)), Laurence Luckinbill (Noel Crossman Jr.), Stephen Elliott (Harold Delaney), Jack Kruschen (Harry Kahn), Dorothy Malone (Dawn Archer), Lloyd Nolan (Gen. Smedley Butler), Robert Sampson (Wayne Fisher), G.D. Spradlin (Gen. Winfield), Laurence Hugo (Alex Sebastian), Steve Kanaly (Parker), Martin Kove (Stan), Pepper Martin (Reggie), Rod McCary (George Donaldson), Paul Jenkins (Terry), Ross Bickell (Murdock).

Jake Axminster (Rogers) is a hard-boiled, wise-cracking private eye in 1934 Los Angeles. Mary Kingston (Baxter) hires him to prove her innocence because she is being framed for murdering her boyfriend, and the police are seeking her whereabouts. Jake hides her in a beach house and begins his investigation. He discovers that Mary and her boyfriend witnessed a Alex Sebastian’s (Hugo) murder at a party on the previous night, and she fled but her boyfriend was captured and killed. Sebastien was a reporter who was about to publish a story of some importance, concerning the date of November thirteenth. Following in the wake of CHINATOWN (1974) this was a valiant attempt by Universal to capture the same blend of period atmosphere, themes of corruption and a Chandler-esque mystery. The result is a mixed bag with the positives being the period detail in the production design and some smart dialogue. On the minus side are the unimaginative and sometimes flat direction and a disappointing denouement. Rogers essays James Garner in his interpretation of the down-at-heel private eye but he lacks Garner’s charm. Nevertheless, his enthusiastic performance occasionally hits home. A strong support cast is on hand, notably the excellent Joyce as Rogers’ secretary who combines her work with running the phone lines for the city’s hookers. Joyce has a natural comic flair which elevates the material when she is on screen. James is the corrupt cop who beats on his prisoners and Baxter has fun as the fugitive starlet. The script, by veterans Stephen J. Cannell and Roy Huggins, could have been sharpened further, but the production was a hasty one with the series being a mid-season replacement. The promise on show here would occasionally surface over the series’ next ten episodes before it was cancelled due to low ratings just as it was building a head of steam. Whilst this three-part story served to introduce the series to its US audience, it was edited to 103 minutes and released in cinemas in the UK, Europe, Australia, Central and South America. The film was based on a notorious 1933 American conspiracy known as the Business Plot, which involved wealthy businessmen trying to bring down United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a coup.

Film Review – TALL MAN RIDING (1955)

Randolph Scott and Dorothy Malone in Tall Man Riding (1955)TALL MAN RIDING (USA, 1955) ***
      Distributor: Warner Bros.; Production Company: Warner Bros.; Release Date: 18 June 1955; Filming Dates: mid June–early July 1954; Running Time: 83m; Colour: WarnerColor; Sound Mix: Mono (RCA Sound Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Lesley Selander; Writer: Joseph Hoffman (based on the novel by Norman A. Fox); Producer: David Weisbart; Director of Photography: Wilfred M. Cline; Music Composer: Paul Sawtell; Film Editor: Irene Morra; Art Director: Stanley Fleischer; Set Decorator: G.W. Berntsen; Costumes: Moss Mabry; Make-up: Gordon Bau; Sound: Francis E. Stahl.
      Cast: Randolph Scott (Larry Madden), Dorothy Malone (Corinna Ordway), Peggie Castle (Reva), William Ching (Rex Willard (as Bill Ching)), John Baragrey (Cibo Pearlo), Robert Barrat (Tucker Ordway), John Dehner (Ames Luddington), Paul Richards (The Peso Kid), Lane Chandler (Hap Sutton), Mickey Simpson (Deputy Jeff Barclay), Joe Bassett (Will), Charles Watts (Al – Pearlo’s Palace Bartender), Russ Conway (Marshal Jim Feathergill (as Russell Conway)), Mike Ragan (Tom).
      Synopsis: Scott returns after several years still vowing to avenge himself against the humiliating whipping he received at the hands of a cattle baron.
      Comment: This revenge Western follows conventional lines and on the whole is well-handled by experienced director Selander. Scott delivers a strong performance as the returning ramrod looking for revenge after being run out of town at the end of a whip by Barrat. Malone is his old flame and Barrat’s daughter who remains loyal to her now near-blind father. Castle gives a spirited performance as a saloon girl who helps Scott but is also Malone’s close friend. Scott comes up against the town’s crooked businessman Baragray, who is looking to run Barrat off his land with Richards as his hired gun hand. Familiar confrontations take place and the ending is a little too neat and rushed but otherwise, this is a generally entertaining if routine entry in Scott’s filmography.
      Notes: Songs: “Oh, He Looked Like He Might Buy Wine,” m/l. Ray Heindorf, Sammy Cahn; “It Looks Like a Big Night Tonight,” m/l. Egbert Van Alstyne, Harry Williams; “As the Brass Band Played,” m/l. Ray Heindorf, Jack Scholl.