|Dean Jagger and Glenn Ford|
In one of the first and best of the made-for-television movies, Andrew Patterson (Glenn Ford) is the long-time member of the "Brothers of the Bell," a secret society associated with a fraternity at the College of St. George. The society helps its members get a leg up in the world, and in return they are on occasion asked to do a favor for "the Bell." But now Patterson has been asked to blackmail a dear friend of his (Eduard Franz) from accepting a certain post and has been given the names of people who helped this man defect -- of course revealing those names will mean their torture and deaths. Although Patterson tries his best to dissuade his friend from taking the post before revealing that he has the list of names, his actions nevertheless lead to tragedy. A guilt-wracked Patterson decides to take action by exposing the brotherhood, but finds his life turning into a nightmare as almost everyone thinks he's crazy. Although at times he could have been a bit more impassioned, Ford gives a notable performance in this; one of the best of his latter-day career, in fact. Eduard Franz as the blackmailed professor; Dean Jagger as a higher-up in the Bell; Rosemary Forsyth as Patterson's wife; Will Geer as his father; and Maurice Evans as his father-in-law, are all excellent, but the whole movie is nearly stolen by William Conrad as a Joe Pyne*-like talk show host who has Patterson on his show just to berate and humiliate him [this is also one of the best scenes in the movie.] Virginia Gilmore [in her last film role] also scores as a nutty woman in the audience who calls herself "Patriot." Also notable is the uncredited black actor who says the Bell is simply the White Power Structure that has always oppressed black people. Jerry Goldsmith contributed an unusual baroque-like score.I didn't spot Robert Clarke of The Hideous Sun Demon and The Man from Planet X as a psychiatrist.
* Joe Pyne was a forerunner of Jerry Springer.
Verdict: Ultimate paranoia and a darn good movie. ***1/2.