Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

CHECKMATE Season 1

McClure, Cabot and George of Checkmate, Inc.


















CHECKMATE Season One. 1960. Created by Eric Ambler.

This detective/suspense program aired for two seasons in the early sixties and took place in San Francisco. The premise was that Checkmate Inc., an agency, did its best to stop crimes before they occurred, thus in quite a few episodes they were hired to find out who was trying to kill a particular individual. Don Corey (Anthony George) was the head of the outfit, with able assistance from girl-happy Jed Sills (Doug McClure) as well as from consultant criminologist Dr. Carl Hyatt (Sebastian Cabot). Late in the first season Donna Douglas [The Beverly Hillbillies] became their secretary, but she was given little to do and eventually just disappeared.The three leads all had a different style, played well together, and were very well-cast.

The show was respected enough to sign up some pretty hefty guest stars, including Anne Baxter, Jane Wyman, Joan Fontaine, Peter Lorre and even the inestimable Charles Laughton! [Betty Garde, who played the tough maid on a classic episode of The Honeymooners, has a good dramatic turn in "Hot Wind in a Cold Town."] Most of the episodes were solidly in the "B+" category but there were a number of "A"s as well: In "Face in the Window" Joseph Cotten cancels his engagement to Julie Adams after he sees a man whom he presumed dead looking in at him through a shop window. In "Deadly Shadow" a grown-up Margaret O'Brien is a marine's widow plagued by a shadowy assailant. Barbara Rush plays a troubled woman with two distinct personalities in "The Dark Divide." In "Mask of Vengeance," with Janice Rule and Cloris Leachman, the Chinese community is outraged after a diplomat's daughter claims immunity after running over a child. In "The Murder Game" a dying defense attorney, beautifully-played by John Williams, plans to kill the one guilty client that he got off. In "Terror from the East" Charles Laughton superbly plays a missionary who's come to San Francisco to warn a man who has been targeted for death. [This episode also marks the first appearance of Hyatt's adorable daschund, Bismark, who figures in an especially cute prologue in "Tight as a Drum."] "Melody for Murder" has pop singer Jimmie Rodgers threatened by an unknown female out for revenge. "Voyage into Fear" guest stars Joan Fontaine as a neurotic woman who is convinced her husband has sent a hit man after her on a cruise ship, but is she right or is she nuts?

Verdict: Memorable crime drama with fine performances and an especially interesting guest cast. ***.

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