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

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Peter Gunn asks questions of waitress with obvious assets
PETER GUNN. Season two. 1959. 38 half-hour episodes.

The first episode of the second season of Peter Gunn is very similar to the first episode of the initial season, in that Gunn's hang-out and "office," Mother's waterfront nightclub, is smashed up, only this time the damage is so extensive that Mother has to completely remodel the joint, making it more open and chic. Another change is that Mother is now played by Minerva Urecal instead of Hope Emerson, and she brings a little more flavor to the role. Also back, alas, is Gunn's admittedly decorative girlfriend, Edie (Lola Albright), as bland a singer as ever. Worse, the allegedly romantic scenes between Edie and Gunn (Craig Stevens) always seem forced and tacked on and are generally dull; Peter just isn't a very romantic fellow. [You have to wonder if Stevens' wife, Alexis Smith, who was herself quite luscious, objected to too many smooching scenes between him and Albright, because Gunn never seems all that lusty toward the woman.]

Among the more memorable episodes: "The Game," an especially well-directed (by Boris Sagal)  story of  an insurance racket, with Peter showing up beaten at his surprise party and falling face first into his cake; "See No Evil," in which a hood is after a blind witness, and Peter is attacked by Tor Johnson in a padded cell; "Sing a Song of Murder," in which guest star Diahann Carroll, who gives a first-rate performance, has deadly husband trouble, and when she sings a number blows "Edie" out of the water; "Deadly Proposition," about a dying man and a murder pact; "The Dummy," in which a ventriloquist is murdered and the dummy is a little living man; the amusing "Slight Touch of Homicide," in which a mild-mannered fellow (Howard McNear) literally blows up the mob; "Ways of an Angel," in which Peter escorts a convict to his daughter's wedding and the fellow escapes; "Best Laid Plans" [a plot to assassinate the governor -- or is it?]; "Semi-Private Eye," in which an amateur detective goes after a dangerous wanted felon; "Letter of the Law," in which a prosecutor is accused of murder; and "Crossbow," featuring a series of killings-by-crossbow, another story influenced by Agatha Christie's "ABC Murders" and guest-starring Henry Daniell.

The two best episodes were probably: Jack Arnold's "The Hunt," in which a hired hitman plays cat and mouse with Peter in the desert at an abandoned mine; and especially "Fill the Cup," in which John McIntire gives the performance of a lifetime as a nearly hopeless alcoholic who hires Gunn to keep him sober overnight to meet his daughter the next day, and which features a startling depiction of the D.T.s in the opening segment.

Verdict: Well-written crime show with some excellent stories. ***.

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