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

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Sebastian Cabot with Bismark, the true star of the show
CHECKMATE Season Two. 1961.

The second season of the show about an agency whose aim is to prevent crimes before they happen is not as good as the first, but it does have some memorable episodes. Jed Sills (Doug McClure) is as amiable as ever, while Don Corey (Anthony George) sometimes comes off like a pious schmuck, and Dr. Hyatt (Sebastian Cabot) is so huge that he seems to be having a positive love affair with high-calorie food. His adorable little dachshund, Bismark, appears in only one episode. A new character named Chris Devlin (Jack Betts) helps out the boys and appears in a few episodes. The show still boasted some high-powered guest stars such as Eleanor Parker, Claire Bloom, Patricia Neal, Jack Benny, and Mary Astor, among others. Among the more memorable stories: "Juan Moreno's Body" has Jed investigating a murder supposedly committed by a migrant worker and features a knock-out performance by Diana Lynn. In "Death Beyond Recall" Walter Pidgeon plays a lawyer facing disbarment who arranges to have himself murdered. "The Sound of Nervous Laughter" is about an aging actor, his loving wife, and a series of death threats, and boasts outstanding performances from George Sanders, John Emery, and Margaret Phillips. Dana Andrews gives one of his best performances as a judge who is being targeted by one of the students in his legal course in "Trial By Midnight;" Carolyn Craig of House on Haunted Hill is also notable. Don Taylor is very impressive in "The Someday Man," about a former athlete with deadly gambling debts and other problems; Julie Adams is fine as his wife. If there was any problem with this second and final season of Checkmate, it was that some excellent episodes were interspersed with some pretty awful stories, the worst of which was "An Assassin Arrives, Andante," an intriguing idea ruined by muddle-headed writing and a weak lead performance from Richard Conte.

Verdict: Some great writing and acting but perhaps too many pretentious and tedious clunkers in the bunch. **1/2.

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