|THEY ONLY KILL THEIR MASTERS (director: James Goldstone; screenwriter: Lane Slate; cinematographer: Michael Hugo; editor: Edward A. Biery; music: Perry Botkin Jr.; cast: James Garner (Police Chief Abel Marsh), Katharine Ross (Kate Bingham), Hal Holbrook (Dr. Warren Watkins), Harry Guardino (County Sheriff Captain Daniel Streeter), June Allyson (Mrs. Watkins), Christopher Connelly (John), Tom Ewell (Walter), Peter Lawford (Campbell), Edmond O'Brien (George), Ann Rutherford (Gloria), Arthur O'Connell (Ernie), Art Metrano (Malcolm, policeman), Jenifer Shaw (Diana), Lee Pulford (Jenny Campbell); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: William Belasco; Warner Home Video; 1972)|
atmospheric low-key whodunit."
by Dennis Schwartz
atmospheric low-key whodunit directed in a serio-comic
tone by long-time TV director James Goldstone ("The
Gang That Couldn't Shoot
Straight"/"Jigsaw"/"Rollercoaster") and cleverly
written by Lane Slate.
coastal town of Eden Landing, middle-aged bachelor
Abel Marsh (James Garner) is the police chief of the cash-strapped police
department (only two police cars, which means sharing
cars) who returns from an LA vacation to investigate
the murder of the
Jenny Campbell, found on the beach of her beachfront
home with her Doberman
pinscher, called Murphy, standing guard by her
mutilated corpse. The chief suspect is the vic's pet dog, until
the coroner confirms the cause of death was by
drowning in fresh water that was tampered with to make
it seem like the drowning occurred in salt water. It's
also learned that the vic was pregnant. Abel visits the veterinarian Dr. Warren G. Watkins (Hal Holbrook) to cancel the order to
put the dog down and meets in the office his hottie
new 30-year-old nurse, Kate Bingham (Katharine Ross), a divorcee from an
A quirky romance develops between the two best lookers
in town. The chief, not a dog lover, ends up adopting
the well-trained dog and doggedly investigates the
life of the enigmatic dead woman searching for
hidden clues. Learning from Jenny's wealthy urban
playboy ex-husband, Campbell (Peter Lawford), that Jenny left him two
years ago for another woman, the cop tries to locate
that woman through a photo found in the vic's house,
as tension mounts over a few more deaths in the case.
Also called in to look over the chief's shoulder is
the county sheriff, Captain Streeter (Harry Guardino), a childhood friend of
Abel's, eager to wrap up the case so that he doesn't
look bad in the newspapers.
The beauty in the likeable pic, which looks like a TV movie, is watching the resourceful and charming Abel navigate his way through the sleepy town that has its fill of eccentrics and through an investigation that calls for turning over all the stones that reveal dark secrets about the small-town denizens rather than making brilliant deductions. While gently goofing on the locals, nevertheless it throws roses at the feet of the small town denizens and turns its nose up at city slickers. It has a bunch of old hands cast in minor supporting roles. One of those former stars, cast against type, June Allyson, acquits herself quite well as the complex wife of the veterinarian.
REVIEWED ON 10/5/2013 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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