Ironside - Season 1 Episode Reviews

Ironside Season 1 Episode Reviews

Copyright 2017 by Mike Quigley. No reproduction of any kind without permission.
Music is by Oliver Nelson unless mentioned otherwise.

WARNING: The following contains spoilers and the plots are given away!

Pilot Episode
Original air date: March 28, 1967
Director: James Goldstone; Writers: Don M. Mankiewicz & Collier Young; Music: Quincy Jones

I think the only reason Ironside lasted for eight seasons was because of Raymond Burr's popularity on Perry Mason. There is no doubt that this show certainly raised public awareness of handicapped people with its star in a wheelchair. In fact, when Ironside goes to investigate crimes, I was constantly saying to myself "There is no way that buildings in the late 1960s and early 70s can be well-equipped to deal with the needs of people like Ironside." In many shows, there are no steps where you would expect them to be, like at the entrance to people's homes.

Ironside is a very crabby guy, and I would no doubt be crabby too if I had been paralyzed from the waist down by an assassin's bullet and ended up in a wheelchair like Ironside was in this pilot, which aired several months before the first episode.

To assist him, he has two cops: Sergeant Ed Brown (Don Galloway) and Officer Eve Whitfield (Barbara Anderson). He also has a young black guy named Mark Sanger (Don Mitchell) helping him out, though the actor was actually born in 1943, between Galloway (1937) and Anderson (1945).

In the pilot, it is established that Sanger threatened to kill Ironside, but the former chief of detectives figures if he offers Mark a job, it will help to rehabilitate him. The relationship between Sanger and Ironside is peculiar. He says "Yes, sir, boss" to Ironside, sort of like Eddie Rochester, Jack Benny's valet and tells him at one point, "You told me you don't want me to be ignorant." However, many of Sanger's responses to Ironside in the upcoming shows are sarcastic and bring Ironside back to earth if he is getting a bit out of line.

Ironside takes great pleasure ordering members of his team around, yelling at them that they are clueless if they can't figure out criminals' modus operandi and addressing them as "children." He overuses the word "query" a lot as well as the word "flaming" which presumably replaces "fucking," sort of like "fracking" on Battlestar Galactica years later. He even abuses Whitfield because she washed out his favorite coffee pot, thus changing the flavor of anything that is brewed in it and tells her not to wash dishes because he can't think because of the clattering.

Ironside lives on a floor in the old San Francisco Hall Of Justice building, which housed the city's police headquarters. His living quarters are equipped with ramps and other things which are "handicapped friendly." In pilot and the first episode of the series, he is being pushed around by Mitchell, but in the second show he is using an electrically-powered wheelchair. Mitchell drives Ironside around town in a truck which looks like some World War I military vehicle. It has been equipped with an automatic lift on the back and other goodies like a phone.

The show has a musical theme by Quincy Jones which includes a sound like a cat being electrocuted. This theme seems to get a lot of overuse in episodes. According to Wikipedia, "The opening theme music was written by Quincy Jones and was the first synthesizer-based television theme song," which sounds (no pun intended) like baloney to me, because it seems to use "real" instruments, and I don't think synthesizers in the late 60's had the capability of sounding exactly like a big band.

Wikipedia also says "In addition to the opening theme music, Quincy Jones composed the entire score for the first eight episodes. Oliver Nelson took over those duties up to the end of the winter to spring 1972 episodes." This is also a bunch of baloney. Here are the composers for the first 15 episodes. How difficult is it to look this up at IMDb?

1 - Oliver Nelson
2 - Quincy Jones
3 - Nelson
4 - Jones
5 - Jones
6 - Benny Carter
7 - Nelson
8 - Jones
9 - Jones
10 - Jones
11 - Nelson
12 - Jones
13 - Jones
14 - Jones
15 - Jones

I will have more to say about the plot of the pilot later...

S01E01: Message from Beyond
Original air date: September 14, 1967
Director: Michael Caffey; Writer: Don M. Mankiewicz

In this first season's first episode, Ironside is annoyed at the race track when, due to a power failure, the mutual machines all shut down just as he is about to place a bet where he figures he will make a killing.

$175,000 is stolen from the money room during this "blackout," and the thief is suspected to be an employee of the track named Blackwell. He is kind of an older guy; his wife Margaret, played by Madlyn Rhue, looks much younger.

The race track's security chief, Al Hayes, who knows Ironside, enlists his help in figuring out what is going on. The place's boss, Herb Jarman, is played by James Gregory.

There are issues with time frames in this show. For example, Blackwell flees from the cops at a roadblock and gets killed when his car crashes. It is not established as to whether is going from the track or driving back home after having gotten rid of the money.

The gimmick in this show as to where the money is located is figured out by Ironside as he is having a massage. A massage lamp, which is blue, instead of red like you would expect it to be if it was an infrared heat lamp, reminds him of some device used at the race track where whatever is stamped on people's hands (for re-admission to the place, for example) can be read. This technology is not explained at all. Letters inscribed with the "invisible ink" used are written on Blackwell's car, which has quite a life of its own in the show.

At the end of the show, Ironside and his crew end up at Hira Inlet, a "boat graveyard," with Hayes and Jarman. Jarman turns out to be the bad guy who got Blackwell to steal the money. Hayes seems to be also chasing Jarman, telling Ironside at the end of the show after he is knocked out, having been suspected of being the thief, that he was "not a very good cop"!

S01E02: The Leaf in the Forest
Original air date: September 21, 1967
Director: Leo Penn; Writer: Don M. Mankiewicz; Music: Quincy Jones

In this show, a psycho killer is murdering women, and Ironside thinks it is the same guy who he was pursuing some time before he was incapacitated, so he wants to revisit this case and solve it.

John Larch plays Pierre Dupont, who is a financial advisor to the killer's most recent victim, an old lady named Esther Garrison. It turns out the real killer is the previous victims' milkman, and Dupont killed Garrison in a similar fashion to confuse the cops.

Dupont was speculating with Garrison's money in an unethical or illegal manner despite the fact she had told him to invest it conservatively. His killing her seems somewhat extreme.

Ironside figures out that Dupont is the guilty guy because his footprint was left on a newspaper at Garrison's place, saying that the fact the footprint was on the front page of the paper is significant, because if you were reading an article on the paper's back page as he speculates Garrison was doing, because it was financial advice for people in a dilemma like she was experiencing with Dupont, and you threw the paper on the floor if you were interrupted, you would throw the paper with the back page down (seriously)!

Ironside and his crew go to Larch's place and harangue his young-looking wife Myra, played by Barbara Barrie, until she changes her alibi for her husband based on the fact that he was trying to smuggle his shoes (including one which made the footprint) out of their place on the evening after Garrison's murder took place (seriously again)!

S01E03: Dead Man's Tale
Original air date: September 28, 1967
Director: Don Weis; Writers: Don Brinkley & Don M. Mankiewicz

The show seemed to finally "get its groove on" with this third episode which starred Jack Lord as John Trask, a sleazy mob-connected lawyer well-known by Ironside for laundering fishy money in various legitimate businesses.

One of Trask's associates, Warren Stuart (Simon Scott), is about to blab all sorts of dirt about his boss and the syndicate to Ironside so Trask has him knocked off by a guy whose aim with a rifle seems a bit off target. Ironside decides to pretend that Stuart didn't die, and makes it look like he is in the hospital suffering from "critical" injuries.

When Trask is denied access to Stuart, he arranges for someone to set off a bomb in the hospital's secure area that creates havoc. Fortunately, the principals are all OK, and Trask gets more and more nervous as the date approaches when the supposedly alive Stuart will testify to the grand jury as Trask has to answer to a bigger boss above himself.

Stuart's girl friend Tina Masson (again, a young-looking woman) is kidnapped by Trask's goons and they are just about to take off with her to Mexico when Ironside and several cop cars surround Trask's plane on the airport runway. As Trask is taken away to jail, Ironside is amazed that he has finally met an attorney who is at a loss for words.

Ironside is bitchin' in this episode as much as ever. There is talk of gambling, prostitution, and when one of Trask's associates is busted, he abandons a hooker in his hotel room (who is rather modestly dressed in her underwear). Jack Lord's character is seen smoking at one point!

Some further trivia: the private plane that Trask is seen using in the show was involved in a serious accident almost 30 years later where it crashed. In this episode, Ironside is back to using his manually-operated wheelchair.