Ironside - Season 4 Episode Reviews

Ironside Season 4 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!

S04E01: A Killing Will Occur
Original air date: September 17, 1970
Director: Don Weis; Writer: Alvin Sapinsley

This show is extremely convoluted. It was written by Alvin Sapinsley, responsible for The Vashon Trilogy, three shows from Hawaii Five-O regarded by many as among the very best from that series.

Ironside gets a call from some anonymous guy who wants him to "do something aboout it," "it" being a murder the guy is going to commit. At a meeting with Police Commissioner Randall shortly after this concerning crime prevention and other matters where members of the City Council and some reporters are present (and where Ironside's attendance is kind of a mystery to me), Mr. Anonymous calls again, interrupting the proceedings. Ironside takes the call and talks in a very ambiguous way, saying, among other things, "I'd like to ask you why you want to do this ... I was waiting for you to tell me who the... [he gets cut off]." Ironside doesn't say anything specific about what the caller is telling him, but the reporters at the meeting seemingly manage to figure out what is going on and play this up big time, so that 150 people who think they are going to be "victims" have the police run off their feet and there is a list of "suspects" obtained from many of these people. (An article in the paper about this is written by William Bailey and Paul Crumbine. This is the same journalistic team whose articles can be seen in Kojak episodes S02E03, Hush Now, Don't You Die, and S05E15, Chain of Custody.)

Ironside and his team use a process of elimination to try and figure out who the caller is. They tape his voice and compare it to others. Ironside says "If he has a record, there might be a voice print of it somewhere." This produces no results. Considering the voice has a "machine"-like or "computerized" quality to it, Ironside orders his team to check "all the radio and TV stations" and all the schools where you learn how to be a broadcaster or a professional speaker.

They drive around town, and the caller seems to follow them everywhere. Based on something Mark says in a flippant way, they determine the caller is using a portable phone in a briefcase, a precursor to cel phones, because he does not have to go through the mobile operator if he is using this kind of phone. It turns out the guy is a salesman named "Eddy Street" (a bogus name) who works for the company which sells these devices. Unfortunately, when they show up at his apartment, he has split a couple of days before.

A packet of sugar from the Mid-City Grill at Street's apartment leads them to a restaurant run by Vern Emmerich (Dane Clark), but nothing comes of this. Eve is checking the lists from the TV and radio stations and notices there is one person who is not accounted for: Charles Borrow (Barry Brown). Ironside flashes on this name, same as that of another Charles Borrow, a cop who was kicked off the force 15 years before after he shot and killed an unarmed man during a confrontation. Ironside was the only cop who voted in favor of not firing Borrow. When he goes to visit Borrow's widow (Virginia Gregg), he finds out that her husband died 5 years before after a battle with the bottle and trying to prove his innocence, and their son, Charles Junior, now 22 years old, is estranged from her.

It is well known that there was a witness to Borrow's shooting who could have cleared him, but despite pleas to the public, this man never came forward. Digging in the watch files for the night of this incident, March 24, 1955, reveals there was another crime near the shooting's location where someone driving a stolen car killed a pedestrian and then smashed up the car, so Ironside figures this is likely Emmerich, who has something to hide.

They return to the restaurant and confront Emmerich, who lost an arm in Korea in 1951. Emmerich knows exactly where he was on the night of the shooting 15 years before, and claims to have an iron-clad alibi from his wife, all of which is very fishy. Ironside offers Emmerich police protection, but Emmerich turns him down.

Considering the anonymous caller says he will carry out his threat to kill very soon, Ed tails Emmerich who decides to make a run for the airport on a bus. In the seat behind Emmerich is Borrow Junior, who keeps whispering threats. Cops pull over this bus after an interminable chase on the freeway, and Emmerich finally freaks out and escapes through the emergency door, which he is conveniently sitting beside. On the highway, he is busted by Ironside, who pulls up beside the bus. Later at the police station, Emmerich confesses to being the one who killed the pedestrian (and presumably witnessed the shooting to boot).

Back at Ironside's cop shop apartment, Borrow Junior regrets the trouble that he created trying to catch the witness who could have exonerated his father. Ironside tells the kid to give his mother a call.

The score by Oliver Nelson is pretty good, but it really starts to overuse Quincy Jones' main theme.

S04E02: No Game for Amateurs
Original air date: September 24, 1970
Director: John Florea; Writer: Sy Salkowitz

Ironside is not particularly crabby in this show, though he was still pretty annoyed because Richy Bolton (Carl Reindel), a crucial witness who had just finished testifying at the grand jury against local mob figure Arnie Lane (Tony Brande), was knocked off on the steps of the courthouse.

The guy doing the assassinating was Martin Sheen, playing "Johnny," a professional killer working for Lane. Johnny had insinuated himself into a group of local draft dodgers as a cover, and got Nancy O'Dwyer (Pamela McMyler), a massively pregnant woman who was very sympathetic to the peace movement because her husband had been killed in Vietnam on his third day there, to accompany him to a building across the street from the courthouse where he knocked off Bolton from one of the upper floors using a long-range rifle.

Nancy was seen alone in the lobby waiting for Johnny and later leaving the building with him by several people, including a cop who recognized her from a picture in the newspaper at a recent demonstration. Nancy is hauled down to the police station and grilled by Ironside who manages to overcome what you would expect to be antipathy to the "pigs" by appealing to her anti-violent nature because she was betrayed by killer Johnny. IDing Johnny is not easy, because he and the other draft resisters in the show are cautioned about talking too much about their past history (or even using their real names) to avoid being required to testify about each other if they are busted.

As in a Streets of San Francisco episode, it seems like there is only one draft resistance organization in San Francisco, run by a guy named Phil (Michael Greer), who looks more like a beatnik than a hippie. Mark (Don Mitchell), the black guy from Ironside's team, meets with Phil at the Cat's Cradle coffee house, pretending he wants to leave the country rather than go to Vietnam, tipped off with info on how to contact Phil from Nancy.

Johnny manages to get himself also lined up for a "trip to the border" (or at least to a place in Oregon on the way to the border) along with a couple of other draft dodgers driven there by Phil, but as they are heading out of town, Johnny figures out that something is fishy about meeting some other guy on the way. This "other guy" is Mark, and a police stakeout is set up at the meeting point. On the way, Johnny recognizes Mark after he has a flashback to the killing of Bolton where Mark was present in the background, and has a pretty rude line to Mark: "Don't let anybody tell you [that] you [i.e., black people] 'all look alike'."

After he avoids getting grabbed at the stakeout and essentially takes Mark hostage, the San Francisco cops manage to grab Johnny further down the highway to Oregon in a rather anti-climactic finale to the show.

At the end, Phil and Nancy meet with Ironside who says that he will have to make a report to the authorities about the "underground railroad" but Phil just says that they will "have to change the station."

The video quality of this episode was pretty bad. The opening shot looked out of focus and there were several night time scenes where you couldn't see what was going on at all. The show also perpetuated a stupid Canadian stereotype, that suggests all people who live here say "aboot" instead of "about." It ain't true!

S04E03: The Happy Dreams of Hollow Men
Original air date: October 1, 1970
Director: Don Weis; Writers: Sy Salkowitz & Carol Salkowitz

Ironside goes to visit his old friend, structural engineer Harry Peters (Joseph Campanella), who lives in well-stocked house in the mountains. Mark drops Ironside off at Harry's (as usual, there are no steps into Harry's place) and then goes to visit someone in the nearby community of Camp McGee. Harry seems to be a pretty gregarious type and the two men reminisce, catching up on what they have been doing for the last 10 years -- for example, Harry spent some time designing a bridge in South America. When they wake up the next morning, he and Ironside find out they are snowed in. It doesn't take long for Ironside to figure out that Harry has a problem -- that he is a heroin addict who starts going up the wall since he is out of dope and his pusher is unable to reach him because of the snowdrifts. Ironside's penchant for being cranky serves him well in this show, which is largely a screaming match between the two men with Harry hallucinating and going through withdrawal symptoms, and Ironside sternly trying to assure him that everything will be OK. At one point, Harry thinks that Ironside has brought some powerful medication to dampen the pain from his disability with him (which Harry wants), but Ironside insists it is only aspirin, and throws the drugs into the fireplace. Ironside is pretty resourceful in a couple of situations. Harry knocks him out of his wheelchair at one point and he manages to get back into it without any help. When Harry says he is going to try and walk from his place down the mountain to a nearby lodge, threatening to kill Ironside, Ironside grabs Harry as he is leaving and knocks him out. A snowplow finally clears the road and Mark shows up and takes the two men down to the lodge. When they arrive there, Harry sees his "connection," Mickey Blain (Lloyd Battista). Ironside tells Mark to grab Mickey and gets the lodge to call the local sheriff. Campanella gives an exceptional performance and Raymond Burr is also very good. Oliver Nelson's score contains several slow variations on the main theme. Considering almost all the action happens in Harry's place, the episode is almost like a stage play.

S04E07 & S04E08: Check, Mate and Murder
Original air dates: October 29 and November 5, 1970
Director: David Lowell Rich; Writer: Sandy Stern

In this two-part episode, Ironside goes to a criminologists' convention in Montreal. It's a good question whether Raymond Burr, who was Canadian, had any input as to the locale. However, to me it looks like this show never ventured from the Universal back lot. Most of the glimpses of Montreal are stock shots and other scenes involving crowds were probably recreated in California with extras waving Quebec flags, French writing on signs on buildings and so forth.

Ironside and his retinue are met at the airport by Frank Rousseau (Canadian actor Emile Genest), deputy director of the Montreal Police Department, an old acquaintance. On the way from the airport to the Ritz Carlton Hotel where they are staying, accompanied by some pretty awful process shots in the background, Frank gives them the Reader's Digest version of what is happening in Quebec with terrorists who want the province to separate from the rest of Canada. This echoes events that were happening in Quebec at the time, and, in fact, the month the show aired, October 1970, was when the shit really hit the fan with terrorist activities upgrading to kidnapping and murder of a prominent politician, which resulted in serious government action to deal with the crisis including the suspension of civil rights.

Ironside spends a lot of time brooding in this show, because his old girlfriend Jeanine Duvalier from 20 plus years ago (Karin Dor) lives in Montreal, recently having become a widow. Jeanine seems to be well off, living in a fancy house with a swimming pool in the back yard.

Ironside first meets Jeanine at the police station where her son Robert (Alain Patrick) has been rounded up with a lot of other terrorist types for interrogation. Robert is a member of a cell headed by Pierre Bouver (Alan Bergmann), a university lecturer in political science. The other members of this group we meet are Henri (Michael Sugich) and Claudette (the cute and sexy Maria Grimm).

Ironside meets with another old acquaintance at this convention, the cigar-smoking mystery writer Ernestine Mugford (Hermione Gingold), a horribly irritating busybody type who, gathering information for an upcoming book, insinuates herself into various meetings with Ironside and the cops where she should not be present. Mugford is at the convention with Belgian criminologist Claude Gauthier (Ivor Francis), whose screen time is very limited, since he gets blown up along with a mailbox.

If the show had just stuck to the soap opera with Jeanine and the bombings (the name of the separatist/terrorist group, Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) is not mentioned at all), it would have been OK, but part two of this two-parter is preoccupied with another crime connected with the reappearance of a pawn from a chess set worth a fortune which was stolen a few years ago. The script for this second part is unbearably stupid at times. I suspect that there was some heavy editing going on; at one point, prior to Ironside showing men from the conference a bunch of mug shots, there is what seems like a very obvious edit.

This pawn was recently sent to the original owner of the chess set, Carl Shiller (John vanDreelen), who turned it over to a fellow named Bollinger (Ed Prentiss) at the Franco-Canadian Insurance company, who turned it over to Gauthier to investigate, who then turned it over to Mugford before he got blown up! A crook with Coke-bottle lenses who has a history of involvement with explosives named Arnold Beckman (William Lanteau) seems to have the rest of the chess pieces, and is trying to get Shiller to pony up $100,000 to get the set back.

Shiller just happens to live in Montreal, and is interviewed by Mark and Eve from Ironside's team. The way that Ironside tracks down further suspects connected with the stolen chess piece is ridiculous. In a phone interview later, Ironside asks Shiller if the package the pawn came in had anything else in it. Shiller says no, but then Bollinger, to whom Shiller gave the package, says that it did contain some packaging. (I think Shiller's response means "there was nothing other than the packaging"; this is not elaborated on.)

Ironside then sends Eve to Montreal stationery stores to find if any of them had contact with Gauthier, who he figures was investigating where the paper used for this packaging came from. We're talking about Montreal here, not some rinky-dink town which might have only one or two stationery stores, you realize. Eve goes to investigate, and eventually reports back that one store received a visit from Gauthier, and the paper in question was connected to a list of customers who presumably purchased it from the store.

Another character with a connection (I guess) to the stolen chess set is Bert Manetta (Mark de Vries), an 18-year-old who, during his one brief scene in the show, is trying to phone Shiller and is blown up by Beckman. Despite the fact that Manetta's body was pretty badly mangled, he is later identified and turns out to have been the gardener for Leon Karp (Herbert Anderson, who played the father of Dennis the Menace in the CBS sitcom), a local businessman who is also a chess enthusiast. I totally don't understand Manetta's connection to the sequence of events in the show.

Ed takes some of his "holiday" at the docks because when Ironside asks Frank "If I was an out-of-town con here to make a hit, where would you look for me?", Frank says that is the most likely location. Ed hangs out at the docks, which produces no results, but then he investigates a local delicatessen (of which there are quite a few in Montreal, I imagine) where Beckman is known to hang out because of his obsession with deli food.

Ed finally spies Beckman walking down the street and soon after this, the cops bust him. When confronted with the stolen chess pieces in his possession (though we never actually see them when he is arrested) and accused of murder, Beckman starts screaming that he wants to be extradited back to the States.

Ed, wearing the Coke-bottle lenses, pretends to be the now-incarcerated Beckman, and gets a call from a mystery person who is going to pay him for the stolen chess set. This turns out to be Karp, who is arrested just as Robert, who has planted a bomb under a reviewing stand for the annual Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day parade in Montreal (June 24th) disarms the bomb which he had planted earlier with the timer turned off, but Henri, his compatriot from the terror cell, had reactivated. (Whew.)

At the end of the show, after more soul-searching, Ironside bids his former girl friend farewell at the airport, asking her if she would like to share his life in San Francisco. However, nothing comes of this.

In this episode, Ironside is relatively restrained, though at one point, he does kind of blow up at his pal Frank, saying that he is not working hard enough to solve the case. Ironside even suggests that they call off the parade, to which Frank replies that if he did that, he would have a riot on his hands. (In real life, there actually was a riot at the parade in 1968, two years before.)

There is an interesting exchange in the second part of the show, after Mark drops off Ironside at Jeanine's place. Henri confronts Mark who is driving away and tries to appeal to Mark because he is black. (At the beginning of the show when everyone is still at the airport, Mark is almost blown up by a bomb in a mailbox which has been planted there by Henri and Robert, but Henri distracts Mark and even trips him so he won't be in the line of the explosion.)

Mark: What're you up to?

Henri: Big t'ings, Big, big t'ings, man.

Mark: Yeah, you don't blow up a doghouse.

Henri: What you want to put me down for? We're after the same things, you and me -- freedom, baby!

Mark: Hey, man, don't come on to me about "freedom." What I'm interested in is rights, man, and that means I'm not interested in taking away anybody's ultimate right by killing him, you dig?

Henri: You don't understand the situation!

Mark: I understand if the people wanted a separate Quebec, they would have voted for it a long time ago.

Henri: The people are brainwashed!

Mark: Yeah, yeah, you're right and everybody else is wrong. And you'll help them, even if it kills them. Paranoia, that's your bag, not mine. (Mark then leaves.)

At the end of the show, Mark is the one who disarms Henri in a nail-biting sequence where Henri has a pistol pointed at people who have shown up at Bouvier's place!