TV Review: Checkmate | Colonel March of Scotland Yard | I’m the Law
Time for more old-time TV! Checkmate was a 1960-62 series about a detective agency of the same name based in San Francisco. Don Corey (Anthony George ) and Jed Sills (Doug McClure) out of Corey’s plush apartment, and employ Dr. Carl Hyatt (Sebastian Cabot), noted criminology professor, as a consultant. The agency specialized in attempting to thwart crimes that had yet to be committed.
I watched two episodes on DVD:
- “The Human Touch” : The focus is on Dr. Hyatt, as a master criminal (Peter Lorre) he caught years ago is out of prison and wants revenge. The two men are both very proud of their brains, and we get a lot of cat and mouse dialogue as they try to outsmart each other. The revenge plan is nifty, but fails due to the title factor. A fun episode!
- “Nice Guys Finish Last”: A more somber story, in which the Checkmate regulars play only a small part. Instead, the main character is a police lieutenant who is denied promotion because of his obsession with a certain wealthy man about town. (The man may have even directly intervened to quash the promotion.) The wealthy man hires Checkmate to protect him from the police detective. When the lieutenant has an opportunity fall into his lap to destroy his enemy, he takes it,, much to his cost. An interesting aspect of the story is that it is never proven the rich man did anything wrong, even the one thing that set the policeman on his trail in the first place. He just acts like a dirtbag, and I for one wanted him to be brought down.
Colonel March of Scotland Yard was a 1955 British series starring Boris Karloff as the eccentric head of the Department of Queer Complaints at Scotland Yard. The premise was based on a book by John Dickson Carr, a master of locked room mysteries. March wore an eyepatch (never explained) and was a playful chap who enjoyed a good puzzle. Sadly, most of the episodes have been lost.
The episode I saw was “Error at Daybreak.” As it happens, Colonel March is on holiday at the seashore, and reading a book on “The Psychology of Crustaceans” when a millionaire with a weak heart dies nearby. The body is lodged between rocks and impossible to move, but March discovers blood by the corpse, and a mysterious sharp metal rod on the ground nearby. March suspects murder rather than heart attack, a suspicion given credence when the corpse disappears before the police proper arrive. The real solution lies in a little boy’s rubber ball. Pleasant, but not Karloff’s best work.
I’m the Law ran in 1953, and starred George Raft as New York Police Lieutenant George Kirby. Kirby had been a stage dancer before joining the police force, and never carried a gun. Mr. Raft’s career was in a steep decline at the time, and was one of the first big-name film stars to be reduced to steady work in television as opposed to special guest appearances.
Still, the series benefited from his tough-guy air and screen presence. My DVD had three episodes.
- “The Cowboy and the Blind Man Story”: Kirby is contacted by a singing cowboy star (loosely modeled on Roy Rogers) to investigate a stalker of the singer’s current girlfriend. That lady turns out to be a sharpshooter and fully capable of taking care of herself. Except a shot comes in through her window, just missing her. In the office of a blind record promoter across the street, the stalker turns up dead of lead poisoning. Could be the sharpshooter, but her guns don’t match the bullet. So who? Pretty obvious to the genre-savvy.
- “O Sole Mio”: A boy’s father is gunned down in Central Park, with only the boy and an organ grinder as witnesses, and the organ grinder was looking the wrong way at the time. Kirby takes the boy under his wing before the kid gets too far down the road to becoming Batman, and discovers the father had a taste for the horses and too much money for his day job. The idea of a police woman is treated with some disbelief by the boy, and a subplot involving a seedy newsstand vendor and a juvenile delinquent turns out to be an entire red herring.
- “The Trucking Story”: A dockworker is killed in what is reported as an accident, but is pretty clearly an “accident.” An elderly peddler who was friends with the dockworker calls on Kirby to investigate beyond the official report. Kirby goes undercover and discovers that the shipping company is sending more than glassware to China. The dockworker’s union is seen protecting its members from abusive behavior by the bosses (one of the reasons the death had to be an “accident.”)
It’s an okay series, but relies a bit too heavily on eccentric minor characters to play off the strait-laced George Raft role.