Sunday, July 26, 2015

Gemini Man Episode 4 - Night Train to Dallas

Originally aired on October 14, 1976
Directed by Alan J. Levi
Written by Steven E. de Souza

Dr. Arthur Friedman, a very important scientist who is up to the sort of very important stuff that scientists in shows like this are always up to, dies. No one can find notes on his work. But, he had a research assistant who is also an Olympic-level swimmer. And she has a photographic memory. Her name is Amy Nichols. So, the good guys and the bad guys go after her. (As with the previous episode, the "bad guys" are a little vague. They're definitely not Russian. Maybe they're just a Conglomeration of Jerks from previous cop/ adventure TV shows?) Sam Casey is our rep on the side of good! As he should be. Amy is on her way to the Pan American games in Dallas with the rest of her swim team. Everyone converges on a Night Train to Dallas...  plus there's a dog named Lucky and an elderly blind woman.

 Watching Amy: You can tell that Sam is about to smile.
He may be a perv but he's an All-American perv.

Gemini Man stays strong for its fourth episode. I think it's actually a step above the previous ones. Yes, there is very little Leonard and Abby, which I don't fully cotton to. But, this one has action, excitement, some comedy, nasty bad guys and a few twists. Sam begins his attempts to bring Amy into Intersect by going to her school, Santa Laura College, during training. Sam has to encounter the very protective football team, average age 32. And then he tries to convince Amy but she won't go. Even Sam's hunky charms don't work. So, we head for the night train.

 The football team or 30-year-old bodyguards? You decide.

Sam Casey, Pool Maintenance!

The Best of All Sam's Possible Faces

Yes, Sam does wander into the private car filled with young ladies and gets hit with pillows and carried out. Yes, Sam gets a sidekick in the form of the very smart dog Lucky. No, Lucky is not annoying. He's a cool dog. (Although, Lucky doesn't seem to get returned to his owner in the end. Maybe it was a set up for Gemini Dog?) Yes, Sam does sneak through the gal's car invisibly. And, gals do peek out from their berths with confused looks. There are fistfights and chases and Sam gets drugged and thrown under the train. It's all standard fare for a show like this but done well. Two things distinguish it and put just a notch above everyone else:

 Is that Lucky?

 No! There he is!

1) Mrs. Price, the elderly blind woman. The one person in the series who can't tell when Sam is invisible. She sits at a table in the Club Car reading Agatha Christie novels. After Sam tries and fails to convince Amy to come with him, Sam has a lovely chat with her. Mrs. Price travels on trains because she finds them relaxing. She also loves the possibility of intrigue on a train. She touches Sam's face to gauge his features. (She does not say "Hey! You're Ben Murphy!") It's a very nice scene. Now, this is all set up for her to save Sam when he gets thrown under the train. But, that doesn't take away from the fact that it's a lovely, well-written, charming scene. A scene that becomes even stronger because it's in the midst of a very dangerous situation.

 Mrs. Price in a really great, atypical, scene

I know. It's a shot of nothing under a train...

 Fooled you! Mrs. Price found Invisible Sam!

2) The climax. This episode amends the Invisibility Rules of the pilot movie. In the movie, Sam cannot remain invisible for more than 15 minutes in a 24-hour cycle or else he will fade away forever. In Night Train to Dallas, there is an addition: He turns the DNA Stabilizer off to become invisible. At the 15-minute mark, a fail-safe kicks in. The Stabilizer automatically turns on and Sam becomes visible, rather than fading away. If he removes it (or presumably turns it off again), he will go invisible forever. The fail-safe seems like a good idea to me. Well done, Abby! But, it does mean that if Sam hits 15 minutes, no matter what he's doing, he turns visible. So...

Why not let your babies grow up to be cowboys?

The implication throughout the episode is that if the bad guys catch Amy they will do whatever they have to do to extract the info. At the very end, Sam is on a hill on a horse with Lucky by his side. The three bad guys are fixing their jeep at the bottom of the hill. Amy is with them. Now, once that car is fixed, they are gone. Amy will probably be tortured and killed. Sam announces to Lucky and the horse that he has 18 seconds of invisibility left. So, very heroically, he turns invisible and takes the horse down the hill. It's very exciting. The thought that if he fails, she's dead, makes it incredibly tense because we like her. The invisibility is used to save the day. Well done.

 Alias Sam and Lucky!

 Invisible Sam to the Rescue!
16 Seconds Remain...

Although, I did miss the thought that if there was no fail-safe in place, it would be even more exciting. Sam riding into danger knowing he'll become visible shortly is tense. Sam riding into danger not knowing if he'll, in 18 seconds, be invisible forever is pants-wettingly exciting. But, both ways work.*

Amy! Lucky! Sam!
They're a fun team

Night Train to Dallas is great. It's a well-written, well-directed, well-acted adventure set mostly on a train. I'm so very glad someone decided to do this episode. I like to think that this is the same train that Laverne & Shirley rode on in the Murder on the Moose Jaw Express  2-parter. That train gets a lot of action! Four episodes and a TV movie in, Gemini Man remains a quality show. What could go wrong?

 Oh, and Kim Basinger...

*One odd thing about the 18-second scene: When Sam becomes visible again, he can be seen adjusting the DNA stabilizer. I can't imagine that he has to adjust it to activate the fail-safe. So, he must have accomplished the rescue in under 18 seconds. Wow. Sam is cool.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Weekly Cracked - ZZZZPG

From Cracked #105
Dated November 1972
Keeping it Very Topical and Semi-Obscure.
Thank you, Cracked!

Here's the cover:


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Gemini Man Episode 3 - Sam Casey, Sam Casey

Originally aired on October 7, 1976
Written by James D. Parriott
Directed by Michael Caffey

Note: VLC Media Player plays multi-region DVDs. Who knew? I sure didn't. But, now I do. The screenshots should look much better from here on out.

In the first two regular episodes of Gemini Man, employees of Intersect turned out to be jackasses, trying to take their employer for millions. The third episode, Sam Casey, Sam Casey, posits a sinister group of people working out of a High Class Fat Farm outside of Los Angeles that want to infiltrate Intersect and get all their secrets. Are these part of a super secret group of Anti-Americans, a group like SMERSH, SPECTRE or KAOS? Or are they from a rival think tank group trying to stay on top of the competition? It's never said. But, they are not adverse to giving an Englishman extensive plastic surgery to make him look like Sam Casey.

 Ninja Ahoy!

 I want that cutout!

Ben Murphy's Cockney character (the plastic surgery guy) does look just like Sam Casey. But, unlike Sam Casey, he chews gum incessantly, has a Cockney accent (which isn't really that great) and has Pamela Susan Shoop kissing him constantly. I don't chew gum. I don't have a vague Cockney accent. But, I envy the part that involves a lot of kissing of Pamela Shoop. Also, Sam (the actual Sam) gets to make out with Jo Ann Pflug. This episode is a win-win for Ben Murphy. (Pflug does try to kill Casey later on by blowing him up in an abandoned mine but I've had worse break-ups.) (Oh, and I believe Ms. Pflug was married to Chuck Woolery at this time.)

 Pflug! Um...  Pdelicious!


The story goes like this: Sam goes to a Tennis Ranch and is kidnapped by Pflug & Company. Meanwhile, Faux Sam (with a replica of Sam's Intersect pass) breaks into Intersect and begins taking pictures of everything. Faux Sam's mission is to get as many secrets as he can and then to kill Leonard with a ninja shuriken. (He's pretty good with them.) Complications arise when 1) Sam escapes the aforementioned exploding mine and 2) Faux Sam gets caught. Eventually, both Sams are roaming around the Fat Farm. They begin by confusing ladies in bathrobes, then they proceed to get lots of kisses from Ms. Shoop who doesn't know there are two of them and eventually they end up in a pitched battle deep in the sauna.
 You and Pamela Susan Shoop are making out in a closet?
What do you do?

 Is Sam there? (Invisible)

The Double Episode. Gemini Man does it pretty early into its run. (Thank Goodness. Or we may have never gotten one.) It has a straightforward setup involving getting Sam and Faux Sam into their respective spots. But, then those Complications arise around halfway into the episode and the story goes from people at Intersect being confused by Faux Sam to the bad guys being confused by Real Sam. The episode never becomes quite as exciting as it seems like it should. There's more potential for Doppelganger Shenanigans that doesn't get fully explored. And, the bad guys are never really explained properly. At the end, they are just Bad Guys and Gals. If one isn't completely satisfied as the episode approaches the inevitable split screen/ stunt double fight scene, there is a whole lot of Pamela Susan Shoop to watch and enjoy.

 What do you do when she jumps on you?

 Mainly smooches.

And if you come away from this episode thinking that Ms. Shoop is only suited to play slightly confused, ditsy gals, I refer you to Silent Night, Unholy Night, which is the Christmas episode of BJ & The Bear. She is awesome in that as a pregnant mother of two married to Ted Danson and on the run from the law for assorted reasons. She's the Keenest! And her name is fun to say. Just like Jo Ann Pflug. It does seem odd that two of my favorite 1970s And Beyond ladies, who also have the most entertaining names, wind up in the same episode of a TV show that nobody really saw. Pop culture works in mysterious ways.

Shoop! Oh Yes!

Why wasn't she one of Charlie's Angels? 

She got it! The plot is goofy!

Sam saves the day. Faux Sam gets put away. This cadre of bad guys is taken in. Watch Ben Murphy chew a lot of gum! (In two different ways.) Watch Ben Murphy face himself on split screen! Watch Ben Murphy scare about 8 half-naked old ladies out of the sauna! (Or don't.) Enjoy him using his invisibility a lot but mainly for gag-related stuff! (The show opens with Sam rifling his desk for his missing wallet as Abby looks on. A security guard enters and Sam keeps shifting materials around, while invisible!) Mainly, enjoy another good episode of Gemini Man. Oddly enough, we're getting very close to when the show got cancelled. Why weren't you folks watching this back then? I was 3-years-old. Your excuse?

(I would have included more Shoop at the climax but you can't have it all.)

Two more things:
1) Here is a link to a review of the BJ & The Bear Christmas episode:

2) I think I know why the Cockney accent from Faux Sam is so bad. Faux Sam has to master Sam Casey's accent, which is Ben Murphy's accent. Faux Sam, slipping occasionally into bad Cockney, is able to completely master Real Sam's voice (which is Ben Murphy's voice) so the good guys are fooled. But, later on, Real Sam has to pretend to be Faux Sam so he has to adopt the Cockney accent. Luckily, Faux Sam has a bad accent, which Real Sam is able to mimic perfectly and convince everyone. If Ben Murphy had done a more elaborate and realistic accent, it may have been tougher for Real Sam to fool the baddies. Again, everybody wins (except Faux Sam).

Monday, July 13, 2015

Gemini Man Episode 2 - Minotaur

Originally aired on September 30, 1976
Teleplay by Robert F. O'Neill & Frank Telford
Story by Robert Bloch (?) and Robert F. O'Neill
Directed by Alan J. Levi

Note: I've mentioned this before but it can't hurt to bring it up again. (Or can it?) These scrennshots are taken from a Region 2 DVD. I have taken pictures of the TV screen and put the image through Pixlr Editor. They are a bit fuzzy. They do have pause icons in the top right hand corner. But, everyone should be allowed to see Sam and his Pals so I include them.

For the second episode in a row, Intersect gets bilked out of a lot of money by one of their employees. Dr. Hale got them for 10 million in his fuel additive scam from Smithereens. In this one, Ross Martin plays Dr. Carl Victor who takes Leonard's think tank for around 30 million. Dr. Victor has built a large, unwieldy robot with great destructive capabilities called Minotaur. Dr. Victor is demanding lots of money or else Minotaur will destroy a major building in the city.

 Oh, it's that guy from Wild, Wild West on the TV

 Sam & a Very Nice Lady (VNL)

So, Sam Casey, using some invisibility and some natural suaveness, hunts down Victor's daughter Nancy and follows her into the Los Angeles River. (By hiding in her car as she drives into the river. It's easier than it sounds and not that exciting. The first episode of Adam-12 has a chase down the Los Angeles River.) The majority of the episode takes place in a giant warehouse/ control center that Victor has built under the River. Sam spends a lot of time confusing the robot. It senses a presence but Sam keeps turning invisible. Eventually, there is a showdown. Man Vs. Robot! And it's handled well, considering how slow and ungainly the Minotaur is.

Minotaur...  possibly someone has been...

...watching Doctor Who?

But, the War Machines never did that
Gemini Man keeps it cool for another episode. The main story here revolves around someone taking advantage of Intersect. Sam (mainly, there is some Leonard and Abby here) has to save the day. He's no master detective. The way he finds out about Nancy Victor is by pretending to be a courier and getting her to sign a package. Then, he, invisibly, climbs into her trunk to get to Dad's Place. And, literally, the second half is Sam being chased by that big robot and Dr. Victor ranting. I love it. Fun for everybody, as far as I'm concerned.

Sam Casey, Investigative UPS Courier!
Hiding in the trunk (Invisible)

But, it is one of those episodes that works best the first time trough. Smithereens has the actual fuel additive/ trucking storyline but Buffalo Bill gets added in for color. Plus, that story has a forward momentum to it. Once Minotaur settles into the secret hideout, it's just running around with Sam, a goofy robot, a stereotypical mad scientist and his daughter, who might turn against her father. The first time you tune into this one, enjoy. The second time I found it a little less interesting.

Sam is about to get shredded...
Minotaur is going out and get loaded...
(Not really)

Especially, as I mentioned, because Minotaur is awesome at first. But, he doesn't really glide like, say, a Dalek. It just moves along, speaking every once in a while and firing its rays. When it comes time for the climax, there's a lot of "Get it over here!" and Sam running around like mad and setting up cables and throwing things and stunting all over to disguise the fact that the robot doesn't move that fast. And, when they finally stop the robot, it's semi-clever, mostly silly.

Stunt Sam!

Gemini Man remains strong. It remains fun. Minotaur has less Abby in it than the previous one, that's too bad. It's got some Leonard. But, he is mainly in the office looking worried. This episode is almost all Sam and the Victor family (including Minotaur). That is a bit of a precursor to what will happen to the show near the end of its episodes. (Long after its network run ended.) And, it's what most shows of the time did regularly. But, Gemini Man keeps it in the Intersect family again for this episode. I like that. It means that, again, this security agency that is supposed to help people and save lives has given birth to someone who wants to kill for cash.

Yes. It's the end and it as little silly...

Maybe Intersect needs a better Human Resources department?

Intersect gets a telegram!