Sunday, June 8, 2008

Michael Shayne: The Fox Box and Two TV Episodes

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • copyright © 2008 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

A lot of the "B" detective films — particularly the series with recurring characters (aside from Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Chan) — have been stepchildren in the home video and DVD markets, but 20th Century-Fox has been rectifying that with a series of boxed sets of their Chan, Mr. Moto and Michael Shayne films. Here are notes on all four films in the Fox box "Michael Shayne, Volume 1" as well as a Critics' Choice DVD of two episodes from the Michael Shayne TV series:

I ran my partner Charles a movie, the first film in the 20th Century-Fox box of Michael Shayne films — of which they made seven from 1940-1942, of which only the first, Michael Shayne, Private Detective was actually based on one of the Shayne novels by “Brett Halliday” (and I refuse to believe that was that writer’s real name — it sounds so transparently phony he might as well have called the detective character “Brett Halliday” and signed the books “Michael Shayne,” and I had joked to Charles that his real name was probably something like Isidor Weinstein, though according to the Wikipedia entry on him he was actually “Davis Dresser”!).

For the later films in the series they raided books by writers like Frederick Nebel (whose Sleepers East, a hit for Fox in 1932, was remodeled into the Shayne vehicle Sleepers West), Clayton Rawson and even Raymond Chandler (his third Philip Marlowe book, The High Window, was bought by Fox for the Shayne movie Time to Kill and then, like Farewell, My Lovely — originally bought by RKO for The Falcon Takes Over — was later remade as a Marlowe story). I haven’t been able to nail down which Dresser/“Halliday” book this film was based on; some sources say it was the first one, Dividend on Death (published in 1939 by Henry Holt four years after Dresser had finished it) and some (including some on the same Web site!) say it was the second, The Private Practice of Michael Shayne.

Whichever, it relocates Shayne from Florida (where he was based in the novels and on the short-lived — one season — Michael Shayne TV show on NBC from 1960-61, of which we saw two episodes recently on a Critics’ Choice DVD) to California and casts Lloyd Nolan as Shayne. Though Nolan’s hair photographs raven-black and it’s impossible to believe he’s a redhead (as Shayne was described in the books), he’s otherwise a quite good choice for a wisecracking private eye in a film made on the cusp of the noir cycle. William K. Everson was so impressed by Nolan’s performances in the Shayne films and as the crooked cop Degarmo in The Lady in the Lake (in which he stole the film right out from under the principals and gave a marvelously human reading to a character Raymond Chandler wrote as a stock villain) that he lamented that Nolan had never got a chance to play Marlowe or Sam Spade on film. Shayne certainly doesn’t have the depth of Spade or Marlowe, but Nolan could probably have done justice to either part: he has the world-weary alienation right (even though through most of this film he’s shepherding an irresponsible young rich girl at the behest of her father rather than mixing in the lowlife and going down those famously mean streets) and tossed off the wisecracks with the right tired air.

Michael Shayne, Private Detective opens at a horse race, in which flighty young Phyllis Brighton (Marjorie Weaver) loses a bundle of money on one race and then pleads with her dad, racing commission member Hiram P. Brighton (Clarence Kolb), to loan her $200 so she can bet on a 15-to-1 long-shot in the next race. When he says no, she offers her brooch worth $500 as security for the bet with an on-track but unofficial bookmaker, and Shayne comes along — he’s a friend of her father — and tells the bookie the brooch is a phony (it isn’t). She returns to her dad in a huff and gets even huffier when her horse comes in, so dad immediately orders an investigation on the assumption that such a lousy horse couldn’t have won a race unless he was drugged. Dad also hires Shayne to keep an eye on Phyllis and especially to keep her away from the gambling casino owned by Benny Gordon (Douglass Dumbrille — and after his villainy in the Marx Brothers’ A Day at the Races, letting him anywhere near a racetrack was asking for trouble!) and from Harry Grange (George Meeker), the boyfriend who takes her there and lends her money to feed her gambling jones.

The plot is one of those mind-numbingly complicated travesties of mystery tropes, with so many suspects and motives it’s easy to imagine screenwriters Stanley Rauh and Manning O’Connor totally losing it trying to keep track of them all (and maybe that’s the reason none of the other Shaynes made at Fox used Dresser’s writings as story sources!). Suffice it to say that in order to scare Phyllis away from him, Shayne fakes a scene to make it look like Grange has been murdered — and while he’s passed out in Shayne’s car with ketchup dripping from his shirt front, someone actually does shoot him. Among the suspects are Gordon; his daughter Marsha (played by Joan Valerie, an actress who looked so old I thought we were supposed to believe she was Gordon’s wife instead of his daughter), who’d been after Grange herself and resented Phyllis for taking him away from her; Elliott Thomas (Walter Abel), another gambler and boyfriend of Phyllis; and Larry Kincaid (Robert Emmett Keane), who in an early scene offered Shayne a job strong-arming Grange on behalf of Gordon.

Eventually it turns out that Thomas secretly imported a horse from Australia and substituted it for the real horse, so it won fair and square but not under its real identity (had the writers seen Charlie Chan at the Race Track, which also used that gimmick — as, in a way, did A Day at the Races?), and he killed Grange because Grange was blackmailing him about this. It’s a good, if overly convoluted, story, and for once in one of these “B” detective movies the comic relief is actually funny — especially the marvelous Elizabeth Patterson as Phyllis’s Aunt Grace, who’s a devotee of mystery fiction and keeps comparing the real murder case that’s unfolding around her to the ones in her “Baffle Book,” particularly the one about a victim found under a piano, strangled with piano wire and with his head severed from his body. There are some surprisingly tame gags about Shayne’s alleged nakedness — we see Lloyd Nolan in his baggy underwear in a few scenes and we’re supposed to believe he’s put out at both Phyllis and Aunt Grace seeing him in Production Code-hailing distance of the altogether (“Don’t worry, I’ve taken art classes,” Grace assures him in the funniest line in the film) — and there’s also one sequence in which Nolan as Shayne is searching one of the suspects’ home that actually comes close to noir even though this film lacks the moral ambiguity required for noir. (Film noir didn’t really begin until John Huston’s version of The Maltese Falcon, made a year later, and though there are a few precursors to the noir spirit in the 1930’s this really isn’t one of them — though as I said earlier it’s on the cusp.)

The director is Eugene Forde — which may be part of the problem; Fox didn’t give this series their best directors (not even their best “B” directors!) and as this film plodded on from situation to situation I found myself liking H. Bruce Humberstone a whole lot better all of a sudden — and the cinematographer is the great George Schneiderman, who photographed most of John Ford’s silents for Fox in the 1920’s and, though he probably lamented that he was working with the wrong Ford(e) on this film, was almost certainly responsible (far more responsible than his director!) for the vivid anticipations of noir in some of the visuals. Michael Shayne, Private Detective is probably best seen as a transitional film between the comedy-mysteries of the 1930’s and the noir private-eye movies of the 1940’s, with Shayne (especially as interpreted by Nolan) catching some of the world-weariness of Spade or Marlowe but hamstrung by a script that really didn’t require them; still, it’s a better-than-average mystery, and the official police are shown as dull and unimaginative (homicide captain Painter is played by Donald MacBride — another actor with a Marx Brothers movie, in his case Room Service, in his past) but not as the utterly stupid ninnies they usually were in 1930’s private-eye films. I’m looking forward to seeing the other three films in the box and hoping Fox will release the remaining three (including the Chandler adaptation!) in a second DVD boxed set. — 3/13/08


I ran Sleepers West, a 1941 20th Century-Fox “B” and the second in the Michael Shayne series featuring Lloyd Nolan as the raven-haired (red-haired in the books) Irish detective (you see, on my St. Patrick’s Day journal entry I’d finally get around to mentioning something Irish!) created by Davis Dresser under the pen name “Brett Halliday.” Oddly, only the first of the seven Fox Michael Shayne films actually adapted a Dresser/“Halliday” novel; the others all were adapted from other detective novels featuring other characters and were adapted into Shayne stories by the Fox writing staff. (The most intriguing transposition in this group was undoubtedly Time to Kill, based on Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novel The High Window and remade by Fox as a Marlowe film, The Brasher Doubloon, in 1947, five years after the Shayne version).

For Sleepers West, a mystery set on a train, they took a novel by Frederick Nebel called Sleepers East which Fox had already filmed successfully in 1932 and simply reversed the title to reflect the reversed direction of travel. Shayne is assigned to protect a secret witness in a murder case in San Francisco; the defendant, Callahan (whom we never see as an on-screen character), is an habitual criminal — Shayne knows this because years before he busted him for robbery — but is innocent of this particular charge, but is being railroaded by the political machine promoting gubernatorial candidate Wentworth (also an unseen character) because Callahan can blow the whistle on Wentworth’s machine and destroy his chances.

The witness is vampy B-girl Helen Carlson (Mary Beth Hughes, whose later femme fatale performance in The Great Flamarion rivals Barbara Stanwyck’s in Double Indemnity and Ann Savage’s in Detour among the greatest embodiments of this particular cliché and who shows signs of that promise here), whom Shayne sneaks on board wearing a dark wig and being carried on a stretcher — his idea was that she would pretend to be an invalid and lock herself in her room through the entire ride from Denver to San Francisco, but Helen was way too willful for that: she ends up in a relationship with mystery man Everett Jason (Louis Jean Heydt in a performance that made me think, “I know I’ve seen this actor before,” though here he was playing a stronger characterization and bringing more power to his part than usual), who has $10,000 in cash in an attaché case. The film is full of sinister people on the train, some of whom are there to protect the heroine, some are there to kill her and some are there for agendas of their own that have nothing to do with her — and also on board is Denver reporter and former Shayne girlfriend Kay Bentley (Lynn Bari, who as usual looks sultry enough but doesn’t act), who wants to get to Helen Carlson so her paper can scoop the world on the story and who’s using Shayne’s continued interest in her to accomplish that — despite the presence of her fiancé, Tom Linscott (Donald Douglas), who works for Wentworth’s organization and therefore has a vested interest in making sure Carlson does not turn up in South America to testify.

There also is a railroad engineer who’s on his last run and is obsessed with getting his final train to its destination on time — and in the film’s most spectacular scene (though it’s clearly done with models that look all too obvious), an oil tanker gets stuck on the tracks and the train crashes into it and catches fire, forcing everyone else off the train while the railroad sends a fire-fighting crew and getting Shayne, Kay, Helen and Tom to flee by car to a nearby farmhouse whose owner is played by Ferike Boros, a fascinating character actress we’ve encountered before. Sleepers West is an intriguing thriller that’s rather daringly staged with almost no background music — odd for a 1941 film in an era in which even far better thrillers like The Maltese Falcon were going out relentlessly overscored — and it’s entertaining, though it could have been a lot more exciting and more fun with a better director than Eugene Forde. By then H. Bruce Humberstone, who brought so much to the three Charlie Chan films he made at Fox, had graduated to “A” films like I Wake Up Screaming and Pin-Up Girl, both with Betty Grable; Norman Foster was off working with Orson Welles on the unfinished It’s All True; and it’s hard to think who else on the Fox “B’ list could have done this better, though if they’d reached outside the way Columbia did for Robert Florey on the first Lone Wolf series film with Warren William they could have had a more interesting product. It also makes me curious to see the original Sleepers East sometime! — 3/17/08


We eventually ran a movie: Blue, White and Perfect, the fourth and last film in the Michael Shayne boxed set from 20th Century-Fox — and, like the others, a disappointing film in that it wasted a potentially thrilling story and an appealingly authoritative star, Lloyd Nolan, on a workmanlike but rather dull production. Part of the problem was the director, Herbert I. Leeds — as we learned watching all those detective “B” films from Columbia, never trust a director whose name looks as if it should have the initials “D.D.S.” after it! — and though Glen MacWilliams (an American despite his Scottish name and his fame in British films, notably most of Jessie Matthews’ star vehicles) was the cinematographer, his lighting is quite competent but mostly undramatic; a story that cries out for noir effects and compositions doesn’t get them, and suffers by their lack.

The story: Michael Shayne returns to L.A. (where the Fox films relocated him from Florida, his home in the original novels by “Brett Halliday,” t/n Davis Dresser) from a case that took him to San Francisco and Seattle, to find that his girlfriend, beauty-shop owner Mavis Garland (a recurring role for Mary Beth Hughes, disappointingly used in these films as a good girl when she was so much better three years after this film as a femme fatale in the 1945 Republic thriller The Great Flamarion, co-starring Erich von Stroheim and Dan Duryea and vividly directed by the young Anthony Mann), has jilted him and accepted the proposal of smarmy Continental Alexis Fournier (Ivan Lebedeff). Shayne looks him up and finds Fournier is a con artist and a bigamist (!) as well as selling Mavis’s beauty shop a wart removing cream that doesn’t work — as Mavis’s sidekick Ethel (an good and way too short comic performance by Marie Blake) explains after she tells Shayne that the authentic pronunciation of his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend is “fonay,” “He sells us the Fournier One-Minute Wart Remover. And, boy, is it fo-nay!”

Told by Mavis (after Fournier’s arrest on the steps of the building where they were supposed to get their marriage license) that she’ll only marry him if he quits detective work and finds a real job (“I want to be your wife, not your widow!” she says), he agrees to go to work for the Thomas Aircraft Company, telling her he’s going to be a riveter (he even fakes a phone call to make it appear as if he’s phoning her from the shop floor, in a scene reminiscent of Groucho Marx’s pose as the Florida Medical Board representative in A Day at the Races) but really signing on as an undercover security officer investigating who stole $100,000 in industrial diamonds from the company’s safe. (The film’s title turns out not to be a patriotic reference; at the very end Nolan as Shayne uses the phrase to demonstrate that the stolen diamonds are not gem-quality.) The person in charge of the safe actually was part of the gang — a band of saboteurs anxious to make sure the Axis gets hold of the diamonds and uses them in their war production — which was easy enough to guess because his name was Vanderhoefen and he was played by Steven Geray (let’s see, we have a Russian playing a Frenchman and a Frenchman playing a Dutchman) and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Geray movie in which he wasn’t a bad guy!

The diamonds are being smuggled to Hawai’i aboard an ocean liner and, in order to get the money to get on it, Shayne embezzles $1,000 from Mavis (she thinks the money is going to buy them a ranch where’ll they’ll live as a couple) and ends up in a shipboard romance with an old flame, Helen Shaw (Helene Reynolds), who’s also being chased by a half-Latino, improbably named Juan Arturo O’Hara and even more improbably played by future Superman George Reeves, decked out with a moustache and a lot of shoe polish in his hair to make him look appropriately swarthy and dark. The overall tenor of this film isn’t that different from the Saint and the Falcon movies RKO was churning out at the same time, but it seems wrong because Michael Shayne isn’t a debonair, romantic character; he’s a grungier sort of guy being played by an American actor and this rather superficial style of mystery film doesn’t really play to the strengths either of Brett Halliday’s (t/n: Davis Dresser) character or Nolan’s performance. Still, I hope 20th Century-Fox reissues the rest of their Michael Shayne movies on DVD if only so I can see Time to Kill, which their writers based on Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novel The High Window and which just might bring some depth to the series the way RKO’s appropriation of Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely did to their 1942 film The Falcon Takes Over. — 6/8/08


Afterwards Charles and I went straight (pardon the expression) home and ended up running another movie: The Man That Wouldn’t Die, which despite the title is a Michael Shayne mystery (albeit one with a Frankenstein-like subplot) rather than a horror film and seemed to me to be the best of the ones we’ve seen so far. While its director, Herbert I. Leeds, is a hack about on the level of Eugene Forde, he does get some appealingly Gothic shots into the film — and the script, written by Arnaud d’Usseau based on the novel No Coffin for the Corpse by Clayton Rawson (one of his Merlini the Great series about a stage magician who was also an amateur detective: one of his other books, Death from a Top Hat, became the basis of Tod Browning’s last film, Miracles for Sale, in 1939), is genuinely charming and largely evocative of The Thin Man even though Michael Shayne (Lloyd Nolan) is merely posing as the husband of his client, Catherine Wolff (Marjorie Weaver), not actually married to her.

The film begins with a peculiar scene in which a group of men sneak out of a large mansion in the dead of night, dig a grave on the grounds and bury a body — or at least a body-shaped parcel — in it. The mansion belongs to tycoon Dudley Wolff (Paul Harvey), who’s under investigation by a U.S. Senate committee for allegedly defrauding the government on war contracts (remember when people in the government actually cared whether or not it was being defrauded on war contracts?), who’s married to trophy wife Anna (Helene Reynolds) — Catherine is his daughter by a previous wife — and is giving house room to mad scientist Dr. Haggard (Henry Wilcoxon), who’s outfitted his basement with lab equipment similar to Kenneth Strickfaden’s great props for the Frankenstein films in an experiment Dudley Wolff is bankrolling in hopes Dr. Haggard will figure out a way to make him immortal.

One night, while staying at the mansion, Catherine is fired at by an apparition who sneaks into her bedroom with glowing eyes and a gun; she calls it a “ghost” but the gun, and the bullet it fired that lodged into one of her bedposts, are both indisputably real. Eventually it turns out that the “ghost” is magician Zorah Bey (LeRoy Mason), the only person besides Houdini who ever mastered the trick of getting himself buried alive and being able to slow down his breathing so much that he could pass the “mirror test” (when they determined whether a person was alive or dead by holding a pocket mirror under their nose and seeing if vapor from breath formed on it) and survive living burial long enough to figure out how to get the coffin and grave open and escape.

Old man Wolff’s trophy wife was formerly Zorah Bey’s assistant and his wife; she married Wolff thinking that Zorah Bey was dead but later he turned up alive and blackmailed her, and as a result she and her husband killed him — or at least they thought their blow to his head had killed him — and buried him in the opening scene, except he wasn’t dead at all and when he regained consciousness he used his skills as an escape artist to get out of his own grave. There’s also a complication straight out of French farce when Catherine’s real husband, Roger Blake (Richard Derr), turns up and “outs” Shayne as an impostor. The Man Who Wouldn’t Die gains points as a genre-bender and is overall a marvelously entertaining film, a good deal better than the earlier two Shaynes we’d seen (Michael Shayne, Private Detective and Sleepers West), gaining strength from the horror trappings (even though they don’t add much to the plot) and from a whole series of characters running the mental gamut from mildly eccentric to totally bonkers — making Lloyd Nolan’s laconicism as Shayne all that much more appealing! — 4/8/08


I ran the first of two Michael Shayne: Detective episodes on a Critics’ Choice DVD, “Shoot the Works,” from 1960 with a puffy-looking Kent Smith as one of three partners owning the Medallion Publishing company and looking to make a killing because another publisher is about to acquire them. Unfortunately, one of the partners is killed literally — discovered at home by his wife when she returns a day earlier than expected from an out-of-town trip — and Michael Shayne, a Florida-based detective who unlike most hard-boiled private eyes has a pretty substantial entourage (they include a young reporter, a secretary/girlfriend and his younger brother, whose main interest in life is getting to sit in on bongos with a jazz quartet that plays at the Montmartre nightclub, a favorite hangout of Shayne’s posse and also one that figures importantly in the plot), gets retained by the widow to investigate.

At first I thought she was going to be the prime suspect because she and the nephew were having an affair (the body language between the two actors certainly suggested this), but as it turns out the murdered man was supposedly having an affair of his own — the maître d’ at the Montmartre saw him with a dark-haired woman who turned out to be one of the cover models for the publishing company (there’s a great scene in which Shayne walks into a photographer’s studio and sees another model being menaced by a sinister-looking figure with a knife, and it’s only later that a camera pull-back shows this is just a pose being photographed for the cover of a pulp mystery Medallion is publishing), whose ferociously jealous husband threatens to beat up Shayne (and even goes after him with a broken bottle!) and anyone else he thinks is having sex with her — which, since she’s your typical movie slut (you can tell by the jazz on the soundtrack as she’s introduced, not the nice Nat “King” Cole Trio-ish chamber jazz heard at the Montmartre but something sleazier-sounding and saxophone-driven), is just about any male in the cast she can get.

It turns out that it was actually the third partner in Medallion that this woman was having an affair with, and Kent Smith’s character committed the original murder with the idea of framing one of his fellow partners for the murder of the other, thereby getting rid of both of them and getting the company’s sale price all for himself — only the early return of the victim’s wife upset his plan and later forced him to kill the model to shut her up. Richard Denning played Shayne, considerably older than he was as Mr. North (in which he was the publisher and the detective!) but still easy on the eyes even though, in this episode at least, we don’t get to see him in the exciting states of near-undress he frequently appeared in in Mr. and Mrs. North. Maybe it wasn’t as good a subsequent career as playing Lucille Ball’s husband (they’d done a radio sitcom together called My Favorite Husband, but instead of just transferring the radio show to TV Lucy insisted on having her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz, co-star, changed the title to I Love Lucy and made history), but at least it was a living — though the most interesting names on this show weren’t the actors or the director (a hack-of-all-work named Gerald Mayer) but the writers, Richard Levinson and William Link — who would later go to work for Universal and create many of their most memorable TV mysteries, including Columbo.

Here they were adapting one of the published Shayne novels, written by “Brett Halliday” (who was also credited as story consultant on the TV show; I can’t believe either that “Brett Halliday” is his real name or, considering the longevity of the Shayne novels, that there’s only been one person writing under that name: in fact, “Brett Halliday, Private Eye” might have had even more of an appeal, and maybe they should have swapped the character name and the author’s pseudonym), and it was an appealing TV mystery with bits of the noir look, not especially exciting but fun. [Later I looked him up on the Internet and found that “Brett Halliday” was really writer Davis Dresser, who wrote in many different pulp genres and cooked up a different pseudonym for each type of story he wrote.] — 2/19/08


I played the other Michael Shayne, Detective episode on the Critics’ Choice “volume one” DVD, “Marriage Can Be Fatal” — which turned out to be surprisingly good, much better than “Shoot the Works” even though its writer, Don Brinkley, didn’t go on to biggers and betters the way Richard Levinson and William Link did — and this episode was an original story, not an adaptation of one of the Brett Halliday Shayne novels. Directed effectively by Walter Doniger and photographed with some real noir flair by Keith Smith, “Marriage Can Be Fatal” is centered around the death watch over multimillionaire Fred Endicott, who as the episode opens has just suffered a heart attack and is hanging on death’s door (he’s never actually shown as an on-screen character). His wastrel son Freddie (Robert Harland, in a performance actually owing quite a lot to Robert Walker’s portrayal of a similar character in Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train) can’t wait to get his hands on the old man’s money, but there’s a catch: evidently having seen Buster Keaton’s film Seven Chances in his youth, the elder Endicott put a proviso in his will stipulating that in order to inherit anything from his estate, sonny boy has to be married on the theory that having a wife to support will shape him up and tie him down to some sort of respectability.

This drives Freddie to try to find a prospective wife, pronto — which leads him to a quick proposal to blonde bimbo barfly Topaz McQueen (played by Barbara Nichols in a blatant imitation of Marilyn Monroe, but one that approaches the pathos of the original in roles like Bus Stop and The Misfits), only quick-tempered family servant Vinnie Pico (Michael Forrest) catches Freddie and punches him out to make sure he stands Topaz up instead of marrying her. The same will that gives Freddie a vested interest in finding a wife fast gives his bimbo stepmother Laura (Patricia Barry) an equal interest in stopping him from marrying — if Freddie is still single when his dad croaks, Laura will get all the money and she can share it with Vinnie, with whom it’s strongly intimated she’s having an affair (so it’s the Anna Nicole Smith story grafted onto Strangers on a Train). In one great scene, Freddie confronts stepmom and stepmom’s boyfriend at the Endicott home, and when stepmom says she can’t allow him to sully the family image by marrying a tramp, Freddie fires back, “It runs in the family. My father married one, too.”

Freddie’s next target of marital opportunity is Connie Pico (Nancy Rennick), Vinnie’s sister and also a servant at the Endicott home, and they actually do tie the knot (flying on Freddie’s private plane to Alabama, where “quickie” marriages were available as they weren’t in Florida at the time), only when Freddie lets slip the real reason why he married Connie, she flees from him in disgust. Later Freddie is shot at his beach house, and Shayne — who entered the case when Laura sent Vinnie over with a blank check, trying to hire him to stop Freddie from marrying — investigates. Though Vinnie, a hot-tempered young man with a criminal record (for murder!) and an obvious motive, is the prime suspect, it turns out Connie is the real killer — she hid out in the beach house and shot Freddie as revenge for betraying her dream by marrying her not for love, but for purely mercenary reasons. Driven by the chillingly effective performances of Robert Harland and Barbara Nichols, “Marriage Can Be Fatal” is a nicely done TV series episode with more depth to the format than usual, then or now. — 2/20/08