Sunday, April 17, 2016

Charlie’s Angels 1:3 “Night of the Strangler”

Airdate: 10/13/76 

Kelly is a dead ringer for Dana Cameron, a murdered woman whose parents have enlisted Charlie’s services to find out whodunit. The suspects:

  • Kevin St. Clair, the head of a modeling agency who was having an affair with Dana.
  • Michelle, Kevin’s wife, who clearly has a motive.
  • Jesse Woodman, a businessman whose bank St. Clair’s agency appears to be heavily indebted to.
  • Alec Witt, a shady photographer.

The girls go undercover to do the usual searching, but things get more complicated when Michele turns up dead, leaving only a mysterious clown doll by her side (I hate it when that happens). Now all eyes are on Kevin… then Jesse… then Alec, but no clues seem to help, not even after a sad sack Dutchman, befriended by Jill, turns up dead in an apparent suicide, with a confession note (and, you guessed it – a clown). But after some careful fiduciary inspection, Charlie notes that a heavy life insurance policy had been taken out on Michelle, and cashed in shortly after her death. Aha! It was all three of the male suspects in on the dirty business, and off to jail they go, hoho.

I want that outfit.
A true murder mystery, although given that it involves three strangulations, one committed by a former amateur pornographer, it gets seemlier, and grislier, as it progresses. The story gets really uncomfortable when Kelly, after the aforementioned killer tries to rape her, jokes lightheartedly about the presumably traumatic experience with Jill – clearly such matters were not treated with the gravity we accord them today. But back then, it was all fair game for television escapism.
This one wasn’t too hard to follow, but I do have one real problem with the killers’ motives. Okay, St. Clair murders his wife for the life insurance money, but the other two killings are just meant to make it look like it wasn’t an isolated incident? And the offing of the Dutch guy – meant to throw the investigation off with a fake confession? I don’t know about all this; it does seem pretty hard to swallow. And anyways, why did they need the life insurance contrivance anyway? Couldn’t we just have a mystery surrounding Dana’s death and the possible suspects? (St. Clair, his wife, and selected employees at the agency…) Yet another Angels instance of too many plot threads spoiling the plot. Less is more, guys.

Beware of strangers bearing clowns.
Longtime TV/movie character actor Richard Mulligan is a howl as St. Clair, sporting some of tackiest 70s duds this side of Ralph Furley. And don’t miss the poolside catfight between Michelle and Kelly, which ends, you guessed it, with one of them going into the pool. And speaking of Kelly, Jaclyn Smith definitely holds the record, so far, of being the most scantily clad Angel, whether in a skimpy nightie, midriff-baring T-shirt or basic white bikini. Y’know… just for the record.

Plot difficulty index: 5. (Thank God; still reeling from last week’s head-spinner.)

Rating: **1/2


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