A film laboratory is the target of arson; its owner, Marvin Goldman, uneasily finds his near-loss to be the Angels’ next case, thanks to their hiring by his mother. Looking for clues, Jill forms an alliance with Paul Baylor, a district attorney also on the case, tipped off by anonymous phone calls threatening the lab. The Angels watch the films, attempting to determine a motive, but are mostly befuddled – one in particular, about a soldier rallying his troops by smooshing white bread in his hands, incites the equally befuddling ire of its lead actor when Sabrina inquires about its meaning.
A vetting of local investors in Mr. Goldman’s venture turns up little except paranoia and hostility, and no wonder: Kelly scopes out one of the directors to discover the films are pornographic – and the investors blackmailed into investing by their secretly being filmed in sexual acts. The disgust the Angels have for their client is outweighed now by the discovery that Jill’s assailant may be the same man caught on film in one of Marvin’s shots. He turns out to be a cop, Baylor’s accomplice, returning from planting evidence. The real criminals are thusly penalized; Marvin received impunity for his cooperation.
Potentially seedy subject matter is actually done treated rather mildly, owing to the standards and practices of 1976 TV. But it is provocative; despite the giveaway title we don’t really learn of the “free-form” nature of Marvin’s films until about a third of the way through (modern audiences are sure to figure it out after about ten minutes). Still, it is a shame it can’t be confronted: the actual climax deals with the unrelated cops-planting-evidence story, and it’s a comparative bore.
The Jill/Baylor story is nice too – I always appreciate the series for the Angels’ cooperation with men, rather than the unbudging “girl-power,” male-distrusting titans they’ve morphed into in recent incarnations. But Jill did her trusting/then wounded routine in the “Angel Trap” episode a few weeks ago; lets give another Angel a chance in the limelight, shall we?
I suppose another trend I’m noticing is the everything-at-the-end approach. In the interest of building a mystery, we’re essentially totally confused for 45 minutes until the denouement, at which point a barrage of information supposedly explains everything. Angels always did this to a certain extent, but recently it feels very bottom heavy. Lets try to even out the clarity so it’s not so much of a puzzler, okay?
Not bad, but ultimately unsatisfying. And that tirade by the soldier-actor whom Sabrina converses with still makes no sense.
Client: Esther Goldman (Marvin’s mom)
Plot difficulty level: 7