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The Marcus-Nelson Murders
Kojak - The Marcus-Nelson Murders

USA 1973
produced by
Matthew Rapf, Abby Mann (executive) for Universal/CBS
directed by Joseph Sargent
starring Telly Savalas, Gene Woodbury, Marjoe Gortner, José Ferrer, Ned Beatty, Allen Garfield, Lorraine Gary, Roger Robinson, Harriet Karr, William Watson, Val Bisoglio, Antonia Rey, Chita Rivera, Bruce Kirby, Robert Walden, Robert Fields, Carolyn Nelson, Lloyd Gough, Lynn Hamilton, Lawrence Pressman, John Sylvester White, Paul Jenkins, Helen Page Camp, Ellen Moss, George Savalas, Alan Manson, Fred Holliday, Henry Brown jr, Joshua Shelley, Patricia O'Connell, Alex Colon, Ben Hammer, Tol Avery, Bill Zuckert, Elizabeth Berger, Lora Kaye, Steve Gravers
screenplay by Abby Mann, suggested by the book by Selvyn Raab, music by Billy Goldenberg

TV-pilot
Kojak

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Two girls are slaughtered in Manhattan, and since one of them was a celebrity-daughter, half of New York City's police force are soon on the job - much to the dismay of Lt Kojak (Telly Savalas), the man initially assigned to the case. Soon enough, a culprit is found, Afro-American Lewis Humes (Gene Woodbury), who was arrested for a rape he didn't commit, and the photograph of one of the girls was found on him. He even confesses to the crime, and thus practically grants the cops involved in his capture and interrogation (Ned Beatty, William Watson, Val Bisoglio) promotions. Lewis Humes though is nothing but an unemployed bum who might be a bit slow, and he finds out what he's accused of (and has confessed to) only at the court hearing.

Kojak never believed in the boy's guilt, and after learning from Humes that the confession was tortured out of him, he collects evidence proving the boy's innocence, starting with the photograph that got him in the hot seat in the first place - and that is soon to be proven to show someone else and not the murdered girl at all. But while Kojak is still out there trying to shake every last detail that led to the arrest of the boy in the murder case, Hume is tried and convicted in the rape case, a crime Kojak believes he is also innocent of, but since it happened outside of his jurisdiction, in Brooklyn, there is only so much he can do. Thank god then for ace lawyer Jake Weinhaus (José Ferrer), who has the verdict annihilated for misconduct of justice,a nd now goes after the jury, the arresting officers and even the DA (Allen Garfield) working on the case.

Meanwhile, a drug pusher (Roger Robinson) who has shot a latino in a fight, trades in his immunity for the identity of the real killer in the case of the two dead girls, and since "two white girls are obviously worth more than one latino", as Kojak sarcastically remarks, a deal is struck, and the pusher helps Kojak make one Teddy Hopper (Marjoe Gortner), drug addict and acquaintance of Kojak himself, confess to the murders (he has really committed by the way).

Humes couldn't be happier to be relieved of the murder charges, and he even invites Kojak to a party to his mom's place, but by trying to get the kid a fair chance, Kojak has made a lot of enemies over there in Brooklyn, and they try to pay him back via Humes, having him convicted to five years in prison for the rape he didn't commit ...

 

Especially considering the fact that it was made for television, this is a very ambitious movie, taking crooked politics and racism within the police force by the horns while telling an engaging story about a guy whom fate has dealt a bad hand and a policeman disgusted by his own kind. But while the movie is ambitious, it's by no means perfect: Too often, it just falls back on the formula of your typical police procedural and loses itself in unimportant details while losing sight of the main narrative, and tries to tell a few too many storylines all at once to remain wholly focused. However, every time Telly Savalas is on screen (which is all too rarely as this wasn't primarily about his character), he dominates the film, and it's no surprise his character has spun off into the TV-series Kojak within the year.

Still, for a made-for-television film, this is pretty good, and almost a must-see for the many outside shots of Manhattan and Brooklyn alone.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD