Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Reliable But Chicken

Jim Rockford (James Garner) takes on The Man in the ROCKFORD FILES two-parter, “Profit and Loss”. More precisely, a massive $2 billion corporation called Fiscal Dynamics, Inc. The mystery begins when a man named Alec Morris (John Carter, also a regular on BARNABY JONES at the time) visits Rockford's trailer and asks the private eye to act as some sort of go-between. Two thugs break into the trailer, knock Jim out, and kidnap Morris. A day later, the district attorney arrests Jim for filing a false police report; Morris denies he was ever kidnapped or that he ever met Rockford.

To avoid a jail sentence, Rockford begins poking around Morris’ powerful employer—Fiscal Dynamics—and its volatile COO, Leon Fielder (Ned Beatty). While Rockford dodges hired thugs and threatened lawsuits, a spunky widow named Doris Parker (Sharon Spelman) hires him to prove Fielder and Fiscal Dynamics murdered her husband, a racecar driver who allegedly drove over a cliff accidentally.

Rockford, the ultimate underdog, really goes up against Goliath this time. Beatty only appears in a few scenes in the two-part episode, but his influence is felt behind every clue and every witness Rockford unearths. Garner and Beatty crackle together in their scenes, but the real standout is Albert Paulsen, a veteran character actor who played vaguely foreign heavies on nearly every action/adventure of the period (including several MISSION: IMPOSSIBLEs). Paulsen has only one scene, but it’s a doozy. Rockford is knocked unconscious (again), and awakens on the bare wooden floor of an empty house, surrounded by two faceless goons hidden in darkness and the erudite Paulsen before him on a folding chair. Calmly, quietly and oozing danger, Paulsen sits motionless and tells Rockford precisely what violence may befall him if he doesn’t give up the case and stay out of Fiscal Dynamics’ hair. It’s one of the best scenes in all six seasons of THE ROCKFORD FILES.

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