Sunday, June 19, 2016

Cosa Nostra, An Arch Enemy Of The FBI

Warner Brothers, looking to squeeze more nickels out of its television properties, released “The Executioners,” a two-part episode of THE FBI, as a feature film in overseas theaters. Perhaps executive producer Quinn Martin (THE FUGITIVE) and Warners intended COSA NOSTRA, AN ARCH ENEMY OF THE FBI to be a film from the beginning of production, since it’s packed with big-name guest stars--even for a QM show (famous for paying top dollar for guest actors). Director Don Medford and cameraman Robert Moreno seem to have composed their shots with a theatrical aspect ratio in mind, though it still looks like a television show.

Series star Efrem Zimbalist Jr. still takes top billing as stalwart FBI agent Lew Erskine, but the story sets him back in second place in favor of Walter Pidgeon (FORBIDDEN PLANET) and Telly Savalas (THE DIRTY DOZEN) as mobsters trying to avoid indictment by a New York grand jury. Probably because of the heat Martin took from the Italian-American community for the ethnic gangsters on THE UNTOUCHABLES, the Cosa Nostra are decidedly WASPy, including Robert Drivas and Robert Duvall (THE GODFATHER) as hitmen and Ted Knight (CADDYSHACK) as a gun dealer.

Savalas and Pidgeon play old friends whose families disapprove of their careers. Savalas hasn’t lived with wife Celeste Holm in ten years, and Pidgeon’s daughter Strasberg (THE TRIP) proclaims “I haven’t got a father.” Pidgeon fears Savalas, who’s still in love with Holm and yearns for their old life together, is getting soft, which could mean that Telly might end up like the last two grand jury witnesses against them.

As a TV show, “The Executioners” (which aired in 1967) is pretty good television, but it lacks scope and action. Cast aside, it’s a mystery why it was chosen to play for a paying audience. Maybe they didn’t show up, which could explain why there wasn’t a second THE FBI movie. Pidgeon and Savalas, the real stars of the film, are very good with Telly’s tentative mobster bouncing solidly off Pidgeon. Ken Lynch, Wesley Addy, Ross Elliott, Russell Thorsen, Dan Frazer (KOJAK), James B. Sikking (DOOGIE HOWSER, M.D.), Jerry Douglas, Susan Seaforth Hayes, and Anthony Eisley (HAWAIIAN EYE) co-star. Richard Markowitz (THE WILD WILD WEST) composed the score using Bronislaw Kaper’s television theme over the main titles.

No comments: