Monday, June 02, 2008

A Coffin With A View

04 A Coffin with a View
March 10, 1979
Music: William Broughton
Writer: Michael Sloan
Director: Ray Austin

BJ AND THE BEAR has fun sending up horror movies in this episode that guest-stars legendary thespian John Carradine as an addled old caretaker of a Transylvanian cemetery. Hollywood producer Holly Tremaine (Pamela Hensley) hires BJ (Greg Evigan) to transport two coffins filled with Transylvanian dirt from the San Francisco waterfront to Los Angeles, where they'll be used as publicity for Holly's new vampire movie FANGS. As BJ, Holly and Bear travel the backroads on a dark and stormy night, a pair of mysterious murders occur in which the exsanguinated victims are found with puncture marks on their necks. Vampires? Impossible, right? But how does one explain the appearance of hitchhiker Paul Desmond (George Lazenby), whom BJ picks up in the forest in a bone-dry tuxedo on a rainy night?

The strangest thing about the episode is its use of Carradine, whose extensive horror credits date as far back as the 1930s (he had actually played Count Dracula in Universal's 1944 HOUSE OF DRACULA and in a 1956 MATINEE THEATER TV play). "Special Guest Star" Foster Brooks (whose alcoholic standup routine was very popular in the 1970s) plays Terry Morgan, a hammy horror actor who enjoys tipping the bottle and performing impromptu monologues before bar crowds. In effect, Brooks is playing John Carradine, and I wonder why Carradine didn't play the role. I'd cite health concerns (always a factor with Carradine at this stage of his life), but he and Brooks have roughly the same amount of screen time.

One thing about ol' BJ: he surely does know where to find the hottest ladies. Hensley was also appearing as the sensuous Princess Ardala on another Universal series, BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY, when she made "A Coffin with a View." One of the '70s sexiest leading ladies (I know that's getting repetitive, but it's true), Hensley retired from acting after marrying her MATT HOUSTON producer, E. Duke Vincent.

George Lazenby, the former 007 (ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE) who spent the '70s making Hong Kong action movies and Australian television shows, worked again with Sloan and director Ray Austin (THE AVENGERS) on the 1985 TV reunion THE RETURN OF THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.: THE 15-YEARS-LATER AFFAIR. Also appearing in this episode are veteran tough guy Jack Ging and 32-year-old Danny Glover, making his network television debut in an unbilled part as a TV reporter who interviews Hensley about her next movie.

1 comment:

Andrew Byers said...

Sounds like a really fun episode. I used to *love* Pamela Hensley in Buck Rogers. Just read that she made her debut in the Doc Savage movie, which I've heard is bad, but this gives me another reason to check that out.