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Ironside: Dead Man's Tale

Our look back on the debut season of Ironside continues.


Episode 4: Dead Man's Tale

Airdate: 28 September 1967

Plot: This episode has a pre-credit opening worthy of The Sopranos. Warren Stuart, a middle-aged "big shot" "criminal" ("The No. 2 man in the organization") and his much younger fiance Tina emerge from a large California split-level. They stroll arm-in-arm toward the gleaming turquoise swimming pool. After a cursory conversation in which the German beauty pouts when she learns Stuart is "sending (her) away" - because of "them" - Stuart tells her to go ahead and take her swim.

As soon as Tina and her three-foot-long blond braid are under the water, a sniper's gun emerges from the trees, zeroes in on Stuart, and bang-bang, he's a goner. Before he expires, Stuart tells his screaming fiance not to call the doctor, but to make "the other call first." A dripping Tina grabs the avocado green poolside phone - an unintentional dramatic pause inserted while she dials the number on the rotary phone, dial-whirr, dial-whirr, dial-whirr, dial-whirr, dial-whirr, dial-whirr, dial-whirr, to call . . . Chief Ironside.

Could this be the big break Ironside needs to bring down a crime syndicate?

Guest star: Jack Lord

Is it a father-daughter thing? Why do older men on TV and in movies always coax their pretty young things to do what they want using the phrase "good girl"? As in, "Go on and swim for me. Be a good girl."

Pimp my ride: Every time we see the interior of Ironside's mystery mobile, they've added something new. This time it's furniture: an L-shaped metal desk for the Chief to sit behind and bench seating for passengers Eve and Ed. There's also a large map of San Francisco on the wall and one of those small boxy desk lamps with an adjustable arm.

Perhaps it's in the shop: Hey, what happened to Ironside's motorized wheelchair?

If you don't let Ironside go after this guy, Commissioner, I think his head will explode: Ironside is practically chomping at the bit to take down the mob kingpin John Trask when he makes the following speech to his superior officer -

Ironside, spitting nails: " . . . Trask is a plague. A piece of every dirty dollar in this town winds up in his pocket and still we haven't been able to touch him. He's laughed at us for ten years . . . There's a chance now and I want it. We nail Trask, fifty others will wind up behind bars along with him. It'll be the biggest day the department ever had. A free hand, Dennis. Do I have it?"

Commissioner Randall: As long as you play it by the book.

Ironside: You want the book or do you want Trask? (pause) Pleasure to do business with you. (Cue muted trumpet exclamation point.)

Book 'em Danno: John Trask (Jack Lord) is a senior partner at the law firm of Trask, Conroy, Hardy and Slezak, head of the entire West Coast division of a criminal empire, and a dead-ringer for Steve McGarrett.

First row, second car from the left: An exterior shot of the hospital. Hey, I think that's my dad's pale green 1963 Plymouth Valiant in the parking lot! I loved that car, with its pushbutton transmission on the dashboard.

Method acting: As part of the team watching over Stuart's body in the hospital, Eve poses as a nurse and does a tremendous amount of scribbling on charts.

Tick, tick, tick, ding: A man disguised as a hospital orderly pulls a homemade bomb from a laundry cart. It's a mass of wire wrapped around five sticks of dynamite attached to an old-fashioned spring-wound kitchen timer which the bomber dials to 15 minutes.

Where's the gang from Station 51 when you need them? When the bomb goes off in the hospital, wood, metal and debris fly everywhere. Ironside is at his most ineffective as he wheels himself directly into the mess.

Call in the Army: Helmeted soldiers who look like extras from a Korean War movie have inexplicably been called in to secure the bombsite.

Whatchu lookin' at? Ironside announces that the next step in turning up the heat on Trask is for Stuart to "regain consciousness" and start singing like a canary. Eve is positively baffled. Doesn't Ironside know Stuart is dead? She looks with amazement at Mark, who looks back at her with an expression that says, "Well, what are you looking at?"

The Bat Phone: Trask has a private phone line that connects him to the syndicate boss out East. When a call "from the East" comes in, a big red light flashes between a desk set of two crystal decanters. Out comes another avocado green rotary phone, hidden in the top right desk drawer.

Quick, let's go driving aimlessly around: Tina is abducted by two of Trask's henchmen disguised as paramedics. After Ironside puts out an APB on the ambulance, he, Eve and Mark race for the van as Ironside says, "We won't help sitting here. We should be in the area." The area being the entire city of San Francisco.

For that price, you can park in Chicago for about one minute: A street sign advertises lot parking in downtown San Francisco for 35-cents each half hour.

Nothing makes a car chase more exciting than following along on the map: Now we know why there's a map on the wall of Ironside's van. Word comes in over the car phone that the ambulance has been spotted. Ironside uses a stick pointer (the kind used by grade school teachers back in the day) to indicate the location on the map for Eve and Ed, who are sitting six inches away from him.

Driving Miss Daisy: This episode contains a record number of close-up shots of Mark driving the van.

Location, location, location: Good thing Ironside's surveillance ID photo of Trask (shown earlier in the episode) conveniently had the hood standing in front of his private plane. It's just the nudge Ironside needs to go from Point A to Point Z, quickly jumping to the correct conclusion that Trask has gassed up his airplane and is waiting on the runway to flee the country.

They just don't cuff 'em like they used to: When Trask emerges from the plane, Ed puts a single handcuff on the crook. Ed holds the other handcuff in his hand, like he's taking the dog out for a walk rather than locking up the No. 1 wanted mobster on the West Coast.


* A Cop and His Chair
* Message From Beyond
* The Leaf in the Forest


Posted on August 25, 2008

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