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Ironside: The Monster of Comus Towers

Our look back on the debut season of Ironside continues.

Episode: The Monster of Comus Towers

Airdate: 16 November 1967

Plot: It's a dark and stormy night when thieves break into a corporate art exhibit on the umpteenth floor of a high-rise office building to steal a rare and valuable religious painting. An infrared security system, one murdered security guard, and a suspicious candy wrapper ("Chocolate Charlie - a meal in a mouthful") lead Ironside to the simple deduction that this was an inside job.

Guest stars: Warren Stevens and a pre-Good Morning America David Hartman.

Cutting-edge computers: Before Bill Gates (who, if he were watching the original airing of this episode, would have been 12 years old) there was Howard Comus (Warren Stevens) and the Comus Computer Corporation. (Say that three times fast.) Obviously he's filthy rich, since his company has acquired the "most renowned masterpieces of European religious art." Don't let the easel stands used to display these paintings fool you.

A hi-tech security system that makes HAL-9000 look like rocket science: The brain behind Comus Towers is a control panel that stretches half the length of command central. Suddenly, the entire console lights up, complete with buzzers and alarm bells. There's been a break in!

Comus Towers security guard handbook, Rule #1: When answering an alarm, run with your handgun drawn, flailing it wildly about.

A mastermind on and off the field: When we first see Ironside, he's concentrating on a tabletop football game, the kind with the magnetized little players that bounce around when the board is plugged in. The Chief is formulating plays for his pal, the coach of the 49ers. "The game's only ten days away and this is the play that's going to crack it wide open."

Riddle me this: Ironside takes the case and describes it to Mark in the following way: "Query: If it doesn't fly with ease in a 50 mile-per-hour wind, what can walk up and down the side of a glass and stainless steel building, has no blood, and . . . wears tennis shoes?"

Cutting-edge computers, part 2: Ed Brown is suitably impressed by the Comus Towers' set up. "Some security system. Electronic. Magnetic tape records all data."

Egghead eyewear: Exhibit curator Owen Simmons (Kevin Hagen, AKA Doc Baker on Little House on the Prairie) is wearing a pair of black-rimmed glasses that look like they were the prototype for those gigantic gag glasses you see on circus clowns.

Just the facts, ma'am: Amanda Stillman (Joan Huntington) is Howard Comus' confidential secretary (wink wink.) Surely she knows something. Her interrogation by Lieutenant Fitch (David Hartman) is performed in a hallway and lasts all of three questions. Mark, Ed, and Ironside look on with interest. Each answer is given with a coy, cock of the head and a breathy delivery. She's too good to be true - all four men suspect her.

Gotcha! Amanda is shown entering the office parking garage and walking around the rear of her car before getting in behind the wheel. When a man she obviously knows pops up from the backseat and startles her in the rearview mirror, you have to laugh at the fact she didn't see him cowering in the back of her car - since she's driving a top-down convertible!

Because stamp collecting wouldn't help Ironside solve the case: A character central to the investigation has a bizarre and slightly creepy hobby - closed-circuit TV.

Any excuse to wear a costume: Mark feels it's typecasting when he goes undercover as a janitor. His job is to replicate the crime by working his way past the security system. Ironside is rolling along beside him the entire time - nope, that doesn't look suspicious at all - so I'm not quite sure why they feel the need for the janitor ruse.

If you ever saw the movie Entrapment, with Catherine Zeta-Jones contorting her way around the criss-cross of security beams, well, this wasn't anything like that: Mark assembles a three-piece rig that looks like a very small rolling coat rack; carefully positioned in the doorway, it redirects the waist-high infra-red security beam so that Ironside can wheel right under it.

How's this for a theme bar? Bullfighting! Patrons at La Corrida cafe watch black-and-white footage of a bullfight, applauding and yelling out "Ole" while a waitress dressed like a toreador serves drinks.

Ed Brown, Enforcer: "Don't worry about Miss Stillman. Sgt Brown hasn't pistol-whipped a woman in over a month."

When smoking isn't sexy: Suspect Vince Longo (Donald Buka) gets the most out of his cigarette, inhaling smoke up his nose as it comes out of his mouth and blowing it out his nose again like a snorting cartoon bull. You can't miss it since his head is cocked backwards and the camera has got him in a close-up.

Woman "driver": A scene between Amanda and Vince sets them in the front seat of her car. Actress Joan Huntington is the worst fake driver I've ever seen. She doesn't turn the wheel a single time as she's "driving" down the gently curving city street projected in the rear window.

Father knows best:

Daddy Ironside: Mark, I got your grades from school today.

Mark: And?

Daddy Ironside: May I suggest you excuse yourself and hit the books.

Cryptic caller: Late one night, Enzo Rossi (Renzo Cesana) phones Ironside with some important information, but it's pretty obvious that Rossi is going to kick it before the Chief ever hears what his Italian buddy has to say. If Rossi's cryptic comment wasn't enough ("I have had an idea who has done this. Now it is no longer an idea. I am ready to speak, aloud,") the foreboding low-angle camera shot is a sure sign that he's a dead man.

The sleep of the dead: Mark is inexplicably taking a catnap stretched out in Ironside's barber chair with his arms crossed over his chest like an Egyptian mummy.

Coffee, tea or Eve: Eve is serving coffee again!!!!

The world's slowest civic improvement, continued: Yep, that dump truck is still there, in the upright and locked position.

Ironside is working that boy too hard: A few scenes later, Mark is back in the barber chair looking like an Egyptian corpse.

Computers in the Castro: When the building's chief of security pulls out a transistor to track the elevator being used as a ransom drop, Ironside says, "A time to be living. I understand you people marry those computers to each other."

A death scene worthy of the finest opera: Vince is laid out on the elevator floor, raised up on one arm, his eyes closed as he clutches his chest and gasps for breath. "A quarter of a million. I thought I could get it for myself. I followed him in here. I . . . Ironside . . . I . . . " He collapses and dies.

I ain't never seen one of those new-fangled recorders before: The closed-circuit TV set-up (mentioned above) records to tape, played back on a reel-to-reel recorder that Ed and Ironside ominously refer to as "the machine."


* A Cop and His Chair
* Message From Beyond
* The Leaf in the Forest
* Dead Man's Tale
* Eat, Drink and Be Buried
* The Taker
* An Inside Job
* Tagged For Murder
* Let My Brother Go
* Light at the End of the Journey


Posted on November 20, 2008

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SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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