Brock's Last Case (1973)

A 1973 TV movie, which is almost automatically to say a backdoor series pilot that didn't fly. It opens with an amusing montage of New York City cop-life as weary Max Brock (Richard Widmark) has a hard time fighting crime despite unhelpful citizenry and rotten luck, then shows up at his boss's to hand in his resignation - after a bizarre feint about corruption in which film of him apparently taking a bribe is explained as an undercover sting - and relocate out West to an idyllic citrus ranch where he can sit on the porch and watch the sun go down. Arriving in small town, USA, he learns that his ranch is a disaster area known as The Mighty Lemon and that his Indian manager (Henry Darrow) is about to be arrested for the murder of the Sheriff. In debt and needing a loan, he is steered to a banker (John Anderson) who agrees only if the big city cop will help the inept deputy (Michael Burns) investigate the murder, preferably proving the Injun's guilt. From then on, it's predictable if amiable: the most friendly of the suspects (David Huddleston) turns out to be the killer, the arrows found stuck in the Sheriff and two subsequent victims were stabbed rather than shot, there's a social conscience side-trip as a liberal lady lawyer-rancher (Beth Brickell, channelling Gretchen Corbett out West) introduces Max to some angry Indians and an overlong chase-fight finish as the ageing Widmark and the tubby Huddleston show unlikely action man moves jumping off roofs and running at speed. A lot of minor characters (Dub Taylor as a storekeeper/judge, Pat Morita as a Chinese cook who can't make Chinese food, Vaughn Taylor as a doctor, Will Geer as a folksy real estate crook) are set up as possible regulars, while Widmark has nice sparks with the easygoing, apologetic Darrow, the peppery Brickell and the boyish Burns. Directed by David Lowell Rich.

First Published In: Shock Cinema (issue unknown)

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