Friday, April 3, 2015

I Dream of Jeannie vs. The Love Boat

FXM Retro's current programming, as I've said regarding a couple of other movies, seems to involve putting on a movie early in the afternoon toward the end of the Retro block, and then repeating it early the next morning. An example of this is Twelve Hours to Kill, which comes up again tomorrow morning at 4:35 AM.

Nico Minardos plays Martin Filones, a Greek man who's been working as an engineer for an American petroleum company in Saudi Arabia and decided he wants to see the land of his bosses. But he gets more than he bargained for, as in the very first scene he witnesses a murder! Things like this don't happen every day in America, do they? Well, not this sort of murder, which is a gangland murder that involves a couple of guys in a car coming up on the guy they want to kill and doing the deed right outside Filones' window. What the decedent was doing in public and alone when he must have known he was a wanted man is glossed over, because we don't really care about the dead guy. Filones goes to the police, where he's interviewed by Lt. Carnevan (Grant Richards), a police detective who's just gotten out of the hospital after being shot in a case involving another witness to a high-profile killing; the witness in that case died. So Carnevan knows that witnesses like Filones are in real danger. He and his superior, Capt. Long (Russ Conway), decide to send Filones to a small town up the river where he can hide in relative anonymity.

Filones takes the train, where he meets a crazy lady with her dog, and then meets Lucy who doesn't reveal her name to him until the third act (Barbara Eden, later Jeannie in I Dream of Jeannie). They strike up a conversation, and when it turns out they're both getting off at the same station in the town of Denton, he lets her know that he's going to be picked up at the station. Who he sees ready to pick him up, however, is a problem. Filones has a good memory and a talent for drawing, and the illustration of the killer that he gave to Carnevan down in New York looks amazingly like one of the two men in a car waiting at the station (Richard Reeves). His fellow hitman is played by Gavin MacLeod, later Capt. Steubing on The Love Boat. Filones realizes something is wrong, and Lucy offers to take him to her house. Later in the evening she offers to take him to the hotel where he was supposed to stay to see what's up, where they find the two killers waiting there. Somebody in the New York police obviously tipped these killers off, so Filones can't trust any of the police. Meanwhile, Lucy has contacted the Denton police, who are doing their own investigation independent of the New York City cops.

It's all a good idea, but it winds up falling a bit flat in the execution. The climax, in particular, is badly filmed, looking extremely ark and murky and difficult to figure out precisely what's going on. It doesn't help that FXM is running a panned and scanned print. There's also stuff that's a bit too straining of credulity, like the pharmiacist recognizing the name of Lucy based on having filled a prescription, or Filones not remembering the name of the street Lucy lives on. On the other hand, watching Capt. Steubing smack Jeannie around is a bit of a hoot. As for other future TV stars, there's a third one in the cast in the form of Ted Knight, who plays a dispatcher in Denton, at least according to the IMDb credits.

Ultimately, Twelve Hours To Kill feels like something that, had it been made 15 or 20 years later, would have been made as a TV movie. There's nothing particularly great about it, but it's not terrible either, just perfunctory. It's worth one watch, but probably not much more.

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