Episode 6: Death Notice

Starsky and Huth track down an old man who keeps warning strippers of their impending death, but when they find quiet Anton Rusz, they don’t think he’s the killer.

Anton Rusz: Ivor Francis, Manny: Milt Kogan, Kathi: Lenore Kasdorf, Ginger: Suzanne Charney, Jerry: Vincent Baggetta, Francine: Roz Kelly, Lou Posey: Vince Martorano, Arnold: Chuck Bergansky, Delano: Walter Brooke, Sonia: Rosanne Katon, Cronin: Chuck Hicks, Bodyguard: Todd Martin. Written By: Robert C. Dennis, Directed By: William Crain.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES

One of the marvelous aspects of this particular episode is the depiction of a marginal neighborhood and the people just trying to survive, the strippers and illegal immigrants and squatters. It’s a long way from Season Four’s black-tie dinners, fashion shows and cruise ship mishaps. A lovely detail is in the opening scene, where just the PA of Panama is lit up, the rest of the neon gone dim, which gives a sad quality to the whole enterprise.

“Ginger!” cries the announcer, and Ginger comes out wearing something from Gone With the Wind. Or maybe it’s a really bad wedding dress. One wonders if any of those mustachioed guys in their open-neck shirts could be fantasizing about the Old South, but no matter, it’s her show and she can do what she likes. Disrobed, in a glittery bikini, she seems more sweet than sexy, a nice girl who has temporarily fallen, might get herself together, go back to community college, and phone her mother.

Manny’s okay.  “My girls are artists,” he insists.  He doesn’t want Ginger scared. He may be mercenary – he doesn’t want her running off, threatening profits – but he seems genuinely concerned for their well being. Starsky and Hutch seem to think he’s just a typical low-life, but it seems unusual to me that a someone in his line of work actually cares about his girls.

Hutch looks a little sunburned in the wonderfully choreographed scene with the girls in the crowded change room. It can’t be a blush, can it?

Great prop moment: Francine comes in wearing the silver earphones Huggy will borrow in the tag. She has them again during her interview with Hutch.

Real strippers were used in the club scenes, which makes me wonder if this a risky move at the time, or typical of how productions worked. Were the producers just trying to save money, or were they going for realism? Unfortunately, this makes Roz Kelly as Francine really stick out as an “actress”. The other girls seem more careworn, more natural, while she looks self-conscious in her little black bikini outfit and badass “attitude”.

“They sat him at the worst table in the house,” says Arnold the dim-witted waiter. Hmm. Anton appears to have been seated pretty well front and center at Ginger’s show, hardly stuffed against the back wall by the toilets. Is Arnold lying, or can he really not remember?

“How’s it going, Sugar?” Ginger says to the pretty Sonia who’s just come off, the on-stage come-hither smile dropping off to a blank nothing. Sonia has a hilarious reply. “Like always, real classical,” she says.

Ginger sneaks out of the club after asking Sonia to call her boyfriend for her. This is puzzling on two counts: why avoid her chaperones after appearing genuinely worried at the death threat, and why doesn’t she just make that call herself? It seems like a lot of trouble to put someone to.

It’s pointless to guffaw at every continuity error – there are many, and just as many excellent eagle-eyed fans online to find them – but the scene with Ginger and her boyfriend, with Starsky and Hutch coming up the path, is noticeable because Starsky’s double is not only wearing the wrong sneakers – not the classic Adidas – but looks different too.

It’s always welcome when the aftermath of action allows for reflection. In the first three seasons this happens regularly, reinforcing their compassion and empathy and underscoring the idea that they have yet to be jaded (that won’t occur until Season Four). Here, the boyfriend is holding Ginger’s body and Hutch echoes this by putting his hand on Starsky’s shoulder. “Nice world, huh,” Starsky says.

Horse brasses over the fireplace in Kathi’s apartment. Does her boyfriend have ambitions to be an English aristocrat, has he spent a lot of time in pubs, or is this just a décor thing?

It’s back to Dobey’s paneled office. This, along with Starsky’s remarkably short hair, indicates it was probably filmed immediately following the pilot. Later in the show the office has been plastered and painted. Big reno week for Dobey.

There’s some great choreography outside Superior Meats, Starsky strong-arming the henchman into the dumpster and Hutch kicking it shut. Not only is it neatly done, and with a minimum of violence, but it showcases the closeness of the partnership.

This is the first and maybe the best meat locker scene in television, a motif to be repeated many times in other films and television shows but never surpassed.

Starsky and Hutch are attempting to question Posey without the intrusive attentions of his boss, Delano. Finally Starsky has enough and says, “Hutch, I think we better go someplace where we can continue this conversation uninterrupted,” to which Hutch replies genially, “That’s a good idea, Ollie.” The two will use this Laurel and Hardy routine often, reversing the roles as the situation dictates, depending on who’s aggressive and who’s passive, who’s controlling and who’s following.

Posey is shivering violently in the freezer and the guys aren’t. Insulating properties of leather I get, but Starsky is wearing next to nothing. Giving the impression they are impervious to pain is probably one of the most powerful weapons at their disposal, and goes a long way to explaining the terrified reverence in which they are held.

How does Lou Posey make out that Anton is a refugee? Or is this just a figure of speech, meaning “not from around here”?

Why does Anton bother going into the alley to whisper to the girls – and risk being caught, which in fact he is – when he already scrawled a warning across the poster?

Hutch and Starsky are in the alley wondering how the mysterious suspect got away. Hutch, without a word or signal, makes a motion with his hands and Starsky immediately complies, using the “stirrup” to jump on top of the dumpster, and therefore to the ladder. No words needed. Hutch follows. Throughout the entire search, culminating with the discovery of the hatch, both are particularly graceful.

Anton Rusz may have not known the seriousness of the threat with Ginger, but when he writes that Sonia is next, he later claims “the voices” told him this. He could have saved the life of at least one girl if he had decided to tell the police what he knew. He tells Starsky and Hutch he kept quiet because he was afraid his cheating the phone company would get him deported. Starsky and Hutch seemingly accept this, because later they invite him to their house. He’s basically a coward, and morally deficient. Why do Starsky and Hutch feel kindly towards him, when they don’t feel sympathy toward others in similar positions? Is it because he’s wheedling and pathetic? An immigrant? Really, really sorry for what he’s done?

Anton seems shocked he’s being arrested for murder. Isn’t it police procedure to inform a detainee what they’re being held and questioned for? And also, shouldn’t the consulate from Anton’s home country (Hungary, most likely) be notified of his arrest?

When the guys do the phone test, using Dobey, they are mightily amused when Dobey becomes frustrated at hearing both their voices on the same line. “Wait a minute,” he bellows, “is this Starsky or Hutch?” Another instance of the long running mix-up routine, and perhaps the only time it is deliberately perpetrated.

When Jerry hits Kathi, there’s a picture of a shark on the wall behind her. The shark is same brown color as Jerry’s shirt. Describe the possible symbolism.

Does Kathi really intend to target her “best friend” Ginger when it’s revealed she imitated a Southern accent on the telephone to make the extortion demands? Or was this just a really stupid, thoughtless thing to do? Of course Delano would presume it had to be one of the girls from The Panama Club. And only one of those had a “cornpone” accent. How could she not know? If it was a deliberate act, this is one cold-blooded girl.

Piecing together this particular mystery takes great imagination and attention to detail: Jack Thorn’s accident, which turns into murder, the connections to Las Vegas, and the use of strippers to “dress up” a party, a threat with a Southern accent over the phone that leads to blackmail and mistaken identity. The guys are really on fire here as they see all the pieces fit together.

This is an instance of both crime and take-down taking place in water. One in the swimming pool, one in the mini-golf hazard.

Jerry apparently dies after being shot by Lou Posey. I say apparently, because we never see him again. An interesting case of a perpetrator being entirely forgotten in the apex of the moment, left to float in the pond, and very different from Ginger’s scene in the pool earlier.

Filming notes: While filming the golf course scene, one of the actors sneezed and sent his false teeth flying, and filming had to be stopped for a while because Glaser and Soul were both on the ground, in stitches.

Starsky is insistent, shouting “hey” twice, really wanting to get Hutch’s attention when he’s in the mini golf pool after shooting Posey. But all he says is, “got a match?” Is this just making noise, or does he mean Hutch is so wet he can’t possibly have working matches, a failure Starsky is delighting in? Why would Hutch have matches anyway? Is this lame joke the best Starsky can come up with? Apparently so, since he is similarly lame in the scaring-Hutch-for-a-laugh department in “Velvet Jungle”.

Tag: what’s not to love, Starsky and Hutch singing “Black Bean Soup” with tremendous enthusiasm, eyes only on each other in the racous celebration of a successful case, Huggy with the incredible head-gear, looking like some metallic insect. Anton says, “secret ingredient is love for good friends”, and cut to a revealing shot of Starsky and Hutch glancing at each other, and eventually clinking glasses. Huggy makes an obscure comment that he “doesn’t want to be no gypsy” by eating something he doesn’t recognize. Romania, Hungary, potato, potahto.

By the way, that song, delightful as it is, is impossible to dance to, and yet they’re all dancing as hard as they can. Maybe Huggy is listening to some disco on those headphones.

Clothing notes: Hutch wears the fetching orange zip-up sweater and camel suede jacket he’s been in since “Longhorn”, and cowboy boots. Also, in a later scene, a zip-up ribbed hunter green shirt with the blue-and-white plaid jacket he’ll wear, on and off, for the next four years. Starsky as usual in cloth jacket, jeans and blue t-shirt.

 

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12 Responses to “Episode 6: Death Notice”

  1. stybz Says:

    Wow, no one else has commented on this one? 🙂

    It’s a cute episode, though not up there with others. I like how Starsky jumps into the pool in an attempt to rescue Ginger. Then, he falls back, defeated, coughing when Hutch says that her neck is broken.

    I found two additional things wrong with this episode. When Starsky and Hutch can’t find Ginger in the club, it’s Manny who tells them she left to meet with her boyfriend. If she wanted to sneak out, why would she tell both Manny and Sonia? Manny’s too weak to be trusted with a secret. I know the girls love and respect him, but if she didn’t want Starsky and Hutch to know she left, wouldn’t she have told Manny not to say anything to them?

    Also, when Anton is in the alley warning the girls about Sonia, no one can really see him. He’s hidden and sneaks away too fast for them to see. He disappears. And yet they can all ID him. That made no sense to me.

    I think you’re right, Merle, about the “refugee” comment. I think it was just a common (at the time) description given to anyone who was an immigrant or had a foreign accent.

  2. Patricia Ackor Says:

    One comment here. Have you ever listened to the lyrics of “Black Bean Soup”? It’s a love song. Upbeat as it is, it’s a love song. And who are they singing it to? Each other. And, having watched them together on- and off-set, I had no doubt that they did love each other. I know much of SH fandom sees the relationship as ‘slash’ but that’s not the way I knew them. They simply cared deeply about each other and did everything they could to defend, protect and support each other. Any way you look at it, that’s love.

    • Blunderbuss Says:

      Patricia, your comment about Black Bean Soup makes the song even better. I think I went “awww” out loud. The sheer depth and interior surface area of their relationship never fails to astound me all over again.

      This might be kind of straying away from merl’s canon-focused discussion (sorry!), but, from what fanfiction I’ve read (and I’ve, uh, read a LOT *shifty eyes*), including stories dating back to the 1970s and 1980s, I feel like the Starsky and Hutch fandom is actually very balanced. Compared to other fandoms I’ve been involved in, such as Star Trek or The X-Files, an unusually large proportion of Starsky & Hutch fans seem to be flexible about their interpretations, willing to write and read and appreciate both romantic and platonic interpretations of their relationship. Must be because in this show, it’s a fairly insignificant thing to argue about. No matter what the details of people’s interpretations or preferences may be (I’m pretty open, though friendship is more personally appealing and interesting to me, hence my love for this blog!), fans will never disagree over whether they loved each other madly and deeply, or whether their friendship was the most important thing in their lives and the show. The answer is always “yes.”

      • Adelaide Says:

        That is a beautiful way to think about them, Blunderbuss. I personally have a very specific yearning for portrayals of best friends, not romantic partners — no doubt it is related to my late teenage and young adult years, when I changed locations and lifestyles and my family scattered so much that developing and keeping close friendships was impossible for me for several years. I never thought much about serious romantic relationships back then, they weren’t a priority at all. But the intense longing for friends, and the memory of the friends I once had in childhood, and the frustration and loneliness of not having them is still indelibly seared onto my memory, so that I can never take them for granted even today. I’m still a little over-fascinated by the whole concept of friendship to the point where I have devoured books and philosophy about it.

        This very specific hyper-awareness of what a powerful, exquisite, and under-appreciated thing best-friendship is and how uniquely fulfilling Starsky & Hutch is in that respect (as I commented on at length in the Gillian review) means I personally have no interest whatsoever in viewing them differently — specifically platonic friendship is too entwined with those formative personal memories and desires I talked about. But it means I can also understand how other people — say, some LGBT people or women from very traditional families, who have emotional-social desires that are thwarted constantly by society and the media — and probably long to see a relatable model of a marriage/romance that is based on loyalty and equality and friendship rather than full of homophobic, sexist, or infatuation-based Hollywood cliches, would find something fulfilling in that area in a show like Starsky & Hutch as well.

      • Spencer Says:

        Like many other commenters here, I watched the original series in the 70s as a teen and it has lived in my memory all these years because of the singularly unique quality of the partnership. I couldn’t put my finger on it for a while and, as others, have debated in my mind whether it was friendship or actually a romantic relationship. I have concluded that it was pure friendship rather then a romantic relationship which actually makes it even more special. In romantic relationships, partners have certain expectations of each other that friends do not. The fact that these two men were so completely connected and devoted to each other without any preconceived ties society would place on them is truly remarkable and so enjoyable to watch. The intensely emotional scene in the “Gillian” episode is preceded by Starsky offering his entire savings to Gillian just to keep Hutch from being hurt. This, from a man of limited means. That selfless and completely unexpected demonstration of love, and others similar to it throughout the series, is what makes the partnership live on. Don’t we all want friends like that?

      • stybz Says:

        I agree with Adelaide and Spencer. I see their relationship as a friendship and not a romance. And I always wanted that kind of friendship in my life.

  3. Sandra Says:

    You couldn’t have said it any better, Pat! It was obvious in every gesture. That tag is one of the most wonderful and I do like this episode a lot.
    I started to read through this blog again and I still think it’s one of the most interesting sites about S&H there is on the internet. Thanks so much Merl!

  4. Spencer Says:

    Just a quick note — I liked the “heads or tails” bit before they entered the apartment from the roof. It reminded me of the “heads or tails” bit before the run in “The Psychic.” I’ll have to check for more of those as I review my DVDs.

  5. LauraY Says:

    Merl, Anton does act cowardly, but I have a certain sympathy for him. We don’t know how he comes to be all alone in that strange shop. While he’s afraid to come forward, fearing either deportation and/or jail time for stealing phone service, he still does what he can to help the girls, putting himself at (albeit minimal) risk. He literally runs when confronted (not his best moment), showing just how scared he is. He’s not very effectual, at least at first, but he does keep trying despite his fear.

    It could be the acting, or perhaps just the language barrier, but I thought he was portrayed as at least a bit learning impaired. Certainly, he is socially awkward at the very least. S&H are often shown supporting the disenfranchised. Maybe with the support of community, he could grow to be a stronger, better person.

    So, big, brave hero he is not; but timid, hero-wanna-be? Perhaps.

  6. DRB Says:

    I love the whole interrogation of Anton. Our heroes are SO sure that they have caught the psycho/sicko with his mutilated dummies that when he starts telling them about the voices, you can see them thinking, “Yep. Classic symptoms!” The realization that he is talking about real voices on the telephone is almost comical as we see them abruptly revising their theory and attitude towards Anton. I was reminded of the scene where the older couple in “Savage Sunday” are telling about the dynamite; Hutch’s blank expression changing when he blinks and heads for the phone resonates is a very believable reaction but is somehow funny.

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