James Coburn in “The Murder Clause”


In “The Murder Clause” episode of PETER GUNN, Helen Bailey (Cece Whitney) goes to Gunn because she’s afraid her husband wants to kill her. See, he’s this crazy trumpet-playing cat, and you know how THEY are–probably all hopped up on the ‘horse’ you dig?

Bud Bailey is played by James Coburn, so of course we believe her story completely. So does Gunn. Then the Bailey weekend getaway cabin burns down, apparently with Bud inside.

(There has to be a cleaner way to indicate that things aren’t as they seem without using ‘apparently,’ which might as well be ‘apparently but not really.’)

SPOILERS AHOY! cap’n. Budd got a bum to stand in for his body, and Pete catches up with him.

It’s an okay ep, but around the 24 minute mark on the Youtube version, Gunn enters a room where Bud (pot reference?) is hiding out. The jig up, Bud sits on the bed, obviously but effectively behind bars.

What’s fascinating about this scene is the way the script and Coburn bring out the sheer FRUSTRATION of the criminal seeing his plan fail.

So much crime fiction is about big money, big passion. This scene is about crime as an escape. Coburn’s character gets more frustrated AND more exhausted as the scene goes on, as he accepts that his escape didn’t work, and he was JUST SO SURE he could get away with it.

It’s a fascinating scene. And this being a death penalty state, he’s going to get away from it all.

(Boy, this transfer slows down the theme in the end. Directed by Boris Sagal, dad of Katey, who died by walking into a helicopter rotor on the set of the TV movie WORLD WAR 3. Ouch.)