13 February 2006 | deconstructionist
Well done period piece
This 1971 TV movie appears to have been a pilot for a proposed series based on "Perry Mason" creator Erle Stanley Gardner's much lesser known "Doug Selby D.A." novels. It's a shame this never made it because "They Call It Murder" shows a good bit of promise. Jim Hutton is excellent in the title role as the earnest young D.A. (His son Timothy's resemblance is remarkable) and he was always an underrated actor.
The supporting cast is also strong an notably features Ed Asner as a bumbling and blustering small town chief of police. In this episode the "guest stars" are Jessica Walter (who was intriguingly distant yet seductive) and Leslie Nielsen (was this guy EVER young?) and while it wasn't real difficult to finger the culprits the motive and means were creative yet not so far-fetched as to be beyond the rules of "fair play."
TCIM, of course, appears dated now with a very early 70s look (and outlook)and pacing that is several gears slower than contemporary mystery/suspense. It could be said that the movie drags in places but it could also be argued that that the languid pace adds to the atmosphere. . As with all mysteries it is a formula driven show but it is a well done one. This has more in common with 40s film noir than formula dramas of today such as the L&O faux realism template.
TCIM relies more on plotting and character psychology and less on fist fights and car chases than the typical 60s/70s era shows of this genre did. (Although there is a little of that it appears superfluous and forced; that would be my only complaint.)
I came across this in a $1 bin of overstock DVDs. It's a very low budget DVD that appears to have been transferred from second generation (or worse) tape and has uneven sound and almost no packaging but it's well worth the dollar.