A car speeds away from the house on Greenapple Road. Jan Brady comes home from school calling for her mother, Marian (Janet Leigh) but finds nothing except a destroyed kitchen and an alarming amount of blood. Oh my God, they named a Janet Leigh character “Marian” in a murder mystery, but there is no possible connection to her character named “Marion” in Psycho, is there? Anyway, Jan goes next door to her aunt (Julie Harris)’s house; her aunt lives next door in order to watch over Jan because mommy is kind of a flake.
Then a credits sequence with lots of bongo playing and dramatic horns, and at the very end of the principal cast list, the “and” man: Christopher George as Lt. Dan August. He looks great here, especially to someone like me who mostly knows him from his later horror roles, and the character makes lots of funny smart comments. Dan August arrives at Greenapple Road in a city police car driving in a helicopter shot, with a final closeup on the city logo on the police car’s door before he dramatically gets out of the car.
August and his partner (Keenan Wynn) go in the house but can find no body, not even in the deep freeze. August goes snooping around in the bedroom and finds Marian’s trophies from her oh my God extramarital affairs she’s been having with four! men! What did her husband suspect, though, since he himself is a traveling salesman. She couldn’t help it. This revelation leads to a great and very scandalous series of scenes when George will interrogate the four men, who are all sleazy men around town that he has to get sarcastic with, followed by lurid flashbacks of their interactions with Marian and how they done her wrong. There’s a young lifeguard, a low-level gangster, a hippie/preacher, and a big lawyer. The best, and last, of these flashbacks is played out with a woman, though, the wife of the lawyer lover, actress Joanne Linville nearly steals the movie here in her late-night soap opera version of a rich woman finding her powerful husband did wrong, punctuated by a great face slap.
This is exploitation, by the way, if you haven’t guessed, so there are some fun scenes where Chris George has to fight the reporters who are trying to force their way closer to the scene and witnesses. He gets to make a little speech about how the reporters are only being pushy because it’s a youngish beautiful woman who is missing and not a wino in an alley, sound familiar? He also quarrels with old corrupt police superiors including the politically-minded county sheriff Ed Asner. Fortunately that leads to Asner saying to George: “that’s close to impertinence lieutenant” at which we get to hear George say, “Too bad; I thought I made it all the way.” Burn!
People liked this Dan August character so much they made a TV show around him, played by Burt Reynolds. People didn’t like that show so much, but it developed a cult following after Reynolds got famous. Ha ha HA! George also does a big ol’ scene with Lynda Day George, billed here as Lynda Day. Hmm.
They don’t find a body until almost an hour into the show, and after that there’s still at least 50 minutes to go in the film so there are more twists as well as some predictable shit like an interrogation scene of Marian’s husband that features lots of Acting! Everyone gets their big scene, obviously, with a cast like this one. And we don’t know who the murderer was before the lieutenant does, so this really is a whodunit, yay!
So what happened on Greenapple Road? Should I be mad about this old film making a lady adulteress look so punished? Did Chris George really fall in love with Lynda while she was playing an uncooperative pothead hippie witness who he interrogated all sternly? Why didn’t they get hotter guys to play the cuckolds, I mean the youngest hottest (supposedly) of the guys, the lifeguard character was played by the dude from The Incredible Melting Man…Ted Nelson…Nelson. Not my thing. Oh well, there’s Christopher George.
So anyway, see this movie. It’s a great TV exploitation “look what that free love hath wrought” plot in 1970, when the men must have been really afraid their hot 43 year old bleached blonde housewives were gonna run around on them, risking the loss of a closet full of party dresses and getting blood on one’s kitchen floor, not to mention being reported on in the paper and probably someone’s going to jail who should have just been minding their own business out there in the suburbs. Scandalous stuff here. If you like TV movies, track this down.