I mentioned before that in the 70s there was a series of movies featuring basically the same character of a small town police chief solving murders, and that usually the character was played by Andy Griffith. Well, Warner Instant dragged me back into their wonderful world with a promise of a half-price subscription for three months, and I have gone and gotten obsessed with the three movies in the series that they have up on the site. I have watched each one of them at least three times.
In this installment, the closest companion piece to an earlier TV Tuesday feature The Girl in the Empty Grave, Andy plays Abel Marsh, the chief of police in a town through which the Army likes to secretly transport their surplus chemical weapons down a back road on the way to dump it in the ocean in San Diego. But on the day this movie begins, someone is waiting for the tanker truck of death with some dynamite. Two Army guys are killed along with a pair of bickering birdwatchers who happened to be in the field near the crash, because whatever is in the tanker truck “takes away oxygen.” And now it is sitting on the ground in a gas form, waiting for the Army to vacuum it up or the wind to blow it away, in a terribly scientific explanation.
Who would do such a thing? And why? Who cares? Have you ever noticed how utterly ridiculous the plots of most small town mysteries are? You watch the whole thing, and you think you want to know who done it, but then you get caught up in the quirky characters: like a horny boardinghouse owner who just wants to smoke some pot with Andy Griffith, or the deputy and his broken refrigerator saga, or the wino who steals a whole dock by untying it and walking it down the shore to his house (why does a wino have lakefront property?), or a very angry ranch hand who is too mad at Andy and goes on a priceless rant about why he’s proud to drink beer from a can and live in a trailer park. Oh, and Andy himself, with an ill-advised concrete boat and a bunch of risque TV movie hints about spending the night at his girlfriend’s house sometime soon. Aunt Bee would get the vapors! And then you get to the BIG EXPLANATION for why whatever Scooby Doo villain has done what they done, and you’re like, is that really it? Worst of all, I don’t think the Army ever came and contained that chemical spill, the writer just forgot about it.
Oh well, it’s better than the real life explanation of “he walked into my knife 15 times in the kitchen while we were fighting because I burned dinner again.” Murder in real life is just sad, depressing, and usually committed by someone too dumb to throw the bloody mattress in a different dumpster from the one next to their apartment. But man, is it fucking interesting on 70s TV!