The Rockford Files (1974) – The Countess and Exit Prentiss Carr

 

This entry on the Bellisario and Cannell revisit has private eye Jim Rockford (James Garner) dealing with cases of blackmail and murder!!

The Countess, with a teleplay by Cannell, based on a story by Roy Huggins (under the name of John Thomas James) originally aired the 27th of September, 1974. Jim has been hired by Deborah Ryder (Susan Strasberg) to stop a thug, Carl (Richard Gautier) from blackmailing her with her secretive past.

The phone gag this week, is a thinly veiled threat that Rockford is going to get his.

When Jim confronts Carl, fisticuffs occur, but mid-way through the fight, Carl is shot, and an elderly couple, and Carl’s girlfriend, are willing to testify that Rockford is the murderer.

Jim’s hauled in by Lt. Diel (John Carpenter fave Tom Atkins), who works with Rockford’s friend Becker (Joe Santos), but even Becker can’t stop the warrant and the evidence piling up around the private investigator. Beth Davenport (Gretchen Corbett) shows up, and pushes Diel to either charge her client, or let him go… the evidence is circumstantial at best, and Jim is released.

There’s a chase sequence, when Jim is pursuing the actual murderer, and gets pulled over by the highway patrol, who were still, at that point in time, apparently, wearing bow ties! ( Bow ties are cool!).

Also of note, is that Deborah’s tennis instructor is a very familiar and tall personage… James Cromwell

Hoping to elude the police when he learns the warrant is out for him, Jim gets nabbed by a couple of thugs, who take him to their boss, and Jim is in dire trouble, when the police show up! Evading the police again, Jim goes to confront the real killer, and ends up shot and in a car crash by episode’s end.

Garner is just so damned likable as Rockford that each episode is a joy to watch, just to see what he does. Sadly though, Noah Beery Jr. as Rocky, was sadly missing from this episode.

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In Exit Prentiss Carr, aired October 4, 1974 and written by Juanita Bartlett based on a story by Huggins, Jim is embroiled in a murder that for some reason, the cops are calling a suicide…

The phone gag this time around is a message from Maury, calling to let Jim know that his IRS return has bounced.

The show opens with Jim having followed his subject to a Bay City hotel, and upon entering the room finds Prentiss Carr has obviously been murdered. To protect himself, and his client, he goes to the police pretending to be looking for Prentiss, at the behest of upset family members. The police find the body, but rule it a suicide, which is completely wrong from the evidence that Jim, himself, examined.

As Jim begins to investigate, he learns that the new widow, Janet (Corinne Camacho) has been lying about her alibi, and Jim begins to suspect her, especially since she seems to be trying to woo him.

After being run out-of-town by the police, Jim is constantly trading up vehicles to sneak back in and run down more leads, which happily gives us an appearance from Rocky, who will happily lend his truck to Jim, providing Jim fill up the dual-tanked monstrosity, and oh, it doesn’t take regular…

Following leads, and opportunities, Jim discovers an insurance fraud scam, and that someone changed the crime scene to reflect a suicide…

I do like how a lot of the stories so far have tended to be very convoluted, and if you don’t watch everything, you could miss an important clue! This is a show that respected its audience. Yes there are moments of laughter, and as mentioned Garner is a sheer joy to watch, cautioning folks that he bruises easily, but the stories are wonderfully involved.

Next time around Jim looks into a missing persons case.

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