ELLERY QUEEN: COMIC BOOK CRUSADER (TV)

Summary

One in this 1970's television revival of this mystery series detailing the investigations of mystery writer Ellery Queen and his father, police inspector Richard Queen.

Ellery visits the offices of Capricorn Comics, a comic book company making comic book portrayals of Ellery's adventures. He disagrees with his portrayal in the comic book and has an argument with the editor, Bud Armstrong, whom Ellery discovers is in the habit of being something of a tyrant to his employees. They argue and Ellery angrily vows to stop the comic book from being printed. That night, Ellery returns to his study, but is so mad about the situation with the comic book that he can't get any writing done and decides to go for a walk. Meanwhile, Armstrong calls the staff on his comic books in for a meeting where he berates them for their supposedly sloppy work. They bemoan the fact that they can't quit due to their contracts with the publisher. They leave and Armstrong makes advances at his secretary Alma, but he is quickly rebuffed. The letterer, Kenny, returns to ask Armstrong about getting his own comic strip published, but Armstrong insults his work and throws Kenny out of the office.

Armstrong works late that night. Someone enters his office and Armstrong sees the assailant before he is shot three times and dies. Richard catches up with Ellery on his walk to take him to the crime scene. There, they discover that in the final seconds of his life Armstrong drew a blue "X" over a word bubble on a panel layout on his desk for the Ellery Queen comic book. The police believe that this implicates Ellery as a suspect for the murder. They cannot find the murder weapon anywhere in the office. Flannigan learns about the case and goes to the comic book office while Richard questions Alma. She claims that she was watching television with her boyfriend at the time of the murder. She mentions the meeting between Ellery and Armstrong and interprets Ellery's argument as a threat against Armstrong's life. She identifies Ellery as the killer and Flannigan reports on the story in his column, believing that Richard is shielding Ellery from arrest.

Soon Richard finds himself pressured to place the crime on Ellery, but he vows that he will resign instead of allowing that to happen. Ellery turns himself in to police custody to take the pressure off of Richard. Meanwhile, Flannigan receives a copy of "The Adventure of the Purloined Gun," one of Ellery's mystery novels, from an anonymous sender. Flannigan, intrigued, decides to read it; upon finishing the book he is struck with inspiration and orders his secretary to fetch him some items from the hardware store. Meanwhile, Ellery sits in jail and spends his time reading Armstrong's comic books for seemingly unknown reasons. Flannigan follows a tip and finds a meeting between Armstrong's staffers, including Kenny, Alma, and the three other artists in Armstrong's employ: Phil Collins, Vincent Porter, and Lyle Shannon. The meeting concerns Kenny's comic strip; with Armstrong gone they are free to publish it as a monthly magazine. Flannigan begins to suspect Kenny killed Armstrong. The three other artists claim that they were at a nearby bar together during the time of the murder. None of the assembled party admits to sending Flannigan the copy of Ellery's book.

Ellery finally sees something in one of Armstrong's comic books which gives him a clue. He recognizes a pistol in one of the comic panels as being based on a real gun he saw in the office during his earlier visit, used as a prop for reference. Since the gun in the office wasn't loaded, Ellery deduces that the killer must have purchased ammunition and then loaded the gun to use against Armstrong, suggesting that the killer had knowledge of the gun's location. Flannigan breaks into Ellery's study with the tools purchased at the hardware store but is quickly discovered by Richard. They have a confrontation and Flannigan reveals his purpose there: he reaches into Ellery's fish tank and finds the murder weapon at the bottom; he knew to look there because the same ploy was used in Ellery's mystery novel.

The police confirm that the gun is the one used to kill Armstrong. Richard believes someone is trying to frame Ellery for Armstrong's murder and vows to stop it. First he questions Alma and her boyfriend, Ronald Himes. Ronald reinforces Alma's alibi that they were watching television during the time of the murder; they both seem nervous during questioning. Richard also questions the other artists and their alibi appears to check out. His suspicion turns to Kenny, since he claims he was on the subway during the time of the murder but has no witnesses to corroborate his story. Richard wants to arrest Kenny but doesn't have any evidence against him. Flannigan visits Ellery in jail, convinced that Ellery could not have committed the crime, as he feels it would have been foolish to hide the murder weapon in the same way as a character from his mystery novel.

Ellery and Flannigan are brought to Richard's office where Ronald is being interrogated alone. He reveals that Alma convinced him to lie to the police, and that the truth is he watched television alone and Alma returned home much later. They also interrogate a taxi driver who recalls driving Alma to Ellery and Richard's house. Richard visits Alma's apartment while she's packing a suitcase in order to arrest her. She decides to tell the truth and admits that she went shopping after rejecting Armstrong before heading to Ronald's apartment. Richard tells her about the taxi driver's recollection of her going to Ellery's house and she claims that someone from Richard's office called her and asked her to meet him there, but when she arrived no one was there. Richard finds out that part of her job was to read Ellery's novels before they were adapted into comic books and that the "Purloined Gun" novel was near the top of her list. Convinced that she is the killer, Richard arrests Alma.

Meanwhile, Ellery looks around the comic book office and obtains a box filled with the drawings on Armstrong's desk at the time of his death which hadn't been confiscated by the police. He disputes Richard's conclusion that Alma is guilty and reconstructs the layout of Armstrong's desk when he was murdered. He believes that if Alma was the killer, Armstrong would have been able to leave a clue as to her identity just before he died. When Flannigan comes in and talks about an apology to Ellery which was cut, or "blue-penciled," as he puts it, out of his column, Ellery gets a flash of insight and is able to determine who murdered Bud Armstrong.

He gathers Richard, Flannigan, and all the suspects into Armstrong's office to reveal the culprit. At first it seems that Armstrong was attempting to identify Kenny as the killer, as the "X" he drew was through one of the word bubbles. However, Ellery points out that since it was done in blue pencil, it means Armstrong was specifically omitting Kenny from suspicion, i.e. "editing" him out of suspicion. Ellery deduces that the panel which Armstrong chose to draw the "X" on was a finished panel with all the artistic elements in place, including figuring, shading, and the background. With the "X" omitting the lettering, or Kenny's position, that leaves the other three artists, Collins, Porter, and Shannon, as suspects. They repeat their alibi, but Ellery points out that while witnesses saw them enter and leave the bar, they could have lost track of them at some point in between those times. Ellery describes the scene: the three of them worked up the courage to kill Armstrong and bought bullets to load the gun with, one shell for each of them. Each of them took one shot at Armstrong, killing him, then hid the gun in the fish tank, sent the copy of Ellery's book to Flannigan, and tricked Alma into appearing at Ellery's place to frame her. Enraged at being found out, one of the artists attempts to stab Ellery, but he is quickly dispatched and the three of them arrested. The episode ends as Flannigan reports the story to his newspaper. Includes commercials.

Details

  • NETWORK: NBC
  • DATE: October 2, 1975 9:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 0:55:21
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: B:03691
  • GENRE: Drama, mystery/suspense
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Drama, mystery/suspense
  • SERIES RUN: NBC - TV series, 1975-1976
  • COMMERCIALS: TV – Commercials – Oscar Meyer wieners^TV – Commercials – Contac cold relief^TV – Commercials – Downy fabric softener^TV – Commercials – Sure antiperspirant^TV – Commercials – Anacin pain relief^TV – Commercials – Jergens skin lotion^TV – Commercials – Parkay margarine^TV – Commercials – "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" motion picture

CREDITS

    • Richard Levinson … Executive Producer, Developed by
    • William Link … Executive Producer, Developed by
    • Peter S. Fischer … Producer
    • Michael Rhodes … Producer
    • Peter Hunt … Director
    • Robert Van Scoyk … Writer
    • Ellery Queen … Based on characters created by
    • Elmer Bernstein … Music by
    • Jim Hutton … Cast, Ellery Queen
    • David Wayne … Cast, Inspector Richard Queen
    • Tom Bosley … Cast, Bud Armstrong
    • Lynda Day George … Cast, Alma Van Dine
    • Donald O'Connor … Cast, Kenny Freeman
    • Ken Swofford … Cast, Frank Flannigan
    • Tom Reese … Cast, Sgt. Velie
    • Eddie Firestone … Cast, Phil Collins
    • George Sperdakos … Cast, Vincent Porter
    • Joseph Maher … Cast, Lyle Shannon
    • Alan Landers … Cast, Ronald Himes
    • Herbie Faye … Cast, Moe Fletcher
    • Archie Johnson … Cast, Deputy Commissioner
    • Maggie Nelson … Cast, Vera
    • Sandy Ward … Cast, Guard