ELLERY QUEEN: THE ADVENTURE OF THE ECCENTRIC ENGINEER (TV)
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.
Lamont Franklin, a retired manufacturing CEO obsessed with his model railroad, is shot and killed by an unknown assassin whilst in his workshop. Meanwhile, Ellery is hounded by a woman named Lorelie Farnsworth, who continually pesters him to help her write a romance novel. Ellery is called away to investigate Lamont's murder along with Richard. He and Richard interrogate Bridget, Lamont's maid, who claims she was watching the one entrance to Mr. Franklin's workshop during the time when he was supposedly killed but saw no one enter or leave. Richard and Ellery also meet Carol Franklin, Lamont's widow, as well as his friends Roger and Emily Woods. Roger invited Carol and Lamont to go out to the theater with them, but Lamont refused in favor of working on his trains. Roger demonstrates the method in which they communicated: Lamont would talk to people by having them send a written note to his workshop from the parlor via a model train tunnel running between the two, and would respond via the same.
Emily voices her belief that Lamont had become senile, pointing to the fact that he would allow no one to enter his workshop without a "train pass." Ellery and Richard inspect Lamont's workshop, and Ellery surmises from the position and location of Lamont's body that whoever killed him must have had a "pass" of his own. They inspect Lamont's list of pass-holders, as well as a storeroom in the back of the workshop. Claude Sitwell, current president of Lamont's manufacturing company, enters. He was the executive vice-president before Lamont retired, and was promoted to fill the position; Roger in turn was promoted to fill Sitwell's previous position of executive vice-president. Ellery begins to wonder whether Lamont was killed earlier than they thought and the response note he sent back to Roger typed beforehand by the killer to provide the illusion that he was still alive. Bridget voices her suspicion that the culprit is Doug Carmichael, Carol's brother, who arrived that afternoon and had a fierce argument with Lamont.
The police put out a search for Carmichael. Ellery grows suspicious of Sitwell and believes he was looking for something suspicious in the workshop. He also tells Richard that he spotted an array of wires beneath the train set. Richard gets word that Carol has visited a marina and the police follow her. They find Carmichael there as well, who admits he was in the workshop and had a fight with Lamont over his treatment of Carol. He believes Lamont only feigned his eccentricity in order to hide his true motives. When asked about his whereabouts at the time of the murder, he claims he fell asleep on his yacht. Ellery believes Carmichael and thinks Lamont was killed because he was working on something terribly important. Farnsworth arrives to bother Ellery again, but he manages to get rid of her for the time being.
While inspecting Lamont's workshop, Ellery finds a secret false-bottom drawer in Lamont's desk, as well as a folder on the desk that wasn't there the night before. He also notices that Lamont kept all the notes sent to him via his model train on a spindle on the desk. The note which Roger sent to Lamont the previous night cannot be located. They hear a noise and realize someone is escaping through a previously-unknown secret door in the storeroom. They chase down and capture a man who turns out to be Billy Geeter, Lamont's longtime assistant. Carmichael believes Billy killed Lamont, but Ellery isn't so sure. Ellery and Richard determine through questioning that Billy was assisting Lamont in some kind of important project by taking notes on it in code. He confesses to trying to swipe the notebook and several cards, but Ellery still believes he is not the murderer.
Ellery and Richard confront Stilwell about the notebook and eventually get him and Roger to reveal the truth. Lamont was feigning insanity so that he could work on his latest project in peace: a system which could electronically automate his entire model railway, which he hoped to perfect and then apply to actual railroads, factories, and other large-scale industrial projects. Only Billy and Stilwell knew of this project, but Stilwell decided to entrust the secret to Roger as well so that he could report on Lamont's progress. When questioned, Stilwell claims he was taking a bath at the time of the murder. In private, Emily and Carol have a talk and Carol is apparently shocked to discover that Lamont was not insane. Emily says Roger told her of Lamont's secret project as well. Farnsworth manages to charm Ellery into taking her out to dinner with him. While paying for dinner, Ellery is struck with inspiration when he sees the cashier spindle his receipt. He immediately takes her to the police station and confirms his suspicions, calling Richard to get him to assemble all of the suspects in the Franklin house's parlor.
While the suspects gather in the parlor, Ellery has Sergeant Velie and Farnsworth waiting outside to assist him in his reveal. Ellery enters and begins his deductions: everyone had the means and the motive to kill Lamont, but only one of them could have done it. Ellery believes that Lamont was killed much earlier than they first thought, giving the killer time to pre-type out a response note to Roger's message to him and place it on the model train to be delivered back to the parlor. He points out that in order to do this, the killer needed knowledge of Lamont's experimental automation system, narrowing down the suspects to Stilwell, Roger, and Billy. Since a photo at the police station revealed that Roger's note was never placed on Lamont's desk steeple, Ellery concludes that the note never reached the workshop. Surreptitiously working in tandem with Velie and Farnsworth, Ellery manages to retrieve Roger's note from within the tunnel linking the parlor to the workshop. The response to the note is so specific it could have only been written by Roger himself, thus revealing him to be the murderer. Back home, Ellery and Richard theorize that Roger was motivated to murder Lamont due to his wife's influence, knowing that if Lamont came out of retirement, he would be forced out of his cushy executive position. The episode ends as Ellery decides to "collaborate" with Farnsworth. Commercials deleted.
- NETWORK: NBC
- DATE: January 18, 1976 9:00 PM
- RUNNING TIME: 0:48:14
- COLOR/B&W: Color
- CATALOG ID: B:03318
- GENRE: Drama, mystery/suspense
- SUBJECT HEADING: Drama, mystery/suspense
- SERIES RUN: NBC - TV series, 1975-1976
- Richard Levinson … Executive Producer, Developed by
- William Link … Executive Producer, Developed by
- Peter S. Fischer … Producer
- Michael Rhodes … Producer
- Peter Hunt … Director
- Booker Bradshaw … Writer
- David P. Lewis … Writer
- Ellery Queen … Based on characters created by
- Elmer Bernstein … Music by
- Jim Hutton … Cast, Ellery Queen
- David Wayne … Cast, Inspector Richard Queen
- Arthur Godfrey … Cast, Claude Stilwell
- David Hedison … Cast, Roger Woods
- Dorothy Malone … Cast, Carol Franklin
- Ed McMahon … Cast, Lamont Franklin
- Bobby Sherman … Cast, Doug Carmichael
- Tom Reese … Cast, Sgt. Velie
- Dick Van Patten … Cast, Billy Geeter
- Ellen Madison … Cast, Emily Woods
- Patricia Wilson … Cast, Bridget
- John Fujioka … Cast, Restaurant Manager
- Ann Reinking … Cast, Lorelie Farnsworth