Telefilm Review: Mannix: The Crimson Halo

We continue our reviews that focus on Batman actors in other detective and mystery programs as part of our Amazing World of Radio Summer Series, focusing on their old-time radio work.

“The Crimson Halo” was the third episode of Mannix‘s sixth season, broadcast in October 1972. Attorney Noah Otway (Burgess Meredith) hires Mannix (Mike Connors) to determine whether a recent attempt on the life of his client, Dr. Graham Aspinall (Joseph Campanella) was targeted at him, or if it was just a random drug addict who had been attempting to steal drugs from a doctor. At first, it appears that no one would have a motive at all, as Dr. Aspinall’s life’s work is dedicated to performing surgeries on cancer patients who have what are considered inoperable tumors and are lost causes according to their own doctors. Yet somehow, Aspinall’s method is able to give them a 50-50 chance.

Mannix discovers that while Aspinall may be a life-saving miracle worker, he’s also an arrogant egotist who hands out fierce tongue-lashings to everyone he considers beneath him (i.e. the entire human race), and is manipulative and cold. Mannix finds himself drowning in motives, and then gets decoyed to a spot where someone tries to shoot him. His client pulls him off the case. But once you shoot at Mannix, he’s not stopping, no matter what the client says.

The first half of the episode is really solid. It does a great job of establishing the world of Dr. Aspinall and all the people who hate him. It’s mostly Mannix questioning suspects, but the dialogue is sharp and crisp as you’d expect from a Levinson and Link TV show during this boom time for TV detective programs. There is a bit of sag in the middle, and the story takes a few improbable turns to get to its final twist. The solution does make the episode make sense and makes sense of some parts of the story that felt incongruous.

The appearance of Campanella is a bit odd to long-time fans of Mannix as, in the first season of the series where Mannix was working for a “modern”  1967 detective agency, Campanella played Mannix’s boss, Lew Wickerstrom. It’s not unprecedented to have an actor play one guest character in one season and another years down the line, or for an actor to play a guest character and get cast later as another main character. But it is weird to have an actor cast in a major role in a series, and then come back as another guest character.

Still, despite the curiosity aspect of the episode, Burgess Meredith’s guest performance is what really makes the episode work. He’s in less than half a dozen scenes but he owns each one and really sells both his character and the conclusion in a way that makes this a really solid episode.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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