Airdates: October 19th, 1961 and July 12th, 1962
Written by Harry Kronman
Directed by Paul Wendkos
Produced by Lloyd Richards
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Co-starring Albert Salmi, Mary Fickett, Carroll O’Connor.
Special Guest Star Wendell Corey.
Featuring Robert Bice, Larry Breitman, Paul Genge, Bing Russell, Richard Reeves.
“Towards the end of 1932, the power of Chicago’s underworld seemed to be waning. But by Summer of the following year, a new wave of crime had engulfed the city. Frightened and angry, civic groups demanded action. The appointment of Willard Thornton followed. Willard Thornton: age 48, Chicago Society, eastern college; recently retired from a distinguished career at the bar. His immaculate reputation and his impressive record of public service had made him an almost unanimous choice for the newly created post.”
Attorney Willard Thornton (Wendell Corey) takes charge and promises swift action. Eliot Ness does more and promptly captures Joey Loomis (Larry Breitman), a small-time narcotics pusher but he fails to provide Ness with any new leads on the new crime cartel. Ness has Loomis released, hoping he will lead the Untouchables to bigger game, but the cartel decides that Loomis must be disposed of. When the syndicate meets to assign Country Boy Parrish (Albert Salmi) as the hitman, Thornton is revealed as its leader.
Parrish succeeds in murdering the hapless pusher in his room, but his room, but Parrish is captured moments later by the Untouchables attempting to pass himself off as another tenant in the building. Parrish fails to break down under interrogation and before long, syndicate bail bondsman Barney Lubin (Carroll O’Conner) arrives to free him.
Thornton, fearing that Parrish might betray him, instructs Lubin to dispose of him. En route to his demise well outside of Chicago, Parrish wrestles Lubin’s gun away, but the car crashes into a telephone pole. When the dust settles, Lubin is dead and Parrish gets away.
Frantic and annoyed, Thornton offers a $5,000 personal reward for information that will lead him to Parrish, but the ploy alerts Ness’s suspicion, and he assigns Hobson to dig into Lubin’s files. Meanwhile, Parrish has arrived at a small truck stop. in the company of lonely Emmy Sarver (Mary Fickett), w. o sees not a murderer on the run, but a man she might be able to capture t r herself. Numerous ploys fail to win his affection and she soon becomes more enamored of Thornton’s reward money.
With Thornton on his way to catch up with and dispose of Parrish, Hobson discovers that one of Lubin’s telephones was actually a direct line to Willard Thornton’s home. Springing into action, the Untouchables arrive at Sarver’s Truck Stop to engage Thornton and his men in a blazing gunfight.
“The exposure of Willard Thornton rocked the city of Chicago and put an end to the new crime cartel. Enforcement of the law was returned to the pros.”
A predictable, but interesting hour, Power Play features Carroll O’Conner in an early role as the sleazy bail bondsman, Barney Loomis. He exists in a superbly staged nighttime auto wreck cleverly adapted from a period feature film of unknown origin.
Despite fine performances by everyone from Mary Pickett’s man-hungry Emmy Sarver to veteran Wendell Corey’s viperous Willard Thornton, Power Play doesn’t live up to its title and suffers from excessive use of force. One murder leads invariably to another. There is a substantially more interesting game of cat-and-mouse that pits Ness against another corrupt public servant in the following episode, Tunnel of Horrors.
The actual power-play appears to have more to do with Emmy Sarver’s pitiful attempts to blackmail Parrish into a relationship than it does with Thornton, the star villain. Sarver should have been the hour’s primary focus (she is definitely more interesting than Country Boy), though the character only has a few moments to hint at deeper pathos. “What was I ever to them?” she seethes, referring to the parade of disinterested men at her business. “A cup-of-joe, two eggs over easy, one of the boys. I ain’t got nobody but you and you ain’t got nobody but me.”
The story concludes with the customary gun battle, this time with a shot placed to touch off the gasoline pumps at Sarver’s filling station. A couple of gunsels dampen the effect by dying unconvincingly. One climbs on top of a car just so he could be shot off of it.
There is a curious moment in which a car is literally driven right over a flock of idle and unsuspecting chickens in the small fictional Illinois town of Five Points. The chickens are not amused and run off clucking in twelve different directions miraculously unscathed. Animal rights activists would not be pleased with this cavalier treatment of so many Sunday dinners were such a scene filmed in a contemporary setting. Of course, Sarver’s pet raccoon dies, too.
• By now the program had plenty of its own source material, so footage from an early chase scene is borrowed from Nicky – a cost and time-saving measure.
• During Thorton’s attempted escape, his path is blocked by two automobiles that turn their headlights on. In the wide shot, they’re clearly modern cars, but in the close-up, they’re the correct vintage.
• Narcotics and drug use will start to worm their way into more and more episodes of The Untouchables in the Third and Fourth Seasons. Drug use in the 1960s was more topical than Prohibition and illegal booze was getting tired.