Airdates: March 9, 1961 and Dec. 24, 1962
Written by David Z. Goodman
Directed by Walter E. Grauman
Produced by Lloyd Richards
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Joseph Wiseman
Co-starring Bruce Gordon, Telly Savalas. Featuring Gale Robbins, Jeff Lorey, John Mitchum, Ben Wright, Jason Wingreen, Loma Thayer, Byron Morrow.
“In mid-October of 1932, two events had the nation’s capitol buzzing with excitement. The first was the election campaign between the incumbent president of the United States, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was climaxing his great personal triumph over polio, as the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party. The second event was a special meeting of the most important federal agents from the leading cities in the country.”
In Washington, Ness learns that a new tamper-proof denaturing formula has been discovered. The development immediately impairs the underworld’s ability to tum legally produced alcohol into whisky. In Chicago, Nitti’s principal booze supplier, Wally Baltzer (felly Savalas), begins importing real whisky from Canada, while his chemists tackle the problem of coming up with a formula to counter the government’s program. Before long, one of Baltzer’s chemists, a Frenchman named Villon (Ben Wright), stumbles upon a suitable antidote and confides in his associate, Russell Shield (Joseph Wiseman).
Handicapped and using canes to get about, Shield murders Villon and steals the formula. He then offers to provide it for Baltzer in exchange for a one-third partnership in the operation. Reluctantly Baltzer agrees. When questioned by the Untouchables, Shield brazenly informs Ness that Villon had been working on a new restaurant.
Later, Shield encounters Baltzer’s girlfriend, Loma (Gale Robbins), and casually proposes marriage. More amused than annoyed, Loma puts him off, but he suggests she take the matter under advisement until he has become a millionaire. Intrigued, Loma agrees. Not long afterward, Baltzer has Shield knocked down and a bottle rescued from his grip.
Confronted with the prospect of his demise, Shield advises Baltzer that “the greedy know how to anticipate the greedy”, and that the bottle contains only water. Baltzer suggests Shield proceed with the renaturing and put the matter behind them, but Shield insists that Baltzer dispatch his other partner, Max Frimmel (Jeff Lorey), to prove himself. Baltzer instantly obliges and Frimmel is murdered. But the peculiar Shield continues to worry Baltzer and soon he strikes a deal to sell his interest in the whisky business to Shield and Nitti. But when Shield arrives to close the deal, he announces that the government has discovered the existence of his secret formula and that the deal, about to cost Nitti $750,000, is worthless. Enraged, Nitti orders Baltzer dispatched.
Having watched the body count rise, Ness decides he may have enough to move on Shield, who he finds at Lorna’s apartment with another proposal backed up with a large diamond. Offering no resistance, Shield begs for sympathy, asking Ness to understand how a cripple could have done better.
Ness lifts a newspaper to reveal another cripple’s fate – Roosevelt’s victory.
The first of only three gunfire-free installments ever produced, The Antidote is an absorbing tale requiring no closing Winchell commentary. Written to accommodate Joseph Wiseman’s injury from an accident on the set in which he took an axe to brewery props not designed to break away, Russell Shield is the sort of weird, spooky character Wiseman does best. With an Achilles tendon on the mend, Wiseman portrays the handicapped criminal with a relish found normally on stage rather than celluloid.
As weirdly engaging as Russell Shield may be, it is clearly Telly Savalas’ Wally Baltzer that steals much of the program. Filmed only a year after Savalas’ career began with his debut in a bit part on the Armstrong Circle Theater, Savalas, balding, but not yet trademark shorn, inhabits the greasy Baltzer with an audible slither. Notable is the scene in which Baltzer is betrayed by Shield, as it features two major future Bond villains and the one and only Frank Nitti all in the same room. Sounds like the start of a good joke…
Born Aristotle Savalas on Long Island to Greek immigrants, his first major film role in 1961 brought him into the national limelight as a police detective in The Young Savages, foretelling his best known, Emmy Award-winning role more than a decade later on television as the tough, but lovable Lieutenant Theo Kojak, who chased New York hoodlums armed with an assortment of lollipops from 1973 through 1978.
He won an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Birdman of Alcatraz in 1962, and went on to appear in many other television programs including The Twilight Zone and Combat!, and feature films including The Dirty Dozen (1967), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), and Kelly’s Heroes (1970). Savalas was also close and personal friends with Untouchables actor Paul Picerni for the remainder of his life.
Telly Savalas died in January 1994, at the age of 70.