Episode Seven: Murder Ain't What It Used To Be!

Original Air-Date:
Duration: 50'32m
Screenplay by: Tony Williamson
Directed By: Jeremy Summers
Availability: Try store

Starring: Mike Pratt (Jeff Randall), Kenneth Cope (Marty Hopkirk) and Annette Andre (Jean Hopkirk).

Guest-Starring: Alan Gifford (Paul Kirstner), David Healy (Bugsy Spanio), Joyce Carey (Mrs. Maddox), Sue Gerrard (Susan Kirstner), Raymond Adamson (Jack Lacey), Patrick Connor (Harry) and Charles Lamb (Hotel Porter).

Technical Personnel: Ronald Liles (Production Supervisor), Brian Elvin (Director of Photography), Charles Bishop (Art Director), Cyril Frankel (Creative Consultant), Edwin Astley (Musical Director), Philip Aizlewood (Post Production), Lee Doig (Editor), Malcolm Christopher (Production Manager), Jack Lowin (2nd Unit Director), Gerald Moss (2nd Unit Cameraman), Denis Porter/Bill Rowe (Sound Recordists), Guy Ambler (Sound Editor), Alan Willis (Music Editor), John Owen (Casting), Roger Christian (Set Dresser), Bill Greene (Construction Manager), Val Stewart (Camera Operator), Michael Meighan (Assistant Director), Sally Ball (Continuity), Peter Dunlop (Production Buyer), Elizabeth Romanoff (Make-Up), Ramon Gow (Hairdresser), Laura Nightingale (Costume Supervisor), A. J. Van Montagu (Scenic Artist), Frank Maher (Stunt Co-Ordinator), Cinesound (Sound Effects Suppliers), Chambers + Partners (Titles), Dennis Spooner (Creator/Executive Story Consultant) and Monty Berman (Producer). An ITC Production.

Jeff: Jeff's morality is brought up several times this episode, from him refusing to work for a crime boss (at least until the cash is pressed into his hand) and berating Marty for suggesting Jeannie would sleep with another man. (Though as Marty's dead and Jeff plays the field, then isn't this double standards?) Jeff later justifies working for Kirstner by telling Jeannie that it's due to "extenuating circumstances" (referring to Bugsy threatening Jeannie's life) and seemingly believing it. This seems to suggest that Jeff undergoes self delusion in order to ease his conscience.
Jeff Scraps: Apart from briefly manhandling Jack Lacey, there's no Jeff scrapping in this episode, with Marty's ghostly glass jaw the one to (twice) get a pounding off Bugsy. And a drum. However, Marty later pre-empts the rope-a-dope by tricking Bugsy into wrecking the place in anger.

Marty: With the appearance of another ghost, we learn a lot about being a spirit in this episode. For one thing, ghosts can touch each other, and it appears that they can literally share memories, as Marty is taken into a black-and-white flashback by Bugsy. Marty is also seen to move a vase by telekinesis and can conjure objects, namely a cigar, a machine gun and a hat. He appears to have a psychic link with Jeannie by hearing her scream in her apartment when he's in the office, and most significantly he tells Bugsy that he's been a ghost at this stage for "twelve months". On a personal note, he reveals he once took Jeannie's mother with them on holiday to Majorca. Lastly, for the first time since the debut episode, the affect of ghosts in the atmosphere is remarked upon, with Aunt Maddox complaining "it has turned cold" when Bugsy appears.

Story: A crime boss flies over to England from New York to attend to "business" in London. Behind most of the rackets in Chicago, Paul Kirstner hires Jeff to protect his daughter from any of his enemies. However, Kirstner is being haunted by Bugsy "Smiler" Spanio, a man he double-crossed and murdered after they stole a million dollars worth of alcohol "just before they ended prohibition". Knowing that Jeff is being hired by Kirstner, Bugsy contacts Marty and threatens to terrorise Jeannie unless Jeff kills Kirstner for him.
With Jeff constantly stalling, Bugsy eventually relents and amends the plan - Jeff only need to phone 01 246 8090 and tell the person on the other end that if there are any messages for Kirstner then he's with his daughter. Unbeknownest to Jeff, the man on the other end of the line was Jack Lacey, a rival criminal who also wants Kirstner dead. (Lacey claims he's "waited five years for him (Kirstner) to come over", which seems to contradict an earlier statement in the story that Kirstner has been away for fifteen years. For completeness' sake, Kirstner's daughter Susan claimed she last saw him when she was eight, which would make her twenty-three.) Jeff encourages Marty to make Bugsy mad, so that Bugsy's psychic attack on the property will distract Lacey and his armed henchman. After he does so, Kirstner leads them both out to be murdered, planting a gun on Lacey and telling him he'll claim to the police it was self-defence. However, Kirstner is distracted by Bugsy, allowing Lacey to kill him.

Production Order: This was the twenty-fourth episode to be filmed.

Trivia: Why does Susan cry "Look out! There's someone in the road!" when Bugsy is plainly over a hundred feet away? Had she cut the brake cables or something? Also on the subject of suspect motivations, how can't Kirstner hear Jeff talking to Marty when they first meet, despite him being sat right next to him?

Look out for Jeannie reading a magazine (17'56m in) which seems to teleport out of her hands.

Finally, the images on this site have been updated in June 2019 from the BluRay release. The BluRay from Network went back to the original film masters for restoration, so there may be differences. While the obvious wires on moving objects are now even more obvious on the higher resolution, look out for the moment when Marty and Bugsy appear inside the flashback sequence... originally they were black and white like their surroundings, but on BluRay, as pictured below, they appear in colour while the background remains black and white.

"Is it a full moon or have you been at the incense again?"

Murder Ain't What It Used To Be! is an episode that's generally well regarded by fans of the series, and looked on as something of a nadir by more casual observers.

Personally, I used to hate it, from the silly way Marty is dragged back in time to take part in a black-and-white flashback (!) to the way the humour is so broadened that we don't get whistles and bells, but drums and a 20s brass band to cement the "comedy". Even the very obvious wires on vases annoy, while wooden Sue Gerrard's acting ability is in direct inverse proportion to the size of her enormous lacquered hair.

Yet in other ways it is well made. The hated flashback sequence is pulled off well for an ITC production (even if the eyelines are badly matched), and David Healy does well in what is a very two-dimensional role. What's more, researching the story details above gave me new-found respect for the story which, if not exactly complex, is a lot more serious than you would expect. It's not exactly sombre material, though is quite eerie (would've been a nice touch to see Kirstner's ghost) and isn't perhaps the end-of-the-pier laugh-in than the first few viewings might make you think. Either that or my immunity has just been battered down. I used to cringe and squirm at Ken Cope's hyped-up ghost fighting, but this time around he does seem to play it commendably straight, working well against the lighter nature of the story. A final score? Well, part of me lo… likes the episode, and part of me hates it. I guess that makes it kind of even…