Murder by Night
Writer: Robert Hamilton
Director: Russ Mayberry
Producer: Rick Weaver
Exec Producer: Donald P. Bellisario
(Alicia), Jennifer Runyon
(Christine), Phyllis Davis
(Tiffy), Jeff MacKay
(The Coroner), Henry Jones
(The Butler), Bill Edwards
(William T. Maxfield)
1940s San Francisco: Private Investigator Thomas S. Magnum investigates the murder of newspaper tycoon William T. Maxfield. The case involves characters that strangely bear a strong resemblance to the "modern day" Magnum, T.C., Higgins and Rick.
The original script for this episode had two different working titles - "Murder in Paradise" and "Passion on an Offshore Wind".
Set in San Francisco 1941, this is the third episode to feature extended fantasy dream sequences
, following "Flashback
" (3.7) and "A.A.P.I.
" (7.5). This episode is styled after "classic period" American film noir
(1940s-1950s), but also uses several Agatha Christie
-style plot devices, including the twist ending with all of the suspects in one room as the "detective" unravels the murder mystery. The opening and closing credits are made to look like a 1940s-era movie, complete with dramatic music
and "old Hollywood" lettering. The soundstage sets for the main house and guesthouse of Robin's Nest
have also been completely re-done in a 1940s decorating style.
The original broadcast version of this episode was mostly in black-and-white, except for the very beginning and end. The syndicated and DVD version is mostly in color, with only opening and closing credits (and part of the denouement) in black-and-white.
Unusual for the show, there is no opening preview for this episode, and almost all of the scenes take place on soundstage sets. There is only one brief scene (Magnum driving to Maxfield's mansion) that is not filmed on a set.
The Cast of Players in the "Murder by Night"
Tom Selleck................Thomas Magnum
John Hillerman.............Sam Caldwell
Roger E. Mosley..........Inspector Wolf
Larry Manetti...............Rev. Bentley
Jeff MacKay................The Coroner
Henry Jones................The Butler
After the opening credits, an "opening text crawl" says the following:
"In the winter of 1901, a young boy named Willy Marcowicz arrived in San Francisco with his ailing mother. He sold newspapers on street corners to keep food on their table... By 1941, he had become William Tyler Maxfield; newspaper publishing baron, and one of the richest, most powerful men in America."
Based on the final scene, the events of Magnum's dream are based on a story he recently wrote called Murder by Night
, his first attempt at fiction writing.
The scene with Rev. Bentley at Magnum's office is a clever recreation (almost verbatim) of Sam Spade
's first meeting with Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon
. (Noted by Shermy)
Similiar to "The Elmo Ziller Story
" (2.21), we get to hear John Hillerman speak with his normal Texan accent!
10 Dashiell Hammett
, Raymond Chandler
, Erle Stanley Gardner
, Agatha Christie
and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
are "name-checked" by Higgins (in Magnum's dream).
When Christine meets Magnum at the guesthouse and calls the dogs off of Magnum, she uses their names Isis and Osiris. Isis is the name for the Egyptian goddess celebrated as the ideal mother and wife. Osiris is the Egyptian god of life, death and fertility. (Noted by seahawks1)
After the events of the main story, the very last scene shows Magnum reading
an issue of the detective pulp magazine Headquarters Detective
, a real magazine from the 1940s. He coughs after taking a drag from his cigarette, looks at the camera, then puts it out. This is no doubt a self-referencing joke, as 1940s Thomas Magnum is seen smoking in pretty much every scene, and Tom Selleck doesn't smoke cigarettes!
(to Magnum) Will you have a drink? I don't trust a man who won't have a drink.
Magnum: Well, that leaves us with only one way to look at this thing. Someone in this room murdered William Tyler Maxfield.
Magnum: Book 'em all Inspector, murder one and accessory after the fact.
Inspector Wolf: Wait a minute Magnum. If they are all going to jail, who is going to get Maxwell's money?
(The Butler starts laughing)
At the beginning of the episode, Christine talks about "a dog show taking place in Austria next month"
. The episode is set in 1941. During this time there was no official Austria, since it was occupied by Germany from 1938 to 1945 as part of the Third Reich. (Noted by Gunther Grohmann)
Shoot me an email if you'd like to have something added or corrected