Well not exactly.
WINTER KILL, from 1974, was a pilot with Andy Griffith playing Sam McNeil, police chief of the small resort town of Eagle Pass. it’s the same character he’s honed to perfection over the years, laid back, but a steel core that carries him through the trying times. This was one of several pilots he did that didn’t sell(the next year he did Adams of Eagle Lake; don;t know why the name change) during the period.
The film is full of stock characters: the eager beaver deputy, fresh out of the army and, despite admonitions, continually “yes sirs” Griffith, the town manager more concerned about the bottom line with the tourist season about to be upon them, the old mechanic/would be novelist that likes to quote from the book he’s been writing for years, the rich woman that has no real concern for the first victim(didn’t like her lifestyle), the waitress/girl friend he’s too busy to spend much time with, the town council screaming for action and threatening to fire him.
Despite all that, I liked this one. What can I say? Maybe because Griffith is a North Carolina boy like myself and grew up about forty miles from where I live(a small aside: my step-father grew up in Mt. Airy as well and, the same age, knew the future actor. Knew him, but wasn’t friends). And we can’t discount his little show about Mayberry either. So I liked it.
Our serial killer leaves messages at each killing. Spray paints THE FIRST, THE SECOND, and so forth. He kills his victims with a twelve gauge shotgun. Before each killing with get the killer, heavily bundled in a bulky snow jacket and wearing a knit ski mask so that we can’t even tell the sex, reading from a pink diary with flashback sequences to illustrate the writings.
The first is a middle aged woman. Her husband is out of town and missing. The hotel in L.A. where he’d made reservations says he didn’t show up. Griffith notices a missing gun in the home’s long gun case. When the husband shows up, he changed his mind and just stopped at a motel before coming home. The missing gun, a twelve gauge, is at the bottom of the lake because he was frustrated at missing birds three times. Right!
Investigations lead him to a local ski instructor(a very young Nick Nolte) who’d had an affair with the dead woman. he swears it was over and he was friends with the husband(very forgiving man). A young woman had stayed with the dead woman about a year before, after her mother had died, before disappearing and Griffith discovered she’d been pregnant.
The second victim is Nolte’s ski instructor. Griffith learns HE was the father of the pregnant girl. Checking the girl out, he finds Father Unknown on her birth certificate. The third victim is the town’s preacher and records show he had an appointment with the young girl shortly before she fell off the map.
Let’s see, where are we. Victim one had the young girl stay with her and had an affair with victim two, victim two gets young girl pregnant, young girl visits victim three. Obviously he needs to find the young girl. His first clue comes when the gitl friend(Sheree North) mentions she gave her a lift when she was going to L.A., only to have her change her mind and get out at a motel on the way. At the motel, Griffith finds she committed suicide in one of the rooms and was buried near by, visited regularly by a man who put up a nice stone and leaves flowers.
Griffith zeroes in on a suspect, they never make it clear how, and happens to be with him when a fourth murder occurs, the rich woman mentioned earlier. The murderer is found, her husband, having crashed through the ice in the lake and drowned.
Suddenly the town is in a celebratory mood. Case solved. Well not exactly. Griffith is bothered. The Fourth message is, this time, a mixture of upper and lower case letters, unlike the other three murders. The shot size is different. When he finds proof of who the real murderer is and realizes his girl friend is next, he rushes out there.
In the final confrontation, Andy Griffith fires a gun(I don’t ever remember him firing one in the line of duty in Mayberry) and actually kills the murderer!
This one might have been a good series, but being a small town, the body count would have eventually been a bit unbelievable(hey, Cabot Cove turned out to be a dangerous small town to live in).
It was fun though.