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Friday, July 11, 2014

'A Fever in the Blood' DVD: Politics. Murder, and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Oh My

Fever In The Blood
Warner Archive releasing the 1961 drama "a Fever in the Blood" clearly shows that the dirty nature of politics is a time-honored tradition. The extent to which the three pols at the center of this film are willing to manipulate the proceedings in a murder trial to boost their campaigns makes a compelling morality play.


Widowed state court judge Leland Hoffman, whom Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. of the "The F.B.I." television series perfectly portrays, is at the center of the aforementioned two matters of great significance that strongly impact each other. The film starts with Hoffman recruiting and supporting rags-to-riches candidate District Attorney Dan Callahan, whom Jack Kelly of "Maverick" expertly plays, for the party nomination in a governor's race.

This support coincides with U.S. Senator Alex Simon, whom Don Ameche seems born to play, throwing his hat in the ring for the nomination that Callahan is seeking. This contest can be thought of as a more local version of a federal race between a well-connected Beltway insider and a man of the people. The fact that Simon's wife, whom Angie Dickinson plays well, still carries a very obvious torch for Hoffman creates another triangle among this group of movers-and-shakers.

These four individuals additionally immediately recognize the political importance of an upcoming trial in which the nephew of a former governor is facing a murder charge for the death of the estranged wife of said nephew. Callahan successfully prosecuting the case would almost guarantee his getting the nomination. For their parts, Hoffman presiding over the case and the ability of Simon to try to manipulate the outcome have the potential to greatly influence whether Callahan succeeds.

In addition to shameful political maneuverings, the trial offers great entertainment in the form of very special lurid noir-like elements. One hint is that a planned (pun intended) but aborted (pun intended) "illegal operation" plays a major role.

The post-trial period further heats up the action related to the manipulations that politically-fueled fevers prompt regarding the trial. This triggers a strong crisis of conscience for Hofffman that prompts drastic action, triggers an even strong response in Simon, and reveals the true nature of Callahan.

A scene from this portion of the film in which journalists are seated in the jury box is wonderful not-so-subtle commentary on the aforementioned political process. These days, celebs and bloggers would likely fill those seats.

The end result of all these shenanigans is a bit Hollywood but still shows that power corrupts in a manner that is proportional regarding that influence.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Fever" is welcome to either email me or connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.