And now I am finally going to post about an episode. This is Special #1, which originally aired on January 20, 1987…a little over thirty years ago! If you are watching along on Amazon, you won’t find this episode there! This is almost certainly due to CM/FilmRise not wanting to pay royalties to the estate of Perry Mason.
By and large these early specials are a lot like the UM that we came to know and love, but they’re not exactly the same. For one thing, there are only four segments rather than the usual five.
The opening disclaimer and title are different. The changes in the disclaimer are probably not noticeable to the casual fan, but when you have the damn thing memorized….
I like the opening animation in these specials, too. Behold, my new GIF-making skills:
And the biggest difference of all…
I think Burr is actually a pretty good host. He doesn’t have that same presence as Stack, but he is a much better narrator that Malden or Farina. Given a little time, I think he would have made a fine host had he stayed on. No, he’s no Bob Stack, but who is?
Another difference is that there are no cards with the segment types at the beginning of each story (Unexplained Death, Missing Persons, etc). The other big difference is that there is no hotline yet! If you have a tip for the authorities, you’ll just have to contact “your local law enforcement agency.”
This recording of Special 1 is actually a rebroadcast, as evidenced by the fact that one of the stories has an update.
Our first case is a good choice: that of Don Kemp. In many ways his story seems very simple and cut-and-dried, but there are just enough weird twists along the way to keep you guessing. Don apparently abandoned his car in the middle of the road in middle-of-nowhere Wyoming, all of his belongings left strewn across the road.
Authorities searched for Don, but he was not initially located, however evidence that was found suggested he may have deliberately hidden from searchers. His remains were eventually found not too far from where the car was left…but not until over three years after the vehicle was discovered.
Early nominee for funny name:
But this one makes me giggle too:
Don seemed to have mental/emotional issues, and authorities believe that this led him to leave his vehicle, wander out into the wilderness, hide out from search parties, and perish in a blizzard a couple of days later. Don’s mother, however, believes that he was a victim of foul play.
The freakiest part of this story is the phone calls. A friend of Don’s received messages on her answering machine (an answering machine in 1982? was she rich? we didn’t get an answering machine until about 1994 and that was a hand-me-down from a relative) that she claims were from Don. The calls were traced to a trailer in Casper where Don’s mother is convinced that he was held against his will by a maniac who made a bunch of calls to phone sex hotlines. Okaaaay, moving on.
Up next is the so-called Jai Alai murders. Three murders in three cities that are tied to the sport of Jai Alai. These killings have since been tied to James “Whitey” Bulger, who himself was profiled on UM in 1996.
Bulger’s criminal career, including these murders, is profiled in the movie Black Mass. Johnny Depp stars as Bulger. It’s…okay. The most notable thing about the movie is how unrecognizable they made Johnny Depp look. 😛
A weird thing in this segment: In Burr’s on-screen narration at the beginning of the segment it’s clear that part of what he says has been dubbed over. He says “According to local police,” but he originally said something else.
Our next story is a favorite of mine and is one that’s sure to get your blood boiling. According to the 3rd Anniversary Special this was actually the first segment to be filmed. Pat Mealbach was adopted as a baby, and presents very compelling evidence that she is actually the daughter (possibly the illegitimate daughter) of automobile magnate John Dodge. Here is an article written by Pat and her daughter Sharon that will tell you everything you could possibly hope to know about her story. It is very long but well worth reading.
This story never made it to Lifetime, but Robert Stack interviewed Pat on the 3rd Anniversary show (also never made it to Lifetime for obvious reasons). In the interview Pat reveals that she has finally been allowed to view her adoption papers and will be doing so shortly. Stack promises that the UM cameras will be there. But this was the last update.
This story always captivated me. When I first got online in the mid-90s, I tried to find more information on this story but found nothing. I wrote to UM asking if there were any updates, and about six months later they wrote back, saying that Pat’s adoption papers showed that she was not a Dodge.
But to quote Pat’s article:
The birth certificate was under glass, and was in very bad condition. It had visible eraser marks all over it. The date of my birth erased, and another day, and year entered in its place. It was a mess. You could actually see other letters below what had been written over. (please look at the document, even a photo of the document shows the underwriting). The name of the mother listed the name as “Emma Jane Nelson”, but you could see with the naked eye other letters under the name. It listed the name of a Doctor, that was at the birth, this name also had been visibly altered. My given name was filled in as “Remilda May Bornalive”.
You can view the actual document on the page. Isn’t it amazing what money can buy? Even more head-explodingly, Pat submitted to DNA testing, but she was never allowed to receive the results of the test! Pat died in 2009, so sadly we will probably never know the truth.
Our final segment is about bank robbers Terry Lee Conner and Joseph Dougherty. This story is scary…two robbers invade the home of the bank president and hold the whole family hostage overnight, then escort the family to the bank in the morning to rob it. The whole bit with the robbers leaving the family alone in the living room with the loaded gun to test whether they would go for the gun sounds like something out of a movie.
And what do you know, this story was adapted into a movie: the 2001 Bruce Willis/Billy Bob Thornton/Cate Blanchett movie Bandits. What little I’ve seen is pretty bad. I don’t have cable, and this is one of those movies that pops up occasionally on those free subchannels that play crappy movies all day long.
LOL moment: the little piece of paper stuck on top of the Pepsi logo on the bank’s soda machine. It looks like a post-it note. 😛
This recording comes complete with an UPDATE! that Connor has been captured…and another UPDATE! that Daugherty was found two weeks later. From here Burr segues into a quick profile of the other eight fugitives on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, some of whom UM would profile later on (Webb, Gerena, Koury).
After this, Burr gives a very nice closing monologue, followed by closing credits. The credits music here is what I call the “update” music because in later seasons it always played when they updated cases:
Interesting tidbit: the first special is not a Cosgrove Meurer Production but rather a A Dave Bell Associates Production. This is old!
So there is our first episode! This should NOT have taken me almost four months to post, but I am incredibly lazy and have too many hobbies. The screencaps are what take the most time. Hopefully it won’t take four more months to tackle Special 2.