Sunday, May 29, 2016

Baffled! (1973)

          Following three years each as an ensemble player on Star Trek and Mission: Impossible, Leonard Nimoy apparently took just one stab at becoming the lead of his very own TV series, notwithstanding multiyear runs hosting the nonfiction shows In Search of . . . , Ancient Mysteries, and History’s Mysteries. (Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke!) Nimoy’s wannabe star vehicle, Baffled!, could just as easily have been titled Baffling!, seeing as how it’s confounding that anyone thought the concept could sustain an entire series. Even just watching the feature-length pilot episode, the only installment that was made, requires patience. Adding to the offbeat nature of the project is the sheer Englishness of Baffled!, which was photographed in the UK and coproduced by the British company ITC. Even the pilot’s costar, Susan Hampshire, is British. (One version of Baffled! was released theatrically in Europe, and a slightly different cut aired on American TV.)
          Yet the peculiarity of the project’s geographical origin pales next to the strangeness of the storyline: Nimoy plays a racecar driver who suddenly manifests psychic abilities, then teams with a paranormal specialist to solve supernatural crimes in Europe. Quite frankly, even Nimoy’s presence is odd, thanks to the actor’s aloof demeanor and lanky appearance—fascinating as he could be in the right role, Nimoy was not the matinee-idol type this sort of project requires. In any event, Baffled! opens during a race, when daring driver Tom Kovack (Nimoy) has a series of weird visions that cause him to ride off the road. For no good reason, he explains what happened on TV, attracting the attention of Michelle Brent (Hampshire). Tracking Tom down, she determines that his visions relate to a particular manor home in England, so away the two go for an adventure filled with danger and intrigue. The plot has something to do with a blowsy innkeeper (Rachel Roberts) tormenting an American movie star (Vera Miles), with the movie star’s teenaged daughter (Jewel Blanch) caught in the middle.
          Baffled! hits viewers with lots of hokey old-dark-house stuff, plus listless sequences of attempted violence; the bit of Nimoy falling off a cliff and safely landing in deep water is about as exciting as it gets. The acting is indifferent, the plotting is turgid, and the supernatural element—mostly comprising shots of Nimoy squinting while he has visions—adds little. Through it all, tinny music that could have been copped from  a trove of Avengers outtakes—as in Steed & Peel, not Captain America and Iron Man—honks and tweets on the soundtrack. Nearly the only rewarding aspect of watching Baffled! is listening to Nimoy croak lines in a ridiculous UK approximation of American slang. “I like you,” he says to Hampshire. “You’re warm, enthusiastic, and—why shouldn’t I use the word—you’re a great-lookin’ chick.”

Baffled!: FUNKY


Cindylover1969 said...

It did some US involvement behind the scenes, as it one of the UK-based ventures by Norman Felton's Arena Productions (they were with on ITC with "Strange Report" which actually became a series).

Guy Callaway said...

But, as iconic as his Spock ears, it features Leonard rocking (many) turtlenecks.

By Peter Hanson said...

Speaking of Nimoy's winter fashions, do yourself a favor and Google the phrase "Nimoy Bigfoot Sweater." Truly one of his finer sartorial moments.