Retro Television Reviews: The Alpha Caper (dir by Robert Michael Lewis)

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay.  Today’s film is 1973’s The Alpha Caper!  It  can be viewed on YouTube!

After years of faithful service and hard work, parole officer Mark Forbes (Henry Fonda) is on the verge of mandatory retirement.  He’s spent his entire career playing by the rules and taking orders and helping recently released criminals go straight.  For all of his service, all he’s gets is a small party and a cheap retirement gift.

Still, Mark is on the job when he gets a call that one of his parolees, Harry (Noah Beery, Jr.), is currently in the middle of a stand-off with the cops.  Mark goes to the crime scene, where he discovers that Harry was trying to rob a warehouse full of weapons.  He also discovers that Harry is dying, as the result of being shot by the police.  Before Harry passes, he tells Mark that he and three other ex-cons were plotting to steal a shipment of gold bars.

Mark decides to carry out Harry’s plan.  Working with Mitch (Leonard Nimoy), Tudor (Larry Hagman), and Scat (James McEachin), Mark comes up with a plan to rob the armored cars that are going to be transporting the gold.  While Tudor and Scat are quick to join up with Mark, Mitch is a bit more hesitant.  In the end, though, they all decide to work together.  The plan they come up with is a clever one but its main strength is that it’s being spearheaded by Mark, a man who no one would ever expect to commit a crime.  No one but his colleague and friend, Lee (John Marley), that is.

I watched The Alpha Caper last night, with my friend Phil, Janeen, and Spiro.  To be honest, I selected the film because the title led me to suspect that it would be a science fiction film of some sort.  I was a little surprised when it turned out to be a crime thriller but I was even more surprised by just how good the film itself turned out to be.  Cleverly plotted and well-acted by the entire cast (and featuring a scruffy Leonard Nimoy playing a role that’s about as far from the coldly logical Mr. Spock as one can get), The Alpha Caper is an entertaining crime film but it’s also surprisingly poignant.  Mark is someone who feels that he’s lived his entire life without taking a single risk and, as a result, he has nothing to show for it.  He compares his situation to the mythical Kilroy of “Kilroy was Here” graffiti fame.  Kilroy will always be remembered, even though no one is really sure who he was.  Mark fears that he’s destined to be forgotten.  The robbery is Mark’s way of announcing that “Mark Forbes was here.”  The film ends on a surprisingly touching, if rather bittersweet, note.

The Alpha Caper originally aired on ABC on October 6th, 1973.  It was apparently meant to be a pilot for an anthology show that would be called Crime.  The series wasn’t picked up but, two years later, The Alpha Caper was theatrically released in Italy.  Today, it can be seen on YouTube.  Like Mark Forbes and Kilroy, the film has not been forgotten.

2 responses to “Retro Television Reviews: The Alpha Caper (dir by Robert Michael Lewis)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 3/20/23 — 3/26/23 | Through the Shattered Lens

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.