Perhaps the reason the two Kojak telemovies didn’t take a UK DVD bow in 2012 when they, along with the 1970s seasons, were released on disc in the United States, was because the opening of Operation Grange the previous year had renewed sensitivity over the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Albert Ruben’s adaptation of Dorothy Uhnak’s 1977 crime novel The Investigation, includes similarities not just with the facts of the McCann case, but also the allegations that have been made in the ensuing years. Without giving too much away, the resolution of The Price of Justice might have been felt as too insensitive to those wary of jumping to the wrong conclusions about the McCann parents’ involvement in their daughter’s disappearance.
After the discovery of the bodies of two children in the Harlem river, the newly promoted Inspector Theo Kojak is persuaded to take the case thanks to an ambitious boss hoping to win the New York mayoral election. Thus the scene is set for a story grafting politics, the mafia and big media interests onto the plight of a distraught mother whose prime is rapidly disappearing behind her, and whose marriage and relationships aren’t quite as straightforward as they might be.
Kate Nelligan, later Oscar-nominated for The Prince of Tides, is Kitty, a working mother with an inexplicably expensive apartment and a possibly estranged husband who might or might not live above his nearby bar. With Kojak’s chief badgering for a quick indictment, Kitty rapidly becomes the number one suspect – and when the deaths of anybody else who may be involved start mounting up, the case is quickly closed leaving our cuddly Greek detective to continue investigating off the books.
Uhnak’s book is pretty standard, the story of a detective who falls for a potentially manipulative victim – indeed the same year, Ridley Scott’s fairly similar Someone to Watch Over Me was in the cinemas – but the romantic element is played down in translation, in favour of various sub-plots about the desirability of Kitty and the lengths the men in her life will go to in order to protect her poor decisions.
Nelligan is excellent as the shell-shocked mother, her rightful distress allowing for just enough ambiguity to keep the viewer intrigued. Meanwhile Telly Savalas combines steel and geniality as the eponymous detective who never allows his feelings to get in the way of a case. They’re a fascinating match, and the resolution is appropriately emotional.
This looks again like a straight transfer from a VHS master, so the picture and sound are no better than you might have seen on TV thirty years ago. But the story is strong enough to compensate, such that this is well worth looking out.
KOJAK: THE PRICE OF JUSTICE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ALAN METZGER / SCREENPLAY: ALBERT RUBEN / STARRING: TELLY SAVALAS, KATE NELLIGAN, PAT HINGLE, JACK THOMPSON, BRIAN MURRAY, JOHN BEDFORD LLOYD, JEFFREY de MUNN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW