X Marks the Murder, Part II: Diagnosis Murder (1996)

As I mentioned yesterday, Diagnosis Murder was one of my absolute favorite TV shows growing up. The TV show follows Dr. Mark Sloane (Dick Van Dyke), the super intelligent doctor at Community General Hospital in Los Angeles, CA, who always loved mysteries and wanted to be a detective, achieving this dream by helping his police detective son, Steve (played by his real son Barry Van Dyke). The two are rounded out by Dr. Amanda Bentley (Victoria Rowell), the medical examiner; and Dr. Jesse Travis (played by Charlie Schlatter), my second favorite character. Dr. Jesse is the sweet, handsome, and adorable resident at Community General, and later head of the Emergency Room.

With each episode there would be a case that Steve was on, with him bringing in his dad and subsequently the rest of the team; although sometimes Mark would have suspicions about something and bring Steve into it. Either way it was one awesome show that balanced mystery, medicine, and crime.

Mystery, you say?

Which brings us to today’s episode. So yesterday I reviewed part one where we have discovered that they found the Casanova Killer, but it turns out one of his victims was actually not his. Before they could question him further, he was murdered by his cell mate. When they tried to investigate the cellmate he turned out to be murdered as well.

This episode focuses on our team trying to discover who the killer of Dusty is. As it was a perfect copy of the original serial killer it can only be someone who is on the inside.


This is a great episode, if you had watched the previous episode and paid attention to all the characters, especially the side ones it is easy to figure it out. I don’t want to give it away, as you can watch it free on PLUTO TV.

The episode is stolen by Kurt Fuller as Medical Examiner Dr. Albert. In the previous episode Mark excused his strange and odd behavior as just not being socially adept and having a lot of personal problems.

Everyone else sees it as more and as the episode continues, you can tell he is definitely 100% unhinged.

For more on Diagnosis Murder, go to X Marks the Murder, Part I: Diagnosis Murder (1996)

For more mysteries, go to The One Thing About A Murder Case Is- If You Just Let People Talk Long Enough, Sooner Or Later, Somebody Will Spill the Beans.: Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)

For more mystery TV shows, go to Murder in High C: Murder She Wrote (1995)

For more serial killers, go to What If the Man You Married Wasn’t Who You Thought He Was?: Flower of Evil (2020)

For more Kurt Fuller, go to Is Lassiter Crazy or Has He Discovered a Criminal Case in a Recovery Hospital?: Psych 2, Lassie Come Home (2020)

X Marks the Murder, Part I: Diagnosis Murder (1996)

Diagnosis Murder was one of my absolute favorite TV shows growing up. It came on every Thursday night on PAX and it was the only time that my parents would let me stay up past my bedtime on a school night.

Dr. Mark Sloane (Dick Van Dyke) is the super intelligent doctor at Community General Hospital in Los Angeles, CA. He always loved mysteries and wanted to be a detective, achieving this dream by helping his police detective son, Steve (played by his real son Barry Van Dyke). The two are rounded out by Dr. Amanda Bentley (Victoria Rowell), the medical examiner; and Jack Stewart (Scott Baio); guy from a crime family turning from that life and making something of himself. Jack ended up leaving to go to Denver, and they brought in the character Jesse Travis (played by Charlie Schlatter), my second favorite character. Jesse is the sweet, handsome, and adorable resident at Community General, and later head of the Emergency Room.

With each episode their would be a case that Steve was on, with him bringing in his dad and subsequently the rest of the team; although sometimes Mark would have suspicions about something and being Steve into it. Either way it was one awesome show that balanced mystery, medicine, and crime.

Mystery, you say?

Which brings us to today’s episode. Now I really struggled choosing just one as I have so many favorite episodes, in fact I originally wanted to review one last year but couldn’t decide so I shelved it until this year. After a lot of deliberating and going back and forth I finally settled on this two parter.

This episode is the fourth episode in season four. So far this season we have had a cop kill his partner “accidentally” only for it to turn out to be the widow who had been pulling the strings; the staff at Community General had to battle a smallpox strain, and outsmart a Tonya Harding-like killer.

This episode has special guest star, John Schneider (from the Dukes of Hazard), as a serial killer obsessed with Mark Sloan. We start the episode off with him preparing ritual: lighting candles, dressing the victim in lingerie, everything looking romantic-and calling Dr. Sloan to battle him. I can’t remember if this is the first time, but it most definitely will not be the last time a killer/criminal decides they want to go head to head with Dr. Sloan. He just attracts all the crazies.

Steve has been appointed in charge of the task force to discover the identity of the serial killer. Of course they hope that if Steve is in charge they can assist in the solving of the case.

There is a “B story” about Norman the hospital administrator, but is really boring and not really my time reviewing.

Steve heads to the latest victim of the “Casanova Killer” and finds everything to be the same as the prior three cases, even down to the Xs cut into the feet and no sexual contact. Also coming there is medical examiner, Dr. Albert Blank, played by Kurt Fuller. Yes you may recognize him as coroner Woody Strode in Psych. To be honest the way he acts, it is basically the same character although instead of silly/sweet/creepy/awkward he’s just creepy/awkward.

Back at the house Steve asks Mark to join him as he needs the best on his side. He, Mark, and Amanda start discussing the case. They share the info that has not been shared to the public, along with the fact that the victim had called Community General the night she passed, but there isn’t any record of her calling and someone talking to her.


When our Serial Killer finds out Mark is on the case, he is ecstatic-that’s exactly what he wants.

Later Mark and Albert meet up to discuss the case. Albert is super awkward, but a little upset that Mark no longer works with him, picking Amanda over him. Mark senses the disgruntlement and tries to smooth things over. Albert reveals that he has no money and his marriage is kaput. His wife sounds exactly like the wife of Woody in Psych. I think the Psych writers just copied the character but made him warmer.

Defense attorney Andrew King approaches them and tries to snoop for info. He really lays on the flattery for Albert which makes me very suspicious. I totally believe Albert would turn over information for more compliments.

Mark goes over the notes but finds them hard to unravel. He decides to give them to Amanda and have her take a second look. While at home perusing the case files he gets a call from the killer who is more than eager to share how pleased he is to have Dr. Sloan’s attention. This dude is extra crazy. I mean we already knew he was out of his mind as he’s a serial murderer, but his level of obsession with Dr. Sloan makes him double the crazy.

You are crazy

We see our serial killer working at the gas station, ouch the prices on this gas makes me hurt as they are sooooo cheap. I wish I could pay that today in California as currently has I like 5.69 a gallon.

I digress, he works at a gas station/car repair/car detail shop. It appears that as he’s handsome it’s easy for him to charm the women and make them feel comfortable. When patrons pay with a credit card he uses the excuse of needing to see ID (remember when you had to do that with every purchase?), to write down the personal info and select his victims.

Amanda comes to get gas and forgot her purse. The attendant/serial killer is intrigued when he hears that Amanda is a friend of Mark’s. Uh oh.

Later Amanda does another examination of the recent murder and discovers a fiber in the eyelash of the victim. Very interesting, and hopefully a clue to track down the killer.

Jesse is looking into the past crimes that Mark has solved while Amanda tracked down the recent credit card purchase to see if the victims intersected. No dice.

Unbeknownst to then, our killer is watching them and calls Mark taunting him. Steve tries to track the call, but our killer is too smart for them and has been calling from a pay phone. Our killer is angry that Mark hasn’t made more of an effort to find him and decides to up the ante. Oh…not good.

Our killer goes hunting for his next victim, finally letting us know his name is Michael Dern. He does increase it, killing two women in one night.

The next day they discover that the fiber on the eyelash was cotton soaked in baby oil. It appears either the women are taking their make up off, or he does it. Either way this case has gotten creepier.

SUPER creeped

Mark heads to get gas for his car and it turns out that he goes to the station Michael our serial killer works out. The two are friends it be way you have your favorite checker and we see why Michael is so obsessed as he feels Mark ignores his intelligence and looks down on him/slash he appears to be the only one who can match him in “smarts”. He gives Mark a car cover, recommending it as someone he uses; an obvious clue to the viewer-he’s trying to help Mark find him.

Steve gets to the cases and is upset that there are two, while Albert is just his usually weird self. Later that evening Albert meets with Amanda to give her the info, and it seems like defense attorney Andrew and Dr. Albert are no longer friends. Interesting…hmm.


Amanda brings the notes to Mark’s house where they go over the autopsy report and discover that all the six victims seem to be the same but they do not appear to intersect with each other-except the first five did go to the same gas stations; victim six is an outlier. But it can’t be a copycat right? None of the info was shared with anyone except those few on the case.

Meanwhile, Amanda visits the gas station Michael works at again, and this time uses her credit card. Michael takes down the info along with her vanity plate, Dr. AL (AL for Amanda [Bentley]Livingston, Amanda was married for a brief while).

You’re next! You’re next, You’re next…!

That evening Steve and Mark are trying to figure out why a woman would allow a stranger into their house when they get the idea of a serviceman of repairman being behind it. Just as they come to that realization, they receive another call from Michael who threatens to kill Dr. Al; Michael means Amanda while Mark thinks he is referring to Dr. Al Blank. Mark is confused, but insults Michael in order to keep him on the line and trade where he calls from.

Amanda is home alone as her husband and son are out of town for a little while when Michael comes knocking by claiming to have her credit card. However, unlike the other women she doesn’t let him in but checks her purse and intends to call the police, stopped by Michael who snuck into the house.

They track the call to the gas/service station where they find out Michael is the one behind it all. While there Mark discovers that Michael set up a system where every car being repaired or detailed on is referred to by their license plate. Good thing too a they are able to save Amanda instead of wasting their time going to Dr. Albert’s.

While prepping his ritual Michael complains to Amanda about how Mark never pays attention to him. He sounds like those girls/guys who believe they like someone (when they really didn’t) and get all weird/angry when the person doesn’t like them back.

Amanda tries to prolong him and we end up discovering that he hates women because of his abusive mother who tortured him. It turns out she died six months ago, and that is exactly what started the killing-his trigger.

All are celebrating over their arrest of Michael when their receive a call he wants to talk to Mark. Mark reluctantly goes down there and hears Michael talk about his victims. He also shares a really important tidbit, that he did not kill the sixth victim. That’s why she doesn’t match the others with the overlap of the gas station. Uh oh, that means not only do they have a copycat it has to be someone who was involved in the case as the murder was identical to the others. At best one of the people on the task force is a mole/shared the information with someone.

But the worst and far more likely, one of the members of the task force is a killer.

Before they could question Michael more, he’s murdered. They try to speak to the guy’s sharing the cell with him, one has disappeared as he made bail without making a call. Very suspicious but the case is “over” as everyone wants to believe Michael did it and it’s case closed.

Steve doesn’t like this and puts himself on the case of finding Michael’s murderer. He discovers that the guy who killed Michael is also dead. It is clear that Micheal didn’t kill the 6th victim. But if it wasn’t Michael who killed her, and tried to frame him?


For more mysteries, go to The One Thing About A Murder Case Is- If You Just Let People Talk Long Enough, Sooner Or Later, Somebody Will Spill the Beans.: Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)

For more mystery TV shows, go to Murder in High C: Murder She Wrote (1995)

For more serial killers, go to What If the Man You Married Wasn’t Who You Thought He Was?: Flower of Evil (2020)

For more Kurt Fuller, go to Is Lassiter Crazy or Has He Discovered a Criminal Case in a Recovery Hospital?: Psych 2, Lassie Come Home (2020)

The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario: Ellery Queen (1976)


So it is time for our annual Vincent Price film or TV episode.

I love Vincent Price and I can’t resist anything he is in. I was trying to decide on a film or TV episode, but this Ellery Queen episode intrigued me as I needed to fill a Friday TV show spot, because this episode looked fun, and I couldn’t resist adding another Sleuth to my “mysterious” year.

Mystery, you say?

So I have never read an Ellery Queen mystery or watched this TV show-but I do know who Ellery Queen is. In the Leverage episode “10 Little Grifters” Nate dresses up as him and the first time I saw that episode I had to look up who Ellery Queen is. Ellery Queen is actually similar to Diagnosis Murder, but backwards. Inspector Richard Queen is a renowned detective and his son a famous crime writer, who helps his father solve the really tough cases. (Like how Steve Sloan is a detective and his doctor father, Dr. Mark Sloan, solves all his tough cases).

So I found this episode on youtube and it was a lot of fun watching it as it had the original commercials that it aired with. So enough about that, let’s get started.

It has an old CREST commercial, I can’t believe these girls are fighting over which toothpaste to use. I wouldn’t care what my friends would want. I don’t think I even know what brand they use.

The episode starts off with them filming a scene from an Ellery Queen murder mystery- like how most end, when the director yells cut. The director is played by Vincent Price, I’d know his voice anywhere. I’d listen to him read a phonebook.

The Vincent Price, director Michael Raynor, isn’t happy and I don’t blame him. The guy playing Ellery Queen stinks, like he’s the literal worst. Meanwhile Ellery Queen and his dad are watching and are not impressed. They changed his story and dialogue. I feel you Ellery, Hollywood has ruined many things I love as well.

Vincent Price yells at everyone and is just at the end of his rope, and I hope he isn’t the one who is murdered. I’ll be disappointed if he’s in it for only a second.

Please, oh please! from Death Comes to Pemberley

OMGosh the guy playing Ellery Queen in the movie, Gilbert Mallory (Troy Donahue), is a serious jerk and diva. He’s going to die. I just know it! Too bad Michael Raynor can’t fire him as he owns part of the film and has a lot of power. It’d be great if he died.

Mallory meets the real Queen and is incredibly rude to him. What a jerk!

Mallory is cruel to the publicist and rewrote his script to steal lines from others-he’s totally going to be murdered.

So both the Queens are extremely disappointed in the experience. Inspector Queen expected glitz and glamour-but the studio is a really low budget one and doesn’t have the perks like the big studios. Ellery is upset that he didn’t get an updated script, all the changes are a surprise and an unwelcome one.

The publicist tries to console him and tells him he never gets the script changes either. How a guy can promote something without fully knowing what he is promoting is beyond me.

A lady interrupts them when she comes driving up to see Mallory-I’m assuming she’s the diva’s wife. She is and she is on set to keep her eyes on her husband, her husband who is involved with one of the actresses, Pamela, on set. Man, Mallory is digging his grave-someone is going to kill him, but who?

So the prop man unlocks the locker and grabs the prop gun, but leaves it open. Hmm…interesting,

Oh, I bet that this will be like that Psych episode Lights, Camera…Homicido where the man was murdered when the prop was switched out with a real knife. Mallory will probably be shot by the prop gun and really be shot as the gun will no longer be filled with blank but real bullets.

Pamela (the actress Mallory is sleeping with) shoots Mallory and closes her eyes when she does it. I don’t think she did that the first time. Almost as if…hmmm.

Hmm…is it her?

So she shoots him and all are happy with how Mallory died, as it finally looks real…but when he doesn’t get up, it turns out that he was…murdered. Shot by real bullets.

Ellery and Inspector are investigating which makes the local cops angry as they can’t stand these guys “butting in”. The Queens try to tell him about Mrs. Mallory-her threat of a final good-bye and that she didn’t leave when she said she did as her purse is still on set. There’s no way she would have left without it.


The head of the investigation, Captain Blake comes and it turns out that he and Inspector Queen are good friends who go way back. He makes the Lt. who was complaining earlier have them be a part. Haha!

They find Mrs. Mallory and she proclaims her innocence. She cries and says she loved her husband and would never kill him, and even if she wanted to she wouldn’t have had access to the prop box. She insists she only came back to talk to him as she no longer was upset. Hmmm…Her husband’s company had half the money in it-she probably could get access to the props. And did she really came back to talk to him? Or kill him?


Inspector Queen leaves to find the home of Dorothy Lamour and Ellery finds a note on his script telling him to talk to Al in special effects. He heads over there and it turns out Al has disappeared.

Ellery shows one of the other SFX guys his note and they find Al, who happens to be a fan and wants Ellery’s help. He insists that he put in six blanks this morning and never touched the gun again to reload it. He thinks someone got to the gun and put the real bullets in. He came in to work that morning and was loading the gun and received a phone call. With the phone being on the other end of the lot he ran over there, and it turned out that there was no one on the line. That’s the only time someone could have planted them.

His reason for hiding and not sharing this with the police? His sister was script girl on one of Mallory’s other pictures and he was afraid it would give him a motive, as Mallory dropped her and as she is “just a kid” it broke her heart. Ellery urges him to talk to the cops and they will treat him right.

In the next scene Al is in handcuffs. Yes, it turns out he had threatened Mallory, a fact he forgot to share with Ellery.

Lt. Smary Jerk Attitude gleefully tells Ellery what they discovered. He really hates Ellery.

The next commercials are pretty boring although one is for the Chicago Fire Festival. What is that?

Anyways, back to the show. The Queens are invited to a scrumptious brunch by Director Raynor. Inspector is mad as he wants to do some touristy things, but hey scrumptious brunch with Vincent Price, I mean Raynor, will have almost all your suspects and the gossip.

The big question in the air is whether or not the picture will go forward. And no one is quite sure. The Publicist for the film wants to get the stuntman Mike to be moved up to the lead, but Raynor isn’t interested in an “unknown”. This seems weird to be as you think the publicist would know better than to suggest that-their relationship seems weird.

The actor playing Inspector Queen in the movie goes to Raynor and tries to get him to reverse some of the changes Mallory made, but Raynor isn’t interested in dealing with it at the moment.


Pamela isn’t too sad about the possibility of canceling the film as she will be able to get the part she really wanted in another film, a part that came her way after she signed the contracts for this film. Meanwhile, Mrs. Mallory is angry and starts pointing the finger at Raynor- telling Inspector Queen that her husband planned to fire him, but was killed first

Pamela also encourages them to look over Raynor’s gun collection as he’s a hunter and has a ton of guns that range from all types and decades. Ellery is super interested, but his father is done and ready to leave.

With that attitude I’m not surprised Ellery is the famous crimesolver in the family.

The actor playing the Inspector runs after the two and tells them something he just remembered. Originally Mallory had been wearing a real bulletproof vest but it was changed by Al, the prop man. If he had still had it on at the time then he would be alive today.

They go through the prop memos and find that Raynor was the one who asked for a bulletproof vest and that he wanted a simulated one instead. Raynor explains that Mallory hated the vest as he thought it made him look fat. Raynor tried to change his mind, but no dice, and he instead gave in. To some that may seem like a lame excuse, but the way this diva was, I believe it. The change was discussed off set with only Pamela being the one to hear if it.


Ellery is trying to figure it out who the killer is and starts reading over the scripts (the original and changed one)

The guy who plays Inspector Queen is always popping up and pointing fingers. I’m starting to wonder if it is going to be him as he always just “happens” to be there. He reveals that the end shooting scene changed from the original because the director requested it. It would save $200 to have Mallory be on the phone and shot by Pamela than to crash through a window by a stuntman.

But Ellery has discovered something very interesting, in the original writing, if real bullets were placed in the gun it would be harder to kill him on target, but in the new script-with the proximity, no way they could miss killing Mallory.

They ask Raynor about it who changed it and he answers he thought the clear shooting looked better and was cheaper, a win win. They are interrupted when Sonny Miller arrives on set to replace Mallory and everyone seems overjoyed to have him.

They begin shootong the car chase scene and switch Miller out for the stuntman Mike. I can’t help but feel something bad will happen.

Everything is going great until the car won’t stop and Mike goes crashing down the hillside.

We are back from commercials (a really weird Raisin Bran one) and it turns out the brakeline was cut-Mike is dead. So was the killer after Mallory, Sonny Miller, Mike the stuntman, or trying to stop the picture?


So the last one seems the most likely and the Queens start looking at Pamela since she is the only one who wanted to get out of the picture. She insists she has no reason for sabotage as RKO is waiting to do the picture until she is finished here. The Inspector insists that it isn’t a real alibi as she could have done the cutting of the brake line before she got word from RKO. Pamela insists there is no way as she doesn’t know anything about cars.

Ellery points out to his aggravated father that both murders were filmed, so they actually have an advantage as the review them for clues.

Ellery watches them and sees something? What? We can’t find out until he has rounded up the suspects.

Lt. Smarmy Jerk (I can’t remember his name and don’t really care to look it up) thinks Pamela did it as her face is cold blooded in the film of her shooting. Raynor defends her as being an actress and the Lt. says she’s not that good. LOL, I was thinking the same thing. Since he thinks she did it we all know that which means she didn’t.

Scene 231 is the clue. Ellery lists off the suspects:

  • Pamela, the actress who wanted out of the picture
  • The man playing Inspector Queen who’s lines were stolen by Mallory, maybe with Mallory (and Miller) gone the movie could be about him.
  • Mrs. Mallory, her husband was cheating on her and she never liked this picture-wants to pull the plug
  • Director Michael Raynor, he hated Mallory and wanted a different actor but Mallory had too much money involved-why he would try and stall the picture is uncertain, maybe it is a smokescreen to get them to look elsewhere
  • The Publicist, Mallory was cruel to him and he promoted Mike the stuntman (which is a odd relationship) also trying to kill Mike as a smokescreen?
  • Al the SFX guy-he hated Mallory but doesn’t have a reason for Mike.

Ellery gathers everyone up and here we go…

Elleey acts out the original scene from his script, Ellery going to the window and through it. A stunt is involved in the original scene so there would have been a stunt double-the stuntman would have been shot at. Mike was always supposed to be shot, the killer was always after the stuntman.

I KNOW WHO IT IS! You guys remember back at brunch the stuntman kept trying to get the publicist to get him get the part. Their interaction was weird as a good stuntman can have some power, but nothing like what Mike seemed to hold over the publicist. He must have something on him to make him do that. Earlier when Ellery complained about not being made aware of the changes to his story, the publicist complained that he isn’t told anything either. That means that he didn’t know about the scene being changed from the window and set up a murder using the original story.

Another mystery solved!

The last film the publicist worked on the actress had a nervous breakdown and was doing drugs to get through. Her drug dealer was jailed but the publicist needed to keep her going. She died from an overdose and Mike knew he supplied her with the pills and threatened him with the police if he didn’t do what he wanted.

Ellery and his dad exit set to do some conventional Hollywood plans.

That was interesting and enjoyable. Although it did make me think of Diagnosis Murder  (although I think that father and son pair had a better relationship.) I might check out some of the other episodes in the future.

For more Vincent Price, go to To All the Ghouls I’ve Loved Before: The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo (1985)

For more detectives, go to What are you? I’m Batman: Batman (1989)

For more mysteries, go to Why Miss Fisher the Movie Flopped for Me: Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears (2020)

For more that feature crime writers, go to The Perfect Murder: Dial “M” for Murder (1954)

For more TV episodes reviews, go to Who Kidnapped the Girls’ Soccer Stars?: North Mammon, Criminal Minds (2006)