DVD: Kojak: The Belarus File (1985) The Price of Justice (1987)
Ahhh, the 1970’s; a time when an ageing bald man could walk around with a bag full of lollipops saying ‘Who loves ya, baby?” and “Cootchie-coo!” at passersby and nobody would reach for the pepper spray.
Kojak originally aired on American television between 1973 – 78, premiering here in the UK in August 1974 on ITV. I remember sitting with my Dad watching it and him doing his best Telly Savalas impression whenever there was a lollipop nearby.
Savalas played the title character of Lieutenant Theofilides “Theo” Kojak, accompanied by a cast of memorable characters; George Savalas (brother of Telly…birth name Aristotelis) as Detective Demosthenes “Curly” Stavros, Kevin Dobson as Detective Robert “Bobby” Crocker, Mark Russell as Detective Percy Saperstein, Vince Conti as Detective Lionel Rizzo and Dan Frazer as Captain Francis “Frank” McNeil, Kojak’s boss. Stationed in the New York City Police Departments Eleventh Precinct, they solved crimes even if it meant bending the rules a little.
The Belarus File is based on the 1982 book by John Loftus: The Belarus Secret and deals with the sensitive subject of Nazi collaborators. When a series of elderly Russian men are murdered in New York, Kojak uncovers that they were Nazi collaborators living under a different identity. The plot thickens when he discovers evidence linking the American government being party to bringing the men into the country and helping with their new lives.
Telly Savalas effortlessly steps back into what is no doubt his iconic role, and is supported by great performances from Suzanne Pleshette as Dana Sutton; a government employee who helps Kojak decifer the mystery, and the ever reliable Max von Sydow. George Savalas gives a fitting final performance as ‘Curly’ before he sadly passed away just 8 months after the release of The Belarus File.
The Price of Justice is also based on a book, this time it’s The Investigation by Dorothy Uhnak (a novel which, despite numerous denials from its author, is allegedly based on the real life case of Alice Crimsons who was convicted of killing her 2 children in 1965).
2 young boys are found dead in a Harlem river and their mother Kitty (Kate Nelligan) is the main suspect. Surely she didn’t murder her own children…or did she? As the story unravels, her fate lies in the hands of Detective Kojak.
Savalas once again effortlessly breezes through the story, comfortable in the skin of a character that he has made his own and delivering lines and looks that fans of the series will be familiar with. Lacking the grittiness of the 1970’s, especially in the exterior shots where the world has gotten a bit more glitzy in the proceeding decade, the story is still engaging enough to have you guessing at how the finale may play out.
Both The Belarus File and The Price of Justice are essential purchases for fans of Kojak, and thanks to the great people at Fabulous Films we even gave 3 copies of both to lucky winners on our Twitter account (@60MinutesWith) just a few weeks ago.
Grab a few lollipops and settle back for a double bill of Kojak.
You can buy The Belarus File by clicking HERE, and The Price of Justice HERE. ALL money raised by purchasing from Amazon via our website is given back to our listeners and followers in upcoming competition prizes. The more people buy, the bigger our prizes!
Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from discs kindly supplied by Fabulous Films.