Copyright ©2017 by Mike Quigley. No reproduction of any kind without permission.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers and the plot is given away!
This 1973 pilot was based on investigative reporting by Selwyn Raab with a screen play by Abby Mann. Much of it is different than the later TV series. Kojak is not the "boss," but just a detective working out of South Manhattan, because jurisdiction for crimes on the show is shared between that precinct and Brooklyn. Based in a major way on The Career Girl Murders, the story focuses on Lewis Humes (Gene Woodbury), a young black man who is railroaded for the attempted rape of Rita Alvarez (Antonia Rey) as well as the killing of the two young women. One thing in common with the series is Kojak's persistence in investigating a crime where he feels the evidence is not right, in this case things missing from Hume's confession, which he was brutalized into making. Humes is brought to the police station after he tells a cop that he witnessed the aftermath of the rape. There, things just get worse for him as he is connected not only to the rape, but also the murder of the two young women, browbeaten by the thuggish Detective Matt Black (William Watson), fatherly Detective Jacarrino (Val Bisoglio) and the couldn't-care-less Detective Dan Corrigan (Ned Beatty). Corrigan connects a picture Humes had in his pocket with one of the two women, which is later proven by Kojak to have no connection to her at all. Kojak has a great deal of trouble making any headway in the case because of Corrigan's attitude. Humes is eventually convicted by a jury for the rape. But then bigshot lawyer Jake Weinhaus (Jose Ferrer), visited earlier by Hume's mother who he declined to help, gets interested in the rape case and has the verdict against Humes overturned after questions are raised about the attitudes of some of the jurors and evidence that the prosecuting attorney Mario Portello (Allen Garfield) had suppressed. The judge (well-known character actor Bill Zuckert) orders a new trial. As far as the pending trial for the killing of the two women is concerned, dope dealer Bobby Martin (Roger Robinson) makes an air-tight deal after being charged with an unrelated murder to reveal the real killer of the two women -- a former junkie and cat burglar Kojak knows named Teddy Harper (Marjoe Gortner). Harper's involvement with the murder is cemented only after he moves in with Martin whose apartment is seriously bugged by the police. During the retrial for rape, despite Weinhaus attacking Corrigan's racist attitude and suggesting that Alvarez identified Humes as her assailant because she wanted to profit from a reward, Humes is still found guilty and goes to jail for five to ten years. So the story does not have a happy ending. Despite this, the acting in this show is superb and it captures great ambience not only of New York but also the world of the New York police.
- In this pilot, Kojak has a girl friend, a nurse named Ruthie played by Lorraine Gary. There is also mention of him having been married with a kid.
- It is no wonder that the verdict in the original trial goes against Hume, since there is virtually no defense offered by his court-appointed lawyer Morris Fisher (Robert Walden)! During the retrial, Weinhaus launches a brilliant attack on those responsible for Hume's guilty verdict. After being told by the judge to watch where his line of defense is going, Weinhaus talks to himself as he returns to his table in the courtroom: "'Law and order' is being used as a catch phrase in this country for 'stop the nigger'." Of course, Portello objects to this. Later, Kojak confronts Portello in his office, saying that the reason he doesn't want to admit Humes is innocent is because "you'd have to admit how corrupt you really are." Portello tells Kojak that he has nothing more to say to him.
- When Humes first appears in court before Justice Redding (Tol Avery) regarding the Marcus-Nelson murders and Hume tells the judge through his new lawyer that the confession to all three crimes he was charged with was made under duress and threats, Redding says, after some comment by Portello, "Without saying or implying any innocence or guilt in this matter, the people of this town are pleased with the arrest for murder in this case in which they've been very much concerned. I think the police department does a fine, effective job. They do it efficiently, they do it properly. This court commends the police department of the City of new York. The people of this town are going to have much more respect and confidence in law enforcement now rather than two or three days ago with the relationship of these two major crimes." This kind of statement in itself might be grounds for a mistrial!
- McNeil, Kojak's superior, is played by Lloyd Gough. George Salvalos, Det. Stavros on the TV show, has a brief part as Jack Deems, a newspaper reporter. Roger Robinson, who plays Bobby Martin, was seen later as Detective Gil Weaver. Other characters in the pilot who later became familiar during the show were Alan Manson (as Sgt. Roberts, later Lt. Nicola) and Bruce Kirby (Sgt. Dan McCartney, later Sgt. Al Vine).
- Some of the dialog in the show is envelope-pushing. When Ruthie, lying in bed, tells Kojak, who is walking around his place in a dressing gown, "It [the sex] wasn't like it was before, was it?", Kojak replies, "Better." During Weinhaus' to overturn the first trial's verdict, he gets one of the jurors to reveal that another juror said about Humes "These kinds are all the same. They have got to have it. These fellows like their sex." During the retrial, Alvarez testifies that Humes "said he wanted to have intercourse with me." When Bortello asks her "What was his exact language?", she replies Humes said, "I want to have sexual relations ... I'm gonna rape you."
- There is a stock shot of a green prison bus outside The Tombs, the Manhattan Detention Complex, which will be seen later on the TV series. As well, there are numerous scenes which contain shots which will appear in the main credits for the TV show's first seasons.
- It is seen snowing during the show.