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Matinee: 'Man With a Camera: Mute Evidence' Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

27 July 2019

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 212nd in our series of Saturday matinees today: Man With a Camera: Mute Evidence.

It's been a few years since we featured an episode of Man With a Camera starring Charles Bronson. But that doesn't mean we no longer indulge our sillier side. And just to prove it, we dug up another 25-minute episode.

In the series, a young Bronson plays Mike Kovac, a professional photographer, who gets involved in one criminal investigation or another. In this episode, he goes to visit a doctor who has been working with a "deaf mute," teaching her to use a camera to communicate. He wants Kovac's advice on laying out her photos for an article about her.

But by the time Kovac shows up in his 1958 Ford wagon, the doctor's employee Earl Grant (played by Simon Scott) has already murdered him in the woods where the doctor had hidden his money. The mute Susan Barnes witnessed the crime and photographed it with her Polaroid. But Earl sees her and destroys the evidence.

That's as far as we're taking the plot. You won't be disappointed.

Playing Susan Barnes is the English actress Susan George, who is quite expressive in the role. You might recognize her from Straw Dogs. Or, if you happen to be Prince Charles, you may recall dating her.

Buried in the credits (which include film editor Irving Berlin, who worked for Chaplin and Roy Rodgers) is the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Joseph Benetti, who worked for the Sacramento Union newspaper. Benetti also won the National Press Photographers Association's Joseph Costa Award in 1954.

The camera Susan uses to photographer Earl appears to be a Polaroid Model 150, judging from the dark bellows. When Earl tears the film out of it, we see a white ribbon of paper (probably just that rather than real Polaroid media).

Kovac himself seems to be using a Rollieflex. Susan uses it to get a second photo of Earl so she can identify him to the sheriff played by Russ Conway.

But at the end of the episode Kovac gives Susan a new Model 150 with a flash that attaches to the hot shoe on the left side of the camera. Which would have run him about $140.

Kovacs asks the sheriff, who takes Susan under his wing now that the doctor is dead, to have Susan send him photos now and then. And he promises to do the same. "You know," Kovac explains, "like writing letters."

We could tell you a story about wrapping a Polaroid around our two-year-old deaf niece many years ago. She was so little, she had to practically throw the thing up in the air like a weight lifter doing a power clean to get the lens pointed at anyone. But she did. She was nearly as delighted seeing the instant photo as we were watching her delight.

So you don't have to be Prince Charles to be fond of this episode.

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