Steps Of A Dead Man
(ITC Movie title "In The Steps Of A Dead Man")
Original UK transmission: 22nd June 1974
Original US transmission: 27th May 1974
WRITTEN BY: Brian Clemens and Luanshya Greer
DIRECTED BY: Shaun O'Riordan
PRODUCED BY: John Sichel
MAIN CAST: John Nolan (Marty Fuller), Richard Vernon (George Cornfield), Faith Brook (Betty Cornfield), Denise Buckley (Sheila Howes), Skye Aubrey (Grace Worth), Derek Anders (Sgt. O'Hara), Christopher Benjamin (Medical Officer), Anne Robson (Mrs Howes), John Garvin (Mr Howes)
The camera pans down onto a leafy outer suburb, where a young girl is running towards a house with a letter in her hand. Inside, an elderly man is demonstrating to his wife a tv "freeze frame" device he has made for his son Tommy. The girl, Sheila, rushes in and says excitedly that Tommy is coming home from the war and wants to go ahead and set a date for their wedding. Congratulations are made, and then Sheila notices the stop action device and asks what it is. The father begins to demonstrate it by switching between various tv channels and freezing the picture; suddenly to their horror they see Tommy, lying prostrate on a battlefield. The mother walks in and screams as she rushes towards the tv screen, her son's face contorted in agony in the still frame.
When George and Betty Cornfield's only son Tommy is killed in combat, their lives are badly affected and the father falls into a deep depression. Out of the blue however, a soldier named Marty turns up on the doorstep claiming to be Tommy's best friend, and re-assures the two grieving parents about their boy's last moments. Marty is so like Tommy in every way that he quickly becomes like their own son, and is even introduced to Tommy's fiancée Sheila. It soon looks as though marriage is inevitable, but Sheila's friend Grace begins to suspect Marty's motives and realises that he is clearly not who he claims to be. As the soldier ingratiates himself deeper and deeper into the Cornfield's lives, Grace becomes ever more alarmed at the possibility that Marty could be genuinely dangerous. For far from being the late boy's best friend, Marty is in reality a deserter with a far more cunning agenda than anyone could have imagined.
A superb episode with first class performances from John Nolan and veteran Richard Vernon. Indeed, Vernon's warm-hearted portrayal of George Cornfield almost steals the show, so likeable and convincing is his character. The real kudos, though, go to Nolan for his portrayal of the charming yet incredibly devious Marty. Watching him ruthlessly worm his way into the Cornfield's affections is indeed terrible to watch. The inspired addition of the nosey Grace Worth however, tends to off balance this and one ends up almost cheering him on as he continually sidesteps her interference. Not to be missed.
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