(ITC Movie title "The Killing Game")
Original UK transmission: 8th February 1975
Original US transmission: 17th February 1975
WRITTEN BY: Brian Clemens
DIRECTED BY: Don Leaver
PRODUCED BY: John Cooper
MAIN CAST: Edd Byrnes (Eddie Vallance), James Berwick ("Daddy" Burns), Ingrid Pitt (Ilse), Trevor Baxter (Winters), George Innes (Zac), Frank Coda (Pursell)
Two men sit playing poker in a small room while an attractive woman deals the cards. When one of them loses, his opponent responds "You know the house rules, Mr Vaughn...we explained them very carefully." The girl lays out two pistols on a revolving table and explains that only one of them is loaded; the losing man chooses a gun and fires, but to no avail. His host then reaches for the other gun and, with the words "I'm afraid Mr Vaughn, you lose again", shoots him down in cold blood. Standing imperiously over his victim he looks down with contempt and adds "If there's one thing I can't stand it's a bad loser." The girl begins to caress him, and he gloats with pride "And if there's one thing you love, it's a winner..." Then, with an air of menacing smugness, he repeats "...a winner."
Waking up in a strange house, gambler Eddie Vallance finds himself the reluctant guest of one Walter "Daddy" Burns, who is described by a servant as "one of the five richest men in the world". Burns turns out to be a compulsive gambler who kidnaps promising opponents and has them brought to his home for sport. Burns' claim that he is the best poker player in the world is met with scepticism by Vallance, but when he finds that he is a prisoner in the house he has no choice but to accept his host's challenge. A series of games ensue, which are to culminate in a poker match the following evening; but Vallance quickly realises that Burns' obsession with gambling masks a psychopathic need to win at any cost. When one of the house staff warns Vallance that he must escape before it's too late, Eddie must use all of his cunning to outwit his opponent before the fateful card match arrives.
The sultry Ingrid Pitt is only one of the attractions in this exciting story of a man fighting for his life. James Berwick was the perfect choice to play the Texas tycoon "Daddy" Burns, who lives for gambling and not much else. It's a lot of fun watching Eddie repeatedly outwit his opponent, especially when Ilse's attentions begin to wander in his direction and Burns' threatening presence grows accordingly. I also love the notion of all the house staff being bound to Burns by their own compulsion for gambling (complete with shots of them idling away their spare moments playing dice on the stairs). Make no mistake, however, this is no comedy and is one of the series most compelling episodes.
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