1 9 7 7 (USA)
3 x 100 minute episodes
The town of Aspen, high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, is a gathering place for the beautiful people – the wealthy and diabolically lazy folk who have nothing better to do.
In this fictionalised dealing with Aspen – based on two novels, Aspen by Burt Hirschfeld and The Adversary by Bart Spicer – the so-called beautiful people revel in insensitivity and immorality.
The star of the six-hour saga is the town of Aspen itself, and it has been magnificently photographed under the direction of Douglas Heyes who also wrote the lengthy teleplay.
Wrapped in clouds of snow, the homes, the hotels and the ranches scream opulence loudly and clearly.
This Aspen, however, also harbours graft and corruption, stand-over merchants, spoiled heiresses, tennis-playing gigolos, money-hungry landowners, and 15-year-old nymphomaniacs who sneak out of their bedrooms at night.
With those ingredients, the plot invariably turns to murder. It is unsurprising then, to learn that the victim is only 15.
Perry King, Sam Elliott and Michelle Phillips play the central characters in the story which begins in Acapulco in the 1950s and travels to Aspen several years later.
King is Lee Bishop, a tennis player who vows eternal love to Gloria Osborne (Phillips) and follows her around the country to prove it. Her millionaire father Carl Osborne (Gene Barry at his nastiest) is vehemently opposed to the relationship and has the persistent swain bashed rather violently by some heavies.
The young man is not deterred by the father’s attitude and follows Gloria to her haven in the Rocky Mountains. Upon arrival, he meets up with an old army friend, Budd Townsend (Bo Hopkins), an encounter which should have been avoided.
Budd is surly, a bit of a drip, a drug runner for a wealthy businessman (Anthony Franciosa) and has a passion for underage girls.
In next to no time, Lee meets the murder victim, Angela Morelli (Deborah Richter), a teenage nymphet who deserves a good clout with a hairbrush but instead gets paid for her services. She pays him far too much attention. He could not care less. And Budd is consumed with jealousy.
Gloria Osborne re-enters the scene, marriage is discussed, and she agrees to meet the next night to elope. Instead, she flies off to Germany with her father, leaving her boyfriend all alone in the cold, cold snow – with a celebration cake, a bottle of champagne and, later, another headache.
Enter miss teenager who takes advantage of the sozzled, jilted one, and they embark on a wild – but shaky – night out on a motorbike. It is a one-way ride for the youngster who is left stranded permanently in the snow-capped woods.
Lee Bishop is now the number one murder suspect, facing a death sentence.
Sam Elliott plays Tom Keating, a dashing, idealistic attorney who turns jurisprudence into personal profit. He takes the case into his own hands and, through brilliantly manipulative courtroom techniques, manages to prove Bishop’s innocence while promoting his own career.
Meanwhile, greedy big city land grabbers, controlled by millionaire Osborne, are attempting to wipe out the individual landowners – including Keating’s father, Owen (John McIntire), who resists in fine style.
It is but another of the interwoven stories which creep into Aspen during its six-hour run.
There is some fine acting from the large cast who drift like the snowflakes through the alpine resort. John Houseman is exceptionally memorable as the ageing Judge Joseph Drummond who would rather enjoy a lobster lunch than listen to such trivialities as proving a man’s innocence.
Gene Barry is the personification of everything that is evil. Anthony Franciosa is smugly arrogant as the wealthy drug pusher. And Doug Heyes Jr, as Barry’s son, has every reason to dislike them all intensely.
There is not one pleasant character in Aspen. There are, however, enough characters – along with plot twists and turns – to keep viewers more than entertained. And Colorado is very photogenic.
Doug Heyes Jr
Lee de Broux
Judge Joseph Merrill Drummond
Judge Miles Kendrick