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Meanwhile, Lady Mei and her son hide while her servant ventures into the throngs to arrange passage. Ritter shadows him, and following a brief scuffle, Ritter kills the servant.

General Doe returns to the bar where he tells O’Rourke to expect a visit from the woman who is seeking passage to Panama City. The General offers him $5,000 for the woman and boy. O’Rourke acts interested and says he’ll think about it. The General wants a definite answer, but O’Rourke refuses to give one.

A friend of O’Rourke’s rescues Lady Mei from Ritter, who has claimed he’s a guide who can help her. The friend takes her to the bar to meet with O’Rourke. She pleads for his help, but trust is an issue on both sides. He, however, is enchanted with her. He reveals the offer Doe made and tells her he’s considering it. Fearful for her life, she tells O’Rourke the General will have her killed. She also mentions Ritter’s offer to help. Warning her to not trust Ritter, O’Rourke arranges to stash Lady Mei and her son in a nearby tent for the night.

Later, when Chauvin and the General return to the bar, O’Rourke realizes Lady Mei isn’t safe. He arrives at her tent just as she’s about to be attacked. O’Rourke again comes to her rescue, fighting and killing the henchman. O’Rourke manages to slip Lady Mei and her son out of the tent as Chauvin, the General, and their men search for them. They escape into a hidden passage, and O’Rourke demands to know why General Doe wants her dead. Lady Mei reveals that her son is also the child of the emperor and that her husband has died, although the outside world is as yet unaware. As heir, the child is now the emperor, however if he dies, Lady Mei’s brother-in-law will become emperor—and as his closest adviser, General Doe would run China. O’Rourke stashes Lady Mei and the boy in a room above the bar for their safety.

Chauvin and the General discover the body of the man O’Rourke had killed. General Doe finds a button the man had torn from O’Rourke’s shirt during the scuffle—proof that he’s been aiding Lady Mei. But he pockets the evidence rather than turn it over to Chauvin. They force their way into O’Rourke’s bar and into the room where the woman and child had been hiding—but the room is empty.

General Doe tells O’Rourke the woman had kidnapped the boy from his father and plans to travel San Francisco with the child. The General makes him another proposition and reveals the button. He’ll hand over this evidence of O’Rourke’s crime and not tell Chauvin in exchange for the woman and boy. O’Rourke has until morning to make up his mind. Realizing that Lady Mei must be with Ritter, O’Rourke goes in search of them.

Chauvin’s men have discovered the body of the servant and knows General Doe is behind the murder. Chauvin begins to question Doe’s motives and intends to hear the woman’s side of the story.

As O’Rourke suspected, he finds Lady Mei and the boy with Ritter. The two men fight and O’Rourke silences Ritter with his fist. O’Rourke is having second thoughts about Chauvin and feels the best move would be to take Lady Mei to him. She attempts to fight O’Rourke, but he disarms her and reluctantly agrees to escort her to Panama City.

They manage to stay ahead of General Doe and Ritter in their trek through the jungle—at least until they reach a swinging bridge. O’Rourke and the men exchange gunfire as Lady Mei and the boy try to make their way across the bridge. Indians appear and come to their aid, killing Ritter. The General makes his way onto the bridge and battles O’Rourke as the horrified Lady Mei watches helplessly. General Doe ends up falling to his death in the river below.

At that point, Chauvin arrives…not to arrest  them, but to provide safe escort for the rest of their journey.

As the story ends, O’Rourke bids farewell to the lovely Lady Mei and her son. And Chauvin gives O’Rourke’s button back to him. The truce may not last long however, as Chauvin promises the next time he might not be so generous.

My thoughts:

This episode of Suspense Theatre was a pilot for a series that never sold. I would have liked to see how this relationship between Chauvin and O’Rourke played out had the series been picked up. O’Rourke was charming and heroic, but there was a definite hint that he wasn’t above a few shady dealings if need be. Chauvin appeared at first to be ready to lock him up, but over the course of the episode, their mutual respect came into focus. An additional character, Elena, played by Susanne Cramer, seemed conflicted between anger and jealousy over O’Rourke’s attraction to Lady Mei and a desire to keep him safe. She also clearly had some kind of relationship with Chauvin. While Elena’s role in the pilot was somewhat minor, I think she could have developed into an interesting mix of help, hindrance, and conflict.

From Robert’s perspective:

Robert Fuller was forced by Lew Wasserman, studio executive, to wear the spotless white costume when in fact he didn’t like the outfit at all. Wasserman despised the grungy look of Jess Harper and wanted Robert clean. This carried over to Wagon Train when Wasserman told producer Howard Christie, if he saw Cooper Smith dirty, he would be fired!

Robert was, in fact, pleased that this pilot didn’t sell as it would have tied him into a five-year contract and would have prevented him from appearing in Return of the Seven and Incident At Phantom Hill. He did, however enjoy working with Ann Blyth, Richard Anderson, and Robert Loggia, with whom he had great fun, and who, he says, was a hell of an actor.

(Review written by Annette Dashofy)

Air Date: April 22, 1965

Episode: “Jungle of Fear”

Role: Rory O’Rourke

Director: Earl Bellamy

Writer: John McGreevey


The story opens in 1850 Chagres, a busy port on the edge of the Panamanian Jungle, where everyone is trying to go somewhere…mostly to California to join in the Gold Rush. In the midst of the chaos, bar owner Rory O’Rourke (Robert Fuller) spots the beautiful Lady Mei (Ann Blyth) and saves her from being crushed when a net full of heavy cargo drops on the spot where she’d been standing. She offers to pay him for his kindness, but he refuses, simply warning her to be careful. Once O’Rourke leaves, the woman spots the arrival of Colonel Juan Chauvin (Robert Loggia) and General John Doe (Richard Anderson) and scurries into hiding. The pair are joined by Alden Ritter (Warren Stevens) who informs them of O’Rourke’s part in the woman’s rescue.

Chauvin, clearly not a fan of O’Rourke, introduces the bar owner to General Doe, who claims to have served the emperor of China. The men request information about the woman O’Rourke helped, claiming she’s a fugitive. When O’Rourke offers them nothing, Chauvin makes some not-so-veiled threats about how O’Rourke should cooperate if he wishes to stay in Chagres.

About Annette Dashofy

Annette Dashofy is an award winning author who is responsible for the series of Zoe Chambers Mysteries.

She is USA Today Best Selling Author and in addition her work has been nominated for:

 The Agatha Award for Best First Novel

The David Award for Best Mystery Of 2014

The Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel Of 2015

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