TV… McMillan & Wife (1973), Death of a Monster… Birth of a Legend S3, Ep 1



There’s been a murderrrr…


McMillan and wife travel to “Scotland” for a clan get together which starts with a bang. And even more importantly, we get to see Rock Hudson sporting a MacMillan tartan kilt.


McMillan and Wife S3 E1 Mac looks very fetching in a kilt, vintage sunday night television


While writing for this blog, I discovered a new favourite retro detective series in McMillan and Wife (1971-77), resulting in this post HERE and that post THERE. I then joined a group on social media who love this show and asked for episode recommendations for my next review. This episode was just one of many suggested to me. After reading the description of this one, Death of a Monster… Birth of a Legend S3, Ep 1, it was added for review as it was set in the country I call home, Bonnie Scotland.

Just recently by chance, a member of this group, Leo Zahn uploaded some behind the scenes photos of this particular episode.  At the time he was a film student and he was lucky to observe the making of this episode at Universal Pictures in the early 1970s (not in Scotland). He kindly allowed me to use his exclusive pictures in this post (and so all copyright for these photographs is his). Thanks for letting me use these, Leo.

The Non-Scottish location was made even less authentic with three non-Scottish actors and an actress – one from Canada, two from England and one from America – speaking in (a variety of) Scottish accents. The fifth actor using this accent was ironically named Scott Thomas, however, I was unable to trace Thomas’s birthplace. But to my joy, the Scottish and MacMillan themes are enthusiastically explored in this episode of this American TV Series.

There are pipers playing Scotland the Brave on the bagpipes in every Scottish themed scene,  a castle (read the Camelot (1967) castle sets), Highland dancers, Heeland (read correctly as Highland) as pronounced (badly) by anyone and everyone) Games, tossing the caber, mention of the MAcMillan (note the a) treasure and McMillan (Rock Hudson) and the menfolk wearing kilts. There is also an in episode “Scottish” translator for Mildred and those non-Scottish viewers in the guise of Rock Hudson Translate (RHT) as police commissioner, Stewart McMillan.

The episode starts for no apparent reason in a police car chase through San Francisco. Police commissioner McMillan is on the trail of a bad guy, Bullitt (1968) syle. Then McMillan and his colleague have caught up with him, and the bad guy is surrounded by police cars. McMillan leaps into action and punches the bad guy. Then he yells “Book him” at the nearest cop (sounding more like Ray Winstone than Rock Hudson). McMillan then legs it in 15 minutes to join his wife Sally (Susan Saint James) and housekeeper, Mildred (Nancy Walker) at the airport.

Enright (John Schuck) is invited to join their holiday, but he declines saying he prefers the beach at Acapulco. As a Scot, I can understand this man completely, as the North Sea was – and still is – bloody cold in the 1970s. And then it’s the plane boss, the plane and this flight to Scotland lasts less than a minute (if only). Then they travel on to the Heelands Highlands and Castle Kinross to visit McMillan’s Uncle Michael.

They pass a loch (RHT – lake) where some London tourists – with one called Alfie (but sadly not a cameo from Michael Caine) – are having a picnic and looking for this loch dwelling monster – in a wee nod to Nessie. They travel past various “Scottish” fields (which TBH could have been filmed anywhere in the world). McMillan waxes on about how you see the monster (allegedly) in the gloamin’ (RHT – twilight) his holidays spent in Scotland as a kid with his uncle, who is Laird (Scottish owner of a large estate) McMillan and lives in Castle Kinross, in the Highlands.

After McMillan and the women arrive at Camelot the McMillan castle, McMillan shouts to his uncle in the turret (tower) to greet his uncle. A gunshot is heard, McMillan legs it into the castle, charges up the stairs and finds the keep (room)  immediately. The doors are locked so he breaks it down with a handy weapon and they discover his Uncle is dead. This is after a rifle shot to his head, with his dog, Bobby (as in Greyfriars Bobby?) and a rifle next to him.

McMillan is by now accompanied by his wife, Ramsey (John McLiam) and Uncle Michael’s Scottish housekeeper Mrs McTaggert. I kid you not Scottish readers! To explain, Taggart (1983-2010) was a Glaswegian cop in this Scottish TV series and known for being dour (grumpy)) and often associated with the saying; “There’s been a murderrrrrr”. (Both acting talents playing McTaggart and Ramsey are non-Scots and have “Scottish” accents.)

Roddy channels his Scottish accent, as debuted in Macbeth with Orson Welles)

Ramsey was about to meet with Mike and an attorney. Suddenly Jamie McMillan (Scottish accented but English Roddy McDowall), McMillan’s irresponsible cousin Jamie (we do have more than Jamie for a boy’s name scriptwriters) turns up with his terribly English fiance, Nell (Jennifer Leak). Jamie has to come to arrange the Heeland Highland Games, and from his spoken script seems a wee bit shifty. Jamie is now the new McMillan laird, owner of the castle and owner of the rumoured McMillan treasure.

On learning about his grandfather Michael’s death (this particular McMillan family tree will confuse anyone), he says the Games will go on as Michael would have wanted that. That evening the McMillans have dinner with Ramsey, who tells them about the story of the castle’s ghost MacCready ghost, one dark and stormy night.

In his story, he tells of a Laird of the McMillan clan who had five lieutenants, four McMillans and one MacCready. On the eve of a battle with the Sassenachs (English), they buried the McMillan treasure. Then on arriving for battle, they discovered McCready wasn’t there and they found him hiding in an alcove in the castle. The laird was not a happy man.

So the McMillans built a wall and trapped the cowardly McCready behind it. McCready rued revenge on the kinsfolk (family) of the McMillans (close up of Hudson), their wives (close up of Saint James) and their servants (close up of Walker). Then Ramsey unmasks himself Scooby Doo style as a McCready and he dramatically throws his glass into the open fire. And leaves.

That night, the McMillans are woken by Mildred who hears a scraping noise. A man is seen watching the castle, in the rain. A man is then brought in from the grounds, and it’s Enright. This scamp planned to join them all the time. He had to walk as he drove up on the wrong side of the road (cue this trope like forever) and after he swerved to get out the way, he drove his car into a ditch.

The next day it’s oatmeal (porridge) for breakfast (we do have other cereals in Scotland). During their stay, we meet other possible suspects with motives for Uncle Michael’s murder. There is the “Scottish”(?) speaking former McMillan’s gamekeeper, Duncan (Scott Thomas) who was fired from his job recently and his father worked for the McMillans.

There is also an American, nattily named Houston (to differentiate him from Angus, Fergus, Jamie and Duncan and those other Scottishly stereotyped names) who owns a hotel chain. Houston Gorman (Roger C. Carmel) wants to buy the castle. He is renting a room in a house on the grounds with Alice, his (loved up??) landlady (who has an excellent view of the turret). Even Mrs McTaggert and Jamie and his fiance are under suspicion… the only witness is Bobbie (who gives clues to McMillan and wife, Lassie style).

I did enjoy this episode, and all the non Scots gave reasonable attempts at the Scottish accent. It was a nice touch with the McMillans and Ramsey explaining those Scottish phrases. These phrases were in context and added more credibility to the script, even if the surroundings were a wee bit ropey. The dancing was great and also appeared authentic. This reminded me of seeing a Scottish dance scene performed by Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Indiscreet (1958) as well as a few ceilidhs I’ve been to.

There were nice unsung nods to Scotland with mentions of Nessie – the Loch Ness Monster – and I adored seeing Rock’s attempt at the accent and hearing his wee Scottish themed song. The scriptwriters clearly researched the MacMillan Clan well. They added an appropriate setting of the MacMillan castle seat in Highlands (Lochaber), the correct tartan colours worn by Rock Hudson and the mention of the MacMillan treasure. The MAcMillan treasure legend does exist, but this show changes history / legend).

The Scottish accent is notoriously one of the hardest to do as few non-Scots get it right. Over here, I’ve given a few talks on Nessie and Scotland at the English school here in Finland to Finnish kids. They all enjoy hearing the Scottish phrases and repeating them as part of my talk all crying “Where’s the cludgie?” (Where is the bathroom) at the top of their wee Finnish voices. Some get it and some don’t, but it’s usually not a problem unless you are Jude Law. Or more surprisingly Jessica Lange.

However, I do (often) groan if this accent is really bad in a film or TV, or someone, as it often appears that they have clearly only seen Billy Connolly in Columbo (1971-2003). Adding some honourable mentions here for those who got it spot on such as Chris Pine in Outlaw King (2018) and Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969).

But it’s a try better next time to Jude Law and Chris Hemsworth, the former in Black Sea (2015) and the latter in Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) respectively. And Harrison Ford and Christopher Lambert really have no excuse, especially as they both had a co-star with Sean Connery.

But saying that, this McMillan and Wife episode did make me more nostalgic for my own country than Outlander (2014-) ever did. Especially after seeing Rock Hudson in a MAcMillan tartan kilt and those jokes surrounding his kilt wearing. The best is with Sally telling him to close his legs when he is sitting down and with Mildred telling him to get some pants on.

As we all know, pants means knickers in Scotland (and the rest of the UK). This made me ponder if Hudson went commando in these scenes. But sadly we’ll never know for sure if Rock in his character honoured his Scottish roots. And if he went true Scot. Or not.


Weeper Rating:   😦 😦😦 😦😦/10

Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 710

Hulk Rating: ‎  ‎ ‎mrgreen ‎ ‎mrgreen / 10


My No True Scotsman Blogathon 2021

This post was entered in my No True Scotsman Blogathon. Other reviews with this cast include Rock Hudson starred in McMillan, McMillan and Wife, Pillow Talk, Dynasty, and Avalanche. Susan Saint James in M*A*S*H and Love at First Bite.  John Schuck in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryMurder She Wrote and Fantasy Island. Nancy Walker stars in RhodaColumboHappy Days and Fame.  Roddy McDowall stars in The Poseidon Adventure and  Fantasy Island in this episode. Roger C Carmel in Star Trek, The Man from UNCLE, Batman and Hart to Hart. Scott Thomas starred in Circle of Fear. John McLiam starred in Magnum PI. Diana Webster starred in Fame.


24 thoughts on “TV… McMillan & Wife (1973), Death of a Monster… Birth of a Legend S3, Ep 1

  1. I got a great kick out of revisiting this episode, and Rock in a kilt, with you. I’m beginning to think from old movies and shows that the only reason for renovating is so that you will have a convenient wall behind which to hide the bodies of enemies.

    This fun episode was directed by Daniel Petrie. He was born in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia home of my “great grandparents, uncles, aunts”, etc. By the time I came along the next generation had moved to New Glasgow.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, castles, curses, ghosts and kilts — only the Loch Ness monster is missing (fortunately, she appears in another blogathon entry 🙂 And to add to the entertainment, there are not one but 4 non-Scots doing accents! I was a fan of the show back in the day, but don’t remember seeing this one. And kudos for getting access to the behind-the-scenes photos. Very neat!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rock rocking a kilt seems to be gaining a lot of attention amongst your readers!
    This episode does sound a hoot, as I’ve said many times before, perfect viewing for a wet weekend in winter.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve never heard of this show, and count me as another who never thought they would see Rock Hudson in a kilt. I wouldn’t be surprised if he went “true Scot” in it just because someone told him that’s how it’s done, lol. Great post. Thanks again for hosting.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Noting here that you didn’t credit the writers; permit me to take up the slack.
    “Death of a Monster … Birth of a Legend” was written by Don M. Mankiewicz (of the Hollywood Clan Mankiewicz) and Gordon Cotler, who were frequent contributors to McMillan And Wife, as well as other Universal TV mystery shows.

    As long as I’m here, let me ID the scripters of the other McMillans you’ve written up here:
    – “Downshift To Danger” was written by Peter S. Fischer, between gigs at his regular job – writing for Columbo (where he was by this time a co-producer – at Universal, everybody pitched in).
    – “Affair of the Heart” (the wife-free episode from the last season) was written by Steven Bochco, who was sending in stories to almost all the Universal shows back then.
    Bochco must have really liked this one, because a decade later he rewrote it into a Columbo for ABC : the redo is called “Uneasy Lies The Crown” (if you’ve got the DVDs, you can compare at your leisure).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This sounds like a fun episode!! I’ve seen part of a McMillan & Wife episode on tv before and it looks like a good series. I plan to watch it one day.

    Thanks for hosting this fun and unique blogathon!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. McMillan & Wife is great comfort TV. You know you won’t get anything earth-shatteringly brilliant but you’ll get solid entertainment. And Susan Saint James – isn’t she just the cutest thing?

    Liked by 1 person

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