They Only Kill Their Masters

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They Only Kill Their Masters
They Only Kill Their Masters VideoCover.png
Directed by James Goldstone
Written by Lane Slate
Starring James Garner
Katharine Ross
Hal Holbrook
June Allyson
Tom Ewell
Peter Lawford
Music by Perry Botkin, Jr.
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • November 22, 1972 (1972-11-22)
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1,005,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

They Only Kill Their Masters is a 1972 American mystery film directed by James Goldstone, written by Lane Slate, and starring James Garner and Katharine Ross, with a supporting cast featuring Hal Holbrook, June Allyson, Tom Ewell, Peter Lawford, Edmond O'Brien, and Arthur O'Connell. The title refers to Doberman dogs that might have been responsible for a woman's murder currently under investigation by the local police chief (Garner).[2]


Abel Marsh is a sarcastic, thick-skinned police chief in a small West Coast seaside town — the fictional Eden Landing, located somewhere between San Francisco and Los Angeles, where everyone knows each other. When one of its citizens is killed under mysterious circumstances many rumors arise, the most notorious of them being that the victim was killed by her own Doberman Pinscher.

The police chief is initially inclined to believe this scenario, but new facts discount this hypothesis. New developments complicate the investigation, especially when crucial evidence starts to disappear. The county sheriff is also trying to take control of the investigation, igniting conflict with Chief Marsh.


Production notes

The movie was filmed from late July to early September in 1972. It was the last major film shot on MGM's backlot before it was sold. Several former MGM stars accepted supporting roles in the film because it gave them the opportunity to be in the last film shot on the backlot. Other scenes were filmed at the Paradise Cove Pier, Paradise Cove in Malibu. Two years later, when Garner started to film The Rockford Files, Rockford's trailer was located at the same place.

The small town police chief concept and its main character Abel Marsh were reworked several times by writer Lane Slate. The first attempt followed a year later with Isn't It Shocking, starring Alan Alda as similar character Dan Barnes and the setting relocated to Oregon.[3] 1974 brought a similar character named Sam McNeill (Andy Griffith) in Winter Kill, intended as the pilot for a series set in a California mountain resort. Griffith tried again in 1975 with the short-lived TV series, Adams of Eagle Lake which lasted two episodes; the character was renamed Sam Adams. Two more reworkings followed in 1976 and 1977 starring Griffith, with the character's name restored to Abel Marsh: The Girl in the Empty Grave and Deadly Game.

See also


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974, p.60
  2. ^ "They Only Kill Their Masters". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
  3. ^ "Andy Griffith and Alan Alda both made TV movies based on the same character". Retrieved 2018-11-17.

External links

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