With thanks to Andrew Mercardo and Umbrella Entertainment for my contributor's copy of "Number 96: The Pantyhose Strangler"! I've had a great time reliving the 70s.
Beware the spoilers!
649. (First aired 8/11/1974) Tracey Wilson (Chantal Contouri) is falling for Andy Marshall (Peter Adams), but she knows that her husband won't agree to a divorce. Matt Barrington (John Paramor) distresses Lorelei Wilkinson (Josephine Knur) when he peeks at her in the shower. Andy is unable to partner Tracey to the hospital ball as he has to work late. Dudley Butterfield (Chard Hayward) is still in Melbourne, which depresses his partner, Don Finlayson (Joe Hasham). Arnold Feather (Jeff Kevin) is upset about his wife Patti's new job as a private nurse, and he drowns his sorrows with Don in the wine bar. A chilling sight greets Norma and Les Whittaker (Sheila Kennelly & Gordon McDougall) when they return from the ball: Lorelei has fallen victim to the Pantyhose Murderer.
This was the very first episode of "Number 96" to be broadcast in colour as Channel Ten commenced a series of equipment tests.
650. (11/11) Arnold is furious with Patti. The publicity about the latest murder means that business is booming at the wine bar. The ghouls are out in force; however, Matt has disappeared. Arnold is without an alibi. Don is tortured by doubts about Dudley, while Michael Bartlett (Peter Flett) seems evasive. Alf Sutcliffe (James Elliott) is sure he heard Dudley talking to Lorelei on the night she was strangled.
651. (12/11) Aldo and Roma Godolfus (Johnny Lockwood & Phillipa Baker) seek assistance from "Dig Up A Treasure". Reg MacDonald (Mike Dorsey) reminds his wife, Edie (Wendy Blacklock) of the forthcoming Kerbing and Guttering Ball. Flo Patterson (Bunney Brooke) begins work at the deli. Lucy Sutcliffe (Elisabeth Kirkby) disturbs an intruder and follows up a clue concerning Michael. Herb Evans (Ron Shand) loses a baby at the movies. Roma hears more news of her son, Irving, who faces a gaol term in the USA unless she can send him the money he needs.
652. (13/11) Andy claims that he was seeking a divorce from his wife on the night of the murder. Les catches Detective Sergeant Short (Ken Fraser) in his trap. Herb gets a legacy from his job: an abandoned baby. Dudley learns of Lorelei's death. Matt finally seems to have an alibi, courtesy of Maisie Burnett (Josie McKay). Patti suspects Peter Wilson (Dennis Miller) of murder, but finds incriminating evidence in Arnold's pocket; what does he need with a packet of pantyhose?
653. (14/11) Don confronts Dudley about conflicting information. Aldo suspects Reg of murder. Arnold is told a lie about a gift. Arnold and Aldo try to dissuade Roma from sending money to Irving. Edie discovers she must let Reg take Alderman Mrs April Bullock (Judi Farr) to the Kerbing and Guttering Ball. Dudley is the one to suffer when Don decides to be ruthless.
654. (15/11) Vera has a strange dream about stolen paintings. The MacDonalds' key is missing from Dorrie's master keyring, which means that Marilyn MacDonald (Frances Hargreaves) is in danger. Dorrie Evans (Pat McDonald) departs for a week in Epping to visit her widowed sister, Connie. Meanwhile, Herb becomes Edie's escort so that a Cinderella can go to the ball. Vera Collins (Elaine Lee) is stunned by her own predictions.
655. (18/11) Dudley inherits $2000 from Lorelei's will, but Alf sticks with his story. To Reg's horror, Edie does a stint of waitressing at the wine bar. Arnold is surprised to find that Patti's new bracelet has an inscription from Graham Thompson, her patient. April plots to keep Edie occupied with committee work so that she can spend more time with Reg. Don finally gets the truth, if not an explanation, out of Dudley.
656. (19/11) Dudley finally tells Don that he was in Sydney the night Lorelei was killed; he had spent time with his ex-wife and son. Roma must decide whether her true loyalties are to Irving or Aldo. Don's spare room is in use again now that his sister, Carol Finlayson (Paula Duncan), has arrived. Carol approves of Dudley. Arnold offers Roma his share of the deli as collateral. Reg believes he has ascertained the identity of the killer when he finds Don on the landing.
657. (20/11) Is Tracey jealous of Andy spending time with Vera? A postcard from Tokyo disproves Andy's alibi. Les's hopes for a reward are dashed when Flo finds an article about stolen paintings in the paper. Michael is confused and manages to upset Alf. Vera is being used by Andy against her will.
658. (21/11) Edie's suspicions about April have been aroused. Carol warns Don about her boyfriend's homophobia. Alf is suspicious of Lucy. Les has lost his key and Don is implicated. Everyone at Number 96 feels uneasy, but none more so than Marilyn when she finds a sinister package on the doorstep.
659. (22/11) Who sent Marilyn a pair of knotted pantyhose? Vera's situation is hopeless. Peter apologises to the Feathers and begs Tracey to come back home. Andy takes Marilyn to the police station. Aldo has prepared himself to make a big sacrifice.
660. (25/11) The police think Vera knows too much about the Pintor paintings. Flo suspects Dorrie of being an intruder. Andy admits the truth about his whereabouts the night of Lorelei's murder; he was asking Peter to divorce Tracey. Dorrie has a theory that the strangler only murders blonde women. Will Marilyn be the next victim? Arnold's sacrifice makes two people very happy, while Patti is confronted by a terrifying sight: Tracey has become the latest victim of the Pantyhose Strangler.
661. (26/11) Tracey has miraculously survived the attempt on her life, but several of the tenants have some explaining to do. Sergeant Short insists that the perpetrator is a tenant of Number 96. April flirts with Reg, while Carol fights with her boyfriend, Brad Hilton (Terry Bader). Alf's peace of mind is shattered by a chance meeting with Mrs Cole.
662. (27/11) Alf quizzes Lucy about Mrs Cole. The Godolfuses are unimpressed with the new deli owner, Freda Fuller (Sheila Bradley). She plans numerous changes. April cannot restrain her feelings for Reg any longer.
663. (28/11) Arnold and Freda have their first confrontation. Dorrie has thought of a form of protection against the strangler: a brunette wig. Times will change for Arnold as his old friends, Aldo and Roma, make a sad departure from Number 96.
(Trivia time! The publicity machine issued media releases as to Roma and Aldo being "written out" but, in fact, the actors were on vacation. Johnny Lockwood even had to turn down a lucrative job offer with another production company, and was unable to explain his reasons.)
664. (29/11) Dorrie has a premonition of a plane crash. Norma is disturbed when she sees the ghost of Lorelei in the kitchen. Another premonition disturbs Vera. Andy seems to know more about I Kid You Not's poor performance than he will admit. Who doped Vera's horse?
665. (2/12) Don and Dudley need dates for their night out with Carol and Brad. A scandal embroils Andy and Vera. Strange occurrences at Number 96 keep alive the tenants' memories of Lorelei. Freda asserts her authority. Andy is fired over the scandal involving I Kid You Not.
666. (3/12) Marilyn attempts to warn Edie about April's intentions towards Reg. Alf delves into the past, but Michael's latest news involves Lucy even more; she has inherited money from Tom's will. Dorrie and Flo are vying for supremacy when the Senior Citizens require a new president.
667. (4/12) The Feathers meet up with Carol and Brad at the Red Baron restaurant. Freda offers temporary work to Dorrie. A meeting in the stairwell with Peter both puzzles Alf and arouses his suspicions. Arnold is saddened by memories of the past and Patti urges him to apply for a new job. Tracey's happiness with Peter is curtailed.
(Forgotten trivia! Freda Fuller is not only revealed Sir Ormsby Fuller's niece, but she is also the goddaughter of Mrs Terry, Dorrie's nemesis at the Senior Citizens' Bowling Club! Was this an attempt to make her a little more connected to the regular cast of characters already, or even to set up future confrontations?)
668. (5/12) Edie doesn't understand when Reg tries to explain about April's crush on him. Vera is frightened when she finds Michael in her flat. Les disguises himself as a sidewalk artist to catch the strangler. Detective Constable Mallett (Tony Wheeler) believes that Vera's ex-husband, Harry, is still alive and may be hiding in the area. Lucy must deal with the appearance of a ghost from the past: Tom is alive and well. It is obvious that Michael has been playing some kind of game. Don and Dud join up with some "bonza sheilas", Shirl Boothroyd (Zoe Salmon) and Petal Wagstaff (Terry Foggarty), in an attempt to fool Brad.
669. (6/12) Arnold must travel to Canberra for an interview with a hotel chain. A distraught Tracey claims that Peter has tried to kill her, but refuses to call in the police. Arnold is the new assistant manager of a luxury hotel in Tahiti. The truth about Brad is revealed: he would prefer being with Don. Tragedy strikes once again as Arnold's moment of joy turns to horror: Patti is the murderer's latest victim.
This episode's cliffhanger endings would not be resolved until the 1975 ratings season.
670. (13/1/1975) Marilyn's news about Reg shatters Edie. Arnold cannot accept that Patti is dead. Carol makes serious accusations. Dudley is unable to establish an alibi. Michael's motive for lying to Lucy may have been revenge over his mother's death.
671. (14/1) Dorrie is jealous about Flo's election to president and Flo finds herself homeless. Les is found with pantyhose around his neck, but he is just conducting an experiment. Andy's plan misfires. Arnold must face grim reality.
672. (15/1) Flo makes a sacrifice. Carol ends her disagreement with Don. Dudley's wallet reveals a strange secret.
673. (16/1) Marilyn and Carol are both scared, but for different reasons. Tanya Schnolskevitska (Natalie Mosco) and two Russian men hide from the KGB in the wine bar. Andy must prepare Vera for a shock.
674. (17/1) Dudley tells Don that he has found another photo in his wallet: Marilyn's! Vera is unable to attend Patti's funeral because she is needed at the police station. Detective Sergeant Short arrives to arrest Dudley for murder at the climax of a very sad day for the tenants.
675. (20/1) The Sutcliffes have arranged for Arnold to stay with their son, Jim, in Perth. Vera explains that Harry did not die in the car crash after all. Dorrie's babysitting duties precludes her attendance at Claire Houghton's luncheon, but Les provides a solution by dressing in drag. Don's attitude has everyone puzzled. Tanya considers taking a job in the wine bar. Vera's dream may have revealed the killer's identity.
676. (21/1) Marilyn and Michael try to console Edie over Reg's absence. Freda wants Tanya to work in the deli and she takes up the offer. Lucy takes Vera's dream seriously and wants her to tell the police that she "saw" Marilyn's murder. Flo discovers that Dorrie had actually been waitressing for Claire, not socialising, at her luncheon. Reg returns from a week's sojourn in Woy Woy, which he did to punish Edie for neglecting her domestic duties. Michael reaches a most important decision; he and Marilyn get married.
677. (22/1) Edie takes Marilyn's news better than Reg. Tracey tells Vera that she thinks Peter is the killer. Reg realises a marriage cannot be annulled if it has been consummated. Vera's health is a concern: she has been poisoned. Tracey lets out a secret that upsets Marilyn.
678. (23/1) Les considers a career as a nanny. Dudley is hiding out in a hotel. Carol has resigned her job and seeks work in the wine bar. The Whittakers have an increase to the family when Norma's mother, Mrs Florentine (Aileen Britton), comes to stay. Les greets her at the door dressed as Dorrie. The trap is closing in on the murderer.
679. (24/1) Marilyn's lunch is a complete disaster. Andy raises suspicions. There is a happy reunion for Norma when Dudley returns, but terror for Marilyn in the laundrette when the murderer is revealed to her.
680. (27/1) Following Tracey's arrest for her attempt on Marilyn's life, the police think the mystery of the Pantyhose Murders is resolved, but Tracey has other plans. Mrs Florentine does not approve of sleeping on a camp bed. Tracey tells Andy how she escaped from the police, but leaps to her death from a Flat 6 window.
(Forgotten trivia! Tracey's first off-screen victim, the blonde hairdresser found in Chestnut Lane, was named Denise Coleman. Tracey describes how they met, and why Denise had to die. In the episode where victims' photos turn up in Dudley's wallet, we do get a brief look at Denise.)
It will be very interesting to see how this volume of 32 episodes sells on DVD. If it does well enough, there will be more! Do let Umbrella know what you'd like to see next!