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|Index||39 reviews in total|
I am so pleased this marvelous "TV Noir" from the late 1950's is back
on TV re-runs (Hallmark Channel). As a kid, I watched this show because
I wanted a rifle like the one Lucas McCain had. As a 50+ year old now,
I enjoy the show for a different reason - the very different style of
filming it used - B&W of course, but dark, with high contrasts much
like film noir. As a father of two sons I also like the interaction
between father and son on the show, and how Mark is taught from "The
good Book" as well as from experience, and Lucas teaches by example,
hard lessons and easy ones, a stern but always loving father. The
depiction of a simple life with hard work, long days, and well deserved
rest at supper is perhaps fantasy in today's world, but good to strive
for. Micah as a no-nonsense sheriff who has lost an edge to old age,
and compensates by packing a sawed-off scatter-gun and common sense to
keep the peace. No blood or gore, no entry and exit wounds, who cares?
That's why I like this genre of TV, it's simple and plain, but sends a
good message of hard work, simple life, and good overcomes evil in the
Chuck Connors showed more acting in this show than he did in any other, and seems to have been made for the part. Forget all the gibberish about guns and TV. I love this show, and other westerns, and have never owned a gun, nor do I plan to (unless I take up hunting). That's not the point. The point to me is the lessons taught in these shows, good overcomes evil in the end, and justice is served. Real life? No. But that's why I like to watch these shows - good overcomes evil at least for a Saturday afternoon.
This show, and a couple of others - Virginian and High Chaparral were some of the best TV viewing for me growing up. Emphasis on character building, the Western scenery was just window-dressing to me. Even Bonanza (after Michael Landon started to influence stories more) became a great show emphasizing character building. As a father, I learned from all the fathers in these shows (as well as from my own father) how to be a good father, and help to build good character in my own sons. Who said the TV was an "idiot box". Like a computer, it's a tool, and can be used for idiot purposes, or for growing.
I don't know why they used a colorized photo to represent The Rifleman show
on the video cover. If the video is colorized, that would be a good reason
to not buy it. And I'm not particularly against colorized reprints. It's
just that this show truly shined in its B&W mode.
As was demonstrated by Frankenheimer's The Train, a few cinematographers and directors reached a peak of artistic visual clarity during the late 50s-early 60s. This TV show was a good example of that artisanship. Such quality continues to be rare in TV production. You could say it's because TV production has always been a low-funded affair, but such fine art doesn't cost any more than the expensive stuff. What it takes is a highly talented cinematographer and director. That's the rarity, in both films and TV.
Viewers were certainly not jaded back then, nonetheless when a show aired on TV that was clearly well produced, in terms of b&w visual clarity, you can bet we uneducated viewers noticed it, if we weren't yet aware of why we were noticing it. The Rifleman was that kind of show. The screen of our old Zenith b&w console, not a high tech unit by any means, really lit up when this show came on. Like a musician who can take a shabby instrument and make it sing, this quality of production could somehow make our crummy old TV look better than it was worth. A real value, for free and on the air.
The opening sequence to every episode was exciting enough to suck any of us into the TV screen, with the camera dollying backwards in sinc with Connors moving forward repeatedly shooting/cocking his modified, cut-down rifle. No music yet. Nothing but bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam `The Rifleman' the seriously over-concerned voice-over would announce. We were hooked, and the western styled orchestral music would begin to play.
What is most striking as I vividly remember this shot now almost 40 years later, is the utter smoothness of Connor's walk and steady gaze as he moved forward step by slow step. I realize it is the exact same style of strong, silent type walk which Clint Eastwood was making a trademark. Funny to think that Connors, not a highly respected actor in circles, was doing this bit just as well as Eastwood did so many times later. Hey, if it works, work it. They had similar body types, and their plain, button-down western shirts fit in the same way. These were not the heavily muscled heroes today's boys are led to appreciate. They were tall, sinewy men, and it leant their characters a certain degree of intelligence along with the brawn.
Westerns were such a solid part of Hollywood movie studios' profit revenue, that's why artistic license was allowed the directors of these independently produced film/TV productions. Leave It to Beaver, believe it or not, was another great example of intelligent writing allowed into a stagnant arena of suburban styled family serials. Just check out the difference between Beaver and Dobie Gillis, as compared to Ozzie and Harriet and Gilligan's Island. The latter were undeniably stupid, one dimensional shows, while the former brought intelligent satire into play.
As I look back, a fatherless child at the time, Connors' brave good guy/bad guy characters really worked on me. This was where I managed to develop a diverse sense of humanity, because the directors and writers were allowed to make these characters and their stories somewhat multi-dimensional. The 60s was a great time, in terms of expanding a very innocent TV audience's view of the world outside our sheltered lives (there was never anything closely resembling CNN or Howard Stern, of course).
Two years after The Rifleman finished running there started a new Chuck Connors cowboy series called Branded. Where The Rifleman was certainly the most violently provocative show on TV, Branded was even more sadistic. As kids we ate it all up. In what is now understood to be a sort of Peckinpah tradition of graphic violence, these shows were the directors' training grounds for such sadistic style. They were really pushing the envelope of censorship. My mom used to get upset when we watched these shows.
I watched this show every week as a kid - I'm 56. I liked it a lot but
being around 10 I don't think I really appreciated all it had to offer.
Compared to what's on TV these days (I know this makes me sound old.
OK, point taken.) the writing was very good. The interplay between
Lucas & Mark was genuine; I understand they were fast friends until
Connors' death. The only thing I didn't understand was why North Fork
even needed a sheriff; Lucas bailed Micah out nearly every week. Oh,
It's running on Encore right now. I'm just glad to see that somebody in authority has realized that these old shows shouldn't be dismissed just because they were filmed in black & white. It's the quality of the product that matters. I'm hoping to see Have Gun Will Travel, The Life & Legend of Wyatt Earp, The Rebel, and other shows of this era soon too.
I was born long after the show was created and I have to say that I love the show "The Rifleman." It is a good, wholesome, family-fun show. I love the father/son interaction. That's what keeps me watching. You can just see that the actors got along. I believe I heard in an interview with both stars that Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford (the father and son on the show--Lucas and Mark McCain) remained close friends until Mr. Connor's death. Yes, if you want a good, family show, this is the one to watch. There are good guys, bad guys, town life, and family. Watch "The Rifleman." It'll be a good change from what is aired today.
I first saw this show as a 6-year-old kid and didn't think too much of it at first but once I got a few years older, I really started to appreciate it and now I consider it one of my all-time favorites...not so much as a replication of authentic Western living (I recall Chuck Connors' quote during the show's run: "We offer relaxing entertainment. If you want period realism, go read a book")as it was an interesting show with GREAT background music by Herschel Burke Gilbert, one of my all-time favorite TV composers. I've noticed that people usually have pretty strong opinions about the show....they either really like it or they hate it...usually those who hate the show focus on the violence (they claim Lucas would kill over nothing, which certainly never happened in any episode)...and those who love the show tend to focus on...well, the violence! I've heard comments like, "If there were N number of Rifleman episodes, the body count during the show's run would be >N"...a funny quote, to be sure, but simply not true. In fact, there were episodes where a bad guy would draw on Lucas, he'd sense it, and fire near him to show that "I've got enough firepower to cut you in half"..there'd be other episodes when somebody would draw a gun and Lucas would "sting their hand" to keep from having to shoot them. (hokey, yeah, but that's TV for ya). You have to remember that the TV audience and the ABC network in particular expected action in its Westerns and crime dramas. The ABC network wanted a lot of action in its shows at that time because they were trying hard to get established as a network and compete with NBC and CBS. Some claim "The Rifleman" was something of a gimmick show. It slipped close to becoming one from time to time but the warm interaction between Connors and Johnny Crawford as his son Mark were part of what kept the show from becoming a "Colt .45" or "Hotel de Paree" period parody. Fans of the show often mention the cinematography. Yes, it was good, indeed. In fact, until I started seeing episodes on DVD, I didn't know just how good the film work was. Was it a grim show? No. Those who really don't care for dramatic, near-baroque background music probably get that "grim" idea. Was Micah the sheriff near-useless? Yes, I admit that. Lucas usually ended up being a one-man North Fork SWAT team, to be sure. But man oh man, could a viewer get revved up! They got great character actors like Jack Elam, Martin Landau, James Coburn, and John Anderson to play bad guys...and they'd just work you to this crescendo, just get you where you couldn't wait for Lucas to get out that gun and wail on' em! I'd recommend by-passing most of the last-season (1962-63) episodes of the show. By then, Johnny's Mark was now into puberty, Chuck looks bored and tired of the show (he, in fact, WAS tired of doing it and afraid of being typecast by the Lucas character by then)and although Patricia Blair looks great, the shows are pretty uneventful and stale and they tried too much to play to the Ricky Nelson angle and give Crawford an excuse to sing. "The Rifleman" has really aged well, from the dramatic opening sequence right down to the Four Star Banner logo at the end. It's a TV classic near and dear to my heart, regardless of the body count, heh heh...
I don't agree with that rating above. The Rifleman is very very good. If you haven't ever seen the show, don't think that it's crummy. Sure it's got some pretty traumatic moments, but it's an awesome show. The way that the actors interacted with one another was so good. The characters loved each other, but so did the actors. Chuck Connors was the perfect portrayal of Lucas McCain, and the same goes for Johnny Crawford and Paul Fix. Although most outlaws come to North Fork left in a pine box, that doesn't make the show cheesy, corny, fake, whatever. It was a very sweet, realistic show, and it was one of THE best, period. Signed, Stephanie
After some people thought that Chuck Conners as the "bad guy" in such films as "The Big Country",it was quickly misjudged by his character when he played Lucas McCain in "The Rifleman". The show was centered around him and his son Mark in the town of Northfolk. But the coolest thing on that show was that Winchester rifle he had,and he could fire at any range from it!!! He never used a six shooter. The way he took on the baddies with that rifle was the absolute trademark of that show which was one of the coolest and most exciting TV westerns ever to come out of the 1950's,and to this day it still holds up to other TV westerns that would endure years later. A great classic from that golden age of grand TV.
As a kid growing up in the 70s, "The Rifleman" was one the only other western besides "Wild, Wild, West" that I really liked--I envied Mark McCain and the great father he had on the show (played by Connors). Yes, each show was a morality play but so were many other shows of the 50s & 60s (including "Star Trek"). They made their point at a time when there was still some innocence in America, and even taught tolerance for people from other countries/cultures (for example, in the episode of "Rifleman" where a Japanese man gets insulted & pushed into a fight with one of the locals & uses Judo to defend himself). Lucas McCain taught his son by example NEVER to use a gun or fight unless it was self-defense. It sounds silly now, but when I was a kid I wished my dad had explained things to me the same way Chuck Connors did to his son in the show--ah well, thank goodness for TV writers! :)
I think much of the success of "The Rifleman" TV series was due to the casting of Chuck Connors as the "hero." We quickly grew used to him in this part but at the time the series started, he was probably regarded by many casting directors as a "bad guy" -- such as the part he played in "The Big Country." There was something mean and menacing about him. But by casting him as the boy's father in "The Rifleman," the show used Connors' toughness to counteract the sentimentality that might otherwise have enveloped this series. (Can you imagine how syrupy "The Rifleman" would have been had Doug McClure played the lead?)
Chuck Connors plays an inspiring hero in The Rifleman, defending himself, his son, and his friends against gunslingers, cheats, and swindlers. His character (Lucas McCain) is brilliant, brave, strong and just, and supported by a great cast. It's a beautiful series that I often find myself staying up way too late to watch.
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