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"Shotgun Slade" was a first-run syndicated half-hour western series which ran for a single season during the '59-'60 television season. Character actor Scott Brady starred as Shotgun Slade, a detective who roamed the west taking on cases for stagecoach lines, railroads, banks, and other businesses, usually tracking down bank/train robbers, embezzelers, and the like. As westerns in general were beginning to fade in the ratings during the early '60's more and more of them began relying on "gimmicks" to try to lure viewers back. This series actually employed a couple of gimmicks. One was that Slade did not utilize the normal six-shooter as his weapon of choice. Slade relied instead on an over-and-under combination shotgun (the lower barrel fired a 12-gauge shotgun shell)rifle (the top barrel fired a.32 caliber rifle bullet) giving Slade both heavy stopping power at close range and distance when needed. The second gimmick was that a modern jazz score was used instead of normal western themed music. This was undoubtedly a result of the popularity of such current-day detective series of this period such as "Peter Gunn". Indeed, "Shotgun Slade" seemed in many ways to be patterned after "Peter Gunn" with the exception of the fact that "Shotgun Slade" was very pedestrian in virtually all respects. A fair time-killer at best.
I just saw this on DVD for the first time last night and enjoyed because it was so much like Peter Gunn. What the other reviewers have said regarding the musical score and general tone of the show (especially in the dialog and the attitude portrayed by the star) is true. While it is by no means realistic, it was stylish enough in it's Kennedy-era way to be more entertaining to watch than the vast majority of what you can find on commercial TV today, so don't "dis" it. I wish that more of this kind of thing was available. Newton Minow must be rolling over in his grave at just HOW vast a wasteland modern television has become today.
I've got 2 episodes of "Shotgun Slade" on DVD. It seems to me that Revue Studios was, indeed, trying to copy "Peter Gunn", right on down to having its blonde "Edie Hart"-type girl singer girlfriend character, played by Monica Lewis. Unlike "The Wild Wild West", which was played half-straight to be something of a "spy show in the West", "Slade" was played totally straight. The show is so bad that it's unintentionally funny. The acting and plots are hammy, phony, and unconvincing. Scott Brady was a former boxer so he knows how to throw a punch but the opening of the show gives you an idea he's not much in the acting dept. (and the rest of the show confirms it)...Its badness makes this show a real find. You'd have to look far and wide to find a tackier "Adult Western" of the time period.
Scott Brady whose film credits include both westerns and noir got a
chance to do both in his two year series Shotgun Slade. Slade was a
combination bounty hunter and detective and was strictly a man for hire
going throughout the West wherever someone would pay for his services.
It wasn't always bring him in dead or alive with Slade. He was hired on all kinds of work, missing persons, recovery of stolen loot, etc. He was not a fast draw so he had a weapon that was quite the equalizer. He carried a two barrel long gun called an 'over and under'. The top barrel was for rifle bullets, the bottom barrel fired shotgun shells for up close and personal killing in case he had a group of nasty outlaws all bunched together.
Scott Brady played the cynical Slade in the best tradition of Mickey Spillane in boots and chaps. One thing that was unusual for a western never used before or since was instead of western music a jazz score accompanied the action. Different if nothing else.
Shotgun Slade lasted for two years and then went into syndication forever it seemed like. It was certainly as unique a western series as we ever had.
I've been enjoying a number of Shotgut Slade episodes recently. However this episode is one the better ones. Sue Ann Langdon plays the part of the sheriff's daughter who is representing a town committee. The committee hires Slade to determine the credentials of a man who claims to have a sizeable stake in the town. The man was recently released from prison having been sent there by Slade. The man has a vendetta against Slade and has hired a young man in town, known to have a fast gun, to kill Slade. The story is further complicated by the fact that Sue Ann has a crush on the young man. Sue Ann played her part admirably, as expected.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Shotgun Slade" ran for two seasons from October 1959 to June 1961.
Chronologically that would have put it up against shows like 'The
Rifleman" and "Wanted: Dead or Alive", so knowing that, it's surprising
to me that Slade even made it to the end of it's first year. The show
is that bad, or maybe dumb is a better word. The acting of it's title
character Scott Brady is often deliberate and sometimes over the top
with plenty of clichéd dialog and unlikely situations. Brady would
voice over the thoughts of his character during the episodes, and there
was a jazzy musical score that more often than not seemed out of place
with what was happening on screen.
There's a two disc set one can pick up from Platinum Video that contains fifteen episodes and it gives you a pretty good flavor of the series. Slade by his own description was a detective for hire who traveled the West picking up jobs as he went. In the episode 'A Flower for Jenny', we get to see one of his business cards reading 'Slade Detective Agency, Private and Confidential Investigations'. One of the show's gimmicks was his weapon of choice, an over/under rifle that fired bullets from it's upper barrel and a shotgun shell from the lower. The same idea was used in another contemporary Western starring Don Durant - "Johnny Ringo". However Ringo's weapon was a handgun, while Shotgun Slade didn't even wear one.
Considering the quality of writing, it's not surprising that the show didn't feature the kind of guest stars you'd see in other TV Westerns of the era. Of the fifteen stories I've recently viewed, the biggest names were Vito Scotti, Alan Hale and Denver Pyle, all character actors who a lot of viewers probably don't even remember today, except for Hale of course, the Skipper from 'Gilligan's Island'. Beyond that, it wasn't unusual to see a pretty actress in most stories, but the idea that Slade might have been something of a lady's man in some of the stories is a little ridiculous. Still he did manage to wrangle a kiss from time to time.
I used the words 'bad' and 'dumb' earlier to describe the show so maybe I should back that up. In 'Ring of Death' for example, an old rancher in a wheelchair winds up near the top of a mountain trail after following Slade and one of his henchmen. Really - how'd he do that? In the show 'Crossed Guns', a gunslinger hired by a crippled man tries to impress Slade by how fast a draw he is, and then has trouble holstering his weapon. The entire episode 'Donna Juanita' is just laughably silly, you'll just have to catch it yourself.
Besides the jazz component to the episodes, the show had an opening musical theme that was somewhat catchy and distinctive. As for a Slade theme song, there's one that's offered over the closing credits of the 'Flower for Jenny' episode I mentioned earlier, but I don't know if it was used otherwise. My guess is no because, well, it's pretty bad.
Oh yeah, one other thing that struck me as unusual. Slade rode two different horses from story to story. One was a plain white horse, the other was a mottled palomino. Since all the episodes on the Platinum discs are from the first season, this couldn't have been a Season 1/Season 2 anomaly. So I'm kind of curious about that. As for his name, if Slade had a real first name, it didn't come up in any of the stories I've recently seen. The subject came up though in 'Killer's Brand'. When asked by a sheriff, Scott Brady's response was that Slade 'gets me there and back'. Good enough for me I guess.
By the way, the picture of the DVD sleeve that comes up on the title page here on the IMDb isn't that of Scott Brady. I don't recognize the actor from any of the shows and as far as I can tell, the series didn't have any other regular cast members. Just another one of those quirky things about Shotgun Slade.
This AIN'T a typical Western!!
It is indeed very strange, especially with the soundtrack. And this is no "Peter Gunn."
But one could do a LOT worse!
From what I saw of the episode I saw on YouTube, which originally aired 11 June 1960, some of the acting seems rather wooden. I can see why the show was not on the major networks.
But using a jazz score, in my opinion, is an inspired choice, especially for a show airing in the late Eisenhower era. I personally think using such a score for, say, "Bat Masterson," would have given that show an added edge!!
As it is, this show is ripe for a parody!
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