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Here's yet another of those westerns turned out in 1960 that tried to break the mold of the formulaic TV western genre, had only a mild recepetion during its first year, was then turned into a far more routine show during the second season, but still was cancelled at the end of that second year. Barton MacLane, a veteran of many old time westerns and other action films, played a tough U.S. Marshal tracking down outlaws in the badlands with the help of deputy Don Collier, a youngster then who would appear in many westerns. Sounds pretty familiar? Here was the difference - instead of telling the story from the lawmens' point of view, this was told as the outlaws saw it. That is, MacLane and his posse were always seen at a distance, almost as threatening characters. In one particularly memorable essay, James Coburn (youngster too at the time) played Culley, a confused young outlaw who wanted to go straight but didn't know what to do, who stops on his run from the law to help a blinded elderly man (Henry Hull, brilliant as always). The 'heroes' were on screen for maybe five minutes and you resented them when they arrested Coburn. For the second season, MacLane remained in the lead, they gave him a more conventionally handsome young deputy, and the stories were now told from his point of view - just like Lawman and pretty much every other western on TV at the time.
Frankly, if Slim Pickens had not been a regular in the second season, this show might have no place at all in the history of series television. As it is, the niche is small enough. My brother and I got hooked late in the first season, its theme song compelling for early adolescents. The kind of western THE OUTLAWS was also had appeal because the story was told largely, albeit not completely, from the bad guys' point of view. Since we were not devotees of CRIME AND PUNISHMENT at that tender age, a distaff tale was something unique in a time when bad was bad and who cared why or how they felt . . . and one could always count on the comeupance. Of course the lawmen prevailed in the end on THE OUTLAWS too, if the wrong-doers were not destroyed by their own flaws. I have never seen an episode since 1962, and presumably only an ardent student of television subscribing to exotic cable channels would ever have the opportunity. To be honest -- a refreshing change -- it would not have its appeal to me forty years on, to be sure.
About the show "THE OUTLAWS"-Originally ran on NBC-TV
First Telecast of the series: September 29,1960 Last Telecast of the series: September 13,1962
The first season was in black and white (1960-1961) The second season was in living color (1961-1962)
58 episodes were produced for NBC-TV and MGM Television.
The first season(the black and white episodes from 1960-61): "The Outlaws" approached the struggle between law officers of the Old West and the desperadoes they chased from a novel point of view. Although Marshal Frank Caine(Barton MacLane),and his two deputies,Will Foreman(Don Collier),and Heck Martin(Jock Gaynor)were the series regulars with each episode was seen through the eyes of the outlaws they were pursuing. The setting for the series was the Oklahoma Territory in the 1890's,when the Dalton Boys,the Jennings Gang and other outlaws made it one of the most lawless of all the West's frontiers.
The second season(the color episodes from 1961-62): When the series "The Outlaws" returned for a second season in the fall of 1961,the change of format would bring the show from black to white to what the peacock network presented it as "the following program is brought to you in living color only on NBC." Along with the color format also were some changes. Gone were Marshal Caine(Barton MacLane),and Marshal Martin(Jock Gaynor) and this time around Will Forman(Don Collier)was promoted from deputy to United States Marshal and with his own deputy Chalk Breeson(Bruce Yarnell). The perspective of the series was now from the side of the marshals and the honest citizens rather than the criminals who would bring chaos to the territory. The action and high adventure was based in Stillwater,Oklahoma where the marshals were headquartered. Connie Masters(Judy Lewis)not only ran the Wells Fargo office but also the town's General Store and was also the love interest for Marshal Forman. Also brought on board was veteran actor Slim Pickens as the town character. Pickens had been around the Hollywood scene for years mostly starring in westerns opposite John Wayne and Gary Cooper.
When "The Outlaws" ended its two-year hiatus on NBC-TV in September of 1962,the show that replaced it ("The Virginian")went on to become TV's first full color 90 minute western.
I only saw a few because they were on rather late and we had no home
video players in the UK at that time. However despite this I have very
vivid memories of the theme music which I recall as a kid partly
putting into words along the lines of "Outlaws go and get your guns"
but I don't think I got much further than that! It set new ground in
realism. The cowboys actually looked as if they had been on the trail
and rather unkempt. Close ups of Don Colllier with deep shadows cast by
the brim of his hat over his eyes are also vividly recalled somewhat
along the lines of the spaghetti westerns of later years. I am pleased
to see some are available on DVD.
I vividly remember this show as a kid. It had great music, as noted by others, and had a certain grittiness about it that was compelling. Don Collier had the perfect face for a US Marshal -- tough, weary, cynical, and (occasionally) smiling. That he was not handsome in a typical Hollywood way helped the series. He looked like he'd really just spent the last few days in the saddle on the trail of outlaws. Collier played the role of lawman in a serious and responsible way like all westerns back then, but somehow more realistically. I also remember the show for great shoot-out scenes, usually at the end of the show. TV westerns in the early 60s were going through a brief period of especially graphic shoot-outs, and Outlaws benefited from this. I don't mean blood or screams of pain, of course, but a lot of grazing bullets and fancy gunplay. The bad guys when shot would crash very forcefully through windows behind them, or would flip over the hitching post rail, etc. Great time for stuntmen. Great time to be a kid watching this show. I'd love to see it again.
This has to be my favorite TV western series. The first season was the better season, as it was rough, tough, and action-packed, with great guest stars (Cliff Robertson, Jack Lord, Jack Chaplain, Martin Landau, Robert Culp, Dean Jones, Robert Lansing, James Coburn, Dean Stockwell, Steve Forrest, etc). My favorite episode from the entire series was Sam Bass. Since I tended to favor the bad guys, this series was right up my alley, as it focused on the bad guys in every episode. The guys at Timeless Media tell me that they are trying to get this series for DVD release, so I can only hope that I live long enough to enjoy it again, after all these years. It will make a terrific box-set.
Perhaps the concept of telling the stories of the west from the bad
guy's point of view had to wait until Law and Order Criminal Intent
made its debut on NBC. Certainly nobody was as quirky as law
enforcement official as Vincent Donofrio on The Outlaws.
The Outlaws lasted for two seasons on NBC and it was set in Oklahoma Territory and it being a territory and not a state until 1906, it was a place where the outlaws roamed free, but for the presence of United States Marshals. Barton MacLane who in fact played mostly bad guys in his film career was the chief U.S. Marshal for the territory. He had two deputies Don Collier and Jock Gaynor. In the second season Collier was promoted to chief marshal as MacLane became territorial governor and Collier got Bruce Yarnell as a deputy. It didn't help, The Outlaws got canceled after two seasons.
One thing the show did do was give Don Collier a long career in westerns. Take a look at that man's credits, I don't think you'll find three non-western films there. He was certainly a familiar presence in many a horse opera. Collier was probably born thirty years too late, he would have made a great B picture cowboy hero.
I've often wondered though, did MacLane or Collier have a certain one eyed marshal named Rooster Cogburn working for them?
This was one of the better westerns. I forget the main star's name who, with head sheriff Barton McClaine, were the setting for each week's new bad guy's story. Yes, Slim Pickens was in it. And in an odd twist late in the series, there were a few episodes of great comedy and adventure with Neville Brand and 2 other guys as cavalry soldiers. These segments had nothing in common with the regular series of Outlaws but were introduced with a story, as I recall. Too bad TVLand doesn't bring this back plus the even older Cimarron City.
I, too, remember The Outlaws from when I was a junior western buff back
in the early '60s. It's wonderful to hear of it again and put it into
the history of TV westerns. The theme was superb and the underrated Don
Collier was a kind of earlier version of Sam Elliott. Both of them
could have been genuine western stars if born in different times. As a
poster says above, Don could have been a B-western actor, and if he'd
been born a few years earlier, Sam could have appeared in some of John
Ford's later westerns. Both men have something of the real west about
I hear Don is still appearing at western conventions. I hope someone interviews him in depth before all he experienced in westerns small and large is forgotten for ever. Good on you, Don!
The earlier reviews jarred my memory because I had not noticed the
emphasis on the outlaws' point of view. Of course, it was mentioned
that the theme shifted to mainstream good guys vs bad. But, come to
think of it, the shows I do remember spent an awful lot of time on the
"bad guys." Thanks to the reviews, I understand why now.
But irony is what I remember most. In one episode, an embezzling bank teller is blackmailed into helping rob the bank. He feels trapped because he invested in silver only to have it decline in value. As the show wraps up--he and the professional crook caught--a prospector waving a paper gleefully shouts "Silver's up!" The best shows were like that.
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