In the 1880s Jason McCord travels the country trying to prove he's no coward. He needs to do this because the military career of this West point graduate came to an end when he was thrown out of the army after being accused of cowardice.
In this Western series, Jason McCord, the only survivor of the Battle of Bitter Creek, is court-martialed and kicked out of the Army because of his alleged cowardice. Rather than demean the good name of the Army commander who was actually to blame for the massacre, McCord travels the Old West trying to restore his good name and reputation. Written by
Marty McKee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The 48 half-hour episodes (13 in B&W, 35 in color) of the western "Branded" originally aired from 1965-66 on NBC. Although some sources (insert Walter Sobchak here) believe there were 156 episodes.
The premise was set out each week in the title song: "All but one man died, there at Bitter Creek, and they say he ran away.."Branded"..marked with the coward's shame. What do you do when you're "Branded", you fight for your name. He was innocent, not a charge was true, but the world would never know.."Branded"..scorned as the one who ran away. What do you do when you're "Branded" and you know you're a man? Wherever you go for the rest of your life you must prove you're a man."
The series was creator Larry Cohen's attempt to incorporate the themes of "They Came to Cordura" into an episodic format and to capitalize on Chuck Conners' fading "Rifleman" fame. Conners plays Army Captain Jason McCord (Gary Cooper's character in the film) who as the song says was the only man to survive an Indian attack at Bitter Creek, Wyoming. He was knocked out but the Army thinks he ran and hid (a smart move considering the alternative). So the Army dramatically strips him of rank and drums him out at the beginning of each episode.
Poor Jason is left to wander the west Caine-like (insert "Kung Fu" here) with the broken half of his saber. Like Richard Kimble he hopes to find someone who saw what actually happened at Bitter Creek who can clear his name. Unlike "The Fugitive" there is no wrap-up episode but the song has already revealed his innocence so there is no real loose end to worry about.
If this ponderous mess wasn't the worst television western of all time it is certainly in the running. This level of pompous nonsense would not be seen again until the early episodes of "Battlestar Galactica". As Mad Magazine liked to point out, each episode made you regret that Conners had not made it out of the minor leagues to become the Dodgers' first baseman.
"Branded" is one of the few television westerns that would be a good candidate for MST3K treatment. The bad writing has become legendary over the years and was satirically incorporated by the Coen brothers into "The Big Lebowski":
Walter (looking at his hero "Branded" writer Digby Sellers in an iron lung): "Does he still write? "
Pilar, Sellers' Housekeeper: "Oh no no, he has health problems".
Lebowski addicts looking for mock-fest laughs will not be disappointed by this DVD collection.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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