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Dale Robertson was the star of TV's Tales of Wells Fargo and made a
number of westerns of varying quality thru the years. With his
amiable,determined demeanor he caused many a bad guy to see the error
of his ways. In this film from later in his career, Robertson ends up
"saddled" with a railroad won in a poker game.
Robertson takes on the greed, corruption and misunderstanding of the community as he gets the fledgling enterprise off the ground. Diana Hyland appears also in an interesting role , the same year that she appeared in Smoky with Fess Parker.
Dale Robertson always reminded me of Clark Gable, with his likable rogue persona. This is an average film though, with a few above-average performances.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Big Question: As Westerns go, how is this one? Well, even though it
was a television movie, rather than a big screen flick, it's actually
pretty good. In fact, I would say a bit better than the average
Western...but that's not to say it's great.
This Western has 3 things going for it. First, Dale Robertson. Robertson was a staple of Westerns on the small screen back in the 1950s and into the 1960s. It was tough not to like him. Just something about him. The look. Friendly cockiness. And, as one of our other reviewers pointed out, something slightly reminiscent of Clark Gable. And, the Dale Robertson we see here is Robertson at his peak.
The second thing this Western has going for it is pretty high production values. More than you might expect from many television movies, particularly television Westerns.
The third thing this teleplay has going for it is a pretty decent supporting cast, including Diana Hyland, Lloyd Bochner, John Anderson, and other television character actors you'll recognize.
But, there are some problems here, too. The beginning of the film is...well...let's say a bit too enthusiastic, making that part of the film unrealistic. The teleplay certainly has a plot, more than ankle deep, but not as deep as your knees or waist. And just how does Dale Robertson get his railroad built -- mostly by bluff -- and I'm not sure that's very realistic. Although, it certainly allows Robertson to show off that natural charm of his.
Back in the 1950s and very early 1960s, America was hooked on Westerns on both the big and small screen. And, that included me. But today, when I try to watch most of those old Westerns, I end up flipping channels. Not many hold my attention. Although not a great teleplay, this one managed to hold my attention enough to watch it all the way through. That's not bad, though I doubt I'll watch it a second time.
Scalplock was a TV western that Dale Robertson starred in that turned
out to be a pilot for his Iron Horse series that ran for two seasons.
Not as successful for Robertson as Tales Of Wells Fargo it still has
its devoted fans.
Robertson is playing a character and playing it well of the type that James Garner was normally cast in. He's a frontier gambler who won a railroad and a ton of cash in the highest stakes poker game he was ever in. Beat a full house aces over tens with 4 queens. The man has guts and nerve and the pilot shows him trying to complete the railroad from Buffalo Pass to Scalplock.
He'll need all the nerve he can summon as he tries to best Lloyd Bochner who was originally going to buy the BP,S&D as it is always referred.
Returning for the series run is young Bob Random who plays a young telegrapher who leaves his job because he's enthralled with Robertson's nerve and charm.
Scalplock is a good western for Dale Robertson. Hopefully the Iron Horse is available on DVD or YouTube. '
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Next time you want to start a drinking game, pop a copy of this stupid
movie into the ole DVR and do a shot every time someone says, "build a
railroad". You'll have a room full of drunken people within 20 minutes.
Considering the amount of time everyone spends talking about "building a railroad", the kicker is that movie ends just as they finally decide to start to "build the railroad" and we never get to see anyone actually "build a railroad" even tho Dale Robertson has spent the entire film film-flamming and double-talking his way into getting the money to "build the railroad" and convincing everyone that he can "build a railroad" even tho he never "built a railroad" before ... hic! oh, excuse me, I'm a little tipsy ...
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