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Mercenaries Johnny Reach and Hank Brackett cruise the American Southwest in 1914 in their Stutz Bearcat in search of action and adventure. They often take dangerous assignments for pay; their fee is usually a blank check, and after the mission, they just fill in whatever amount they think the job was worth. Written by
Marty McKee <email@example.com>
Hollywood car builder/customizer George Barris made two replica 1914 Bearcats for the series. A period TV Guide article said they cost $25,000 for the pair, this at a time when a new Corvette was about $5,000. The cars were full scale metal bodied replicas mounted on custom frames and powered by Ford engines and transmissions (out of (then) late model pickups. For safety they featured four wheel brakes, which were not on a genuine Bearcat. The brass radiator is interchangeable with a genuine Stutz unit. See more »
"Bearcats!" was Rod Taylor's second attempt at a weekly television series. It centered on a pair of soldiers of fortune in the American Southwest circa 1914. That time frame gave the series a different flavor, being something other than a traditional Western, or yet another detective series set in the present. The concept appealed to Taylor when it was presented by series creator, veteran Hollywood writer/producer Douglas Heyes (who also had worked with Taylor on a "Twilight Zone" episode).
Taylor's character, Hank Brackett, is a former Army captain, a veteran of the Spanish-American War campaign in the Philippines. Brackett had left the Army and settled in the Southwest, where he became known as a troubleshooter.At some point Brackett saved the young Johnny Reach (Dennis Cole) from unjustly being lynched as a cattle rustler. Together they cleaned up a couple of border towns in self-defense, and eventually people started coming to them for help.
They had to get a bit mercenary about the jobs they would take and set their fee as a signed blank check. They would fill in the amount only after successfully completing their job -- the amount being determined by the degree of difficulty encountered. Their rationale was simple: If you could put a dollar amount on your trouble, then you didn't need their help badly enough.
Typically they worked for railroads, landowners or the government. As private citizens they were able to cross the Mexican border where normal lawmen or the military could not go.
The period during which "Bearcats!" was set allowed for the use of unexpected props in what was essentially a Western -- including machine guns and airplanes. In the first episode, they fought a bandit who stole an Army tank to rob banks. Another episode saw them fighting a group of Germans who were attacking Mexican villages dressed as U.S. soldiers, in an attempt to get Mexico to attack the United States, thus preventing America from joining the war against Germany.
Brackett was responsible for the clever plans the pair had to come up with to defeat their well-organized foes. As the younger of the pair, Reach would often do the more athletic stunts.
The main source of conflict in their relationship was a good-natured competition for some of the inevitably beautiful (and available) women they would meet in their adventures.
Taylor played Brackett with his usual light touch and charm. However, he could be tough and deadly serious if the circumstances demanded. Here's a guide to the series, which was produced by Filmways and Taylor's own Rodlor Inc.
Episode list: 0.1 -- "Powderkeg" -- April 16, 1971 In the series pilot TV movie, Brackett and Reach are hired by a railroad to rescue 70 hostages on a moving train. 1.1 -- "The Devil Wears Armor" -- Sept.16, 1971 A stolen Army tank is knocking over banks along the border. John Vernon guest stars. 1.2 -- "Ground Loop at Spanish Wells" -- Sept. 23, 1971 German soldiers -- dressed as American troops -- are raiding border towns to start a war with Mexico. 1.3 -- "Dos Gringos" -- Sept. 30, 1971 A Mexican Army assassin is out to kill a revolutionary who's raising money in the United States. 1.4 -- "The Feathered Serpent " -- Oct. 7, 1971 A group of would-be revolutionaries hold a town hostage. 1.5 -- "Hostages" -- Oct. 14, 1971 As revenge for his father's hanging five years before, an ex-convict kidnaps a priest and demands a town to hang one of its citizens. 1.6 -- "Conqueror's Gold" -- Oct. 28, 1971 A newspaperwoman hires Brackett and Reach to rescue workers being held at an archaeological site by bad guys seeking treasure. 1.7 -- "Blood Knot" -- Nov. 4, 1971 Tensions erupt between Brackett and Reach when oil well sabotage -- and murder -- erupt in a town wanting to destroy an Indian village. 1.8 -- "Assault on San Saba" -- Nov. 11, 1971 A German military intelligence officer takes over a Texas prison for recruiting saboteurs. The puzzle for Brackett and Reach: How to break into a prison. 1.9 -- "Bitter Flats " -- Nov. 18, 1971 Brackett and Reach take on a ruthless rancher when the son of a friend disappears on a secret Army mission. 1.10 -- "Tiger! Tiger! " -- Nov. 25, 1971 Brackett uses himself as bait to stop a saboteur who's destroying supply shipments. 1.11 -- "The Big Gun" -- Dec. 2, 1971 A renegade Army colonel steals artillery to destroy a convoy of explosives bound for England. 1.12 -- "The Return of Estaban " -- Dec. 23, 1971 Pilot Estaban (see Ground Loop at Spanish Wells) returns to help surprise a gang that's out to rob and destroy a mining town. Henry Darrow reprises his role as Estaban. 1.13 -- "Man in a Cage " -- Dec. 30 1971 Johnny must rely on a convict to help him save Hank and a gubernatorial candidate.
George Barris made two 1914 Bearcat replicas for the series...and a third that he kept for car shows. All three cars are now in private hands. One, the first car made and the primary car used in the series, is fully restored in its TV colors and is in my car collection. The other TV car is Unrestored and has been repainted from its original TV colors. The display car (never used in the series, but retained for many years by George Barris for car shows) is being rebuilt by a new owner.
For more information on the series and Rod Taylor, please go to an excellent fan site... at www.rodtaylorsite.com . In rely to rfrenzel2002's comment below that accuses me of Plagiarizing the material...I wrote the Bearcats! section for that site. It would be nice if he/she had checked before accusing me of "stealing" something I wrote.
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