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Of all the episodes of "High Chaparral" I recall watching when I was a kid, and believe me I think I saw all of them, this particular episode still lives in my memory. There was a great ballad of the Johnny Rondo character sung throughout the episode reminding western fans of the elegiac songs from movie westerns of the 50s. I had forgotten Steve Forrest was the actor who portrayed Johnny Rondo, but I always thought this was one of the best individual western episodes I'd seen. The series itself was one of my all-time favorite westerns and it galls me to have it lumped into the "Bonanza" knockoff criticisms, especially when the same folks produced this show. I actually liked this show better than "Bonanza" because the conflict in the family often made you believe (and this was back when few characters were ever killed off in a TV show) there was serious jeopardy involved in every episode. The theme song may have well been one of the last great theatrical-sounding television themes and is surely a classic of its type.
I have to agree with those who thought the ballad ruined the episode.
It wasn't in the same mood as the theme song, which made it jarring at
the start and finish. It was also jarring in the middle because it
didn't fit the tone of the episode, coming out blaring in moments when
the music should have been subtle, the same way a loud laugh track will
make a mild comedy seem repulsively unfunny.
MASH tried a balladeer for a few episodes and while it wasn't as obtrusive as in this show, it didn't fit the series, either. Cat Ballou showed how balladeers could advance the plot successfully, but it has been very difficult for TV shows to accomplish. Ballads are best left to theme songs, good in small doses and not interfering with the rest of the show. There isn't enough time in a TV episode to have both dialog and ballads explaining the easily understood plot. It's a gimmick that hurt the show.
This was another entertaining episode of THC.Johnny Rondo(Steve Forest),a former gun-for-hire wants to start a new life with his son(Kurt Russell),one devoid of guns.This episode always struck me as a possible pilot/spin-off for its own TV series.Generally most TV shows do employ the method of having one of their episodes serve as a pilot for a new show.Some succeed,most do not.My other favorite western alongside THC,Laredo,was originally first presented on an episode of The Virginian.Laredo itself had two of their episodes utilized as pilots:One with Jack Lord,pre-Hawaii Five-O,another with the popular singing team of Chad & Jeremy.Star Trek offered Assignment:Earth as a possible spin-off,Maude was first introduced on an episode of All in the Family & The Jeffersons also spun-off from AITF,Good Times from Maude.Its a technique still employed by TV to this day.
I've always been a fan of "The High Chaparral", even more than I was of
"Bonanza", but this particular episode I found to be mediocre at best.
Steve Forrest is Johnny Rondo, a notorious gunfighter who has hung up
his guns and is on his way to California with his teenage son (Kurt
Russell). He gets a job at the Chaparral to make some money for his
journey, but three brothers are following him to get revenge for his
killing of their fourth brother. Forrest is OK, Russell is OK, the
story is OK. The whole episode is just OK--except for the extremely
irritating "Ballad of Johnny Rondo" that gets sung almost every few
minutes (it seems) by Faron Young for no apparent reason; it does
nothing to advance the story and pretty much repeats the same lines
over and over, about "16 holes in 16 souls from the guns of Johnny
Rondo" and some other lines that are even more trite. It had the same
effect on me that the hideous "It's a Small World After All"
caterwauling you hear at Disneyland.
As another poster has noted, the episode looks more like a busted pilot for a spin-off than anything else. One of the things I liked abut the series was that much of it was shot on location, but much of this episode seems to have been shot on a soundstage, which makes it look cheap. All things considered, this isn't one of the series' better episodes.
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