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Bart's got a big cattle herd to help get to Abilene before scheming crooks and money-grubbing Kiowa's get it all first. First scene is a hoot when Bart loses his money, and worse, the pay of some pretty tough hombres in a poker game. Now he's in trouble. That had me thinking the rest would be a hoot too. But it's not. Maybe you can keep up with all the twists and turns-- I lost track. Besides, after a certain point, I didn't much care. Certainly the cheesy outdoor sets don't help-- they're about as convincing as a dime store painting. Even the town's main street is an obvious indoor set. And take a gander at the Indian attack with all the fake rocks and guns that can't shoot straight. Whatever money went into this entry, it certainly wasn't spent on background. Add to that the staging which mostly consists of people standing around mouthing their lines, and you get a pretty static and poorly acted episode on top of everything else. The bathtub scene does manage some Maverick spirit and humor, but is left stranded by the rest. The "iron hand" is a neat gimmick and had me thinking James Bond, but it's really left dangling, while the Indian pow-wow is funny and one of the few times an Indian is made to look ridiculous. Of course, the main interest now lies in Robert Redford making one of his first appearances, in a routine supporting role. Looks to me like the pressures of a tight shooting schedule and fresh story ideas were catching up with the crew's ability to make them gel.
I thought that I had seen the worst of the "Maverick" series before but that was before I saw this one. "Maverick" was undoubtedly (IMHO) the best of the TV westerns in that era and, being a teenager living out west in Wyoming at that time, I probably saw them all. Thank goodness I never saw this one or maybe it made such a bad impression that my memory rejected it. Watch it once and you'll appreciate the efforts that Roy Huggins put into the excellent "Maverick" episodes, of which there have been many. It's no wonder that James Garner (and later Jack Kelly) left for greener pastures with writing and scripting of this caliber. Watch it a second time, if you can stand it, to catch one of the young Robert Redford's first roles.
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