"Playhouse 90" was one of those crazy TV shows of the 1950s that featured a live teleplay each week...and each lasted about an hour and a half. Think about it...an entire play is done each week and millions watched it as it was being performed! Due to the problems with making them so quickly, it's amazing that the acting was very good, the production values decent and often the stories were terrific--so good that several were later remade in Hollywood and were adored by the critics and public.
An aspect of these that you should know is that the quality of these on DVD is pretty poor. That's because when they copied the live performances in order to show them later that same evening on the West Coast, they used the Kinescope process--a very primitive system indeed. It simply looked dreadful--grainy and a bit blurry as well. So when you watch them, understand that is why they look this way. Plus, at least we still have copies of some of these shows! Another thing about these shows that might surprise you is that the commercials are also recorded on the same system--so you get so see commercials for using gas for cooking as well as many cigarette ads--a definite throwback from the 1950s.
This particular show is the first of Season Two and stars Jack Palance as Manolete--an actual world-famous matador. I was excited to see this because Palance was just great in the lead for a very famous "Playhouse 90" production--"Requiem for a Heavyweight". He was so good, in fact, that he won an Emmy for this superb job! However, in "The Death of Manolete", he wasn't as good--and I think part of it is because the role would have been best performed by an actor of Hispanic origin. His accent seemed a bit odd--though he did seem to give it his best. It was hard, though, to hear him and many of the actors as the abundant accompanying music is often too loud--and you can't blame him or the other actors for this. And without captioning, it does occasionally get tough to hear what's being said properly.
Manolete is an interesting character. While he is the world's greatest at his 'sport', he's also a guy who seems pretty scared. Yet, in spite of this persistent dread that he will die in the arena, he continues traveling the world to fight bulls--and demands that they use big, strong bulls--as he wants to give his adoring public his very best. All this in spite of him having killed hundreds over the years--and he seems, at times, on the verge of cracking.
Overall, not a bad example of the sort of teleplays that were popular decades ago, though not a particularly outstanding one. The biggest problem is that the title of the show says it all--and there isn't a lot of suspense leading up to Manolete's death.
By the way, Manolete was a nickname. His real name was Manuel Laureano Rodríguez Sánchez and he was killed by a fatal goring in 1947. I don't think this is exactly a spoiler to say this, as the show IS entitled "The Death of Manolete"!
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