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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE RIFLEMAN The Clarence Bibs Story - 1961
Chuck Connors headlines this 1958 to 1963 western series that ran for 168 episodes. This episode is number 104 of the run. Connors is a world class hand with a Winchester rifle. This of course ends up getting him in no end of trouble.
Connors is filling in for a week while Sheriff Paul Fix in out of town at a trial. A famous quick gun, X. Brands, rides into North Fork to pick up some supplies at the general store. Inside the store is local handyman, Buddy Hackett. The little bit soft in the brain pan Hackett, makes a living mopping floors, odd jobs, cleaning guns etc.
Hackett is taking a bucket of dirty water out the front door just as Brands enters. Needless to say the bucket of filthy water ends up all over the gunman. Brands figures it was done on purpose and goes for his iron. Hackett, trying to say he was sorry, trips backwards and the gun he had in his belt goes off. Brands is dead as a doornail.
Connors is quickly on the scene and soon decides it was an accident. It was one of those 1000 to 1 mishaps. Several of the townsfolk, John Milford and Lee Van Cleef, decide to have a bit of fun and get Hackett drunk. They soon convince the poor fellow that he is really a first rate gunman.
Later that afternoon, Brands partner, Denver Pyle, rides into North Fork. Pyle is also known to be quite handy with a pistol. Connors sees the man ride in and has a quick word with him. He explains the incident and that Hackett is a bit slow and to not take anything he might say seriously.
Connors and Pyle stop at the saloon for a cool beer. Hackett, egged on by Milford and Van Cleef calls out Pyle. Pyle ignores the comment and finishes his beer. When done, he and Connors exit. While Connors is seeing Pyle off, the still slightly drunk Hackett approaches. Connors' decides it is time to end the gunfighter delusion of Hackett. He puts a couple of rounds close enough to Hackett that the man can feel them pass.
Hackett realizes what an idiot he has been and apologizes. Hackett is pretty good here in a straight role. Always interesting to see Lee Van Cleef in a TV bit.
"The Clarence Bibs Story" marks the return of Buddy Hackett, previously seen as the villain in "Bloodlines," here well cast as downtrodden mop boy Clarence Bibs, who has a side business of cleaning guns, wearing them in his holster until the customers pick them up, while pretending to be a professional gunfighter in private. One day, he is throwing out a bucket of dirty water, unintentionally drenching Pretty Boy Longden (X. Brands), a gunman with a short fuse, who proceeds to draw on the frightened Clarence. Several onlookers are watching as Clarence stumbles back from the aggressive gunfighter, resulting in his pistol firing accidentally, ironically killing his stunned opponent. Lucas McCain, temporarily filling in for an absent Micah, is satisfied that it was an accident, and allows the dimwitted Clarence to enjoy his time in the spotlight, with two men (Lee Van Cleef and John Milford) building up his confidence to face Longden's partner, George Tanner (Denver Pyle), who arrives to share a beer with Lucas at the saloon, only to be accosted by the uncharacteristically aggressive Bibs. Evoking fond memories of Lou Costello (whom Hackett would play in the 1978 TV movie "Bud and Lou"), the brilliant stand up comic is even better here than he was in "Bloodlines," reunited with another guest star from that episode, Denver Pyle. Lee Van Cleef is menacing as always, busy in TV Westerns until his European stardom took hold in the late 1960s.
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