Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958–1961)
8.1/10
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Miracle at Pot Hole 

Randall brings a suspected murderer to Pot Hole, but fears the man won't receive a fair trial when he finds the townspeople in the grip of a power-mad bully who serves as the hanging judge over a kangaroo court.

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Cast

Episode complete credited cast:
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Chester Miller aka Penfold Crane
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Father Miguel (as Tony Caruso)
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Bessie Thorne
John Dierkes ...
Charlie
Helen Jay ...
Martha
Paul Wexler ...
Lester Bailey
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Chute Wilson
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Storyline

While having dinner with Chester Miller in a restaurant, Josh shows him a gold nugget. He convinces Miller to ride with him to his mine as a potential investor. While on the road, they come to a sign indicating they are entering Pot Hole County. When Miller balks, Josh pulls a poster from his hat showing Miller is really Penfold Crane wanted for murder in Pot Hole with a reward of $200. Crane tries to tell Josh there is no justice in Pot Hole but Josh won't listen saying he has never been there. At Pot Hole he turns Crane over to Chute Wilson who owns the saloon, is the sheriff, prosecutor, and judge. Josh collects his reward but when Wilson tells his men to gather a crowd for an immediate trial, Josh decides to stay and watch. Chute is more interested in everyone buying drinks than the trial but under prodding finally starts it after Father Miguel tries to stop it. As the trial get under way, Josh tries to speak up when he realizes it is far from a proper trial but loses his $200 ... Written by Anonymous

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Western

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25 October 1958 (USA)  »

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(RCA Sound Recording)

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1.33 : 1
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Quotes

Chute Wilson: Looks like you don't understand these men as well as I do.
Father Miguel: Men? I don't see any men here.
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User Reviews

 
Chute Wilson's World and Welcome To It
13 December 2016 | by (Omaha, Nebraska) – See all my reviews

A disconcerting opening: Josh brandishing a gold nugget and imploring the well-heeled Chester Miller to grubstake him five grand so he can dig more of the same out of the ground. What's going on here? Josh offers to show the stranger the mine and off they go on horseback. Miller pauses nervously at the "Welcome to Pot Hole County" sign, and soon finds the Mare's Leg drawn on him. Miller is in actuality fugitive Penfield Crane, worth $200 in Pot Hole. Another day, another bounty.

Josh's lulling his prey into trusting him was a page from Shawnee Bill's playbook, and one played with aplomb. Crane tries to bribe Josh, offering him $300 then $400, but Josh is committed to upholding the law, and declares it's the responsibility of the people of Pot Hole to determine Crane's guilt or innocence. Enter Chute Wilson, the town power broker who boasts being the sheriff, bartender, judge, jury, and executioner. Chute orders his minions to round up a jury and bring in another barrel of whiskey, court to convene once the jury is sufficiently juiced. It dawns on Josh that he unwittingly delivered Crane into the hands of a liquored-up lynch mob.

The one bright light in this dark town is Father Miguel, who storms the saloon-courtroom and calls out the cowardly townsmen for being bullied into participating in a drunken kangaroo court and for trading their souls for Chute's booze. Alas, the padre is a voice crying in the wilderness, and Chute's announcing drinks on the house almost gets the padre trampled by the stampede to the bar. When Chute gloats to Fr. Miguel that he knows the men better than he does, the priest asks, "What men? I see no men here." But he overlooked Josh Randall, sitting quietly beside Crane, who will prove himself a man and make good those lofty pronouncements about justice that Crane sneered at earlier.

Life and death are cheap in Pot Hole. Fr. Miguel tells Josh that Chute hangs men to "amuse his friends and scare his enemies." And when the jury dutifully returns the verdict of guilty, Chute sentences Crane to "hang from the neck until dead--right now." But the bloodthirsty mob spilling from the saloon is in for a surprise. While Chute played judge banging his gavel, Josh and the padre were working together to engineer the downfall of Pot Hole's tin-badged demagogue.

Western movie veteran Jay C. Flippen plays Chute Wilson, a man in whom absolute power corrupted absolutely. To his credit, Flippen never overacted his part, which made Chute even more menacing. Anthony Caruso is excellent as Father Miguel, whose sagging spirits are buoyed and emboldened by Josh's standing up to Chute. For too long every time I saw Caruso I would think of Bela Oxmyx from STAR TREK's "A Piece of the Action," but I've since seen him in so many serious roles like this one I've come to appreciate his abundant talent (two must-see Caruso performances are HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL "Winchester Quarantine" and CORONADO 9 "The Widow of Kill Cove"). And finally hapless Penfold Crane was played by perennial tough guy Steve Brodie, who doesn't get much opportunity to flex his acting muscles in this role, which mostly called for sitting with pursed lips and a cornered rat expression. I did enjoy his cigar-sniffing flourish in the restaurant. I wonder if he ever got to smoke that stogie?

"Miracle at Pot Hole" was written by Ellis Marcus, who went on to write several first season episodes of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE. Knowing that gave me greater appreciation not only for the successful ruse that opened the show but especially for Josh's inventive sabotaging of the gallows, such scenes presaging the tricks Rollin and Barney would pull a decade later.

Another fine episode that also features some detective work, a twist ending, and nice touches like the dilapidated and tipped-sideways welcome sign foreshadowing the decline and decay of the town, which may have already been obvious by its unlikely and unpromising name. Who would ever name a town "Pot Hole"?


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