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A whole lot of luck, 23 May 2015

One of Henry Fonda's best films from the Sixties is this made for TV film Stranger On The Run. In fact it's better than some of the films that did get a theatrical release. It's a western directed by Don Siegel who among other of his films directed John Wayne in his swan song The Shootist.

This one is more like The Most Dangerous Game out west. Henry Fonda is hardly the big game hunter type. A whole lot of luck and the kindness of some strangers is what makes him survive.

As Henry Fonda remarks when he gets kicked off a freight train where he hitched a ride, there's a whole lot of law for a town that's hardly a whistle stop. That's because this is a railroad town and railroad cop Michael Parks and a flock of deputies have made it their headquarters.

Fonda gets noticed by Parks and his deputies when he asks about a woman played by Madelyn Rhue. When Rhue turns up dead later, Fonda is the one immediately suspected and he runs.

But there are other issues here. The men are bored and Parks for his own amusement gives Fonda a horse and a head start and then sends a posse after him. But Fonda finds help from a few people and it gets a whole lot more difficult than he thought.

Some other good performances that Siegel got from his cast were from Anne Baxter as the farm widow who has a son Michael Burns with the posse, but Fonda helps her and she helps Fonda. There's also Dan Duryea as an old marshal who realizes Parks is developing a real taste for the sanguinary aspects of his job.

Fonda is no wild west hero, he's at his best playing a Mr. Every Man as he does here. Somebody up there likes him however, you can't explain his survival any other way.

Only the Barkley boys can stop the fire, 23 May 2015

An expedition led by Stu Erwin from part one of this story never makes it to the forest fire. Now the Barkley boys all three of them including lawyer Jarrod are taking a load of nitroglycerin and black powder to the forest fire to create a fire break. Per what happened to Erwin in part one that nitroglycerin is mighty unstable stuff.

The last half of this show is mostly Richard Long, Peter Breck, and Lee Majors in one of the few times in The Big Valley series that they work in concert because usually the story line focuses on one member of the family. It's what makes this second part really special.

Barbara Stanwyck also has an outstanding scene with Linda Evans and with butler Napoleon Whiting when she learns what the Barkley boys are up to. But as she remarks they're not boys, they're men doing a job that has to be done. It's so well played one of her best small screen scenes from this big screen legend.

A great episode from The Big Valley, a must for fans of the series.

Fire racing toward the Barkleys, 23 May 2015

All three of the Barkley men are in the town of Granite City where one humongous forest fire is racing for not just Granite City, but Stockton and eventually the Barkley holdings. In more immediate danger are the holdings of a rich foreign born Marquis played by Carl Esmond.

To say that Esmond holds himself truly above the rest of the hoi ploi of Granite City is an understatement. He can't quite get used to a society where there are no titles of nobility. But as we know from history the aristocracy is not above doing a little pimping to achieve their ends. I do love how Peter Breck tells him off.

An expedition of sorts with explosives man Stu Erwin in charge goes to make a fire break with some mighty unstable TNT. Erwin himself is a bit ridiculous declaring his love for a saloon girl old enough to be his granddaughter. I found that part of the story a bit ridiculous.

Still this all leads to a much better part 2.

Freedom above all things, 23 May 2015

Tyrone Power was probably right to bow out of doing Way Of A Gaucho. This would have been a great part for him ten years earlier, but by 1952 Power was 38 years old would not have been all that convincing any more as one wild and woolly gaucho who prizes freedom above all things.

So 30 year old Rory Calhoun got the part and he looked even younger than that. Calhoun plays a young man who was taken in by a large estancia owner and raised as a stepson along with his real son Hugh Marlowe. The film opens with Marlowe returning from getting a European education in Spain and Marlowe has adopted European ways.

Civilization is coming to the Pampas, a fact that a lot of the gauchos resent, none more so than Calhoun. When he kills a man in a brawl, he's arrested, but Marlowe goes to bat for him and he gets army service with Richard Boone trying to make a soldier out of him. Naturally Calhoun doesn't take to that kind of discipline and he deserts and becomes the notorious bandit leader Valverde. Along the way he meets Gene Tierney and the two of them get something going.

20th Century Fox starting in the early Forties did a whole slew of films with a Latin American setting, the idea being to promote a Good Neighbor policy with Latin American countries who all declared war on the Axis powers after December 7. In fact Argentina was the only country not to declare war, at least until 1945. Because of that the Juan Peron government had few post war friends outside of Franco's Spain.

So with that in mind they no doubt welcomed 20th Century Fox to do a film with a real Latin American location. The cinematography of the Pampas is first rate and the American players who also included Everett Sloane as Calhoun's sidekick blend nicely in with the Argentine cast. The first lady of Argentina Eva Peron who was a film star before she married Juan took a personal interest in this project even though she was dying during the shooting of Way Of A Gaucho.

For its exotic location and good performances Way Of A Gaucho is definitely worth your time for a look.

Models as mules, 23 May 2015

One top fashion model is killed and another is in some serious danger as she tries to break free from her life as cover girl by day. Because in order to live in the high style she's accustomed to Jaclyn Smith before she became an angel for Charley she's a drug mule for racketeer Bradford Dillman.

Dennis Weaver gets into the case quite accidentally when he breaks up a shoot Smith was having in Central Park. That gives him an entry into Smith's life as the NYPD investigates both the heroin trafficking and the disappearance of Smith's friend.

McCloud after the body of her friend is discovered and its now a homicide levels with her and tries to get Smith out. There's a nice final sequence at the sight of the former World's Fair in Flushing Meadows. He rather neatly traps Dillman.

No Diana Muldaur in this McCloud story. I'm sure she wouldn't take kindly to Sam McCloud with the future Charley's Angel.

Morris helps Norris, 22 May 2015

I Live On Danger casts Chester Morris as a radio news reporter who has a rivalry going with fellow reporter Dick Purcell as the two constantly try and top each other with stories. This Pine-Thomas film from Paramount's B picture unit depends considerably on Morris's breezy personality to carry it and it's too great a burden.

Morris's determination for a scoop has him aiding in the capture of fugitive Edward Norris wanted in the murder of a racketeer for whom he took a serious gambling rap and did three years.

Another gambler Douglas Fowley sets Norris up and kills bookie Edwin Maxwell with shots fired through an open window. I mean really if Norris had kept a cool head and stayed and reported the murder they would have seen he had no gun and would have looked in other directions for a solution. Even at that in a montage of clips about the trial he keeps insisting he had no gun. I think a law school freshman could have gotten him off.

Morris gets the scoop but earns the enmity of Norris's sister Jean Parker and even his own mother Elizabeth Risdon. After that he works to free Norris.

Not much suspense here, my three year old grandnephew could figure this one out.

Pine-Thomas came up real short here.

Raw Edge (1956)
One most desirable woman, 22 May 2015

Set in the days of the Oregon Territory, Raw Edge is one of your more adult westerns made during the Fifties at a time when westerns were trying to compete with westerns shown on television. The Saturday matinée kids of the Thirties and Forties did not see westerns that were about sex.

John Gavin married to Mara Corday insults Yvonne DeCarlo in the eyes of her husband Herbert Rudley who is the local Ponderosa owner in the area. But this guy has a lot more power than Ben Cartwright ever dreamed of. He's a veritable medieval lord of the manor and he's in charge of the women who in pioneer Oregon are the most valuable commodity around.

Gavin is hung as per Lord Rudley's orders and Mara Corday who is a mixed racial women is then 'assigned' to Robert J. Wilkie also per Lord Rudley's orders. That's how it is in his part of Oregon.

That is until former Texas Ranger Rory Calhoun arrives in town and is greeted with his brother's lifeless swinging body. He wants answers and wants them now.

Which presents a peculiar conundrum for a lot of people. They're all under Rudley's thumb, but they also realize that there's still a shortage of women and Yvonne DeCarlo's one most desirable woman. And she'd also be a wealthy widow. And Corday has a tribe of relations ready to take up her cause as well.

All in all Raw Edge with its emphasis on sex and women as valuable commodities is an unusual, but entertaining western. Besides those I've mentioned look for good performances from Rex Reason as a cynical gambler and a father and son pair of lowlifes, Emile Meyer and Neville Brand.

Definitely one adult western.

Who's mixing the cocktails?, 22 May 2015

Parsing out responsibility seems to be the biggest problem that the SVU squad has in this story. Young Tammy Blanchard is passed out on the college campus and she's not quite lucid. She's also quite disheveled though.

Blanchard's medical tests show that she's been given a date rape drug to loosen her inhibitions and make her fair game for any predatory available males. The squad arrests two of them in Chris Beetem and Matt Kautz.

These two are a privileged pair, the kind you like to see get the old comeuppance. But further investigation also nails Zack Orth who seems like a nice kid who misread signals.

But worse it wasn't the guys who mixed the date rape cocktails. It's some jealous sorority sisters who dislike Blanchard for buzzing around their boyfriends.

The scenes between Mariska Hargitay and Tammy Blanchard are the best part of the show. Olivia Benson gives this young girl some sorely needed counseling. But there's one part of all the issues that Blanchard has and raises that Olivia won't touch.

Young women should especially be seeing this episode.

Bullwhip (1958)
As their interests dictate, 22 May 2015

Bullwhip casts Guy Madison as a man with an interesting predicament. He got framed for a murder that was self defense by Judge Don Beddoe working with Rhonda Fleming the mixed racial owner and boss of a freight line. She's got a huge advantage over her competitors being the daughter of a Cheyenne chief her wagons get safe passage through their territory.

But she also by the terms of her father's will has to have a husband in order to inherit the company. So poor Madison gets framed for a murder and then gets a signed release from Beddoe.

After that there's any number of people who want to see Madison alive or dead as their interests dictate. And there are some whose views change as far as Madison is concerned one of them being Fleming. As for Guy now that he's married he wants to assert his marital prerogatives in all fields. That especially works with the Cheyenne given their alpha male point of view.

Rhonda Fleming does well in a part that I'm sure was written with Barbara Stanwyck in mind. Though I doubt their are not too many mixed bloods that have her distinctive titian tresses.

In spite of a really stupid title song sung by Frankie Laine over the opening credits Bullwhip is a good little western with memorable supporting performances by Don Beddoe as one crooked and roguish judge and James Griffith as a gunman with shifting loyalties. Fans of the stars will approve.

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Nobody will make McCloud as a typical NYPD cop, 21 May 2015

That shot of Dennis Weaver hanging onto a helicopter tread in the opening credits of McCloud comes from this episode. McCloud goes undercover in this one because he's identified a known car thief that the stolen automobile squad has been trying to bust.

It gets good and personal when Norman Fell of the auto squad is killed by one of the people he was tailing. Dennis Weaver as usual has the proper instincts in that those thieves are pretty sharp and can make a New York cop from a mile away. But not one from Taos, New Mexico.

The idea is to bust the big and McCloud works his way up the food chain from Roddy McDowall to Eddie Albert and finally to Lloyd Bochner. McDowall is one to watch here, he plays the enforcer in the stolen car ring, a guy who likes killing for its own sake.

Also note the presence of police officer Brenda Vaccaro who comes along to McCloud for backup. If Weaver wasn't already involved with Diana Muldaur he and Vaccaro might have got something going.

Speaking of Muldaur she's not in this episode much until the end, but she manages to blow Weaver's cover by a few ill chosen remarks.

That chase in the end involving the helicopter. Guaranteed your pulse will race and skip a few beats with that one.

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