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I don't think Paladin's going for it
Paladin wakes up beaten, and stripped of his horse, gun and $1000. Susan, the lower-class but surprisingly well-educated lady who finds him, finds something the robbers missed: his business card. She tells Paladin his assailant was Sol Goodfellow, and that he was beaten and robbed after being drugged. She hopes Paladin will kill Sol. She has felt his boot before too. Paladin, of course, will not leave town without his property. Paladin learns that Sol's brother the sheriff, and his other brothers, want him to leave town empty-handed,now. Not likely. Paladin faces two dangers, the villainy and teamwork of the Goodfellows, and the lady's romantic interest in Paladin.
Have Gun - Will Travel (1957)
Have Gun Will Travel -- A Masterpiece
This is one of the most engrossing half hour shows ever made. The viewer is drawn in by the interesting plots (often involving lurking danger for Paladin or others), but just as much by the character of Paladin himself.
The show is set in the west after the Civil War. Paladin, magnificently portrayed by actor Richard Boone, is a well-to-do, erudite resident of a fine San Francisco hotel. Though he dresses in ruffles and frills, he is no dandy. His business card reads: Have Gun Will Travel. On the road, he dresses in cowboy gear, all black, and rides to distant parts of the west to do his job. When it will not interfere with a job, he is interested in the ladies and is no stranger to the use of fine wines and other alcoholic beverages.
Hired by various persons in need, for the normal fee of $1000.00 (quite a large sum back then), Paladin goes out and tries to accomplish the goals of his patron. When he agrees with them, that is. If Paladin's moral sense is offended, he will turn on his patron.
Paladin's symbol is the chess knight, and he is known for his chess-like strategies to outfox the opposition. He is reluctant in the extreme to use violence, and always tries to discourage its use. Yet, when required to save himself or others, he uses his main firearm and his small hidden one with great speed and accuracy. He is not bragging when he wants to discourage some fool from challenging him, by referencing his gun and saying, "This is a precision instrument. I am an expert in its use."
Paladin displays considerable proficiency in using his fists, and shows manly self-confidence in virtually every situation. He protects the weak against the strong. As the closing theme song says, he is "a knight without armor in a savage land."
Unlike other western heroes, Paladin, a West Point graduate who served in the Civil War, is highly educated. He is well familiar with history, military strategy, literature, science and the like, and will often call upon his encyclopedic knowledge to illustrate a point, or to find the right strategy when he faces a similar situation as one faced by someone else long ago.
The show has interesting style. Paladin wears all black. He has an outline of a chess knight on his holster. The opening music is dramatic and somber, and involves Paladin running a line from the show, when he is trying to talk some sense into some fool or opponent. All the while, he takes out his gun, cocks it, and points it directly at the viewer. The closing song is lyrical and catchy. Do not be surprised if you find you are singing it to yourself.
Other than the minor character Hey Boy (for a short time Hey Girl), who serves him at the hotel in San Francisco, Paladin is the only recurring character. He is strong enough to carry the show, most of which takes place in typical western locales.
If you have never seen this show before, please do. You will be very pleasantly surprised. And, because the action takes place in the 1800s, it does not go out of date like some shows. Have Gun Will Travel is on my list of the very finest television shows ever.
The Fugitive: The Chinese Sunset (1966)
Kimble, using the name Jack Fickett, works at the Chinese Sunset Motel, located on the Los Angeles Sunset Strip. Although called a motel, it actually is a moderately classy and busy hotel, with a large swimming pool, decorated lobby with a marble front desk, uniformed bellhop, large well-furnished rooms and suites, and 24 hour coffee shop (diner).
Eddie Slade (actor Paul Richards) and his girlfriend Penelope Dufour (actress Laura Devon) move in. Eddie is a gangster recently out of jail, who comes to LA looking for a financial stake. Unfortunately, a fellow gangster has given him two weeks, then he must leave.
Penelope is young, attractive and poorly educated, though not stupid. Discovering Kimble's vast store of knowledge, Penelope asks Kimble to help educate her. She will be 24 soon, old for Eddie Slade, and wants to marry him before he loses interest in her for being a dummy. Kimble discovers that he gets real satisfaction from seeing Penelope learn, and grow as a person.
Meanwhile, police Sgt. Bragin (actor Wayne Rogers), posing as a salesman, moves in at the motel to keep tabs on Eddie and Penelope. He soon become suspicious of Kimble. Oddly, no one becomes suspicious of Bragin, even though he is a salesman who never tries to sell anything, never even mentions what he sells, and spends most of his time hanging around the lobby, pool and coffee shop watching other people.
Although some of the characterizations are formulaic, it is incomprehensible that no one pegs Bragin for being a cop, and the actors who pull guns lack much-needed rehearsal of that action, this is a sweet, feel-good story that is quite entertaining.
The Fugitive: Shadow of the Swan (1966)
Kimble, using the name Paul Keller, meets Tina Anderson (actress Joanna Pettet) by a lake near a carnival. Kimble is freeing a goldfish he won, while Tina is contemplating a swan. Tina had recently been flirting with a carnival worker (actor Don Quine) and had plans to meet him after work. Tina forgets those plans when she gets Kimble a job at the veterinary clinic where she works.
Tina is an attractive but troubled young woman who lives in a fantasy world. She takes Kimble to the carnival after work, leading to a fight between Kimble and the carny worker. Kimble is injured, and she takes him home where he meets her stepfather, Harry Anderson (actor Andrew Duggan). Harry was fired from the police force for using excessive violence against a suspect, but still thinks of himself as a policeman, and he believes he recognizes "Paul" (Kimble).
Harry's quest to find out who Paul is, and Tina's confused and obsessive actions, lead to danger for Kimble and others.
This unusual episode is pervaded with an atmosphere of gloom that is not alleviated until the end.
Geoffrey Martin (actor Rex Thompson) is a British 17 year old who is a master violinist. His parents years ago signed over his care and training to an agent, Max Pfeiffer (actor Donald Pleasence). Kimble gets a job as their chauffeur. Also living in the mansion is the secretary, Ellen Harned (actress Carol Rossen).
Geoffrey is a sensitive but troubled young man who travels the world giving concerts. He lives under the heavy-handed, oppressive rule of Max, himself a former violinist. Max believes that genius carries responsibility, and that Geoffrey has a duty to the world to be the best he possibly can. Geoffrey is alone and friendless, and itches to be free of Max. Kimble and Ellen feel great sympathy for Geoffrey, but Kimble is suspicious of some of his actions.
As the conflict between Geoffrey and Max comes to a head, police involvement endangers Kimble, who takes great risks to prevent a tragedy.
The Fugitive: An Apple a Day (1965)
Kimble is being chased by police in Colorado when he takes a tumble down a mountain and injures his ankle. An older couple, the Crandalls, finds him and takes him to Dr. Josephus Adams (actor Arthur O'Connell). Josephus is a naturopathic doctor, who uses natural remedies like honey and vinegar, and scorns allopathic medicine, the standard medicine practiced by other doctors like Dr. Kimble.
Kimble is distressed by the approach of Josephus to the illness of Mrs. Crandall, who has a chronic cough, and whom Josephus is treating with a honey-based cough syrup. Kimble's comments gain him the antagonism of Josephus' niece Sharon (actress Kim Darby) and his wife Marianne (actress Sheree North).
Police involvement, the discovery by Kimble of a serious illness of Sharon which Kimble cannot ignore, and the discovery of Kimble's identity by Marianne, all pose dangers for Kimble.
The Fugitive: Coralee (1966)
Kimble, using the name Tony Carter, works on a boat that does salvage work. The captain is Joe Steelman (actor Murray Hamilton). A diver, Johnny, the brother of Joe's wife Lucille (actress Patricia Smith), drowns. It is commonly believed among the sailors that Coralee Reynolds (actress Antoinette Bower), who recently began dating Johnny, is a jinx who was responsible for the death, even though she was not on board the boat. However, Kimble examined Johnny's diving helmet after the drowning, and saw that a piece had worn and broken, probably due to negligence of Joe.
Coralee works for her uncle Frank (actor Rusty Lane) at a small diner in this seaside town, but patrons begin to shun her because of her reputation, and Frank can't afford to lose the customers. But one patron is far too intelligent to believe in jinxes: Kimble. Kimble warns her he will only be in town a couple more weeks, but the two start a romantic relationship.
Joe fears that "Tony" will testify against him at the upcoming inquest on the death of Johnny. Coralee suspects Joe has a plan to prevent "Tony" from testifying at the inquest, and she takes steps to protect him, but those steps place Kimble in serious danger.
Kimble, using the name Carl Baker, lives in an unidentified "big city," and works as the "super" (handyman, janitor, etc.) of a small complex of urban apartments. One of the apartments is occupied by the Roland family, consisting of an older man, Edward Roland (actor Eduard Franz), and his two young adult children, Liz Roland (actress Madlyn Rhue) and Roger Roland (actor Robert Drivas). Edward is obsessed with the ancient family history, and their descent from William the Conquerer and other royalty. Liz has a crush on Kimble. Roger is an emotionally troubled young man.
Millie (actress Judee Morton) is an attractive young resident who taunts Roger and spurns his interest in her. Roger is playing chess with Kimble in Kimble's apartment when Kimble is called away to fix a light for Mrs. Murdock (actress Ellen Corby, who later played Grandma Walton on The Waltons), a widow. Roger steals Kimble's key to Millie's apartment and goes there to make his move. He ends up killing her, under circumstances that lead police, including Lt. Sloan (actor Richard Anderson), to believe the killer might have been Kimble. Millie is killed by a blow to the head with a heavy object, just like Mrs. Kimble, and Roger hides the murder weapon in Kimble's apartment. Lt. Gerard reads of the killing and rushes to the scene, hoping to catch Kimble.
Kimble, under the name Chris Benson, works for George Savano (actor Edward Binns), who owns a successful auto parts distributorship in New Jersey. Kimble's immediate supervisor is Jesse Stransel (actor Joseph Campanella), who at the outset of the show suffers a vicious beating, causing police to snoop around, to Kimble's discomfort.
Kimble discovers that there are many secrets and mysteries involving George, Jesse, Jesse's wife and son, and George's attractive sister Stella (actress Diana Hyland), and that George wants to keep the lid on these secrets.
Stella makes moves on Kimble. George threatens him to get him to stay away, but she will not stay away from Kimble. Kimble comes to learn that she is delusional. (Hyland played a similar delusional woman in the episode When The Bough Breaks).
An angry George confronts Kimble, and tells his secretary that in one hour, she should call the police and inform them that Chris Benson has stolen some radios, and is believed to be wanted elsewhere by the police. Kimble wants to flee, but Stella complicates matters.
Kimble, working as a bartender, sees TV coverage of a large fire. In the crowd that gathers he sees Fred Johnson (the one-armed man), standing with a woman. Kimble abandons his post and rushes to the scene of the fire. When Johnson sees Kimble approach he runs, and the woman runs after him. She is hit by a truck. Johnson gets away as Kimble tends to the needs of the injured woman. Kimble claims to be Dr. Robertson, so he can accompany her in the ambulance to the hospital.
At the hospital, Kimble keeps up the masquerade as a doctor from the east, on vacation, and comes into close contact with Nurse Ruth Bianchi (actress Joanna Moore), a good nurse, and an attractive woman who is attracted to Kimble. There is presently a shortage of doctors due to the high number of casualties from the fire. Though not licensed in this state, Kimble gets permission to treat the injured woman, and learns she is Maggie Tibbett (actress Barbara Baxley), a middle-aged woman who is in love with Johnson. Kimble steals her key and goes to her home looking for clues about Johnson. Meanwhile, Maggie contacts Johnson, who tells her if she wants to see him again, she must call the police and inform on Kimble, which she does.
Lt. Gerard shows up and works with Det. Rowan (actor Phillip Pine) to try to capture Kimble. Kimble twice escapes difficult traps at the hospital, at times aided by Ruth Bianchi, and ends up leaving town without his quarry. Meanwhile, Ruth and Maggie commiserate about the failures in their love lives, but remain hopeful because nobody loses all the time.
The Fugitive: Approach with Care (1966)
Willie Turner (actor Denny Miller) is a strong young man of subnormal intelligence, whose childish impulses have hurt a child. The police are looking for him to place him in a mental hospital. Willie loves carnivals, and runs to one nearby where Kimble is working. The owner, impressed with Willie's strength, offers him a job, and puts him in Kimble's charge.
Kimble tries to leave him with his sister Mary (actress Collin Wilcox) but she cannot take care of him, and plans to marry next week. This causes Willie to go back to the carnival and Kimble. Willie is violently against any effort to hospitalize him, and the police involvement causes trouble for both Willie and Kimble.
The Fugitive: When the Wind Blows (1965)
Police are searching for Kimble in Wyoming. He gets a job working for Lois Carter (actress Georgann Johnson) to help fix up her motel for the new season. Lois lives with her son Kenny (actor Johnny Jensen), who is an intelligent, sensitive boy, but peculiar and troubled. He does not get close to most people, including Lois's boyfriend Steve Jackson (actor Larry Ward), but he does to Kimble. This would be a difficult role even for an adult actor, and Jensen handles it well.
Lois is unsure what to do about Kenny and his problems, and seeks advice from Kimble, whose wisdom is useful. Meanwhile, Deputy Russ Atkins (actor Harry Townes) learns that Kimble is at Lois's place. Kimble has to go, but Kenny is now dependent on him and does not want him to leave.
Yancy Derringer (1958)
All this, and a great theme song too!!!
The fact that a great show ran only one season does not doom it to being forgotten (The Honeymooners is well remembered), but it surely does not help. Most people have never heard of Yancy Derringer, the public at large is not clamoring for it to be featured on TV, and it is hard to find. Nevertheless, even after all these years I fondly remember watching the exciting adventures of Yancy and his silent Indian companion Pahoo (actor X Brands).
The premise of the series is simple enough. After the Civil War, Yancy (actor Jock Mahoney), who fought for the south, returns to New Orleans to find much has changed. His family's plantation is in ruins. The war brought social upheaval and its companion, crime. Yancy travels with Pahoo-Ka-Ta-Wah (Wolf Who Stands In Water), the Pawnee who saved his life. They communicate in sign language, in which Yancy is fluent. Apparently (I am not sure of this), in his early years Pahoo had his tongue cut out when captured by other Indians, leaving him forever wordless.
Yancy is sought out by John Colton (actor Kevin Hagen), a northerner appointed by the US government to act as administrator of New Orleans. Colton asks Yancy to be his secret agent, fighting against crime and skulduggery of all sorts, and Yancy agrees.
Yancy is well suited for the task. A well-to-do gambler, suave lover, and rich dresser, a man of taste and erudition, he fits in well with those at the top of society. Yet, he is also comfortable with the lowliest dockworker, bar girl or former slave, rebel and Yank, never acting like he is above them, though he is always much better dressed. His ability to befriend those in all walks of life facilitates his task of gathering information for Colton.
His actions often get the bad guys mad, and place him in danger. In addition to his fists, which he uses effectively, he packs hidden derringer pistols. Pahoo secretes a knife and a shotgun, and is proficient in their use. Before the series started, Pahoo had saved Yancy's life, and by his strange code, this made him responsible for Yancy, and fiercely loyal to him. Keep an eye out for Pahoo to disappear, because this usually means he will soon pop up unexpectedly to use his gun or knife at Yancy's service.
The scenery, music, and elegant clothing paint a breathtaking picture of the charm of old New Orleans, while the often-dark lighting and seedy crimes show the other side of this fascinating coin.
There are some shortcomings. Yancy is so pleased with himself he sometimes is insufferable. His clothes are always clean and pressed no matter what he has gone through. The half-hour format does not leave much time for character development. Despite these flaws, the show is always entertaining, and the plots are usually interesting.
Apparently, the show was so successful in its first year (1958-1959) that the network (CBS) wanted to buy the rights to the show from its originators, Mary Loos and Richard Sales. They did not want to sell, so the network pulled the plug.
If Yancy Derringer is televised in your town, consider yourself lucky, and make sure not to miss an episode!
Kimble escapes a trap at a trainyard, then makes it to Pinedale, Washington, a small town, where he meets Andrea Cross (actress Antoinette Bower). She takes an instant liking to Kimble and brings him home with her so he can help her prepare for her ceramics exhibition. When he arrives he meets her friend Bob Howe (actor Paul Mantee), a deputy.
The next day Andrea hears of the escape of Kimble on the radio, and his description, and realizes that "Ben Lewis" is really Richard Kimble. She offers Kimble her car to make his escape, suggesting that he wreck it over a mountainside to throw off the police.
Kimble is shot by Howe, bails out of the vehicle, and flees into the mountains, where he comes across Mallory (actor Laurence Naismith), an older man who has fled society and has not seen another person for 14 years. Mallory patches up Kimble and tries to sell him on his philosophy and lifestyle, using his dogs to make sure Kimble sticks around, contrary to his supposed desire for isolation. A series of further complications follow.
The Fugitive: The Evil Men Do (1966)
Kimble works at a large estate in a menial job, which includes helping with the horses. The wealthy owner, Arthur Brame (actor James Daly, who in the episode Running Scared plays Kimble's prosecutor), comes out to inspect the horses. When one of the horses loses control in the stable, Brame is trapped, and in danger of being trampled. Kimble rushes in and saves him.
Brame has a deep sense of honor, and wishes to repay Kimble for saving his life, but Kimble only wants a small amount of severance pay so he can get on the road. Brame wants to do much more. Brame and his wife Sharon (actress Elizabeth Allen) are puzzled as to why Kimble is not taking advantage of this situation for all it is worth.
Brame soon gets his answer. Lt. Gerard gets word that Kimble has been spotted in the area. He comes and learns from local police that Kimble may have been driving a vehicle owned by Brame, a former hit-man and bigwig in organized crime. When Gerard comes to inquire of Brame about Kimble, Brame sees Kimble flee, then meets with Gerard and learns of Kimble's murder conviction. Brame decides to repay his debt and relive his earlier days by setting up an alibi, then assassinating Gerard. Will Kimble stand by and let this happen? Not likely.
The Fugitive: Goodbye My Love (1967)
Kimble, using the name Bill Garrison, works as a parking attendant at a country club, where he is dating singer Gayle Martin (actress Marlyn Mason) who works there. Unknown to Kimble, Gayle is in love with wealthy club member Alan Bartlett (actor Jack Lord), with whom she is having an affair. Alan's wife, Norma (actress Patricia Smith) uses a wheelchair, having been crippled in an auto accident three years earlier. Gayle wants Alan to leave his wife and marry her, but Alan is reluctant because the money is Norma's, and he likes living the rich life, not having to work.
Gayle is dating Bill (Kimble) only because she discovered his identity. Kimble is unaware of her relationship with Alan, and is fooled into thinking she cares for him. In a plot development similar to that of the Season 1 episode "Garden House," Gayle persuades Alan to scheme to hire Kimble to work at his house, so Alan can kill Norma under circumstances where he can blame Kimble.
The Fugitive: Passage to Helena (1967)
Police, investigating an unrelated crime, call out to Kimble. Fearing the worst, he runs, but ultimately is captured and put in the jail in Wyler County, Montana. In the next cell is Rafe Carter (actor James Farentino), a convicted killer on his way to be executed. Deputy Sheriff Emery Dalton (actor Percy Rodriguez), against the advice of the sheriff, takes both prisoners to Helena. Carter is taken to be executed, while Kimble (posing as Thomas Barrett) is taken to be identified, Dalton figuring he must be wanted for something. Carter is a racist who continually taunts Dalton, who is black.
Dalton and his assistant, Deputy Lockett, run into real problems as Carter has friends ready to bust him loose. Ultimately, Dalton, wounded and on foot, has to march the two prisoners alone 50 miles to Helena. Kimble is determined to escape, but is disturbed by Carter's plan to kill Dalton to make good his escape.
Unknown to Kimble, the police are hot on his trail, after a policeman saw him get on a bus. Kimble seeks a job at Jungleland, a small town circus in Morgantown, Nebraska featuring animal attractions. It is run by Major Alan Fielding (actor Laurence Naismith), an animal trainer who performs with a tiger, and Harry Craft (actor Steve Forrest), the somewhat shady business manager. Kimble, using the name Nick Peters, gets a job doing minor chores such as cleaning cages and feeding animals.
Unfortunately, the business is not going well, and Craft tells Fielding he will have to sell Jaipur, his favorite tiger. Fielding loves the tiger, and considers him the top attraction, and strongly opposes this move. Craft tells him it is too late, the deal is done.
When Lt. Gerard arrives with Kimble's photo, Craft falsely tells Gerard he has not seen Kimble. He has a plan for Kimble to get caught with news photographers present, so Jungleland will gain the notoriety of the Biograph Theater where John Dillinger was killed by police, and bring in paying customers. He tells Fielding that if this works, he will not have to sell Jaipur. Kimble becomes aware of the police presence and wants to run, but Craft tells him it is too dangerous. Craft tells Kimble he wants to help him, and urges Kimble to hide on the premises until the police clear out, while he arranges the dramatic capture of Kimble.
The Fugitive: Runner in the Dark (1965)
Kimble, running from the police, climbs a wall and finds himself in a home for the blind. He is mistaken for a volunteer from the Good Neighbor Society, but one of the residents, former police chief Dan Brady (actor Ed Begley), hears about the manhunt on his radio. He becomes suspicious of Kimble, and begins to investigate.
The interim chief, Barney Vilattic (actor Richard Anderson), is facing a city council vote on whether to make him permanent chief. An unsuccessful hunt for Kimble could jeopardize his chances. Meanwhile, Dan Brady, though blind, feels he is still the best man for the job, and hopes that capturing Kimble will restore him to the chief's position.
The Fugitive: Moon Child (1965)
Kimble arrives in town and goes to a diner, where he is set upon by inquisitive vigilantes trying to find the killer who recently strangled two women. As the police arrive, Kimble bolts, and hides in an abandoned factory complex. While there he meets Joanne Mercer (actress June Harding), an attractive young woman of subnormal intelligence who lives with her mother nearby. Kimble and Joanne protect each other, but the police and vigilantes, now working together, arrive and try to flush him out.
Though Joanne wants to keep Kimble's secret, she is vulnerable to deception employed by the vigilantes. Kimble is trapped, and must protect Joanne from the real killer while somehow escaping the great dangers posed by the trigger-happy crowd as well as the police.
The Craigs are a rich couple dominated by the social climbing of the wife. The neglected college-age daughter, Joanne (actress Katherine Crawford), is having a big party, but the parents have another engagement. Despite the misgivings of Mr. Craig, who thinks they have a duty to stay home and chaperone, the chauffeur, Kimble, is left in charge along with the elderly butler.
Mrs. Craig is trying to push Joanne into a romantic relationship with Phil Andrews (actor Anthony D. Call), a spoiled rich boy from a good family, but Joanne only has eyes for Dan (actor Mark Goddard), a blue collar worker for a pool maintenance company, who has dreams of studying to become a doctor.
Kimble has to quell Joanne's rebellious and romantic impulses, and persuade her and Dan to grow up and behave responsibly. Meanwhile, the other teenagers are running wild, and when one of them finds out Kimble's identity, his ability to maintain order and preserve his own freedom is put in doubt.
Mike Hammer (1958)
Action-packed, violent, sexist, and oh-so-cool for the 50s
Actor Darren McGavin plays private detective Mike Hammer. In the space of 30 minutes, he normally escapes a couple assassination attempts, beats at least one man to a pulp, flirts with one or more beautiful women, fires off some 50s tough-guy slang, and solves a perplexing mystery. The pace is very fast.
The premise of the show is that the world is an evil, violent place, and the strong and upright must be as tough as the bad guys to set things right. But that doesn't mean they can't have a little fun along the way, enjoying broads, booze, or other masculine entertainments as circumstances present themselves.
I do not know that I have ever seen a TV character so quick to use his fists or a gun when trouble arises. And, when Mike Hammer beats you, he does not just knock you down or knock you out. He continues beating you as the blood spurts out and you beg for mercy, then he beats you some more. Even innocent witnesses are pushed around until they give up their information. That he is not imprisoned for his frequent violent assaults is a miracle. He does frequently fall afoul of the police, receiving threats, being questioned, and sometimes being locked up, but only temporarily.
In the world of Mike Hammer, there is no such thing as a flat-chested or overweight woman, except for the occasional wife or grandmother. The show is populated by beautiful, large-breasted women with well-coiffed hair, wearing tight dresses that show off their curves, and push-up bras that are so stiff and lift breasts so high they threaten to poke out your eyes. Mike flirts with and openly leers at these women in a way that would surely make viewers uncomfortable today.
With only 30 minutes to play with, the characters are often one-dimensional. Women, except when evil sluts, are weaklings dominated by men. They are either helpless victims, or madly attracted to Mike, or incidental holders of information he needs, or mere eye-candy populating his world. Sometimes they are the tool of a bad guy, used to lure Mike into a trap, then sent on their way. Men are not treated much better. The line between good and evil is starkly drawn, and the most complex a character (other than Mike) usually gets is when someone thought to be good turns out to be evil.
There are many pluses. A lot happens. The evil plots are often complex and ingenious. The show employs a great deal of humor and tries not to take itself too seriously.
In the final analysis, Mike Hammer is on the right side. He fights against crime, and bravely protects the weak, despite the risk to himself. If you had trouble, and were in the right, there is no one better you could have on your side. He is strong, violent, cynical and testosterone-fueled, the epitome of 50s cool.
Despite the shortcomings of the show, it is entertaining, and the fast pace ensures you will not get bored.
The Fugitive (1963)
The finest dramatic series ever
The right concept, the right star, the right scripts, and the right producers and directors all came together at the right time (1963-1967) to create the finest dramatic series ever to appear on television.
Dr. Richard Kimble, played by actor David Janssen, is a pediatrician in Stafford, Indiana. He has an argument with his wife Helen and storms off. While returning his car almost hits a one armed man who darts into the street from the vicinity of his home. He runs into his home past the open front door and sees Helen dead on the floor. Although innocent, he is tried and convicted for murder, and sentenced to death.
Police Lieutenant Phillip Gerard, played by actor Barry Morse, is taking Kimble by train to prison to be executed, when the train derails and Kimble escapes. Kimble travels from place to place, frequently changing his name, taking jobs where he can get them, usually menial, and ever on the alert lest he be recognized and captured. Lt. Gerard and other police are hot on his trail, and even well-meaning civilians can cause his ruin.
While running, Kimble constantly seeks the one armed man so he can prove his innocence. Viewers can certainly believe in his innocence, since in each episode he displays outstandingly good character, frequently putting himself at risk to help another person in need.
Kimble is intelligent, modest, generous, honest, hard-working, strong and trustworthy, an altogether admirable hero, yet also believable. He is no superhero, just an ordinary man placed in extraordinary circumstances that allow his true character to come forth.
But this is not a one note show. Violence, criminality, medical drama, and romance all have a place in the series, but none dominates it.
The fact he must frequently travel puts Kimble in a variety of interesting situations involving people of all different characters from all stations of life. The circumstances of the series allow the writers to place Kimble in just about any situation in any setting, from a migrant labor camp to a hospital to an embassy to a research laboratory, while making important points about morality, hypocrisy, and the flaws of even the best legal system, all against the dramatic background of the struggle to survive of a sympathetic lead character. The parade of talented guest stars adds icing to this tasty cake.
Other efforts to exploit this idea, such as the movie with Harrison Ford and the more recent TV series starring Tim Daly, failed to capture the essence of what made the 60s series so great. So, for those of us who love quality programming, we have little choice but to rely on the original. What a shame that the bosses at the TV networks have been unable to find a place in their schedules for such a magnificent show.
The Untouchables (1959)
An outstanding series where the bad guys are really bad
Although the reputation of The Untouchables is that it is about prohibition, there are more stories about murder and extortion than about the alcohol trade, which is a background in many stories, but central to only a handful.
These bad guys are really bad. Not only are there the commonplace shootings, but people have their cars blown up. They are knifed in the back. They are strangled in the back seats of cars. They are blinded when acid is thrown in their faces. They are hanged. They are set on fire. Good friends and reliable employees have their lives snuffed out with the villain employing less thought than he would spend on selecting the right tie to wear. As Frank Nitti (exquisitely played by actor Bruce Gordon) put it, while plotting the murder of a young man who worked tirelessly to make Nitti's enterprises succeed, "It's a matter of economics. Two of these (displaying bullets) cost 15 cents." While Frank Nitti is the best known of the criminals in this outstanding series, he appears in a tiny minority of the stories, about 25 of 118. Other actors with different personalities but equivalent levels of viciousness terrorize the innocent and not-so-innocent with levels of violence that are shocking even today, and were surely even more shocking in the 50s and early 60s.
While Bruce Gordon as Frank Nitti is the best remembered portrayer of gangsters from this show, in other episodes, veteran actors like William Bendix and Nehemiah Persoff, and then-young actors like Martin Landau and Robert Redford, put on entertaining and gritty performances that rarely disappoint. All the while, the newsreel style announcing of Walter Winchell adds enormously to the sensation of reality.
Today's viewer has the fun, not available to the viewers back then, of frequently spotting future stars in the cast, like Alan Hale Jr.(Skipper on Gilligan's Island), Elizabeth Montgomery (Samantha on Bewitched), Carroll O'Connor (Archie Bunker on All In The Family), Gavin McLeod (Capt. Steubing on The Love Boat), Jack Warden (veteran of countless movies and TV shows), Lee Van Cleef (perennial star and costar of westerns), Peter Falk (Columbo), Raymond Bailey (Mr. Drysdale on The Beverly Hillbillies -- without his toupee). The list goes on and on.
Two often-made criticisms of the show are justified, but to my mind, unimportant. First, it is true that in real life Eliot Ness never met most of the notorious criminals that he and his men defeat on the show. However, the show is admitted to be fictional. Second, it is true that the characters of the good guys, Ness and crew, are not particularly colorful. However, the gangsters and their victims provide ample color, and the solid steadfastness of Robert Stack as Eliot Ness and the rest of his crew gives viewers an anchor of emotional security in the face of the omnipresent evil portrayed on the show. Without this, the helplessness of the victims in the face of the ruthlessness, treachery and cold-heartedness of the villains that dominate the show episode after episode might be difficult to bear.
Everyone will benefit when the operators of networks that play reruns of old series finally decide to put real quality before the viewers and begin to regularly show The Untouchables, The Fugitive, Rawhide, and the other real classics of years past.
The Fugitive: The Homecoming (1964)
Richard Kimble, using the name David Benton, is working in the laboratory of Allan Pruitt (actor Richard Carlson) on his estate in Georgia. Kimble works on the development of goober (peanut) products. Also living on the estate is Pruitt's new wife Dorina (actress Gloria Grahame). Pruitt is from an old distinguished planter family, while Dorina is the lower-class daughter of a backwoodsman.
Janice Pruitt (actress Shirley Knight), daughter of Allan and his deceased wife, has been away. She comes home and learns of her father's marriage, of which she disapproves. Janice had been at a sanitarium after a breakdown stemming from an incident involving a child being attacked by dogs. Janice is close to another breakdown as she keeps hearing the howling and barking of aggressive dogs.
There is a great deal of tension between Dorina and Janice, and Dorina rightly comes to believe Kimble is on Janice's side. Pruitt is torn between his devotion to his daughter and his wife. Kimble wants to help, but is endangered by the involvement of Sheriff Floyd Warren (actor Warren Vanders), who has long been interested in Janice, and whom Dorina manipulates to put pressure on Kimble. Floyd is there to arrest Kimble on false charges made by Dorina when Janice runs into the woods to save a small boy calling for help amidst the sound of barking dogs.