SHANE (1966) – David Carradine starred as the iconic gunslinger Shane in this 1966 television series adapted from the 1953 Alan Ladd movie.
The 1953 film Shane is largely regarded as one of the greatest westerns of its era and is usually on critical lists of the best westerns ever made. The closing cry of “Shane! Come back, Shane!” and variations on it became as much of a cultural catchphrase as “Come with me if you want to live!” would become in the 1980s.
If you’re not familiar with the movie, Shane is a gunfighter who longs to settle down and pursue the non-violent life he would have lived if things had turned out differently for him. He falls in with the Starrett family, who are among the Wyoming homesteaders getting leaned on by dishonest ranchers who want them off “their” land.
When the ranchers hire men to use increasing levels of violence against the homesteaders, Shane sacrifices his desire to live a “normal” life and uses his gunfighting skill to help the husband, wife and young son who took him in. Continue reading
CHASE (1973) – This cop show from the 70s had an odd history and ultimately wasted an initially promising premise.
The pilot movie aired on March 24th, 1973 and, as often surprises even devoted fans of Chase – the guy with the German Shepherd K9 cop did NOT appear! He and his dog weren’t added until the first episode after Chase was greenlit as a series.
At any rate, that pilot movie brought together Jack Webb and Stephen J. Cannell, who, at that point in their careers, represented television’s past and future, respectively. The story centered on Mitchell Ryan as Captain Chase Reddick, a tough cop who – don’t be shocked – often played by his own set of rules.
Chase was heading up a new unit for the Los Angeles Police Department. That unit was part Major Cases division and part Violent Crime Task Force. Typical of Stephen J. Cannell, this show’s hook was going to be vehicles.
Officer Steve Baker (Michael Richardson) was a former race car driver who handled the car chases. Officer Norm Hamilton (Reid Smith) was a Vietnam War veteran and helicopter pilot who handled aerial activities. And Officer Fred Sing (Brian Fong) was a hotshot motorcycle cop long before CHiPS hit the airwaves.
Shaaron (her spelling) Claridge, the real-life police dispatcher who had added “One Adam-12, One Adam-12, see the man …” to the national lexicon of catch-phrases, was brought along by Jack Webb for more voice work. Continue reading
COUNTERSTRIKE is a tragically forgotten British sci fi television series from 1969. Jon Finch (left) portrayed Simon King, an alien agent who worked for the Intergalactic Council. This council had sent him to Earth to protect it from a group of renegade aliens from a dying planet who wanted to conquer the Earth and make it their new home.
Not the most original of premises, but that inimitable British panache breathed life into the series, which unfortunately ran for just ten episodes, one of which was preempted by a special about the British gangsters named the Krays and was never rescheduled. Continue reading
This French-produced (but English language) series about William Tell was the perfect antidote for fans of derring-do who were bored with the umpteen versions of the Robin Hood legend.
The series starred Will Lyman, who would go on to be the voice of the narrator in those old “World’s Most Interesting Man” commercials, as the crossbow- wielding Tell.
Jeremy Clyde (of Chad & Jeremy fame) co-starred as Gessler, the tyrant Tell opposed during the Swiss Uprising against the Austrians in the 14th Century. Each episode featured William Tell and his son (the famous one with the apple on his head) defiantly foiling Gessler’s sinister machinations with the aid of fellow rebels. Continue reading
THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (1963-1964) – This forgotten television program was yet another attempt to transform a successful movie into a weekly series … in a way. The characters aren’t carryovers from the 1952 movie, but the whole “Circus as a Soap Opera” approach is there. Jack Palance starred as circus manager Johnny Slate, the only true regular since he was in every episode. (By contrast, Stuart Erwin as Otto King had the second most appearances at a mere 9 episodes.)
This was the first color drama produced by Desilu, the famed production company run by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, famous for television shows like Star Trek, The Untouchables, Laugh-In and many more. COLOR was the big draw for The Greatest Show on Earth in that period when most programs were still broadcast in black & white.
The series was beaten badly in the ratings by Petticoat Junction and The Richard Boone Show, and wound up canceled after just one season of 30 episodes. Lucille Ball supposedly was not impressed with her star and was quoted as saying “Jack Palance will never work here again and you may quote me.”
Palance, who even directed an episode of this program, IS a big part of the show’s problem. There’s a reason he very seldom appeared in Good Guy roles. He had a semi-psychotic, on the verge of violence air about him that made him very effective as a villain. Having him struggle to be charming and caring is unintentionally funny. Continue reading
COMMANDO CODY: SKY MARSHAL OF THE UNIVERSE (1953) – This will not be a comprehensive examination of the winding saga of Commando Cody, the character’s changing names and his status as the inspiration for the much later Rocketeer figure. However, as a quick preface to this look at the short-lived half-hour television series Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe I will recap the three Republic serials that preceded it.
King of the Rocket Men (1949) – This 12-episode serial was directed by Fred C. Brannon and written by Royal K. Cole, William Lively & Sol Shor. An organization called Science Associates finds its major scientists being killed off one by one through the efforts of a mysterious villain calling himself Dr. Vulcan.
One intended victim, Dr. Millard, secretly survives the attempt on his life but lets the villain and his underlings believe him to be dead. He covertly joins forces with fellow S.A. scientist Jeffrey King (Tristram Coffin) to fight back and flush out Dr. Vulcan and his organization.
With Dr. Millard playing dead, Jeffrey King dons the experimental rocket pack invented by Millard and takes to the air. King, the title “King” of course, also arms himself with a ray-gun pistol that he and Millard developed together. To keep his identity a secret, Jeffrey wears a helmet that conceals his face in addition to providing protection.
Through 12 chapters the hero thwarts Dr. Vulcan’s schemes for world conquest and brings him to justice after he destroys New York City in the rollicking finale. (It’s just recycled footage from the 1933 movie Deluge.) King of the Rocket Men was edited down to become the 1951 feature film Lost Planet Airmen and became the inspiration for the band Commander (sic) Cody and The Lost Planet Airmen. Continue reading
STAR MAIDENS (1975-1976) – This obscure (only 3 reviews to date on IMDb) British-German television series from the 1970s has the same kind of campy visual appeal as U.F.O., Space: 1999 and every other Gerry & Sylvia Anderson series in history.
A few years back, Balladeer’s Blog reviewed All That Glitters, the 1977 Norman Lear follow-up to Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. All That Glitters was a five night per week soap opera parody set on a parallel Earth where women were in charge of everything and men were second-class citizens. Star Maidens was an earlier, 13-episode Euroseries that had cranked such a premise up to eleven AND treated it as serious science fiction.
The futuristic planet called Medusa was ruled by women with an iron fist, with men relegated to the roles of domestic servants or laborers in mines and factories, etc. Men were outrightly owned by women and the “Men’s Liberation Movement” was outlawed and hounded. Gareth Thomas of all people starred as one of two rebellious men who escape Medusa in a stolen spaceship and head for 1970s Earth. Continue reading
THE SOLARNAUTS (1967) – It’s kind of a shame that this pilot for a science fiction series didn’t get picked up. The Solarnauts combined some of the best (and worst) elements of Star Trek and Doctor Who plus Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s countless “Supermarionation” programs like Thunderbirds, Supercar, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, etc.
This program featured a Star Fleet type organization of the future and its light, fluffy adventures – adventures that wouldn’t have been out of place on 1950s television so the show has a nice “retro” feel. Continue reading
SCIENCE FICTION THEATRE (1955-1957) – In Balladeer’s Blog’s Forgotten Television category here’s a look at Science Fiction Theatre, which was a syndicated series that lasted from 1955-1957. The program did 39 episodes in each of its two seasons, however, so there are 78 episodes in its history. Season One was in color, Season Two was in black & white.
Truman Bradley hosted Science Fiction Theatre and would open each program with a scientific presentation that often cited incorrect science or was outrightly faked to get the results the showrunners desired.
Unlike The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, this half-hour show didn’t produce as many classic episodes which became cultural reference points to this very day. That can be a positive factor if you’re in the mood for sci fi tales that don’t require as much concentration as those other two programs. Continue reading
GHOSTWATCH (1992) – This was a British made for t.v. movie that aired on Halloween Night in 1992. Ghostwatch is a nice – albeit boring – little novelty item for the way it anticipated the paranormal “reality” (LMAO) shows of today.
The telefilm also can’t help but put viewers in mind of the Paranormal Activity series and countless other Found Footage horror movies. Ghostwatch involves much older technology of course but for once, since the make-believe t.v. crew is filming their investigation of a haunted house, it MAKES SENSE for people to be filming everything.
The casting for this production was well-done in that it contains virtually NO recognizable faces. Usually when watching BBC items from back then viewers can’t help but play Spot the Doctor Who/ Sherlock Holmes/ British Murder Mysteries Actor. Continue reading