Saturday, June 20, 2015

Television Review: LOVE THAT BOB: "Eleven Angry Women" (1957)



LOVE THAT BOB: "Eleven Angry Women" (Original Air Date: 1/10/1957) Starring Bob Cummings as Bob Collins, Ann B. Davis as Schultzy,  Richard Deacon as The D.A., Jackie Loughery as Harriet Burke, Robert Carson as The Judge, Tony Henning as The Newsboy, Charles Wagenheim as the Court Clerk, William Kendis as the Press Photographer, Barbara Drew, Maude Prickett and Nora Marlowe as jurors. Written by Paul Henning, Shirley Gordon and Phil Shuken.  Directed by Norman Tokar.


Series overview of LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW previously published here for the one hundredth anniversary of the star's birth in 2008 at this link. 


After getting his jury summons, Bob Collins is set to use a flareup of "old war injuries" to get out of his $3 per day civic duty.  However, a glance at the newspaper causes him to have a change of heart, since he'll be in the pool for the high-profile Beach Bandit Case.


With a stated altruistic motive to see that "this innocent girl" gets a fair trial, Bob nevertheless faces a daunting challenge in being selected, since the D.A. wants twelve females on the jury.  But somehow, our ace shutterbug (who says he mostly photographs "interesting structures") manages to convince the prosecutor that he will be impartial during the screening process.  Bob ends up being the lone male juror and (initially) the sole holdout for acquittal against seemingly airtight and damning evidence.


Bob Cummings won an Emmy as Juror # 8 in the 1954 Studio One production of TWELVE ANGRY MEN, so spoofing the Reginald Rose classic on his own series was a natural fit.  The result is an enjoyable, if unexceptional outing, though Collins' selfish shenanigans seem slightly shadier than usual.  Can't mince words--Bob's desired outcome is to free a kleptomaniac so he can sleep with her.  The now venerable source material has seen dozens of sitcom variations in the half-century since, but the angle presented in Eleven Angry Women remains one of the most inspired of the takeoffs in concept.

The photographer poses for a change
Unfortunately, execution of said concept is leaves something to be desired.  The main shortcoming of Eleven Angry Women has to do with the lack of any solid opposing force, with Deacon's hapless D.A. and Carson's passive judge completely steamrollered by Bob's gamesmanship.  In particular, the D.A. is not only outmaneuvered in court by Collins, but also by the Bandit, who is representing herself.  Some DA--Hamilton Burger probably has a higher winning percentage.



With the authority figures dispatched, Bob's fellow jurors are putty in his hands--all eleven of them, especially after the milquetoast turns back into the playboy once the trial is underway.  Our silver tongued orator doesn't have a deliberation room adversary close to the level of the source material's infamous Juror # 3.  Collins' argument on the Bandit's behalf is mostly an emotional appeal for her canine companion rather than exposure of holes in the evidence (outside of wondering where she could hide the 'take').  With Bob in her corner, the defendant isn't required to demonstrate the ingenuity implied by her thefts in court.  Collins doesn't even face his usual hurdles from office or home: default blocker Schultzy is relegated to the peanut gallery, and sister Margaret (Rosemary DeCamp) and nephew Chuck (Dwayne Hickman) are both M.I.A. this segment. 


To answer the question, I'd say "both"
Former Miss USA (and future Mrs. Jack Webb) Jackie Loughery gets to spend a considerable amount of screen time in her bathing suit, not an easy thing to arrange when most of the episode takes place in the courtroom.  She is appealing, but not exactly the femme fatale the role calls for.  Loughery made numerous TV and film appearances throughout the decade and returned to the series in season four's Colonel Goldbrick.  Bob's most effective foil is the civic-minded newsboy played by Tony Henning, the producer's son.  This would be the younger Henning's only screen credit.

A partner in crime
Director Norman Tokar helmed a handful of third season episodes in between the transition of lead directing duties from Rod Amateau to Cummings.  Tokar (WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS) does a respectable job, but his specialty was more leisurely paced family humor--he directed 93 segments of LEAVE IT TO BEAVER and several Disney features. Like all LOVE THAT BOB outings, Eleven Angry Women has its comedic highlights: Collins being dressed down by the civic-minded paper boy; the abrupt end of Bob's "nerd" act in the courtroom, Harriet's canine accomplice and, of course, Harriet demonstrating the lack of hiding places for the loot. 

Looks like Bob agrees with that last highlight....


WHO WAS BLOCKING?

As noted above, no one, at least effectively.

Nothing in my way, hmm?  Not even Joe Friday?

DID BOB SCORE?

He certainly had it all set up, but after the trial, he appeared to have changed his mind before anything happened.  Puzzling, especially the reason.  I mean, what did you expect from a thief, Bob?


Some funny moments as always, and Cummings is having a great time spoofing his most famous dramatic TV role, but the lack of a solid opposing force keeps Eleven Angry Women from really scoring.  It's just way too easy for our Playboy this time.  Some good laughs as always, but in the end, a mediocre outing that coasts as far as it does on the star's shtick and Loughery's wares.   (**1/2 out of four)


Eleven Angry Women is included as an extra on The Official Collection DVD release of Cummings' 1964 series, MY LIVING DOLL.

Monday, June 15, 2015

MAVERICK Mondays: "Duel at Sundown" (1959)





MAVERICK Mondays: Number 16







MAVERICK: "Duel at Sundown" (1959 Warner Brothers/ABC-TV) Starring James Garner as Bret Maverick, Jack Kelly as Bart Maverick, Edgar Buchanan as Jed Christianson, Abby Dalton as Carrie Christianson, Clint Eastwood as Red Hardigan, Dan Sheridan as Doctor Baxter, Myrna Fahey as Susie, James Griffith as John Wesley Hardin.  Directed by Arthur Lubin.  Teleplay by Richard Collins; Story by Howard Browne.


On route to a high stakes poker game in Leadville, Bret Maverick detours to Sundown to visit his old friend Jed Christianson.  A wealthy rancher and widower who is recovering from a leg injury, Jed has a bigger concern than his temporary disability.  Jed's daughter Carrie is dating gunslinger Hardigan, a man the elder Christianson disapproves of.  Maverick only plans to be in town a few days, but Jed wants Bret to extend his stay--and in the process, show Carrie "what a real man is like".


To sweeten the pot for Bret, Jed first bankrolls Maverick in the local game, then resorts to a bet on a (rigged) game of Maverick Solitaire to keep his friend around a bit longer.  After Hardigan senses competition from the stranger in town, he tries bullying Bret, eventually starting a fistfight that the traveling poker player wins decisively.  Both end up with bandaged hands, but Red challenges the Bret to a decisive gunfight once that shootin' hand is healed.


One of the series' most legendary episodes, Duel at Sundown has a number of similarities to the earlier Holiday at Hollow Rock (also written by Browne). In both, Bret visits a wealthy, trusted older friend and finds himself in the middle of a romantic triangle involving his friend's daughter and an unworthy suitor who is only after her for her father's money.  But said boyfriend is the sheriff and has father's full courtin' approval in the former segment, while Sundown's Jed Christianson wants to break up his daughter's relationship with Red, a "bully and a coward".


Ironically, Maverick and Hardigan are both ne'er-do-wells on the surface: Bret even notes that financially they're "starting out even" when Carrie (who's on to her father's scheme) gives her suspected (and incorrect) reason why her intended lacks parental approval.  Maverick talks cowardly, but (reluctantly) steps up when the chips are down; Hardigan does exactly the reverse.  Red's no dummy, but poker player Bret's skill at reading people (Hardigan tells us he "never plays cards") is his big edge.  Bret knows he'll be shot or sucker punched when Red menaces him at the table a second time, so he throws the first punch while still seated at the table and uses the element of surprise to disarm Hardigan while his adversary is still stunned. 


Mr. Christianson is a bit of a rascal, but he's also a straight shooter, admitting that he wouldn't be disappointed to have Maverick for a son-in-law.  It's easy to see why the rancher and Bret get along so well--unlike the freeloading, truly greedy (and unfaithful) Hardigan, Maverick makes his own way.  Though Bret sheepishly admits that it sometimes "frightens him" what he'll do for money, it's most notable what he won't do: marry for it.  Contrary to his implication to Carrie that "breathing" is the only thing he puts ahead of money, it's pretty clear that freedom outranks it as well--and is probably ahead of breathing itself, truth be told.   Duel at Sundown has as many character-defining lines as any MAVERICK teleplay--it's a shame that it was Collins' only contribution to the series.

Dan Sheridan and Edgar Buchanan
Doctor Baxter is an intriguing character for Dan Sheridan, making his fourth and final MAVERICK his best.  As Sundown's (poker-playing) physician and undertaker, Baxter has the confidence of Jed, Bret and Red.  The Doctor's true feelings are clear from his priceless background reactions during the fistfight, and it's no surprise to learn that he is in on Maverick's ruse (which involves yet another timely assist from Bart).  The bald Irish character actor passed away in 1963; he was only 47.  Edgar Buchanan made five MAVERICK appearances in all, but this was his only appearance as Christianson.  Just as well, since it couldn't have been topped.  Linda Lawson appears as Red's secret squeeze, and Myrna Fahey (A Flock of Trouble) plays Carrie's BFF.

Linda Lawson
The star attraction, of course, is young Clint Eastwood, mere months away from TV stardom in his own right.  He lives up to Jed's assessment, using Maverick's name like an ice pick ("Maver-ACK") to alternately goad and intimidate the newcomer.  That is, as long as Red is sure he can win the shootout.  (No doubt he followed this same pattern with the "two men he's killed" previously.) When a sudden turn of events leads Hardigan to question the inevitability of said win, he quietly leaves--Maverick's second perfect read on his adversary.   Also Red's second misjudgement of his.  Pappy's wisdom on the game's virtues looks wiser with each episode.  Maybe Mister Hardi-GAN should consider learning to play after all.


Bret's friends in Sundown have almost as happy an ending as his friends in Hollow Rock (Carrie doesn't have her Mr. Right yet), but our traveling poker player is far from altruistic in either circumstance; his closing remark to Jed implies that the subterfuge was motivated at least in part by that final $1,000 sweetener.  And unlike Sunny Acres, the Mavericks aren't exactly leaving Sundown a better place than they found it.  The unintended consequence of their titular performance?  It brings a very angry John Wesley Hardin to Sundown in their wake.


HOW'D THEY DO AT POKER?

Bret wins $180 at the game in town, splitting it 50/50 with backer Jed, and we see him win at least $20 more just prior to his fistfight with Hardigan.  Bart doesn't have time to grab a seat, settling for splitting Bret's $1,000 bankroll boost from his bet with Jed.


WISDOM FROM PAPPY?

A long-winded but series-defining pearl.  "When I was six years old, my Pappy took my brother and me into a saloon.  They were playin' Red Dog, Chuck-a-Luck, and Wheel of Chance.  Son, he said, this is what's called gambling.  Stay away from it.  Games like this, you don't stand a chance.  As long as you live, stick to poker."



THE BOTTOM LINE:

Thanks to a very strong supporting cast highlighted by the participation of a young Clint Eastwood, Duel at Sundown ranks with Gun-Shy and Shady Deal at Sunny Acres among the best known and loved MAVERICK installments.  Deservedly so, though I'd place it slightly behind those almost flawless creations--all things equal, I'd say it's a tossup whether I'd choose Duel ahead of the aforementioned (and highly underrated) Holiday at Hollow Rock.  Duel at Sundown still comes highly recommended: chock full of witty dialogue and boasting perhaps the series' greatest "tag" ever.   An extra half star for the only Eastwood/Garner collaboration prior to the 2000 feature SPACE COWBOYS.   (**** out of four)


MAVERICK currently airs Monday through Friday at 1 PM Central/2 PM Eastern without commercial interruption on Encore Westerns, and every Sunday night at 10 PM Central/11 PM Eastern on COZI TV.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Television Review: HONDO: "Hondo and the War Cry" (1967)

 




"Your lives are meaningless compared to Hondo!"-- II






HONDO: "Hondo and the War Cry"  (1967 ABC-TV/MGM/Batjac Productions) Episode 2; Original Air Date: September 15, 1967.  Starring Ralph Taeger as Hondo Lane, Noah Beery Jr. as Buffalo Baker, Kathie Browne as Angie Dow, Gary Clarke as Captain Richards, Michael Pate as Chief Vittoro, Buddy Foster as Johnny Dow. Guest starring Jim Davis as Krantz, Michael Rennie as Tribolet, Victor Lundin as Silva, Robert Taylor as Gallagher, Randy Boone as Sean.  Teleplay by Andrew J. Fenady.  Directed by Lee H. Katzin.

Series Overview for HONDO: TV's Unlikeliest Cult Hit at this link 


After securing an agreement from his former father-in-law (and current Apache Chief) Vittoro to meet and talk treaty with the army, Hondo Lane discovers a couple being massacred by renegades on his way back from the scouting assignment.  Hondo and Buffalo capture and interrogate the lone surviving attacker and learn that his leader is Hondo's old rival Silva, who regards the officially recognized Chief with disdain.


Silva plans to attack Gallagher's mine next, which would not only scuttle peace plans, but could start a full scale war.  Captain Richards is unconvinced of Vittoro's innocence and skeptical that the Chief will keep his word despite Hondo's assurances.  Meanwhile, newly widowed Angie Dow deals with the loss of her husband and having to tell her son what has happened to his father.


Hondo and the War Cry picks up shortly after Hondo and the Eagle Claw left off (the two episodes were re-edited and released as the feature film HONDO AND THE APACHES overseas).   With the titular hero's past and motives fully explained in Hondo and the Eagle Claw, it's the newly appointed Captain's turn in this continuation.  Richards bluntly admits favoring "extermination over conciliation".  The reason for his bitterness is similar to Hondo's: the Captain's older brother, Major Addison Richards, was "butchered" by Indians.


With Lane challenging the Captain and offering the Apache point of view ("Who started this problem?  Whose real estate is this?"), Fenady's intriguing setup is fully in place.  Three men are starting new assignments--Richards (Fort C.O.), Lane (freshly hired scout) and Vittoro (Chief).  Each man is emotionally damaged by losing someone very close (brother, wife and only daughter respectively) to the other side during the Apache Wars, yet tasked with leaving the past behind and working together to chart a peaceful future.

Michael Rennie's second (and final) appearance as Tribolet
Ironically, for all the uneasy Army/Apache alliances, it is the head renegade's lack of faith in his former Chief that threatens to topple all the dominoes.  Silva survived his blood rite with Hondo in the opener, but remains a thorn in the side of both Richards and Vittoro by leading the insurgency against both.  Captain Richards pragmatically notes that when all is said and done, Vittoro is just "one man from one tribe".


After impressively restaging the blood rite in Hondo and the Eagle Claw, Fenady provides a variation on another memorable sequence from the 1953 film: the "walk around him" scene.  In the original, it's Ed Lowe (Leo Gordon) who calls Sam a 'cur' for blocking a doorway, but wary of incurring his wrath (or Hondo's), eventually takes the advice. Ed Dow is already pushing up daisies, so in Hondo and the War Cry we have two mouthy cattlemen insulting Sam and Hondo ("hey, Buckskin!") in the cantina and threatening to shoot the canine unless he moves. 


Wayne's Hondo resolved the standoff peacefully with quiet intimidation; Taeger's Lane takes action.  His attempt to call Sam over is pretty half-hearted, but this isn't really another instance of Emberato living up to his Apache name ("bad temper")--these cowpokes all but beg for what's coming to them.  Gratuitous or not, the extra action isn't unwelcome in this more introspective second segment.  The fistfight also gives Beery a chance to steal his fellow scout's beer (if not the scene itself).


A later vignette epitomizes the thanklessness of Hondo's new task. On his way back from a delivery of supplies, the scout catches Krantz and a friend bullying a twelve year old Apache boy on a rite of passage.  Hondo lets them off with a warning shot--not only taking it easy on them himself, but also (unbeknownst to the bullies) saving them from Vittoro--and several warriors with him trailing the youngster from a distance.  Lane's repayment for this courtesy?  The Tribolet employees complain to Richards about Hondo's actions.  Oh well, it is better than the thanks Lane received from Ed Dow for saving the Mrs.


Speaking of Angie Dow, she too knows "there's good and bad on both sides."  Surprisingly, Angie admits that she didn't love her late husband, marrying him before she really knew him.  Angie is intrigued by the tight-lipped scout, and little Johnny Dow bonds with Hondo and Sam immediately.  Still, the widow has to at least consider the attractive offer for her store from freighting magnate Tribolet.  Ever-laconic Lane doesn't interfere: "I never tell anybody what to do."  As will be seen in later segments (i.e. Hondo and the Gladiators), sometimes Hondo is non-committal to a fault.



WHO'S THE REAL HERO HERE?

The show may bear Lane's first name, but Vittoro is the right place at the right time to save his son in law for the second episode in a row.  In addition, Johnny Dow seems positively awed to meet the Chief.



HOW MANY CANS OF WHOOPASS?

In the teaser, Hondo silences two of the renegades who attacked a wagon unassisted--as he puts it, they "won't be in for breakfast".  That was with his gun, though.  With his fists, Emberato notches four kayos in the cantina.  First, the aforementioned cattle punchers, then the subtly villainous Tribolet and henchman Krantz go down for the count from the same left cross.   Three tables and a chair bite the dust as well.  (Ever think Hondo would get barred from the place if he wasn't buying most of Buffalo's drinks?)


IT'S A DOG'S LIFE:

Sam's aforementioned refusal to move from the doorway is his showcase scene, but he gets another pivotal moment when he blocks a tomahawk wielding renegade from rejoining the battle.  Great job--but I doubt that'll get you any table scraps, Sam!

Well, how about if I do some yoga?

THE BOTTOM LINE:

More leisurely paced than the opener, with its emphasis on development of supporting characters and tying up a few loose ends, but Hondo and the War Cry is no less effective.  In the Fenady canon, the series is a logical progression from THE REBEL and BRANDED, as both shows followed a drifting veteran after the Civil War.   HONDO examines what happens once the loner finally stops wandering.  Nicely developed outing by the producer, establishing a wide range of possibilities for Lane's subsequent adventures.  (*** out of four)


HONDO: THE COMPLETE SERIES is streaming at Warner Archive Instant.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Summer of MeTV: F TROOP Meets "The Singing Mountie"--and The Burglar of Banff-f-f






F TROOP Fridays Tuesday???: Number 10











Welcome to The Horn Section's contribution to the Third Annual "Summer of MeTV Classic TV Blogathon", hosted by our friends at the Classic TV Blog Association!  Go here to view all of the posts in this week's blogathon, which takes place May 25-28.  We're honoring those television shows airing this summer on the MeTV schedule, which is full of Memorable Entertainment that stands the test of time.  Click here to learn more about MeTV, and here to find a MeTV network affiliate in your area.

For my third MeTV blogathon, it's finally time for me to write about my all-time favorite TV series, F Troop.  Not that I haven't been writing about it:  I reviewed the first season DVD release with a two part post in 2006, covered season two when it was released in 2007, and in 2013 researched the show's demise, one of the most undeserved cancellations in TV history.  Then, when MeTV began airing it in September 2013, I started the Horn Section's ongoing episode guide, F Troop Fridays

For this special Tuesday blogathon edition, we move to the second season premiere, the show's very first episode in color:


F TROOP: "The Singing Mountie" (Season Two, Episode 35; Original Air Date 9/8/66) Starring Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch, Ken Berry, Melody Patterson, Frank de Kova, Don Diamond, James Hampton, Bob Steele, Joe Brooks, Ben Frommer.  Guest Stars Paul Lynde and Don Kent.  Written by Arthur Julian.  Directed by David Alexander.


The sophomore season of F TROOP begins with Sgt. O'Rourke (Tucker) are Cpl. Agarn (Storch) walking out of their most profitable venture and counting the monthly take.  The only saloon for 109 hot and thirsty miles continues to flourish: "a real gold mine".  Agarn's greedy smile quickly turns into concern when a knife lands between them.


People do get mad when you're watering down the whiskey, gentlemen!  Oh, wait, there's a note attached:  Written in English, but best read in a French accent.


Corporal Agarn has the visiting relative: Pierre Agarniere, a.k.a. "Lucky" Pierre (also Storch).  Yep, we have two Larry Storches for the price of one.


Pierre turns out to be a fur trapper who has been cross-breeding Lynx with Marmosets to create a "new fur" he says he has named mink.  Innovative, but not exactly living up to his nickname, because a "notorious fur thief" is after him and his rare and valuable invention.   Luckily, the Sarge has just the place for Pierre to lay low--the Hekawi camp (where else?).


As Agarn and O'Rourke walk back to the fort, the shrewd Sergeant has that gleam in his eye.  Yep, O'Rourke Enterprises is about to diversify by going into the fur business.  Meanwhile, inside Fort Courage, Dobbs (Hampton) is trying out a new bugle, but with the same lips, and the same old result.


Dobbs' musicianship may still leave much to be desired, but robust singing soon fills the air, with a uniformed Sergeant of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Lynde) making a grand entrance, singing "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp" while the dogs pull his sled (outfitted with retractable wheels) into Fort Courage.  (While there was a famous Civil War song of the same title, these lyrics belong to the Victor Herbert song--still about forty years away from being written.)


In case you were wondering, it takes Lynde all of five seconds to get this out of the way: "We always get our man!"  It's pursuit of a notorious fur thief that has brought the Mountie to Fort Courage.  "They call him Lucky Pierre!"


Another crooked Agarn relative to go with El Diablo?  Ever the pragmatic, profits-before-people type, O'Rourke ponders whether the reward for Pierre might exceed the potential earnings from the minks (and finks, and loxes).  The Corporal has limits to how far he'll go for money (you're slipping, Randolph!) and Sarge agrees not to turn him in without at least getting Lucky Pierre's side of the story.


The call to assembly interrupts them, and guest Ramsden gets to repeat that they always get their man.  The Mountie then zeroes in on Agarn, giving the Corporal careful study as Parmenter (Berry) gives another awkward address to his men to explain the presence of O'Rourke's Canadian cop counterpart.  Ramsden studies slowly, meticulously.....

... then pounces.  "I have found my man!"



"He has cleverly shaved off his mustache and beard!"  Cunning!  The lack of an accent might be explained by the loss of it--Sgt. Ramsden has been tracking Pierre for three years.  Corporal Agarn passes the first couple of tongue twisting tests, but rapid-fire interrogation eventually reveals that he's furloughed in Canada before "to visit my cousin Pierre".  This is enough for Ramsden to request the guard house, but given the lack of any criminal activity on Agarn's part (well, OK, any that the Captain knows of), a confinement to quarters will have to suffice.


Just as pragmatic as their NCO's, Dobbs and Duffy (Steele) have a sotto inquiry regarding the availability of fur coats.  Agarn's reaction is exactly what you'd expect.


With Agarn restricted to the fort, it's up to O'Rourke to go up to the Hekawi camp solo and get Pierre's explanation.  Meanwhile, Sgt. Ramsden, like every other officer who visits Fort Courage (regardless of country), tries to woo Wrangler Jane (Patterson) shortly after being introduced.


With the advantage of vocal talents, Ramsden breaks into an impromptu version of "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair"--with appropriate adjustments to "Wrangler" and "Yellow" to taylor the 1854 Foster classic to his audience.  It works--she agrees to join him on his investigation, which thrills Parmenter to no end.


Meanwhile, the object of all the fuss is treating the Hekawi to gourmet French cooking, complete with wine, flames and tender meat.  Crazy Cat (Diamond), Wild Eagle (deKova) and the ever-silent Papa Bear (Frommer) look on.


"Ooh la la, Pierre, you've done it again!"  While the Lucky one is pleased with the results, the Hekawi leaders seem a bit skeptical.


Chief Wild Eagle ends up tasting first and seems to enjoy the French cuisine, since he keeps right on tasting.  Sergeant O'Rourke's arrival doesn't hinder the Chief's meal.

Lucky Pierre pleads innocence.  Perhaps this is one Agarn relative who is as honest as the day is long.  (The days are shorter in Mexico, per the Corporal.)  Pierre does more than just deny involvement, though.  He offers insight into who the real thief is: The Burglar of Banff.


While O'Rourke is initially unmoved by Pierre's persuasion, the enterprising Sergeant is moved by something near and dear to his heart: the potential profits from all those mink coats already being manufactured.  A soldier second, but the President of O'Rourke Enterprises first, the Sarge elects to hear more testimony "about this Burglar of Banff". (Phhft!  Phhft!)


An aside: gotta love the way Julian baited the ABC censors throughout this season opener.  First, Agarn's cousin is nicknamed Lucky Pierre.  Then, he uses the old French profanity Sacrebleu.  Finally, Pierre calls the assistant chief Crazy Pussy.  All this and we haven't started Act Two yet!

I swear that's not how I got the nickname!

Back at the fort later, O'Rourke fills his Vice President in this recent development, and Agarn backs his "cosin".  "He may be a crook, but he's not a liar!"  O'Rourke is convinced, but Parmenter will be a tougher nut to crack, what with Ramsden providing a one-sided view via a criminology lecture in the Captain's office.

I said I'm convinced!!!
If Wilton was perturbed by this tenor singing to his girlfriend, he's at least as annoyed by Ramsden's air of superiority professionally: "On a good day, I can even tell the color of his eyes" when sifting the ashes of a campsite.  Unfortunately, he has yet to find Pierre's despite the "broken twig" method leading his sled to Fort Courage.


Sergeant O'Rourke arrives, and finds himself combed for clues, as Ramsden proceeds to display his skills to his cavalry counterpart.  The Mountie observes clay dust on O’Rourke’s boots (indicating he’s been off the post), “shiny pants” (he’s been on horseback for ‘some distance’) and gravy stains on his uniform (indicating pork n’ beans for lunch--what relevance that has, I have no idea).


Finally, Ramsden finds the hair “of a fur-bearing animal” on O’Rourke’s person--specifically, the rare and valuable mink, known to be in Lucky Pierre’s possession.  Fortunately for our Sarge, the Mountie draws the wrong conclusion from the evidence: that Agarn has made contact with his cousin.  Swearing them to secrecy, Ramsden exits with the “new evidence”.

Whew!  Well, not quite--any sigh of relief is premature.  Parmenter is inspired to do a little criminal investigation of his own.  He decides that a fur thief is likely to steal from the area’s tribe--the Hekawis.


NAGGING QUESTION: Why didn't the Captain suggest this to Sergeant Ramsden earlier?  Then again, this one isn’t quite so nagging when you think about it.  With his smugness and his constant singing to the Captain’s girlfriend, the Mountie clearly isn’t endearing himself to Parmenter.  In both regards, Ramsden is a bit reminiscent of The Phantom Major.  What is it with these foreign officers, anyway?

Sergeant O’Rourke tries to divert Wilton from this "wild goose chase", but to no avail.  The C.O. is off to the Hekawi camp, with O’Rourke coming along to run interference.  Once they arrive, we see that the initially skeptical Wild Eagle is now fully on board with French cooking, trying a delicious Bouillabaisse.


Even Parmenter recognizes this as a French dish, but the Sarge informs him that it was actually “taken by the French from the Indians”.  It actually means “soup of bark of tree”, according to O’Rourke.

“Ooh la la!  That’s good!”  Quick thinking O’Rourke reveals this is actually an old Indian saying, which means “very very hot”.  If he’s keeping the Captain at bay so far, the Sarge is going to have a hard time explaining this:


“I suppose that fur coat is squirrel!”  Parmenter follows the garlic, which takes him directly to Lucky Pierre’s tepee.  Congrats, Captain!  You’re one up on Ramsden and his "broken twig method"!


O’Rourke finally fesses up: he knew all along where Pierre was at the camp, but Agarniere has convinced him that he is innocent.  Lucky Pierre claims friendship with the Singing Mountie, swearing that Ramsden’s favorite song is Frere Jacques (one he hasn’t sung yet) and that he is a baritone, not a tenor.  The fur trader does so with such convinction that even Parmenter now wonders if they have the right man.  Only one way to find out--let Lucky Pierre confront his accuser.


Who, by the way, is still singing to Wrangler Jane, who seems to be the only person at Fort Courage who actually likes him.  The Mountie is so overjoyed to see that the troopers have captured Pierre that he actually stops singing.  That joy, however, is short lived.  O’Rourke and Parmenter are asking Sergeant Ramsden to sing Frere Jacques.  O'Rourke helpfully gives the vocalist his key.


Pierre stops him after two lines and accuses his accuser of in fact being the Burglar of Banff.  Seeing that the troopers no longer believe him, "Ramsden" drops the ruse, pulling his gun and declaring he won't be taken alive.  He mushes the huskies.....


...and finds them unhitched from the sled.  For a man capable of such attention to detail, this fake mountie sure overlooks some important things, huh?

In the coda, O'Rourke instructs Dobbs and Duffy (Vanderbilt is nowhere to be found this episode) to throw "this canary" in his cage.  Gotta give credit where it's due: for all their ineptitude,the troopers are always pretty competent at getting suspects into the guardhouse.  As soon as the Burglar is taken away, another round of singing starts, though this one is distinctively deeper.  It's Ramsden (as he's credited, The Real One), arriving with a sled and set of huskies looking identical to the fake Ramsden's.


Right on cue, he begins crooning to Wrangler with the light yeller hair.  But, she's a bit underwhelmed this time.  Diminishing returns?  Does Wrangler prefer a tenor to a baritone?  No time to explain.  Wilton is just as unenthused with the Sergeant's deep, rich tones, but at least Pierre is still an appreciative audience.  What is it about Agarns and tears?


HOW'S BUSINESS AT O'ROURKE ENTERPRISES?

Business is booming at the saloon, though the jury is still out on the fur business venture at episode's end.

THIS EPISODE’S DRINKING GAME:

The Burglar of Banff is mentioned eleven times: Pierre and O’Rourke tie for the lead with four times apiece. Parmenter and Wild Eagle both say his name once, and the Burglar mentions himself in third person he reveals himself.

WISE OLD HEKAWI SAYING?

No wisdom from Wild Eagle this time, unless O’Rourke is correct about the origins of “Ooh La La”.


NUMBER OF TIMES O’ROURKE COULD HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH TREASON:

For once, zero. Since Pierre turns out to be innocent, O'Rourke doesn't even break Canadian law.

PC, OR NOT PC?

Not much to offend here, save for Pierre's use of real fur.  That is, unless you're from the Corporal's home state, since Parmenter gets this shot in: "Agarn speaks English as well as anyone from New Jersey!"


Paul Lynde spoofing Nelson Eddy (a baritone, btw).  Bizarre idea?  Not for F Troop!  That Julian and Alexander (Lt. O'Rourke, Front and Center) provide so many inspired gags while staying true to the show's loopy universe makes this one terrific opener.  As usual, Storch takes a dual role and runs with it.  While the disappearance of Corporal Agarn at the halfway mark is a mild letdown, The Singing Mountie is sublime silliness throughout and one of the show's most quotable installments.  (**** out of four)

F TROOP currently airs on Me-TV for a full hour each Saturday morning at 5 AM ET/4 AM CT and on Sunday mornings at 6 AM ET/5 AM CT.