Monday, July 27, 2015

MAVERICK Mondays: "Rope of Cards" (1958)





MAVERICK Mondays: Number 17







MAVERICK: "Rope of Cards" (1958 ABC-TV/Warner Brothers) Starring James Garner as Bret Maverick, Joan Marshall as Lucy Sutter, Tol Avery as John Sloan, William Reynolds as Billy Gregg, Will Wright as Jabe Hallack, Hugh Sanders as Blaine, Frank Cady as Hamlin, Don Beddoe as Price, Emile Meyer as Pike, George O'Hanlon as Caldwell, Harvey Cheshire as the Judge, Ken Christy as the Sheriff.  Written by R. Wright Campbell and Robert Ormond Case.  Directed by Richard L. Bare.


Bill Gregg is arrested for killing John Sloan, having been caught running out of Sloan's house with the dead man's cattle profits found on his person.  Bret Maverick's poker game is interrupted by the Sheriff, since Gregg has identified Bret as one man who can back up his seemingly impossible alibi.  Unfortunately, Bret can't, and Gregg is put on trial for Sloan's murder with Bret and the rest of the town's poker players among those selected for the jury.


With a politically motivated prosecutor presenting the evidence, it's clear that Gregg faces long odds.  In addition to the facts above: Sloan's fence had been cut, Gregg had recently purchased wire cutters, and a half-dozen witnesses in the saloon saw a confrontation between the two shortly before Sloan's shooting.  The tally is 11 to 1 in favor of a guilty verdict on the jury's initial vote, with Maverick being the lone holdout.  Why?  Bret knows things aren't always what they seem.


Though it is another of TV's seemingly endless variations on the Rose classic, it's way too simplistic to say that Rope of Cards is 12 ANGRY MEN, MAVERICK style.  We get a puzzling mystery that is solved in flashback by Gregg's testimony, yet seems so far-fetched that (as Bret surmises) Billy himself doesn't believe it.  Only Bret Maverick does, with the series once again making its point that the deductive reasoning required for successful poker play translates well to life's other areas.


Rope of Cards also features a marvelous battle of wits between ambitious Blaine and defense attorney Hallack.  Sending a "murderous thief" to the gallows will only enhance Blaine's planned run for Governor under the banner of law and order.  Hallack, who finds his colleague ethically lacking, takes the case to stop him from using Gregg as a stepping stone.   The ensuing courtroom battle is even better than the one that follows in the jury room between Bret and Pike; in fact, for my money it's as good as any Perry Mason/Hamilton Burger confrontation.


The role of Hallack gives flinty Wright (I'd imagine he and Charles Lane were up for a lot of the same parts) a chance to play a good guy for a change, and the old pro clearly appears to relish the opportunity.  Rope of Cards was the first of his six MAVERICK appearances for Wright, who had his penultimate TV role in the final season's The Troubled Heir (he died of cancer in June 1962).


Of course, the final third is dedicated to jury room deliberations, with Bret as the lone holdout (a.k.a. "Juror 8") and Pike as the leading antagonist, ostensibly "Juror 3".  Pike is the toughest nut to crack, and--as we heard while the card game was still going--has definitely pre-judged Gregg's guilt.  But Pike isn't the sadistic bigot that Juror 3 was revealed to be in Rose's original, and in fact is given plenty of reason to dig in his heels--by Bret.


Before discussing a single shred of testimony, Maverick bets Pike $500 that Gregg will be acquitted, putting the bet's outcome entirely in Pike's hands--Pike must vote "not guilty" for Bret to win his money.  While it is typical MAVERICK subversion to feature such a perverse bet (a man's life literally hangs on the outcome!), in making it, Bret ensures that Pike will remain entrenched in his position before he gives evidence even the slightest chance of changing the man's mind.  A minor flaw, true.  Also more than made up for by Bret's ensuing presentation of logical thinking.  He's a worthy rival to Fonda's dramatic Juror, and rather than giving us the high minded homilies that other westerns would, Maverick climaxes his presentation with a card trick.


Which, by the way, is what everyone remembers about Rope of Cards: the introduction of Maverick Solitaire.  Watch closely: director Baer presents the entire sequence in one continuous shot, starting with the shuffle and ending with the highly unlikely (or is it?) five pat hands.  Pike, being a player Bret accurately pegs as "only betting on sure things", falls hook, line and sinker for the presentation, but this second "safe bet" turns out to be anything but.  Rather than ending up a shattered man like his 12 ANGRY MEN counterpart, Pike proves in the conclusion to be a "pretty good man" as Bret suspects in addition to a pretty good player.  In modern poker parlance, though, Pike is "book smart" but not "street smart", though, and a professional player had better be both--like Bret.  Maverick bluffs Pike off of a hand holding King high during the poker game, then later bluffs him into a call by making Pike think he has a near-certain winner in the denouement (when in fact, Pike is almost drawing dead)--playing the player both times.  And using his poker skills to set an innocent man (another sharp read by Bret, the pro) free.
  

HOW'D BRET DO AT POKER?

Bret was losing to Mr. Sloan, but once Sloan's untimely demise removed him from the game, Bret seemed to be doing better--though he still appeared to be stuck when the Sheriff called him away at Gregg's request.  We did see Bret pull off a nice bluff with a busted open ended straight draw on the game's final hand.  After Bret took down the respectable pot, the game was interrupted for good to choose a jury pool.  Bret did make at least $1,000 back in side bets with the hapless Pike, meaning that Maverick Solitaire was the more profitable game (by far) this time.

AWARD WORTHY:

Future LAWMAN director Robert Sparr was deservedly nominated for an Emmy for his editing of Rope of Cards.  Curiously, while he also directed episodes of 77 SUNSET STRIP, HAWAIIAN EYE, CHEYENNE and BRONCO among other Warner Brothers series, he never helmed a MAVERICK, though he also received an Emmy nomination for his work on The Quick and The Dead.

WISDOM FROM PAPPY?

None, which is mildly disappointing since you'd think Pappy would have something to say about our justice system.  Just one of several instances to expect the unexpected in this installment.


THE BOTTOM LINE:

While I doubt that Roy Huggins was literally correct in claiming that "every store in America" was sold out of playing cards within days of its initial airing, there's no denying that Rope of Cards was very effective in selling the country on tuning in to ABC's freshman series at 7:30 P.M. on Sunday nights.  Everyone remembers the introduction of Maverick Solitaire, but Rope of Cards is also a solid mystery with outstanding courtroom theater.  Over a half century later, MAVERICK remains the most pro-poker series ever to hit prime time, portraying the skills needed to succeed at the game in a consistently positive light.  If this installment isn't quite Exhibit A in that regard, it isn't too far down the alphabet.  (***1/2 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 morning at 10 AM Central/11 AM Eastern on COZI TV.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Television Review: HONDO: "Hondo and the Singing Wire" (1967)





Your lives are meaningless compared to HONDO!







HONDO: "Hondo and the Singing Wire"  (1967 ABC-TV/MGM/Batjac Productions) Episode 3; Original Air Date: September 22, 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, William Bryant as Colonel Crook.  Guest Stars Donald Woods as Dr. Paul Stanton, Perry Lopez as Delgado, Pat Conway as Redell, Donald 'Red' Barry as Sergeant Daniels, Iron Eyes Cody as Chief.  Written by George Schenck.  Directed by William Witney. 


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


Southwestern Telegraph Company is expanding through Apache territory, making good progress at up to five miles of wire per day.  Vittoro gives the project his tentative blessing, but renegades led by Delgado manage to make Redell's first demonstration to the Chiefs a very public failure, massacring Southwestern's repair crew and wounding Hondo.  Moving in for the kill, Delgado sees Lane wearing Vittoro's eagle claw and recognizes Lane as Emberato.  Learning also that Hondo doesn't work for Southwestern, the renegade's leader relents, with a message for Lane to deliver if he lives.  "Tell Redell that he will die with his singing wire!"


Picking up on a clue from the encounter, Hondo lives to convalesce at the home of Dr. Stanton, a fugitive from justice whose location is known only to the Natives.  Meanwhile, Redell pressures the Army to mount an offensive against Delgado's men.  Captain Richards eventually agrees, but it soon becomes clear that the conflict between Delgado and Redell is a very personal war with the latter considering anyone to be acceptable collateral damage.


Directed by William Witney (DARKTOWN STRUTTERS) and written by George Schenck (BARQUERO, CRAZY LIKE A FOX), Hondo and the Singing Wire is ostensibly about establishing a needed telegraph service while winning the cooperation of the Apaches and neighboring tribes.  Like that other renegade Silva in the preceding episode, Delgado vows death to the white man who wishes to take Native land.  Any commonality between the two agitators stops there, however.


Unlike the disdainful and bloodthirsty Silva, Delgado respects Chief Vittoro, and is only after one white man--not them all.  This dissident is just using the expected rhetoric as a recruiting tool in his personal vendetta against the Southwestern Telegraph company and its owner specifically.  Delgado (whose father was a white settler) has much in common with fellow half-Apache Hondo, something that helps Lane survive their initial skirmish.  Just as Lane did during the Civil War, Delgado seeks revenge against the man and the entity that he holds responsible for the death of the person he loved most.


Delgado kills several employees and soldiers in the process, but also offers to spare everyone remaining if Redell is turned over to him, and given his backstory, the renegade isn't entirely unsympathetic.  The same can't be said for racist, condescending Redell, who proves to be completely uncaring of any life other than his own.  As Buffalo aptly puts it: "he's lower than a snake's belt buckle!"  (Not to spoil anything, but we learn that the acorn didn't fall far from the tree, either.)


While the regulars take something of a back seat to the grudge match, Hondo and the Singing Wire isn't stolen from them entirely.  Hondo Lane gives further evidence of his resourcefulness and scouting expertise, and Buffalo mulls a career change near the end of his hitch.  Captain Richards faces a bigger dilemma, as his "by the book" philosophy is put to the ultimate test.


HONDO continues to boast a tremendous supporting cast on a weekly basis.  Lopez (DEATH WISH 4) is properly intense with the episode's plum part, while Conway (star of TOMBSTONE TERRITORY) does what he can with a one dimensional villain.  Iron Eyes Cody plays a Chief for about the 194th time, and to the surprise of no one familiar with his roles post-RED RYDER, Donald 'Red' Barry's Sergeant turns out to be an opportunistic douche.


The most memorable impression among the guests is left by another B-movie vet, Donald Woods (NEVER SAY GOODBYE), who has the meaty part of the compassionate but understandably reluctant physician.


Hondo and the Singing Wire is unfortunately marred by one head-scratcher of a plothole.  What happened to Delgado's contingent after they surrounded their cornered prey?  It seems more than implausible that they'd all disappear, since they're presented as true believers.  Given the denouement, you'd certainly think they'd open fire, and the renegade hadn't dismissed them.  Why would he?


HOW MANY CANS OF WHOOPASS?

Hondo Lane was busy recouperating from his bullet wound for most of the first half of Singing Wire, and only ends up throwing one punch the entire episode, understandably decking Redell with it.


IT'S A DOG'S LIFE:

When Hondo is wounded, it's up to Sam to bring him his horse and help lead him to the Doctor.  Later, Sam has a tender paw from their initial travels, putting him on sick call until the episode's epilogue.


THE BOTTOM LINE:

Light on the fisticuffs and a tad heavier on exposition than usual, Hondo and the Singing Wire is a curious assignment for Witney, whose specialty was fast-paced action.  As a result, it's the least of the director's three HONDOs.   The unconvincing finale is a considerable hindrance also.  On the plus side: another top notch supporting cast, handsome production values as always, and Taeger's understated performance remains an undeniably effective anchor for the series.  (**1/2 out of four)

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

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.  It seems that the young lady pictured at right below is on trial for a string of robberies along the sandy shores.


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. understandably 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 it 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 Reginald Rose classic 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 left 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 easily outmaneuvered in court by Collins, but also by the Bandit, who is representing herselfSome 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 the courtroom.  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 court.  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 opposition 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.