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Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Television Review: HONDO: "Hondo and the Ghost of Ed Dow" (1967)

"Your lives are meaningless compared to HONDO!"

HONDO: "Hondo and the Ghost of Ed Dow" (1967 ABC-TV/MGM/Batjac Productions) Season One, Episode 12.  Original Air Date: November 24, 1967.  Starring Ralph Taeger as Hondo Lane, Noah Beery Jr. as Buffalo Baker, Kathie Browne as Angie Dow, Buddy Foster as Johnny Dow, Gary Clarke as Captain Richards, Michael Pate as Chief Vittoro, Glenn Langan as Victor Tribolet.  Guest Stars: David Brian as Ben Dow, Ben Wright as Dr. Paul, June Dayton as Wilma Hendrix, James Chandler as Matt Hendrix, Chris Alcaide as Selby, Ted Jordan as Gruder.  Written by Stanley Adams and George F. Slavin.  Directed by Harry Harris.

Series overview and introduction to the HONDO episode guide at this link.

Four masked men led by Selby raid the Hendrix Trading Post, vocally expressing displeasure with the school for Apache children operated on the premises.  Mrs. Hendrix is badly injured in the attack, but before she is knocked unconscious she manages to tear a buttoned cuff off of the leader's coat.  Hondo Lane arrives in the aftermath and assists Mr. Hendrix in flagging down the stagecoach en route to Fort Lowell.

That stage is carrying Ben Dow, who has arrived from Boston after hearing of his son's death at the hands of an Apache.  Sensing an opportunity to finally get his hands on Angie's store, Tribolet contradicts her story and tells Ben that Hondo Lane killed his son.  This revelation has the senior Dow vowing to take grandson Johnny back East with him by any means necessary--which includes doing business with Selby's gang after the legal process proves too slow for Ben's liking.

Hondo Lane's past comes home to roost again, and this time it is recent past that we've witnessed: Ed Dow's failed ambush to collect a withdrawn reward in the premiere.  Lane was never sure whether Dow's demise was caused by his bullet or Silva's arrow.  Neither were we, and seeing the footage again doesn't make it any clearer.  But one thing has been crystal to us all along: Ed Dow's death was caused by Ed Dow.

Not that a newly grieving and already classist father is going to understand that, especially when egged on by the wealthiest man at Fort Lowell.  Ben Dow is the latest outsider to learn that things are done differently in the Territory of Arizona.  Unlike his predecessors, the elder Dow briefly seems to bond with Hondo at first before Tribolet poisons the well.  But after the idea is planted that Ed was the victim of a plot between his daughter and law and her "lover"?  Ben punches Hondo--a rare shot that goes without response after the Captain's interruption.

Hondo and the Ghost of Ed Dow was no doubt welcomed by fans just tuning in who had missed Hondo and the Eagle Claw, with a full five minutes of flashbacks to show us how the show's namesake had actually rescued Mrs. Dow and Ben's grandson from hostile renegades.  This brought Lane no thanks from the late, jealous Ed Dow, and new viewers are brought up to speed in efficient fashion.

The downside?  There's still a current story to be told, and that requires a few shortcuts with these recollections taking up over ten percent of Hondo and the Ghost of Ed Dow.  Selby seems way too loose lipped with Tribolet before any business deal is cut, given his gang's ongoing operations.  It's also unclear how the freighting magnate would be unscathed after things turn sour, given Ben Dow's disposition and the live capture of Selby's men (presumably willing to keep talking). Director Harris (Hondo and the Sudden Town) also gets a case of the cutes after the final showdown by showing Sam literally bringing in the final perp--briefly bringing HONDO into territory it usually avoids.

David Brian's stern disapproval rivals that of any prior antagonist, and his transition to understanding is handled smoothly.  Prior to that aforementioned lapse into too-heroic dog territory (which, to be fair, is at the fade-out of the final act), Harris and writers George F. Slavin and Stanley Adams (Hondo and the Hanging Town) capably deliver the expected meat-and-potatoes action.

Michael Pate's penultimate appearance as Chief Vittoro is a mere cameo: he has no lines and merely waves to the Dows from a distance.  (Pate is riding that recognizable Appaloosa from BROKEN ARROW, reportedly 22 years old when HONDO was filmed.)  Glenn Langan's Victor Tribolet reaches a new low in his fourth appearance, showing us that even children aren't off-limits.

Hondo and the Ghost of Ed Dow marks the closing of a chapter for the show: it turned out to be the swan song for Angie Dow and son Johnny.  Kathie Browne and Buddy Foster remained in the closing credits, but neither appeared in the final five episodes.  The show's focus shifted to assignments outside Fort Lowell and Noah Beery's role as Buffalo Baker was beefed up considerably.  Whether the phasing out of the Dows was temporary or permanent is impossible to determine due to the show's truncated run, but the experiment was a success.  The next four HONDO segments were all winners and the Nielsen ratings also took an upward turn.

Three decades after its premiere on ABC, Hondo and the Ghost of Ed Dow would mark the end of an era a second time.   On May 28, 1999 it was the final installment shown on T.N.T., ending the show's highly successful ten year run on the cable channel.  (That's some 520 consecutive Saturday mornings that at least one of the seventeen episodes aired!)


After foolishly kicking Sam at Hondo's favored watering hole, Selby and Gruder get the worst of it despite getting a two-on-one against Emberato.  They later lose a rematch at their hideout, with Buffalo providing some backup this time.  Hondo's ring record gets one mild blemish, though-- that uncontested right cross from Mr. Dow.  It's likely that Hondo would have taken the high road anyway.  While David Brian was roughly the same age (57) as Rod Cameron and Jim Davis who had locked horns with Lane in past installments, he looked much older than both.


Hondo dispatches the two baddies in his opening bout with only one chair as collateral damage.  Pretty good day for the place in light of prior segments.


Check out that photo of Ed Dow inside dad's watch: just as stone faced as his father!  A real chip off the old block!


The four legged sidekick puts in a full workload.  First, Sam finds the key piece of evidence at the Hendrix Trading Post.  Then he identifies the culprits back at the Fort (which got him Selby's boot).  He next picks up Johnny's scent and leads Hondo and Buffalo to Selby's hideout after the kidnapping--locating the boys yo-yo along the way.  Finally, the pooch takes his man out of the action in the finale.  Sam always could identify that one baddie who was terrified of canines.


Wrapping up some loose ends from the opening two-parter, Hondo and the Ghost of Ed Dow reliably delivers the action but suffers a bit from a compressed timeframe to tell its original story.  The lesser of two outings for both director Harris and the Adams/Slavin writing team.  (**1/2 out of four)

HONDO airs every Sunday morning at 10:15 A.M. Central Time on getTV.


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