"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Panhandle (AA, 1948)


Tough guy Rod





 
 
In a year which produced mighty Westerns such as Fort Apache, Red River and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, towering examples of the genre all, dear old Panhandle was very much at the lower end of the food chain. Allied Artists was a transmogrification of the Poverty Row studio Monogram. Monogram producer Walter Mirisch had great ambitions and wanted “B-plus” pictures, even, gasp, in color. At a time when the average Hollywood picture cost about $800,000 and the average Monogram picture cost about $90,000, AA's first release, It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947), cost more than $1.2m. At the same time, though, movies with low budgets and production values continued. Monogram had a rep for action films and did a lot of cheap Westerns. There was the odd good one but many of them were pretty poor fare, to be honest.
 
 
Panhandle was a rather typical example. It starred Rod Cameron. Canadian Cameron was 6’4” and rugged, and got bit parts in Hollywood from 1939 on. His very first Western role was as an uncredited cowhand in Paramount’s Lesley Selander-directed Zane Grey tale Heritage of the Desert and he was in the Cecil B DeMille farrago North West Mounted Police, in which he (sort of) fulfilled his boyhood ambition by being a Mountie. He was Jesse James in Paramount’s The Remarkable Andrew in 1942 (the Andrew in question was William Holden). His first Western lead was in The Old Texas Trail in 1944, very much a B, and many Bs followed. He did a series of pretty awful Westerns for Universal with fellow Canadian Yvonne De Carlo (stuff like Salome Where She Danced and Frontier Gal). Panhandle was his nineteenth outing in the saddle and he was used to the gunbelt and Stetson by then.
 
 
Like Rod’s first oater, and several others afterwards, Panhandle was directed by Lesley Selander (oddly billed on screen as ‘Leslie Selander’). Mr. Selander was definitely one of the better B Western directors. In a Western career that lasted from 1925 to 1968 he made 184 big- and small-screen oaters, nearly all Bs but often with good Western stars and all well-constructed, fast-paced and fun. Respect.

The story is about famed gunfighter John Sands (Cameron) whose brother, the even faster Billy, has been killed. As is traditional with heroes as gunfighters, both wanted to hang up their irons and lead peaceful, respectable lives. Billy had in fact become a newspaper editor, and John is now a storekeeper. But we just know that Rod will be obliged to strap on those Colts again, to do a spot of avenging.

Evil Matt Garson (Reed Hadley) is the crooked town boss in Sentinel and he wants the whole Panhandle as his personal fiefdom. You can tell he is a bad guy because he wears a suit and has a caddish mustache. His boots are pretty damn fancy though. Obviously, for such overlords rarely do their own dirty work, he has ruthless henchmen. One of these is gunslinger Floyd Schofield (maybe named for his Smith & Wessons).
 
 
Schofield is played by Blake Edwards, the Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Pink Panther fellow, who was to have such a stellar career as director and producer (and Julie Andrews’s husband) and whose real name was the rather more colorful William Blake Crump (he should have stuck with it). What’s more he co-wrote and co-produced Panhandle. Actually, Mr. Crump understood the Western: he directed William Holden in Wild Rovers and James Garner as Wyatt Earp in Sunset, both endearing films. In Panhandle he certainly had fun as the gunman. There’s a character named Crump in it, too.

Hadley is good as the mean town boss. B Westerns were almost obliged to have such a figure. Often they were saloon owners (this one has the Last Frontier as his base of operations) and used derringers. They almost invariably had mustaches. Although many remember Reed from Racket Squad or Public Defender on TV, he did a lot of Westerns. He was Zorro in Republic’s serial and Red Ryder on the radio. Altogether he made 44 appearances in film and TV Westerns, from 1938 on, and you may remember him as Jesse James (like Rod) in the rather trashy Samuel Fuller-directed I Shot Jesse James (John Ireland was Bob Ford) or as a James again, this time Frank, in The Return of Jesse James in 1950. I thought he was good in the Lippert B pictures Rimfire and Little Big Horn.

There are, of course, two dames for the hero to hover between, the spitfire rancher Dusty (Cathy Downs) and the glam but still feisty June (Anne Gwynne). It turns out that Dusty had been engaged to brother Billy before Reed heartlessly murdered him.
 
 
Well, there’s a good gunfight between Rod and the henchpersons in the rainy street, and then with Reed. And Rod goes off with the beautiful… Well, you’ll have to watch it and see.

Don’t get me wrong, this is far from a top-drawer Western. It’s only really late-40s black & white fodder for the horses. Furthermore, the print is pretty lousy these days. But it does have its touches and it would repay a watch, if you are, like most sensible people, a Western fan.

 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Colt (Hallmark, 2005)


Actually very good




 
 
I’ll be brief about The Colt because it’s a Civil War story, and those aren’t really Westerns, and because it’s a Hallmark TV show and these tend to be a bit on the bland side. Still, I wanted to write something because I found it surprisingly good.
 
Don't be put off, it's actually rather good
 
The colt in question is a young horse, by the way, not one of Sam’s pistols.

It’s a transposition to an American Civil War setting of Mikhail Sholokhov’s short story of the same name (Жеребёнок, Zherebyonok) first published in English in 1967 under the title Fierce and Gentle Warriors, Three Stories by Mikhail Sholokhov: The Colt, The Rascal, The Fate of Man, translated by Miriam Morton. The story was adapted for the small screen (though they aren't so small these days, are they) by Stephen Harrigan, and a very good job he made of it.
 
Nobel laureate Mikhaïl Sholokhov (1905 - 1984)
 
It’s 1864, with battle-weary men on both sides grown used to hardship, fatigue and sudden death. In this dark world of destruction, a young soldier’s mare unexpectedly gives birth to a foal, which the man is ordered to shoot for it will slow the column down. After a misfire of his carbine, he cannot bring himself to do the deed and nor can the sergeant or the officer who ordered it, for they are persuaded that it would not be the “gallant” thing to do. The young horse becomes a symbol of life and hope for the men, a sort of mascot, and the soldier risks his life to keep it, and keep it alive.

There’s only one moment when the dreaded sickly sentiment intrudes, when the young soldier comes across a family of farmers who are too good to be true and say noble things, but most of the time the film is commendably tough and spare. Almost full marks to Hallmark and director Yelena Lanskaya.
 
Yelena Lanskaya

The hero is Private Jim Rabb, very well played by Ryan Merriman, clearly a versatile actor who was Jake Spoon in Comanche Moon and is to appear in forthcoming Westerns The Hard Ride and Palominas. His Jim Rabb is quiet but suggests inner depths.
 
Ryan Merriman as the soldier
 
There is a kind of chorus, or observer, in the shape of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly artist Covington (Darcy Belsher). His job is to draw sensational pictures for his paper but he is clearly a sensitive soul and would-be true artist, and he adds much to the story.
 
The artist Covington (Darcy Belsher)
 
Actually, all the acting is good. And the look of the thing is too. The men are unshaven and dirty, as they would have been, and look gray-faced from fear and fatigue.
 
They can't bring themselves to destroy it and it becomes a symbol of hope and life to them
 
The film was nominated for the 2006 Humanitas Prize and the 2006 Writers Guild of America, USA, WGA Award (TV). It won the FAIF International Film Festival, Judges Choice Award for Best Feature Film, the 2005 LA Femme Film Festival, Best Director, and the 2005 WorldFest Houston, Special Jury Award for Feature Made for Television/Cable. Respect.

It is a story of fundamental decency in an obscene conflict.

And it’s well worth catching if it comes on. You could even justify a DVD purchase, actually.

 

Friday, March 27, 2015

White Comanche (IPC, 1968)


Unjustly honored as one of the 100 most enjoyably bad movies ever made



 
 
 
I often wonder, when I watch a late-60s/early 70s spaghetti/paella ‘western’, if this is the worst film I have ever seen. It never is, of course. There’s always an even trashier one just down the trail. But I must say, when I sat through White Comanche, appalled, I really did wonder if I would be able to make it to the end. When watching on TV, after all, it’s so easy to grope for the remote. It’s not like you’ve paid a theater ticket.
 
 
Complete junk
 
Joseph Cotten really had a disgraceful record as far as Westerns went. He was in far too many of them (he was completely unsuited to the genre), 23 in all if you include junk like this and TV. From the very start, in 1946, in the pot-boiler Duel in the Sun, more commonly known as Lust in the Dust, he was hopeless. He then overacted in a series of oaters, Two Flags West with Jeff Chandler and Linda Darnell, Untamed Frontier with (the equally unsuited) Shelley Winters and Scott Brady, and The Halliday Brand, with someone or other you’ve never heard of (and Ward Bond). He was de trop (hardly more than a name in the credits) in The Last Sunset with Rock Hudson and Kirk Douglas, and he overacted even more than usual as the drunk Major Reno in The Great Sioux Massacre. OK, these were all (except maybe Two Flags West) mediocre films at best, with iffy directors, but he was just so bad in them. To make matters worse he did two Eurowesterns in later life, Hellbenders and White Comanche (hard to say which was worse) and he finished off by appearing (as the Reverend) in the movie which did its best to sink the whole genre, the galumphingly dreadful Heaven’s Gate. It was a fitting end to a lousy career.
 
Cotten: one of the worst Western actors ever
 
As for Cotten’s co-star in White Comanche, William Shatner, he didn’t do Westerns at all. OK, he was in a few episodes of Kung Fu, Barbary Coast and the like, but White Comanche and The Outrage were the only big-screen ‘Westerns’ he did and the former was a junk European rip-off and the latter was more an overwrought filmed play than a Western movie. In White Comanche, just as Cotten was totally unbelievable as a tough sheriff, so Shatner was equally implausible as a hard gunfighter brought up by the Apache, or was it the Sioux, I was asleep when they said. Oh yes, it must have been Comanche. He also plays his twin brother, the eponymous Native American. Shatner, who was in Spain on a break from Star Trek, tried to get NBC to buy the movie but they wisely declined.
 
Shatner: do I look tough enough?
 
The movie has all the usual weaknesses of the paella ‘western’, shocking sound, clumsy dubbing, odd-looking Spanish locations, asinine dialogue (four writers are credited but I don’t think they had a combined mental age of 40), inappropriate cheap jazzy music more suited to some Get Smart spy Z movie, 60s cosmetics and false eyelashes on the lead dame (who is only there to be exploited), the whole nine yards. The director was Spaniard José Briz Mendéz, improbably billed as Gilbert Lee Kay, whose only Western this was. Thank goodness.
 
Do I look stupid enough?
 
It’s 93 minutes of crap. I am told it’s 93 minutes anyway: I turned it off after 70. I’m amazed now that I lasted that long. The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of the ‘The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made’ but I can’t agree with this elevation. The word ‘enjoyably’ has no place in it.

 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Gore Vidal’s Billy the Kid (TNT, 1989)


More historically accurate than most




 
 
Another milestone along the trail of the many film renditions of the story of Billy the Kid (there have been well over 100) came in 1989, between Young Guns and Young Guns II. This time Val Kilmer was Billy.

Mr. Kilmer was only just in his twenties still and so follows in a long tradition of ever so slightly long-in-the-tooth Billies. The actual William Bonney (let’s call him that) was almost certainly (we do not know his birthdate exactly) still a teenager when he was shot down by Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner in July 1881. Some film Billies have been positively geriatric (one of the most famous, Kris Kristofferson, was 37 when he made Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid). Mr. Kilmer did at least look youthful. He also tried to resemble Billy, as far as we know what he looked like. At one point in the film he wears those bulky clothes and squished top hat that we recognize from the famous tintype. Kilmer doesn’t manage the buck teeth, though. It was his first Western. Four years later he was to be an outstandingly good Doc Holliday in Tombstone but he hasn’t done many oaters, sadly. He had a small part in The Missing, which he supported, in 2003, and he was Inish Scull in the TV Comanche Moon in 2003, but that’s about it. He makes a pretty good Billy, I think, and manages to capture the probable juvenile irresponsibility of the fellow, with a cunning intelligence and violence lurking just below the surface.
 
Kilmer as Billy
 
Gore Vidal said in his memoirs that he had written the original script for the 1955 TV play The Left-Handed Gun, starring Paul Newman as Billy the Kid, and always felt that Warners had butchered the material when this play was made into a big-screen movie directed by Arthur Penn (and also starring Newman), so he wanted to go back to the story for a more historically accurate version.
 

Gore Vidal (1925 - 2012)
 
And indeed, Billy the Kid is probably the most faithful and factual non-documentary Billy film of them all. Not that we watch Western movies for a history lesson. But still, it’s nice occasionally to believe that what we are seeing is at least closer to the truth than we have been used to.

The film, which first appeared on Turner in 1989, was directed by William A Graham (1926 – 2013) who had helmed a fair few TV Western shows and made-for-TV movies (such as The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James)Billy the Kid is quite well done, though of course it’s hard to build tension when we all know so well what the outcome will be.
 
One of the better attempts
 
Duncan Regehr is Pat Garrett and he too tries hard for the look. I have recently read Leon Metz’s biography of Garrett and will be posting on the lawman quite soon, so watch this space. So much is known about Garrett’s pursuit and execution of William Bonney (partly because he wrote about it himself), and his subsequent life too is known in some detail, yet curiously we know next to nothing of his early years. Legend has it, and many Billy movies play on this, that Pat and Billy were old friends, even perhaps on the shadier side of the law, but there is no hard evidence for such a companionship and so writers and film makers have license. Certainly it enhances the plot dramatically.

Wilford Brimley does a convincing Governor Lew Wallace. Mr. Brimley was in 23 film and TV Westerns over a forty-year period, starting with Bandolero! in 1968 and the John Wayne True Grit in ’69, and he is always a pleasure to see. His Wallace occupies himself with Ben Hur (which the real Wallace did) and is rather dithery about what to do with the Kid, and Lincoln County lawlessness generally (which Wallace was).
 
Governor Brimley
 
Vidal perpetuated some of the legends, despite his claim to historical accuracy. Tunstall is unarmed, as he is nearly always shown. In fact Tunstall had nothing against firearms at all and he was far from the noble mentor of the young Bonney he is usually shown as. “Dolan has taken my store, now he wants my ranch,” Tunstall complains. Films need goodies and baddies and almost always the Tunstall/Bonney faction is shown as the put-upon honest ranchers fighting the oppression of “the House” with its powerful Santa Fe connections. In fact there was little to choose between the sides, both being greedy, grasping and lawless.

In this film Sheriff Brady himself shoots the unarmed Tunstall down in cold blood, with Billy as witness, and Billy decides to kill Brady in revenge, which he does just with his pal Tom (Patrick Massett). This is at best a liberal interpretation of the facts, and at worst a distortion. Never mind; as I said, we don’t watch Westerns for a history lesson.

We are told that Pat Garrett has bought Beaver Smith’s saloon in Fort Sumner. The ambush in which Tom O’Folliard is killed takes place not at Fort Sumner but out in the country. The outlaws hole up not in a rock house at Stinking Springs but in a cabin. Once captured, Billy is taken straight to Lincoln for trial. Well, it’s fair enough. They have to telescope events in a 96-minute video.

According to Vidal, it’s the father of Billy’s girlfriend who hides a pistol in the outhouse to enable Billy to escape. Surprisingly, we don’t see Billy shoot Bell and Ollinger, we just see the bodies. This girl, Celsa (Julie Carmen), is the sister of Pat Garrett’s new wife, so Pat and Billy are brothers-in-law in a way.

Old Tucson represents Fort Sumner, which is OK.

Albert Salmi is rather good as Pete Maxwell and Gore Vidal himself appears briefly as a preacher. Rene Auberjonois is a pro-Billy drunk who eventually turns Judas by telling Pat where he can find Billy. Well, it could have happened, I suppose.

It ends with Pat weeping over the corpse of the young Billy as it is carried to church.

Much is sometimes made of the homoerotic tints of this film. Call me obtuse but I didn’t see any suggestion of a Pat/Billy relationship in that sense. Garrett was a twice-married father of many children, and a loyal, decent husband, and Billy was famously fond of dallying with the Mexican-American girls, so it’s hard to see the sheriff and the outlaw as a pair of gay lovers, suppressed urges or not.

All in all, this is one of the better Billy movies and it is certainly classier than most. Kilmer’s Billy is much more convincing than Kristofferson’s hard-boiled, jaded man on the brink of his 40s or Newman crying to the sky in a frenzy of overdone method acting.

What’s more, Billy even has a derringer.

 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Tracker (Lionsgate, 2010)


It's a Western. Kinda.




 
 
When is a Western not a Western? We have already addressed this question way back in the history of this blog, in March 2010, so click here if you want to read that. If you are a purist, you probably think that a Western movie has to be set west of the Mississippi, south of the Canadian border and north of the Mexican one, and at some time between the end of the Civil War and the end of the century. Myself, I take a rather more liberal view, and have reviewed oaters set in Canada, Mexico, indeed even in Australia, and in 18th or 20th century times. Quigley Down Under is indubitably a Western, in my view, as Western hero Tom Selleck takes on a Dodge City-obsessed gunfighter in the outback. You could even argue that The Last Samurai is a Western, with Tom Cruise as a Westerner in Japan. The Proposition was certainly a Western, I think, and a very good one too. Ray Winstone was outstanding in it, and in 2010 he was back, this time as a South African in New Zealand, so he has had a pretty colonial ‘Western’ career.
 
Ray Winstone
 
In Tracker, Ray is van Diemen, a Boer, a famed follower of trails, who arrives in another far-flung outpost of the British Empire, New Zealand, and is offered a bounty to capture Kereama (Temuera Morrison), an educated Maori seaman (wrongly) accused of killing a British soldier and regarded by the colonial authorities as a savage. So, a straight chase/pursuit plot, right?

Wrong. Because something quite interesting happens. As a Boer, van Diemen has little love for the monolithic British Empire, and Maori Kereama shares that view. They begin to bond, almost before they have even met. And then you begin to wonder, is van Diemen the one who’s running? When they finally come together (as inevitably they will) we find that it is not only hatred of the Brits that unites hunter and tracker.
 
Ray gets his man. But then...
 
Such plots are hard to make lively. They tend to move at the pace of a walking man and involve much examining of the ground and sniffing the air, as the actors, with no one to talk to, dutifully flee/pursue. So the fact that this one has interest, and a growing interest, is a credit to writer (Nicolas Van Pallandt) and director (Ian Sharp, an Englishman who had done Tess of the D’Urbevilles).

It’ all very picturesque. On my new BIG television screen it was enjoyable. It was shot in the Auckland Region, including in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, by Harvey Harrison. Full marks, Mr. H.
 
Tracking
 
Faute de compagnon, Ray talks to himself a fair bit, or more often grunts. When he does speak he essays an Afrikaans accent, pretty well in fact, though traces of Cockney are to be discerned here and there. I must say, though, his hat was perfectly splendid.

Set this story in Arizona, make Temuera an Apache and Ray a Mexican and you’ve got a Western. I think it’s a Western anyway.

Good film

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Son of the Morning Star (ABC, 1991)


Worthy




 
 
Son of the Morning Star was a two-part television drama and an early 90s expedition into the field of Custerology. Every generation, or even half-generation, has to do a Custer movie and have its say, usually repeating the old clichés and errors but occasionally trying to say something new, or at least give us the old story in a new way.

With a total runtime of 187 minutes, the film had the scope to explore the myth/fact in some detail. Sadly, however, much of this time was not used for that purpose and the pace of the film is sluggish at best. It got low ratings.

It was directed by Mike Robe, the Return to Lonesome Dove chap, and was his first Western (of four).

It is said to be a dramatization of Evan S Connell’s 1984 non-fiction work Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn, “and other accounts”. The film is narrated by two women, Custer’s wife Libby (Rosanna Arquette, too coquettish, I think) and a Native American known as Kate Big Head (Buffy Sainte-Marie).

George Armstrong Custer is played by Gary Cole (V-P Bob Russell in The West Wing) in his only Western. He isn’t bad and they do try to get the look right. Kevin Costner was to have been Custer but he danced with wolves instead and got his Sioux fix that way.
 
 Cole as Custer
 
Custer as Custer
 
The story starts in Montana in June 1876 and key moments of Custer’s life (his life on the Plains; the Civil War is not dealt with) are done in flashback, often through the eyes of Libby or Kate. Apparently Son of the morning star who attacks at dawn is a name the Crow gave to Custer, though why Kate, a Southern Cheyenne, should be so keen on it is hard to say.
 
Arquette as Libby
 
Libby as Libby
 
Various key moments are illustrated: Crazy Horse at 14 having a vision, the so-called Fetterman Massacre, the Washita in 1868.

Custer has a child with a Cheyenne woman. Maybe he did. He (correctly) has a pair of British Webley pistols.

Visually the film is attractive, especially on my new BIG screen, though what the Tetons are doing in Montana isn’t easy to say. In the (absurdly long) list of credits (where they tell who supplied hamburgers to the driver of the hairdresser’s assistant) you find that Amsterdammer Kees Van Oostrum was the DP. This was his first Western. Later he also did a good job on Return to Lonesome Dove.

Part 2 opens in the Dakota Territory in the winter of 1875. We see Sherman, Sheridan and Grant in DC. Sherman calls Grant ‘Ulysses’ (a name he disliked). Little Bighorn approaches. We see Custer leaving Fort Lincoln, flashy in white buckskins and still with long hair (though not as long as the startlingly blond Captain Benteen’s). Libby has a premonition and there are many other slightly New Wavy portents. Tom counsels caution, reminding brother Autie that containment is the aim, not battle, and adding, “You don’t have to go after them on your own.”
 

Strathairn as Benteen
 
Benteen. Looks a bit like Karl Malden.
 
David Strathairn plays Benteen and manages to be really quite sinister. Michael Medeiros grossly overdoes the panic of Major Reno, to an extent that he appears (unintentionally) comic.

The actor who did Crazy Horse as an adult is the excellent Rodney A Grant, and one of the plus points of the movie is the quite sensitive way Crazy Horse is portrayed. Floyd Red Crow Westerman’s Sitting Bull was also convincing, and I liked the way Bull was not shown as a Napoleonic commanding general, as he is often depicted. In fact, unlike most Custer films, in this one the Indians are shown as separate tribes and real people, not just whooping extras to be shot down.
 
Rodney A Grant is a very good Crazy Horse
 
And Floyd Red Crow Westerman is an interesting Sitting Bull
 
After the battle there is a quick recap of the deaths of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull and a mention of Wounded Knee. It all seems terribly rushed after 187 minutes of screen time, as if they thought, oh, we’d better put in something about what happened afterwards, I suppose.

This is a worthy effort, and closer to the facts than many film treatments. Perhaps it would have been good with Costner in it, though had he directed it the film would have probably been even longer.

 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lone Rider (Grand Army/Larry Levinson, 2008)


Predictable but just about watchable
 



 
 
Lone Rider is another of those made-for-TV Western movies that have become popular. I am glad they have. Although many are pretty ordinary, and are usually the dreaded ‘family entertainment’, at least people are making Westerns! It shows that there’s life in the old dog yet. People still like Westerns. I met a man this very day, here in my remote French village, who is passionate about the West and is building a Concord stagecoach! See?
 
TV Western but watchable
 
Lone riders are an essentially Western trope. I have discoursed elsewhere (here, in fact) on the concept of 'loneness' in the Western movie. The lone rider in question today is Lou Diamond Phillips, although in fact he doesn’t really do much lone riding in the film. As we learn from his introductory voiceover letter, rather charming in its Victorian language, he is a soldier returning (alone) to his town. We guess already (we have seen too many Westerns) that he will find the town treed by a rich ruthless type, perhaps an ex-buddy, and he will be reluctant (having seen so much violence in the war) but will eventually fight for right and topple the tyrant.

Mr. Phillips is of Spanish, Scotch/Irish, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, and Cherokee ancestry, which is probably why he plays a Cheyenne in Longmire. He first rode the range as Jose Chavez y Chavez in Young Guns in 1988, then in Young Guns II two years later. In 2004 he was in the rather turgid TV movie The Trail to Hope Rose, directed by David S Cass Sr. and in 2008 Mr. Cass got him back to do the much better Lone Rider.
 
Lou Diamond Phillips
 
His dad in the movie is Stacy Keach. Two years before, Mr. Keach had been in yet another David Cass TV Western, Desolation Canyon and had appeared in two other TV oaters as well. But we remember him most, of course, as Frank James in the 1980 film he co-wrote and co-produced, The Long Riders, and as Doc Holliday in the rather revisionist Doc in 1971. You might also recall him as the splendidly villainous Bad Bob in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean. In Lone Rider he is a store keeper being forced out of business (until son Lou goes into action) by the wicked Stu Croker (Vincent Spano).
 
Stacy as Doc
 
Stacy as Frank
 
Stu first welcomes his old pal Lou and is friendly as anything, but we know right off that this will soon change. He is Ruthless and wants to Own The Town. He has, as tradition dictates, the law in his pocket. The old sheriff Gus is Timothy Bottoms (who doesn’t really do Westerns) and he won’t do anything to stop Stu. But, as tradition also dictates, we wonder if the worm will turn and the bought-and-paid-for marshal will finally rise up and resist.

All pretty predictable so far. And of course there has to be, equally predictably, a girl for the hero to fall for. It’s the dusky beauty Serena (Angela Alvarado) whom Lou daringly invites on a picnic. There has to be another girl, too, usually rather more louche, so that we wonder which dame the hero will go for (though we are rarely in doubt). This is Constance (Cynthia Preston), Lou’s ex before he went off to the war, but she has now married Stu. She’s unhappy, though, and drinks. Well, who wouldn’t, with Stu Croker as hubby?
 
With his amour Serena
 
Naturally town boss Stu will have henchmen. Yup. There’s his sidekick, gunman Lloyd (Mike Starr) and gunslinger Vic (Robert Baker).

The whole show only really livens up when Lou’s old army buddy Mike (Tom Schanley) turns up and they decide to apply military strategy and tactics to tyrant-toppling. There’s a good bit where they rob, then blow up Stu’s saloon, the Oasis. Then badman Stu and his two henchpersons hire four other guns so, hoorah, the badmen number 7, as is only right and proper.
 
Applying military tactics to toppling a petty tyrant
 
My lips are sealed as to the outcome. Oh, alright, then, they aren’t. You know anyway that Lou will defeat Stu, choose Serena and become sheriff, with Mike as his deputy.

There’s an amusing last line, though, with a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Lone Ranger.

This Western will never set the prairie on fire and there isn’t even a derringer in it. Still, Mr. Phillips is OK and it’s nice to see Stacy again.