Just a hit-and-run recommendation of something we stumbled across this week.
It happened like this. We love Westerns in this house, though I came to them rather late in life. Despite growing up in the sixties, when literally fifty percent of prime-time network television shows were westerns of some kind…
….I was much more about Batman and The Man From UNCLE and Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea. I didn’t really get interested in Westerns until the seventies and even then it was mostly novels, thanks to a visit to my Uncle Jack in Simms, Montana. Westerns were what he got off the bookmobile and that was all there was, and since I had not been allowed to bring any books of my own (Mom was on one of her tears about me being indoors too much, I think, and she didn’t want me to hide from my relatives the whole time. How little she understood me. I could ALWAYS find something to read.) I reread these two actioners, in particular, three or four times each over the two weeks we were there. Loved them then and now and they are here in the home library today.
By the time I warmed to the idea of actually watching Westerns, though, there weren’t that many around. There was Jonah Hex in the comics, which I liked a lot, but that was pretty much it. Didn’t really get interested again until Sam Elliott started making all those Louis L’Amour adaptations for TNT.
Since then we have filled most of a bookcase with various Western movies and TV shows… the High Chaparral, every iteration of The Magnificent Seven including the TV show, Wanted Dead or Alive, Alias Smith and Jones, Shane, a couple of Best of Gunsmoke collections, all the movies Randolph Scott made with Budd Boetticher, The Big Valley, Whispering Smith, both versions of True Grit, and of course lots of Sam Elliott. No real rhyme or reason to it– this kind of haphazard approach is usually governed by whatever we happen across on our thrift shop expeditions that’s cheap.
It’s also given me some unorthodox opinions about the genre– for example, I really don’t think John Wayne was all that, and I like the Jeff Bridges True Grit better than his. I’ve never understood the worship for The Searchers when Stagecoach was better and The Cowboys was better than both. I thought the TV pilot for The Magnificent Seven was better-written than the original. And so on. But I am resigned to being alone in my blasphemy in most cases.
All of which is by way of admitting, shamefacedly, that we did not get around to Have Gun Will Travel until a few weeks ago. Somehow, over all these decades of it being a near-constant presence in syndication, neither Julie not I had ever seen it.
If I’d realized how many people whose work I admire had worked on it –I knew Gene Roddenberry had gotten his first real break there, but I had no clue it was co-created by UNCLE‘s Sam Rolfe or that Mission: Impossible‘s Bruce Geller had written a bunch of them– I’d have gotten to it a lot sooner. As it is, we are really enjoying it. Strictly an impulse buy, we found the first couple of seasons at a Goodwill for five bucks each.
“I just can’t believe this suave James Bond guy is Richard Boone,” I told Julie.
I added, “When I think of Richard Boone I think of the grizzled whiskey-voiced hardcase from things like Hec Ramsey or The Last Dinosaur.”
As usual when I make an obscure pop culture reference, Julie just blinked in confusion. So I had to explain about both of them. “The Last Dinosaur is just a shitty made-for-TV movie I still regret wasting the time on, but I’ve always been kind of curious about Hec Ramsey. It’s the fourth part of the NBC Mystery Movie nobody remembers. Everybody knows Columbo and McCloud, and a lot of people remember McMillan and Wife, but hardly anyone knows there was a fourth slot they kept trying things in. The most successful one was Boone’s Hec Ramsey, it lasted two seasons. I never saw it but I’ve always wondered.”
Julie expressed an interest so I went looking online. But Hec Ramsey was apparently lost to the ages. No home video release ever, even though most of the other NBC Mystery Movie shows are available.
Oddly, though, there were a couple of licensed paperbacks that go for insanely high prices today.
I wasn’t THAT curious. But by this time I kind of had the bit in my teeth about it and went looking for clips on YouTube. And guess what? Some good angel has put up pretty much the entire series, apparently from syndicated reruns, and even cut the commercials out. We watched the first two last night and the pilot, especially, is just terrific. The throughline is basically that Hec Ramsey used to be a gunfightin’ marshal, but he is looking to redeem himself and become a real police officer, using all that newfangled eastern citified SCIENCE like casting footprints in plaster and lifting fingerprints and so on. Everyone knows his rep as a killer, though, and he is handicapped by that reputation.
We adored it. Check it out before the trademark police gets wind of it.
Also? Speaking of unexpectedly delightful YouTube finds, Sam Elliott in The Quick and the Dead is up there too.
Enjoy. And I’ll be back next week with something cool.
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