Entertainment Magazine

A Trio of Dusters

Posted on the 16 December 2020 by Colin @Livius1
With the holiday season drawing ever closer it's a pleasure to host another slate of less familiar (or less familiar to this viewer anyway) vintage TV, highlighted by Gordon Gates.

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Last time I touched on television it was a trio of Edmond O'Brien noir. This time I think three western TV episodes would hit the spot. All three of these episodes I consider to be top flight. The actors include Lee Marvin, Bev Garland, Steve Forrest Robert Horton, Warren Oates and Robert Culp. So here we go.

A Trio of Dusters

First up is the pilot episode of the 1965 series, - "A Man Called Shenandoah" - The Onslaught - The series, which ran for 34 episodes, starred Robert Horton.

It is the dead of winter, a lone rider, Robert Horton, enters a small town. He books a room and a bath. While he is stripping down for the bath, a gunman, Richard Devon, breaks in and starts blasting. Horton just escapes with his life after knocking Devon down with a solid punch. He grabs Devon's pistol and hurries down the back stairs. Once outside, two more men start firing at him. Horton returns fire and kills the two.

With only his pants on, and Devon's pistol, he grabs a horse and flees into the foul weather. Devon recovers and follows Horton. He tracks down the half frozen Horton and puts two rounds from his Winchester into him, one in the shoulder and one in the head. He then leaves Horton to die.

A short time later, two prospectors come upon Horton. They sling him across the packhorse and cart him back to the nearest town. The two wonder if he might be an outlaw, so they stop at the local law to see if there is a reward. No luck there, so they drop Horton at the saloon.

The local doc, Noah Keen, is called to have a look at the unconscious and battered Horton. He removes the bullet from Horton's shoulder and bandages the head wound, which turns out to be minor. It had simply knocked him unconscious.

Horton is then hauled upstairs and put to bed. Beverly Garland, the singer dancer at the saloon, tends his wounds. Horton comes around 3-4 days later and asks where he is. Doc Keen asks him how he feels etc and what is his name. Horton is unable to answer. He has no memory of who he is, or how he ended up being shot. Several more days go by and Horton swiftly regains his strength. His memory though is still drawing a blank. Needing to call him something, Doc Keen starts calling him Shenandoah, the name of Keen's hometown.

A few more days pass and who should show up in the saloon? Gunman Devon of course. He knocks back a few drinks and starts making some unwanted moves on Miss Garland. When the barkeep steps up to stop the unwanted attention, Devon pistol whips the man.

Horton, hearing the screams of Garland, grabs a pistol from the Doc's case and roars downstairs. Devon's eyes go wide as he sees Horton, "You! I'll kill you this time for sure!" Yells Devon as he goes for his pistol. Horton is faster off the mark and drills Devon in the chest, killing him.

Horton walks up to the corpse and looks at Devon. "He knew me." He whispers.

So starts the tale of, A Man Called Shenandoah. The series then follows Horton as he searches for clues as to who he is, and what he was.

This is a pretty brisk moving episode that was directed by Paul Wendkos. Wendkos directed the noir, The Burglar. This is a great looking series that features some wonderful looking opening and closing credits film work. (b/w)

A Trio of Dusters

Second on the bill is OUTLAWS - Thirty a Month - 1960 This is the first episode of the 1960- 1962 western series. The series is set in the Oklahoma Territory. Barton MacLane is in charge of a pair of Marshals who police the area. Don Collier and Jock Gaynor play the Deputy Marshals.

Collier and Gaynor have just returned to town to report to MacLane. They have been on a fruitless chase for the manager of the local bank. The man had pilfered the bank funds and vanished.

Also hitting town, are the hands off a just completed cattle drive with their pay burning a hole in their pockets. One of the men, Steve Forrest, heads straight to the bank. He is finished with the life of a cow-hand. He has been saving his pay for the last 10 years. He intends to buy a ranch and raise cattle himself.

Forrest finds the bank padlocked and a closed sign on the door. He asks a passing man what is going on. Forrest is devastated when he hears the news about the manager. He heads off to talk to the law. "Nothing we can do till, or if we catch the man." Collier tells Forrest. "We just got back from 3 days on his trail with no luck." Forrest hangs his head and wanders out and down the street.

Three of Forrest's fellow cowpunchers, Gary Walberg, Warren Oates and Robert Culp are living it up at the saloon. Booze, girls and some poor gambling skills soon have all their pay gone. All three end up in the town jail on drunk and disorderly.

Released the next morning, the three head for the stables. They see Forrest sitting under a tree staring at the ground. They ask Forrest if he needs hands for his new ranch. Forrest tells them about the manager and the stolen funds. " I don't want to spend another 10 years to save up four thousand dollars. There must be a way to do it." The 4 men all sit and wish aloud for better times. The oldest, Walberg, recalls his days years before when he rode for a bit with the Dalton boys robbing trains etc.

Needless to say the old light-bulb goes on in Forrest's head. They should all pull a payroll robbery of a train. Walberg and Oates are game though Culp is a tad reluctant. The other three finally talk him into joining the enterprise.

They know the regular Friday train carries a payroll on it. They plan on stopping the train at a small station outside of town. They stop the train and hold the engine crew under guard. Forrest forces the conductor to call the payroll guard to open the freight car door. He does, but has a rifle handy, which he pulls on Forrest. Forrest drills the man right through the head.

He then tells the conductor to open the safe. It turns out though that only the guard knew the combination. The four-some now decide to blow open the safe.

Oates is not at all happy with how things are now going. A robbery, OK, but murder? He grabs Culp and suggests that Culp, Walberg and himself beat the feet. Culp says it is too late as murder has been done.

The blast rips open one of the safe doors. All that is there is a bag of coins. The paper money is still locked inside. Bad luck on top of bad luck as they used all their explosives. They take the coins and ride off. A day's hard ride later they stop at a small town general store. They need food and supplies.

The owner, Dub Taylor, senses something is wrong and says so. Forrest belts him and grabs up the supply sack. They race for their horses to scurry out of town. Taylor however gives Oates both barrels of a shotgun before Oates is out of range. Everything continues to go downhill as far as the robbers are concerned. The townsfolk hear of the robbery and the $5,000 reward offered by the railroad for the capture of the bandits. First, a wire is sent to the Marshal's office. Then a posse rides out to "collect" the reward.

The posse loses interest in catching the bandits when two of them are shot dead. The brisk exchange of gunfire also results in the death of robber Walberg. Collecting the dead, the posse heads home. They meet Marshal's Collier and Gaynor on the road and point them the right way.

The badly wounded Oates is slowing the remaining men down. Collier and Gaynor quickly catch up which results in another exchange of rounds. This time Forrest catches a round. Culp is bent over Oates as he mumbles, "I thought it would be fun to be an outlaw." Oates then dies.

Culp yells out to the Lawmen that he gives up. The wounded Forrest staggers off in the other direction. He looks out over the countryside and says, "All I wanted was a piece of land." Then he drops to the ground, dead.

After burying Oates and Forrest, Culp says to Collier, "All we got was $120 in coins for the four of us. $30 each, the same as we make working cattle every month."

Great episode with an outstanding guest star cast. Change the era to 1948-55 and make it about truckers or such, and it would be a cracker-jack noir. (B/W)

A Trio of Dusters

Last up is an episode of, GENERAL ELECTRIC THEATER: The Doctors of Pawnee Kill 1957. There were 300 plus episodes made of this anthology series. This one is episode 19 from season 5.

Gordon Gates

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