BluRay/DVD Reviews

SUGARFOOT (WB Archives) Season One, 1957/58, 20 episodes.

By • Aug 16th, 2013 •

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The collection box cover features a medium close up of Will Hutchins as the lead character, brandishing a six-shooter which is prominently displayed near his face. Misleading. Tom Brewster (Hutchins) abhors firearms, and champions the rule of law. I guess they couldn’t sell that concept to the public until they were engrossed in the show.

I have no memory of watching Sugerfoot as a kid. He must have seemed to me like a real wuss. However, time changes some things, and today the scripts are admirably layered, and Will Hutchins does a creditable job creating a non-violent person who, while he isn’t up to defeating most of the tough guys he comes up against (including Dennis Hopper as Billy the Kid), nonetheless stands by his principals and won’t back down. He’s noble, and must have been a good role model for kids.

The first thing to pique my interest was the range of father figures Brewster runs across. We learn early on that he admired his father (who was a lawman) quite a bit, and that he is now studying (by correspondence) to be a lawyer. In episode one, he has some terrific exchanges with the great Arthur Hunnicut (Davey Crockett in THE LAST COMMAND). In episode two it’s Will Wright. And in episode three it’s Morris Ankrum. All of these older character actors are given the opportunity to deliver some of their best work. The director of all three is Leslie Martinson, who also helmed episodes of Maverick and Cheyenne back in the day (in fact, James Garner as Maverick has an amusing walk-on in one of the episodes). Martinson was given fine scripts, many of them adopted from previous WB features, and directed them with confidence and intelligence. In later decades he directed episodes of Mission Impossible, Ironside, and Mannix. Born in Boston in 1915, he has no death date on IMDB.

Using stock footage of cattle drives and horsemen riding across the terrain, large narratives are opened up, defying the limitations of early TV. Plenty of guest stars appear, and are almost always given worthwhile things to do dramatically. This is a surprise release from the past, and well worth ordering.

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