Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Episode 5: The Soul is the Warrior

This was easily one of my favorite episodes, mostly due to the chemistry and interplay between the main characters: Caine, the local sheriff (Pat Hingle) and a boss landowner, Rankin (John Doucette). What happens is, Caine comes into town looking for Danny. He doesn't find him, but he does find a man Danny wronged (we're starting to learn Danny is a real card, perhaps the anti-Caine), and when this man tries to whup Caine's ass and then kill him, the sheriff, protecting Caine, shoots him dead. This puts the sheriff at odds with the man's dad, Rankin, who, as an agricultural/cattle boss in the real 19th-century sense, is the local law; everything bends at the behest of his monied hand.

Again, the Old West theme is being played out with Caine as a peripheral character. The theme is the legitimate law, as personified by the righteous sherrif, against the corrupt power of the boss, wonderfully played by boom-voiced Doucette. The frontier, with its absence of order except that which is imposed by strength, puts in question which is the greater power, the law or the money. Boss Rankin has a bit of Apache blood in him and credits some of his virile, angry behavior to this. He's also obsessed with snakes, because he is afraid of them. He keeps a big pit of venomous rattlers on his property precisely because it is one of the few things he fears.

The situation between Rankin and the sheriff escalates until Caine finds a way to intervene. In a showdown, Caine asks Rankin if Rankin will forget his vendetta if Caine faces Rankin's snakes. Rankin, the Apache in him finding perhaps some instinctive kinship with the Shaolin in Caine, agrees to this test. We have seen by now that one of Caine's supernatural, Shaolin-taught abilities is that he can calm animals (he used it on a wild horse in the first episode, and calms various dogs and things). Caine centers himself and walks through the snake-pit. When he emerges unharmed, Rankin is incredulous, moved, the situation resolved. Doucette even has a great line in Apache – I'm sorry, I don't remember what it was, I'll have to look it up, but it was something like, "Damn! That Shaolin dude is the man!"

Though I have tried, over the years, to familiarize myself with movies of all genres, I'm not terribly familiar with westerns. Doucette is apparently a veteran character actor who played a lot of bad guy roles. Wikipedia says he was considered by many to be the fastest draw in Hollywood! Hingle is excellent, too, and apparently a well-known character actor like Doucette. You'll probably recognize them both if you see this episode.

Five out of five yin-yangs. I just feel this episode is what the series is all about: Caine as spectator-participant in a classic western story with great actors personifying the genre and an ending you don't see coming. IMDB for the episode here; IMDB on Doucette and Hingle. And apparently, Ron Bishop, the guy that wrote this episode, was a veteran writer for "Gunsmoke" and is considered by many to be one of the best TV western writers ever.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Jim Kelly, yaw! Jim Kelly!

Aintitcool News has a pretty good piece on Jim Kelly!

Want to hear a story you might not know about ENTER THE DRAGON... Originally, the Jim Kelly WILLIAMS character was supposed to survive the film, it was John Saxon's ROPER that was supposed to die. However, Jim Kelly was on his second film that time out, and John Saxon's career was quite a bit more substantial. Saxon's agent did a "If you want John Saxon in this movie, then that Jim Kelly guy... you're gonna have to kill him instead!" So, there ya go. Now, dream of how badass the Jim Kelly vs Bolo Yeung fight would have been. Imagine, Jim Kelly looking up at Bruce at the end and giving the thumbs up... In a parallel dimension... it happened!

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Update: Happy New Year!

Sorry I haven't been updating the blog. I've just been very, very busy. I'll write more soon!