Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Squawman

Kung Fu often concerns itself with outsiders, as Caine is an outsider. In “The Squawman,” the outsider is Marcus (Jack Elam), a rough hewn pioneer whose marriage to Kiona (Rosanna DeSoto), an Indian woman, has banned him from the society of other townsmen, which he craves. In this case, Marcus’ isolation is not a reaction to humanity’s wounds on him (as it is in “The Well”) but a sacrifice he makes for the love of his spouse.

Conflict with local bandits drags Marcus back into the fellowship of the townsmen, however. For a time, Marcus is a hero because he has shot marauder Cob Blake. His newfound friendships are tested when the rest of the Blake clan comes for revenge.

The flashback involves a man Caine saves from drowning but who is despondent because Caine cannot save him from poverty and hunger. In the present tense, “The Squawman” ends in a terrific fight scene. And the questions the episode raise focus on society and civilization: what is it on the frontier when its shape and boundaries are determined by a handful of men and dependent on their ideas? How are its dictates enforced? And what do you do when the crowd’s justice is injustice?

Good solid episode, not too surprising. Three out of four yin yangs. It was observed at the Facebook page that some episodes of Kung Fu concern themselves with the spiritual while others focus on the secular, the ethical. Interesting that "The Brujo" was the former while episodes like "The Squawman" and "The Ancient Warrior" are the latter. It's a resonant theme in the western genre: in the absence of a central authority, how is civilization defined and maintained? What does it mean when law and order is one man, a gang, a tribe, a mob?

Another interesting thing worth noting here is that part of what made this show so great was its endless supply of great character actors. Jack Elam is a prime example. Great quote from him on his IMDB page, describing what makes a good character actor: "Who's Jack Elam? Get me Jack Elam. Get me a Jack Elam type. Get me a young Jack Elam. Who's Jack Elam?"

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home