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Friday, May 10, 2013

'Have Gun-Will Travel' S6 V1 & V2: Relevance Extends to Boston Marathon Bombings



The recent DVD releases of "Have Gun-Will Travel" the Final Seasons Volumes One and Two are one reason that May and June 2013 can be considered the "Western Spring" regarding DVD sets. It is possible that the upcoming "Lone Ranger" film with Johnny Depp prompted this renewed interest in the Old West.

"Travel" was released on the same day as the mini-series "James A. Michener's Texas," which received a positive review on this site, and "Gunsmoke" Season Eight Volumes One and Two. "Gunsmoke" will be reviewed next week.

Volumes One and Two of the Sixth Season of the early Clint Eastwood Western "Rawhide" with one of the catchiest theme songs ever are being released on June 4, 2013.

The first thing that required mentioning regarding "Travel" was the incredible quality of the remastered episodes of this awesome Western anthology series, which represented both of those popular genres from its late '50s/early '60s era very well. The images from the 50 year-old production were exceptionally crisp, and even background sounds were very clear.

As the multi-Emmy nominated "Travel's" title suggested, Paladin's gun was for hire. He did dance in the dark and was in a series that Sparks produced. (Google it millenials.)

A typical episode began with a telegram from a client prompting Sparks to travel from his luxury late 19th century suite at San Francisco's Carlton Hotel to the Old West location where he was needed. The hooks were that Paladin was a well-bred man whose quest for redemption prompted restricting his work to just causes. Many episodes ended with Paladin literally riding off into the sunset.

Repentant vampire Angel of his eponymous series and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was a modern example of that persona.

Seeing that the portrayed themes in "Travel" related to today's world was expected. A "ripped from the headlines" episode that DIRECTLY and fairly specifically related to an element of the Boston Marathon bombings that was playing out while I was watching Volume One episodes was surprising.

The plot of "A Place for Abel Hix" involved retired gunfighter Abel Hix hiring Paladin to retrieve (presumably legitimately acquired) funds on his behalf. On arriving to complete his mission, Paladin discovered that a wealthy landowner had recently killed Hix in a gun fight.

An early scene had Hix's diminutive widow, Hix's loyal hired hand, and a relatively frail minister attempting to carry Hix's coffin to a cemetery for burial. The townspeople who arrived on the scene within seconds of Paladin merely watched as the widow dropped her corner of the coffin on the church steps.

The unanimous attitude of the townspeople was that they did not want the body of someone with as reprehensible a past as Hix to be buried with their friends and relatives. These "good" folks would not even help the widow et al carry the coffin back into the church.

The relevancy of this aspect of "Hix" to the Boston Marathon bombing was that the body of deceased bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was stored at a Worcester, Massachusetts funeral home for more than two weeks because Boston mayor Tom Menino numerous other public and private officials refused to allow the body to be buried in cemeteries under their jurisdiction. This included a cemetery that the Massachusetts Department of Corrections operated. 

The stalemate ended just yesterday when it was announced that Tsarnaev would be buried at an undisclosed location.

There is virtually no doubt that Baby did a bad bad thing and deserved appropriate punishment. However, there is a strong argument that common decency and the pain of the relatives who loved Tsarnaev entitled Tsarnaev to at least quietly being put to rest in the same manner as many before him who have caused far worse mayhem than the truly despicable bombings that justified hating the perpetrators of that deed. 

It seemed that Paladin recognized the principle described above in advocating reasonable treatment of Hix's remains.

As an aside, Boston's NPR station WBUR ran a related story regarding the bombing-related anger of Boston this morning. The interviewed psychiatrist stated both that people did not respect people who did acts such as the bombing because the malfeasors did not respect them. The psychiatrist described the challenge as channeling the anger in a healthy manner.

The prescription for properly channeled anger prompted thoughts of comedy legend Mel Brooks remarking that he ridiculed Nazis in films such as "The Producers" and "To Be or Not to Be" to take away the fascists' power. This technique prompted me to make jokes regarding Curious George's man in the yellow hat a few weeks ago.

Returning to "Travel," the sixth (and final) season premiere had minor shades of "Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade" in that it involved rather Freudian daddy issues (watch the closing credits carefully) and had Paladin assume protector duties from a predecessor. This origin story started with Paladin beating down a would-be assassin who ambushed him in his hotel suite.

Paladin then related how a gambler, played by episode director William "Frank Cannon" Conrad, had coerced Paladin into going after a man who had taken all of the gambler's property and banished that character from his community. This incidence essentially made Paladin the man that he had become.

"Star Trek" god Gene Roddenberry wrote the second episode of the sixth season. Unintended humor in that one had the shrew who a wealthy ranch owner hired Paladin to drive away style her hair in braided buns on the side ala Princess Leia in the "Star Wars" films. Watching Paladin's low key style of tormenting this woman was hilarious, and seeing him display his well-known honor at the very end was great. 

A Christmas episode had Paladin finding shelter for and protecting a woman was due to give birth. 

Like "Hix," other episodes had Paladin defending less than reputable sorts. One assignment near the end of the series' run had Paladin transporting a murderer from a prison to a mental hospital. More typical stories along these lines put Paladin in the role of protecting folks who were accused of heinous acts against other folks who did not take kindly to those deeds.

Aside from the well-acted great dramas in "Travel," this series was special because it showed both that supposedly upright citizens did not have as much compassion and love for their fellow man as they asserted to possess and that there was at least one man out there with the integrity to go to extraordinary lengths to do what was right and honor his commitments.

Anyone with questions regarding "Travel" is encouraged to email me.