TV Review – FIREFLY: SERENITY (2002)

FIREFLY: SERENITY (TV) (2002, USA) ****
Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi

dist. Fox Network (USA); pr co. Mutant Enemy / 20th Century Fox Television; d. Joss Whedon; w. Joss Whedon; exec pr. Joss Whedon, Tim Minear; pr. Gareth Davies, Ben Edlund; assoc pr. Lisa Lassek, Brian Wankum; ph. David Boyd (Colour. 35mm, HDTV (remastered re-runs), Video (NTSC). Spherical. 1.78:1); m. Greg Edmonson; theme m/l. Joss Whedon (performed by Sonny Rhodes); ed. Lisa Lassek; pd. Carey Meyer; set d. David A. Koneff; cos. Jill M. Ohanneson; m/up. Camille Calvet, Tina Hoffman, Ron Pipes, Colette Slattery; sd. Cindy Rabideau (Dolby Digital); sfx. Bruce Minkus; vfx. Kristen Branan, Loni Peristere; st. Eddie Braun; rel. 20 December 2002 (USA), 12 May 2003 (UK); cert: 12; r/t. 86m.

cast: Nathan Fillion (Captain Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds), Gina Torres (Zoë Washburne), Alan Tudyk (Hoban ‘Wash’ Washburne), Morena Baccarin (Inara Serra), Adam Baldwin (Jayne Cobb), Jewel Staite (Kaylee Frye), Sean Maher (Dr. Simon Tam), Summer Glau (River Tam), Ron Glass (Shepherd Derrial Book), Carlos Jacott (Lawrence Dobson), Mark Sheppard (Badger), Andy Umberger (Dortmunder Captain), Philip Sternberg (Inara’s Client), Eddie Adams (Bendis), Colin Patrick Lynch (Radio Operator), Bonnie Bartlett (Patience), Domingo Vara (Ensign), Stephen O’Mahoney (Man (Dortmunder)), Jamie McShane (Man), John F. Kearney (Old Man).

Malcolm Reynolds (Fillion) is a veteran and the captain of Serenity. He and his crew are smuggling goods, but they need to pick up some passengers for extra money. However, not all the passengers are what they seem. This highly entertaining and witty mix of Sci-Fi and Western themes was the pilot episode for the TV series Firefly. The premise transplants the aftermath of the American Civil War to outer space – the browncoats replace the greycoats and the Alliance replace the Union, whilst the “’verse” replaces the states and the Reavers replace the Native Americans. Fillion channels Harrison Ford’s Han Solo but adds the complexity of a defeated soldier still proud of the cause he fought for and refusing to surrender his values. His crew all have distinctive characteristics that makes them standout as individual characters. The ambiguity between the crew making a living from salvage via criminal distribution and the moral stance they are often asked to take give the story and the subsequent series its focus. Whedon had developed a wonderful premise and had executed it with finesse. Unfortunately, the TV public were slow to catch on and Fox cancelled the series before it had managed to pick up an audience. The resultant TV series (2002-3) ran for just 14 episodes but built enough of a cult following to warrant a theatrical sequel SERENITY (2005).

TV Review – CITY OF ANGELS: THE NOVEMBER PLAN (1976)

CITY OF ANGELS: THE NOVEMBER PLAN (1976, USA) ***
Crime, Mystery
dist. National Broadcasting Company (NBC) (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Roy Huggins-Public Arts Productions / Universal Television; d. Don Medford; w. Stephen J. Cannell (based on a story by Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell); exec pr. Jo Swerling Jr.; pr. Roy Huggins; assoc pr. Dorothy J. Bailey; ph. Ric Waite (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Nelson Riddle; m sup. Hal Mooney; ed. Edwin F. England, Ronald LaVine, Larry Lester; ad. John W. Corso; set d. Jerry Adams; cos. Charles Waldo; sd. John K. Kean (Mono); rel. 3 February 1976 (USA – TV), April 1977 (UK); cert: -/PG; r/t. 3 x 47mm.

cast: Wayne Rogers (Jake Axminster), Elaine Joyce (Marsha), Philip Sterling (Michael Brimm), Clifton James (Lt. Murray Quint), Diane Ladd (Laura Taylor), Meredith Baxter (Mary Kingston (as Meredith Baxter Birney)), Laurence Luckinbill (Noel Crossman Jr.), Stephen Elliott (Harold Delaney), Jack Kruschen (Harry Kahn), Dorothy Malone (Dawn Archer), Lloyd Nolan (Gen. Smedley Butler), Robert Sampson (Wayne Fisher), G.D. Spradlin (Gen. Winfield), Laurence Hugo (Alex Sebastian), Steve Kanaly (Parker), Martin Kove (Stan), Pepper Martin (Reggie), Rod McCary (George Donaldson), Paul Jenkins (Terry), Ross Bickell (Murdock).

Jake Axminster (Rogers) is a hard-boiled, wise-cracking private eye in 1934 Los Angeles. Mary Kingston (Baxter) hires him to prove her innocence because she is being framed for murdering her boyfriend, and the police are seeking her whereabouts. Jake hides her in a beach house and begins his investigation. He discovers that Mary and her boyfriend witnessed a Alex Sebastian’s (Hugo) murder at a party on the previous night, and she fled but her boyfriend was captured and killed. Sebastien was a reporter who was about to publish a story of some importance, concerning the date of November thirteenth. Following in the wake of CHINATOWN (1974) this was a valiant attempt by Universal to capture the same blend of period atmosphere, themes of corruption and a Chandler-esque mystery. The result is a mixed bag with the positives being the period detail in the production design and some smart dialogue. On the minus side are the unimaginative and sometimes flat direction and a disappointing denouement. Rogers essays James Garner in his interpretation of the down-at-heel private eye but he lacks Garner’s charm. Nevertheless, his enthusiastic performance occasionally hits home. A strong support cast is on hand, notably the excellent Joyce as Rogers’ secretary who combines her work with running the phone lines for the city’s hookers. Joyce has a natural comic flair which elevates the material when she is on screen. James is the corrupt cop who beats on his prisoners and Baxter has fun as the fugitive starlet. The script, by veterans Stephen J. Cannell and Roy Huggins, could have been sharpened further, but the production was a hasty one with the series being a mid-season replacement. The promise on show here would occasionally surface over the series’ next ten episodes before it was cancelled due to low ratings just as it was building a head of steam. Whilst this three-part story served to introduce the series to its US audience, it was edited to 103 minutes and released in cinemas in the UK, Europe, Australia, Central and South America. The film was based on a notorious 1933 American conspiracy known as the Business Plot, which involved wealthy businessmen trying to bring down United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a coup.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: REVOLUTION OF THE DALEKS (2021)

DOCTOR WHO: REVOLUTION OF THE DALEKS (TV) (2021) **½
Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); pr co. BBC Studios; d. Lee Haven Jones; w. Chris Chibnall; exec pr. Chris Chibnall; pr. Alex Mercer; ph. Luke Bryant (Colour. 2.00:1); m. Segun Akinola; ed. Joel Skinner; pd. Dafydd Shurmer; ad. Rebecca Brown; set d. Vicki Male; cos. Ray Holman; m/up. Claire Pritchard-Jones; sd. Harry Barnes (Dolby Digital); sfx. Real SFX; vfx. DNEG, Chris Thomas; b/cast. 1 January 2021 (UK/USA); cert: 12; r/t. 71m.

cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Chris Noth (Jack Robertson), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Leo Rugazzi), Harriet Walter (Jo Patterson), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Leo Rugazzi), Nathan Armakwei-Laryea (Armen), Helene Anderson (Rachel), Nicholas Briggs (Daleks (voice)), Sharon D. Clarke (Grace).

The Doctor is imprisoned halfway across the universe. On Earth, the sighting of a Dalek alerts Ryan, Graham and Yaz. Can the return of Captain Jack Harkness help them stop a deadly Dalek takeover? A disappointing special which is failed by a script that is full of plot holes and is decidedly lazy, skirting over key narrative progressions. It also fails to make the most of its dramatic potential – for example Jack and Yaz’s discovery of the Tokyo Dalek factory should have been the surprise reveal, but we had already been introduced to it a few scenes earlier. The whole threat lacks the global and epic scope its plot suggests, and the wrap-up is far too convenient. Barrowman’s return is welcome, but he disappears at the story’s conclusion. Noth’s performance is way over the top and just as unconvincing as it was in his previous appearance in ARACHNIDS IN THE UK (2018). Moments of character introspection are welcome and help to add some explanation of motivation. Whittaker is okay as the Doctor, but still lacks the presence of previous incarnations. The Daleks are great in both traditional and new designs and the clash of different factions recalls earlier episodes – notably REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS (1988). Technical values are high and the episode is nicely shot, but the direction of Jones fails to overcome the limitations of Chibnall’s script.

TV Review – BLACK NARCISSUS (2020)

Black Narcissus' Gets FX Premiere Date, Trailer And Key Art Released –  DeadlineBLACK NARCISSUS (TV) (2020, UK) ***
Drama
dist. BBC One (UK), FX Network (USA); pr co. DNA Films; d. Charlotte Bruus Christensen; w. Amanda Coe (based on the novel by Rumer Godden); exec pr. Ayela Butt, Amanda Coe, Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich, Lucy Richer; pr. Cahal Bannon; assoc pr. Vivien Kenny; ph. Charlotte Bruus Christensen (Colour. 2.00:1); m. Anne Dudley; ed. Jinx Godfrey; pd. Kave Quinn; ad. Andrea Matheson; cos. Kave Quinn; m/up. Nicole Stafford, Emmy Beech; sd. Ben Barker, Glenn Freemantle (Dolby Digital); sfx. Mark Meddings; vfx. Samantha Townend st. Jamie Edgell; rel. 23 November 2020 (USA), 27 December 2020 (UK); cert: NR; r/t. 165m.

cast: Gemma Arterton (Sister Clodagh), Aisling Franciosi (Sister Ruth), Nila Aalia (Angu Ayah), Patsy Ferran (Sister Blanche), Rosie Cavaliero (Sister Briony), Gianni Gonsalves (Srimati Rai), Soumil Malla (Joseph Anthony), Alessandro Nivola (Mr Dean), Wayne Llewellyn (Sannyasi), Dipika Kunwar (Kanchi), Chaneil Kular (Dilip Rai), Jim Broadbent (Father Roberts), Diana Rigg (Mother Dorothea), Aashish Shrestha (Phuba), Gina McKee (Sister Adela), Prabal Sonam Ghising (Pin), Komal Ghambole (Samya), Kulvinder Ghir (General Toda Rai), Karen Bryson (Sister Philippa).

A group of nuns face challenges in the hostile environment of a remote old Himalayan palace that they wish to make a convent. This adaptation of the 1939 novel by Rumer Godden suffers from being drawn out over three one-hour episodes as there really is no three act structure to contain it. The story relies on a gradual building of tension as the nuns battle with their sexual repression and their environment. The pluses are the excellent production values and photography and Dudley’s baroque score. There are fine performances too from Arterton and Franciosi as well as Cavaliero. The tension builds nicely in the final half hour, but the drama could have been edited down into a two-hour version and delivered a stronger dynamic. Powell and Pressburger’s 1947 movie version therefore remains definitive, despite the valiant attempts to more accurately reflect the source material here.

TV Movie Review – SHAFT: THE KIDNAPPING (1973)

Life Between Frames: Worth Mentioning - The Cat That Won't Cop OutSHAFT: THE KIDNAPPING (TV) (1973, USA) ***
Action, Crime, Drama
net. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); pr co. MGM Television; d. Alexander Singer; w. Allan Balter. William Read Woodfield ; exec pr. Allan Balter; pr. William Read Woodfield; ass pr. Dann Cahn; ph. Michael Hugo (Metrocolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Johnny Pate, theme m. Isaac Hayes; m sup. Harry V Lojewski; ed. George Folsey Jr.; ad. Bill Ross; set d. Richard Friedman; cos. Norman A. Burza, Sylvia Liggett; m/up. Jack Wilson, Billie Jordan; sd. Robert J. Miller, Hal Watkins (Mono); b/cast. 11 December 1973 (USA); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 74m.

cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft), Eddie Barth (Lt. Al Rossi), Paul Burke (Elliot Williamson), Karen Carlson (Nancy Williamson), Nicolas Beauvy (Matthew Potter), Greg Mullavey (Beck), Timothy Scott (Hayden), Victor Brandt (Leo), Frank Marth (Sheriff Bradley), Philip Kenneally (Deputy Walter), Erik Holland (Deputy Daley), Frank Whiteman (Deputy Milton), Stephen Coit (Mr. Tolliver), Jayne Kennedy (Debbie), Richard Stahl (Potter), Joe Petrullo (Cab Driver), Robert Casper (Bank customer), Rudy Doucette (Police Officer (uncredited)).

A banker’s wife is kidnapped, and the kidnappers insist that Shaft deliver the ransom. But complications arise when, on the way to the drop point, Shaft is stopped by an overzealous deputy who won’t listen to a word he says. This was the first shot episode (broadcast fourth) of the Shaft TV Movie series and it is little more than standard TV fare. However, its individual  elements lift it above other more modest entries in the TV series and it is a pretty good introduction for TV audiences to a more family friendly John Shaft. TV at the time was not ready for the Shaft seen on the big screen, so compromises were made with the character’s abrasiveness, salty language, violent approach to detection and his wooing of the opposite sex. These elements were dialled down. To compensate the producers extracted footage from the chase finale in SHAFT’S BIG SCORE! and repurposed it here to introduce Shaft to a TV audience. This provides a dynamic opening , which a TV budget could not match for the rest of the story. Shaft’s shootout with the bad guys at the story’s conclusion is low-scale compared to the imported opening. Nevertheless, Roundtree shows glimpses of his big screen persona and has an athletic presence throughout.

TV Movie Review – McCLOUD: ENCOUNTER WITH ARIES (1971)

McCloud : Encounter with Aries (1971) - Russ Mayberry | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related | AllMovieMcCLOUD: ENCOUNTER WITH ARIES (TV) (1971, USA) ***½
Crime, Drama, Mystery
Network: NATIONAL BROADCASTING COMPANY (NBC) (USA); production company: UNIVERSAL TELEVISION; director: RUSS MAYBERRY; writer: PETER ALLAN FIELDS; producer: DEAN HARGROVE; associate producer: PETER ALLAN FIELDS; director of photography: WILLIAM MARGULIES (Technicolor | 35mm | Spherical | 1.37:1); music: DICK DEBENEDICTIS; film editor: BYRON ‘BUZZ’ BRANDT; art director: WILLIAM H. TUNTKE; set decorator: JOSEPH J. STONE; costumes: GRADY HUNT; sound: EDWIN S. HALL (Mono); broadcast date: 22 SEPTEMBER 1971 (USA); BBFC cert: PG; running time: 76 MINS.
Cast: DENNIS WEAVER (Sam McCloud), J.D. CANNON (Peter B. Clifford), SEBASTIAN CABOT (Sidney Cantrell), PETER HASKELL (Richard Stevens), SUSAN STRASBERG (Lorraine), LOUISE LATHAM (Emily Cantrell), ALAN OPPENHEIMER (Mervin Simmons), TERRY CARTER (Det. Joe Broadhurst), ROBERT HOGAN (Detective Finnegan), JILL JARESS (Gloria), BOOTH COLMAN (Hines), WOODROW PARFREY (Elmer), ELISHA COOK JR. (Mr. Rafer), FORREST LEWIS (Old Man), FRED HOLLIDAY (Intern), ELIZABETH LANE (Nurse), ATHENA LORDE (Floor Nurse), NANCY JERIS (Marie), JAMES GAVIN (Policeman).
The kidnapping of a woman (Latham) who is married to a wealthy astrologer (Cabot) — and the appearance of her kidnapper (Haskell), who claims she is being held in a room with a ticking time bomb — spur the woman’s husband to bash in the kidnapper’s head with a vase. This leaves McCloud (Weaver) with a limited time to determine where the woman is and who is really behind the kidnapping. This was the first episode following the transition of McCloud from its one-hour slot as part of the Four-in-One wheel to a regular rotation as part of the NBC Mystery Movie series. The story is a strong one with elements of mystery and humour. By now the role of McCloud fits the charming Weaver as well as his cowboy boots and his sparring with Cannon is always a joy to watch. A good script by Fields, tight direction from Mayberry and the casting of Cabot as the astrologer also help make this an above average mystery movie.

TV Movie Review – COLUMBO: ANY OLD PORT IN A STORM (1973)

Adrian CarsiniCOLUMBO: ANY OLD PORT IN A STORM (TV) (1973, USA) ****
Crime, Drama, Mystery
dist. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. Leo Penn; w. Stanley Ralph Ross (based on a story by Larry Cohen); pr. Robert F. O’Neill; ph. Harry L. Wolf (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Dick DeBenedictis; m sup. Hal Mooney; ed. Larry Lester, Buddy Small; ad. Archie J. Bacon; set d. John M. Dwyer; cos. Grady Hunt; sd. David H. Moriarty (Mono); rel. 7 October 1973 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 96m.

cast: Peter Falk (Columbo), Donald Pleasence (Adrian Carsini), Joyce Jillson (Joan Stacey), Gary Conway (Enrico Guiseppe Carsini), Dana Elcar (Falcon), Julie Harris (Karen Fielding), Vito Scotti (Maitre d’), Robert Donner (The Drunk), Robert Ellenstein (Stein), Robert Walden (Billy Fine), Regis Cordic (Lewis), Reid Smith (Andy Stevens), John McCann (Officer), George Gaynes (Frenchman), Monte Landis (Steward), Walker Edmiston (Auctioneer), Pamela Campbell (Cassie Marlowe).

Adrian Carsini (Pleasence) runs a California winery owned by his younger half-brother (Conway) who reveals he’s about to sell it. This enrages the older wine connoisseur who knocks the young playboy out cold and ties him up in the wine cellar. Soon Carsini has committed a murder and makes it look like a scuba diving accident. The rumpled Lt. Columbo (Falk) is on the case and is willing to harass everyone – even Carsini’s cold but devoted secretary (Harris) – until he’s discovered the truth. One of the most entertaining of the Columbo mystery movies and one of the few where the rumpled detective has a liking for the killer. The winery setting and Pleasence’s delightfully snobbish performance give this episode a playfully novel feel. Whilst the murder is hardly perfect, the way Falk unravels the case is sublime. The finale in the expensive restaurant and on the cliffs overlooking the sea are neatly staged and the final scene where the detective and the murderer share a last bottle is nicely played. The production values are standard for 1970s TV, but the light, humorous touch and the lead performances make this well worth a look.

TV Review – STRIKE: LETHAL WHITE (2020)

What is Strike: Lethal White on BBC One tonight and how many episodes are  there?STRIKE: LETHAL WHITE (2020, UK) ***½
Crime, Drama. Mystery
net. British Broadcasting Corportation (BBC); pr co. Bronte Film and TV; d. Susan Tully; w. Tom Edge (based on the novel by J.K. Rowling (as Robert Galbraith)); exec pr. Neil Blair, Tommy Bulfin, Tom Edge, Ruth Kenley-Letts, J.K. Rowling; pr. Jackie Larkin; ph. Tomasz Naumiuk (Colour. 1.78:1); m. Adrian Johnston; m sup. Phil Canning; ed. Steve Singleton; pd. Alison Riva; ad. Abbie Bellwood; set d. Sophia Millar; cos. Henrietta Nieper; m/up. Caroline Greenough, Karen Scott; sd. John Rodda (Dolby Digital); st. Crispin Layfield; tr. 30 August – 13 September 2020; r/t. 4 x 60m.

cast: Tom Burke (Cormoran Strike), Holliday Grainger (Robin Ellacott), Kerr Logan (Matthew Cunliffe), Nick Blood (Jimmy Knight), Robert Glenister (Jasper Chiswell), Joseph Quinn (Billy Knight), Sophie Winkleman (Kinvara Chiswell), Christina Cole (Izzy Chiswell), Adam Long (Raff Chiswell), Natalie Gumede (Lorelei Bevan), Saffron Coomber (Flick Purdue), Danny Ashok (Aamir Malik), Robert Pugh (Geraint Ifon Winn), Jack Greenlees (Sam Barclay), Natasha O’Keeffe (Charlotte Campbell), Ann Akin (Vanessa Ekwensi), Anna Cannings (Della Winn), Robyn Holdaway (Hayley), Kathleen Cranham (Shanice), Bronagh Waugh (Dawn Clancy), Silas Carson (Henry Drummond), Sophie Colquhoun (Sarah Shadlock), Suzanne Burden (Linda Ellacott), Paul Butterworth (Michael Ellacott), Joe Johnsey (Martin Ellacott), Nicholas Agnew (Tom Turvey), Judi Kenley (Robin’s Aunt), Suzanne Toase (Denise), James Mellish (Freddie), Jamie Ankrah (Alfie), Joel Gillman (Digby), Ruth Lass (Dr. Elspeth Curtis-Lacey), Jacqueline Boatswain (Claire Morbury), Julie Morgan Price (Georgina).

Cormoran Strike (Burke) and Robin Ellacott (Grainger) are back, and at odds following Robin’s wedding to Matthew (Logan). But there is no time to mull on the new distance within their professional relationship, as a frightening visit from a potential client puts a new case on the table – and Robin and Strike set to work looking into reports of a strangled child. With the detective agency thriving, the duo is also recruited to investigate the blackmail of a Government Minister (Glenister) and Robin is tasked with going undercover in the House of Commons. Rowling’s fourth hefty Cormoran Strike novel (written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) is faithfully adapted in this long and complex mystery. Technical credits are top class and the performances of the cast are uniformly excellent. Burke and Grainger have established a great rapport as the lead detectives. This is ultimately a well-written and traditional mystery thriller with continuing personal arcs from earlier stories, which casual viewers may find difficult to follow. However, fans of the books and demanding mysteries will not be disappointed.

TV Review – THE VIRGINIAN: BELOVED OUTLAW (1966)

Sara Lane in “Beloved Outlaw” (5:11) – The Virginian WeblogTHE VIRGINIAN: BELOVED OUTLAW (1966, USA) ***
Western
net. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. William Witney; w. True Boardman; exec pr. Frank Price; pr. Winston Miller; ph. Enzo A. Martinelli (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Jack Hayes, Leo Shuken; m sup. Stanley Wilson; th. Percy Faith; ed. Edward A. Biery; ad. George Patrick; set d. Claire P. Brown, John McCarthy Jr.; cos. Vincent Dee; m/up. Bud Westmore, Larry Germain; sd. Bill Ford (Mono); tr. 23 November 1966; r/t. 75m.

cast: James Drury (The Virginian), Charles Bickford (John Grainger), Doug McClure (Trampas), Don Quine (Stacey Grainger), Sara Lane (Elizabeth Grainger), John Bryant (Dr. Spaulding), James McCallion (Hostler), Bing Russell (Gabe Sloan), John Archer (Paul Nelson), James Beck (Peters), Don Wilbanks (Jenkins), John Harmon (Auctioneer).

(s. 5 ep. 11) A wild white stallion draws the attention of Elizabeth (Lane) who convinces her grandfather (Bickford) to buy it. Against his wishes, she tames and breaks the stallion when Trampas (McClure) is unable to. Her and the stallion become inseparable, but a problem occurs. The standard story of girl falls in love with wild horse and only she can tame him. All the stock story development is used in this tale, but it is done without becoming cloyingly sentimental and Lane delivers a genuinely charming and engaging performance.

TV Review – GUNSMOKE: P.S. MURRY CHRISTMAS (1971)

Gunsmoke: P.S. Murry Christmas - 1971 - Miss Kitty and Marshall Dillon  (With images) | Miss kitty, Gunsmoke, James arnessGUNSMOKE: P.S. MURRY CHRISTMAS (1971, USA) ***
Western
net. CBS Television Network; pr co. CBS Television Network; d. Herb Wallerstein; w. William Kelley; exec pr. John Mantley; pr. Leonard Katzman; ass pr. Ron Honthaner; ph. Monroe P. Askins (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Richard Shores; th. Rex Koury (uncredited); ed. Thomas J. McCarthy; ad. William Craig Smith; set d. Herman N. Schoenbrun; cos. Alexander Velcoff; m/up. Glen Alden, Irving Pringle, Esperanza Corona, Gertrude Wheeler; sd. Andrew Gilmore, Jerry Rosenthal (Mono); tr. 27 December 1971; r/t. 50m.

cast: James Arness (Matt Dillon), Milburn Stone (Doc), Amanda Blake (Kitty), Ken Curtis (Festus), Buck Taylor (Newly), Jeanette Nolan (Emma Grundy), Patti Cohoon-Friedman (Mary (as Patti Cohoon)), Jodie Foster (Patricia), Erin Moran (Jenny), Josh Albee (Michael), Brian Morrison (Owen), Willie Aames (Tom), Todd Lookinland (Jake), Jack Elam (Titus Spangler), Glenn Strange (Sam Noonan), Jack Collins (J. Stedman Edgecomb), Ted Jordan (Nathan Burke), Herb Vigran (Judge Brooker), Sarah Selby (Ma Smalley), Maudie Prickett (Mrs. Pretch), Rudy Doucette (Barfly (uncredited)), Jimmy Noel (Barfly (uncredited)), Max Wagner (Barfly (uncredited)).

(s. 17 ep. 15) Handyman Titus Spangler (Elam) rescues seven orphans from an overly stern headmistress, Emma Grundy (Nolan), and winds up in Dodge City at Christmas time. This seasonal episode has all the warmth needed to deliver its typically moralistic story. It is helped by a strong guest cast including Elam as the good-hearted rogue and Nolan as the hard and embittered headmistress of the orphanage. Redemption is the keyword here and rest assured all ends happily ever after on Christmas Day in The Long Branch saloon. The peck on the cheek that Kitty gives to Matt in this episode is as close as the two came to an on- air kiss in the twenty years of Gunsmoke on television.