Jeff Arnold’s West

The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans

The Bounty Man (ABC TV, 1972)

 

Hard case Clint

 

The Western has long pursued a love affair with the character of the bounty hunter. One might have thought that a person who tracked down men for money would be essentially unsympathetic, certainly as the hero, yet even Randolph Scott was one in 1954 and don’t forget Steve McQueen: on Wanted: Dead or Alive he gave his bounty away to worthy widows so often it’s a wonder he made a living at all. Mind, there was always an ‘edge’ to the bounty hunter. Look at the way Henry Fonda was regarded as he rode into town with his latest quarry slung over the saddle of a packhorse in The Tin Star. The townsfolk didn’t like him one bit.

 

In 1972 it was Clint Walker’s turn. Cheyenne Bodie from 1955 to 1963 wasn’t a bounty hunter as such, though he often did track down and bring in bad guys, just not for the money. From 1958 Clint had also appeared in features, in pictures such as Fort Dobbs, Yellowstone Kelly, Gold of the Seven Saints, and the like, and he did a good job on the big screen too, also in non-Westerns, but we tend to think of Clint Walker as mainly a TV cowboy actor, or at least I do. I was a huge fan of Cheyenne as a boy. Clint did quite a few Western TV movies. He started with Yuma in 1971 and the following year he did two more oaters, Hardcase, aired in February, and The Bounty Man in October, both, like Yuma, screened on ABC and both directed by John Llewellyn Moxey. Mr Moxey used to be just plain John Moxey but apparently he began using his middle name at the suggestion of a numerologist. I don’t know if it worked. He directed four episodes of Kung Fu but didn’t really do Westerns as a rule. There’s a interview with him on the DVD.

 

Llewellyn at the helm

 

Anyway.

 

Dig the early-70s ‘tache

 

In the opening scene of The Bounty Man, Kinkaid (Clint) shoots one of the two men he is after (Hal Needham) and captures the other (Glenn Wilder). That establishes his tough bona fides. Then there are the credits over some perfectly dreadful music, the weakest part of the film, with jejune doggerel for words and an amazingly unmelodic tune, before Kinkaid goes into a saloon (tying his prisoner to the hitching rail before entering) and meets a band of lowlife colleagues – colleagues only in the sense that they too hunt down wanted men for the bounty – and these types are rather good as baddies, especially their leader Angus Keough, played very well, I thought, by second-billed Richard Basehart, whom we all probably think of as Admiral Nelson in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea or Ishmael in the 1956 Moby Dick. Basehart actually starred in a couple of Westerns in the early 60s. He was in fact a talented actor. And he had a great hat in The Bounty Man.

 

Rogue with a base heart

 

We now get a couple of nice little cameos from Arthur Hunnicutt as the grizzled sheriff (of course he only did grizzled) and Gene Evans as the one-armed storekeeper, a former bounty-hunter who has now hung up his guns and found peace and tranquility selling flour. Sheriff Hunnicutt doesn’t cotton to bounty-hunters at all but grudgingly hands over the $500 reward money and also a new wanted poster, for a certain Billy Riddle, who is worth ten times that, five grand! Of course Clint and the lowlifes too will be after that bounty alright.

 

Enjoyable cameos from Arthur and Gene

 

This Billy Riddle (John Ericson, Pete Wirth in Bad Day at Black Rock) is a slick charmer, though deep down no good, and he has beguiled poor Mae (Margo Kidder, Lois Lane in the 1978 Superman) who is desperately trying to escape a life of whoring. Mae sees the scoundrel Billy as her way out. Wrongly. Or wrongly to begin with…

 

He’s what my grandpa would have called a cad

 

Riddle is hiding out in the Nations so isn’t going to be easy to find and it’s sure gonna be dangerous when he is found. Keough’s gang won’t go to that trouble: they wait for Kinkaid to capture Riddle, then they’ll kill Kinkaid and claim the bounty themselves.

 

Clint wears a poncho now, which makes him look a bit like his spaghetti namesake, but it’s useful for concealing a sawn-off shotgun that Gene Evans lent him.

 

The rest of the movie concerns how Kinkaid thwarts the base arts of Basehart and his pretty repellent henchmen (Rex Holman, Wayne Sutherlin, Dennis Cross and Vincent St Cyr, the last-named being a deadly Indian or half-breed who shrugs off getting shot and carries on henching regardless).

 

Mae may succeed

 

At the end – yet nay, for Jeff Arnold does not deal in spoilers (hem hem).

 

Overall, I must say that The Bounty Man was not Clint’s finest hour. Some of the direction was plodding, some of the writing too, though the screenplay or is it teleplay was by experienced TV Western guy Jim Byrnes, and as I said above the music is dire thoughout.

 

 

Still, Basehart was very good (slightly Thomas Mitchell-ish I thought, not sure why), there were some half-decent California locations, and those cameos helped. All in all, you could watch it. You wouldn’t regret it, really.

 

 

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