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Stop, stand, and wait.

To break the boredom of perpetual lockdown, I walk around the neighborhood once daily, unless it snows. I'm not adventurous; it's the same walk every time: six blocks north, one block west, six blocks south, one block east, and back to this recliner. And it didn't snow overnight, so here we go.

At the first corner, there used to be two newsboxes, and I'd feedd quarters into a machine to buy a newspaper. The first newsbox was removed after the paper went bankrupt. The second newspaper still publishes, but the newsbox is abandoned, always empty.

At the next corner there's a tavern, and across the street is my second-favorite diner in town, but both have been padlocked for the winter because of the pandemic. "For the winter" might be overly optimistic.

Along Humphrey Street there's a red, rickety, run-down house with four Trump signs still on the lawn, which gives me a schadenfreude smile. That orange imbecile is finally gone.

The Lutheran Church has a Little Free Pantry on its lawn, offering canned foods free for the taking. I take a chicken soup.

Two blocks further on my walk, there's a scrawny boy waiting for a bus. He's maybe 10, maybe 8, stick-thin and wearing glasses. I don't give him much thought until two bigger, older boys come along. They're saying something, and I'm not near enough to hear, but from half a block away, I recognize what's happening.

One of the big kids feigns a punch but doesn't make contact, just for the joy of watching the little kid flinch. The other one slaps at the scrawny boy's backpack. No damage has yet been done, except to the little guy's morning and mood and self-esteem.

As I come closer, I can hear what the big kids are saying, and the language of cruelty hasn't changed since I was bullied when I was a boy. "Dummy" and "Shit-head" and "Ya little asswipe" — all the classics. Then one of the big kids shoves the little one, but he keeps his footing, so far.

And then I'm too close for them to continue. In a few years they won't care about adults who aren't cops, but for now, for today, my presence is an interruption and they're on good behavior.

I daydream about it, but don't smack either of them in the head. I don't feign a punch, just to watch them flinch. I don't even yell at them. I'm the grown-up here, sadly, so I simply stop, stand, and wait beside the little kid. He's looking down the street as the bus — his escape — approaches from a few blocks away.

The big boys aren't waiting for a bus. They probably don't even have the fare. Their purpose is only to taunt or bruise the little kid. Seeing me standing and grumpy, and the bus coming, they understand that they'll have no further opportunity to make the boy miserable, at least not at the moment. Instead they wander down the street to make someone else's life a little worse.

The bus makes its hydraulic hissing sound as it pulls over. The door opens, and the little kid gets on, but I don't. I'm walking here, that's all. One more block east, and then back to my recliner.

1/8/2021   
Republished 4/23/2024   

Frozen, The Frozen North, The Fugitive, and a few more films

The Front Page (1931)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

This is based on the play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, the same source material that became His Girl Friday nine years later. That movie is a classic, but this is just a movie. 

If you've seen His Girl Friday (and if you haven't, you should) you'll recognize the plot: Star reporter Hildy Johnson (Pat O’Brien) wants to quit, but editor Walter Burns (Adolphe Menjou) won't have it, especially while an execution is looming and a room full of reporters are looking for a unique angle. 

The reporters want the hanging rescheduled to better meet their deadlines, and they sit in a press room at the courthouse, trading jokes and insults and occasional racist quips.

NEVERENDING
FILM FESTIVAL
#280  [archive]
APR. 22, 2024

There are laughs, and director Lewis Milestone gives the film some creative camerawork, but the acting is stilted, and most of the dialogue is barked or shouted. 

A larger problem is that there's no musical score, only dialogue, so it's an hour and a half with no relief from people barking and shouting.

But the biggest problem is that it's not His Girl Friday, so Hildy Johnson is a man, instead of being Rosalind Russell. A bunch of men barking at each other is inherently less funny and less interesting than having a woman bark back and win the arguments.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Frozen (2010)
Streaming free at Roku

Three young adults talk a ski lift operator into letting them have one last ride to the top, for a quick run down the mountain, despite word that "weather is coming in."

And then the staff forgets they're on the lift, and shuts everything down for the night. And it's near the end of the season, so the ski resort is only open on the weekends. And it's Sunday night, so they'll be up there for days. And remember, there's "weather" coming in.

There's the setup, and is it scary? Hell, yes. Before getting on the ski lift, one of the three has been annoying enough that seeing him Popsicled wouldn't be sad, but what about the other two? 

The film gets a little far-fetched, in ways I can't tell you about (spoilers and all). And when there's snow everywhere and talk of frostbite, but you can't see people's breath, you're in a movie, not on a ski lift. And that "weather" that's coming in? It never comes in. 

None of which matters. The film goes for goosebumps, and delivers goosebumps.

Verdict: YES. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Frozen North (1922)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Did Buster Keaton ever try to be funny and fail? Doubtful.

Surprisingly, he's the bad guy here — robbing a tavern, shooting the wrong people dead, etc, in the snowy wilds of Canada. And who knew the subway went there? The snow looks real, and there's an igloo and ice fishing and a sled-dog team with chihuahuas. It's so far north, the North Pole is three miles south.

With half a dozen vignettes, The Frozen North runs 17 minutes, and never goes thirty seconds without a laugh. There's even a brief riff mocking Erich von Stroheim, a reference I might've missed if I hadn't seen Foolish Wives a few weeks ago.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

FTA (1972)
Streaming free at Kanopy, with your library card

FTA, of course, stands for Fuck The Army. As an antidote to Bob Hope's rah-rah performances for the troops, Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland organized the "FTA" tour, offering vaudeville subversion to mostly-military crowds at or near bases in the Pacific Rim staging areas for the Vietnam War.

This is a film of their shows, interspersed with brief interviews with soldiers, whose impromptu remarks are among the best parts of the film. One of the grunts says, "You have to question, and I was always taught to question, but the service won't let you question because they don't have an answer. They only have a rule book."

During the shows, there are no chyrons telling who's performing, so you're largely lost unless someone's face is still famous fifty years later. If I'm correctly guessing who Pamela Donegan and Len Chandler are, they're terrific. Be forewarned: Jane Fonda cannot sing, but that doesn't stop her. There's also Michael Alaimo, Peter Boyle, Rita Martinson, Paul Mooney, and Holly Near, plus a cast of thousands. 

The funniest part of the show is when Sutherland covers the war by doing play-by-play as if it's a baseball game, but other than that, almost none of the comedy sketches struck me as funny. The troops laughed, though.

It's the movie's anarchic feel that recommends it, and it ends very unfunny, with Sutherland reading a passage from Dalton Trumbo's novel Johnny Got His Gun.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Fugitive (1993)

Here's the movie version of a great old-time TV show: Dr Richard Kimble has been falsely accused and convicted of murdering his wife, but escapes a death sentence when a train wreck luckily sets him loose. Inspector Gerard is always on his tail, only a step and a half behind. 

This version of The Fugitive is an entertaining and occasionally thrilling action-adventure. The story's resolution doesn't hold up if you stop and think about it, but you're not supposed to think about it — it's Hollywood entertainment, and a little better than the average of its genre. Thumbs up, definitely. End of review.

Now let's pause to ponder how an outstanding TV show becomes a slightly better-than-average genre movie.

It has a better train wreck, better helicopter chase, better stunts, and better screeching tire highway shots, but that's just money — any modern big-budget picture will top an old black-and-white show on such things. 

The moviemakers' smartest move was casting Tommy Lee Jones as its new Gerard — he's cockier, funnier, and more athletic than the TV show's Gerard, but it's clearly the same character, the same single-minded bloodhound's pursuit. Harrison Ford was a good choice to play Kimble, since the movie version of the character calls for no particular depth. It's just action, and for that it's tough to beat Ford in his prime. 

The movie's music, by James Newton Howard, is adequate if forgettable, but it's nothing next to the TV show's remarkably effective and evocative music by Pete Rugolo.

In a change for the better, Gerard is now a US Marshall, when on the show he'd been only a local cop, which never really made sense. Why would a local police department send a detective to chase an escaped prisoner all over the country?

Some of the changes are counterproductive, though. On the television show, Kimble and his wife had frequently argued, so accusations of murder were at least plausible, but the movie shows Kimble and his wife as being wildly happy together. 

By far the movie's biggest shortcoming, compared to the TV show, is that it's a movie. It's over in two hours. Even in the story's timeline, at most two or three days go by, between the train wreck and the happy ending.

The power and pathos of the TV show is that it ran for four years, which means Dr Kimble ran for four years — all over the country, always sweating and evading capture, always in peril, always alone, week after month after year. The show gathered momentum and emotional wallop, and often offered something to pause and think about, in ways a movie probably can't, and this one doesn't try. Because it's just another action movie.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Fugitives for a Night (1938)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

John Nelson is a conceited movie star, trying to break his contract with the studio. Dennis Poole is another movie star, but treats everyone with warmth and respect. So there's your bad guy and good guy, and they're both suspected of killing the studio chief.

Here's the romantic element: Matt Ryan is a nice guy who wants to be an actor, but instead he's a stooge for the studio, protecting the stars from bad publicity. Ann Wray is sweet on Matt, but thinks he should find honest work instead of being a stooge. 

The screenplay is by Dalton Trumbo, and that's the only reason this was on my watchlist, but a week after watching it and writing the above, I remember dang near nothing about it. 

Verdict: NO.  

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Fuji (1974)
Streaming free at Vimeo

This is an experimental short by Robert Breer, eight minutes about a Japanese train that's passing Mount Fuji in the distance.

It's mostly animation that changes perspective and colors several times each second, as a demonstration of how animation works. The frames move slowly at first, then pick up speed to create the illusion of movement, which is sometimes beautiful. There's no music, only clicking, to represent the noise of train wheels, or the projector whirling. 

Verdict: MAYBE.

4/22/2024   

• • • Coming attractions • • •     

The Funeral (1996)
Funeral Home
(1980)
Funny Face
(1957)
Funny Girl
(1968)
Funny Lady
(1974)
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
(1966)

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

— — —
Now accepting recommendations for movies,
especially
starting with the letter 'G'.
Just add a comment, below.
— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
 
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Watching the world swirl

CRANKY
OLD FART'S

BROWSER
HISTORY

#417  [archive]
APR. 21, 2024

A great silence is spreading over the natural world even as the sound of man is becoming deafening 

Study suggests young men who love loud cars score high on psychopathy and sadism
    This checks out with my preconception — every young man I've ever known who loved loud cars was an asshole. 

The brain fog after COVID: mental haziness, difficulty remembering things 

By a landslide, Chattanooga Volkswagen workers vote to unionize 

Climate damages by 2050 will be 6 times the cost of limiting warming to 2°
    Yeah, but the rich gotta stay rich, so fuck the planet. 

Columbia University, home to one of the nation's most respected journalism schools, blocks reporters from campus as dozens of students are arrested 

Prosecutors accidentally sent file of one cop's false convictions; they want the file back, unreleased
    This is just one retired cop, who's cost New York more than $100-million in settlements and claims. How many thousand more cops, as bad as Louis Scarcella or worse, are still being protected?
    Excerpt: Mr. Scarcella, who retired in 1999, has not been charged with any crimes despite  official findings of bad practices, and he has insisted he did nothing wrong. He gave his fullest public accounting yet in a new podcast called The Burden, in which he insisted he was simply one of many cogs in a system ratcheted up to rein in rampant crime during a time when murder rates were several times higher than they are today. 

US court rules police can force suspect to unlock phone with thumbprint 

Cities' efforts to hold police accountable hit a wall: the police 

Wingnut sheriffs conference calls for a citizen army to stop 'illegal immigrant' voters 

'LOL, no' is the perfect response to LAPD's nonsense ‘'IP' threat letter over 'Fuck the LAPD' shirt  

Cops claim body cam footage of wrong address raid would be 'dangerous' to release to general public  

Layoffs and upheaval as whites flex control over Texas universities 

Mississippi Governor declares 'Confederate Heritage Month'
    Nina Simone would like a word.

Trump campaign asks for cut of candidates' fundraising when they use his name and likeness  

Florida Governor signs legislation bringing "anti-communist education" to public schools, beginning in kindergarten 

Chemtrail legislation is the new normal in a severely abnormal America  

Before it collapsed, Washington Mutual's ad campaign was "the friend of the family" 

He built a fantasy world of outsider art in his apartment 

♫♬  MUSIC  ♫ 

The Bridge That Wouldn't Burn — Kinky Friedman 

Flowers on the Wall — The Statler Brothers 

Into the Mistake — Van Morrison 

Power and Glory — Phil Och 

The Wall — Pink Floyd 

⚰️  OBITUARIES  ⚰️ 

Terry Anderson
reporter, hostage 

Dickey Betts
rock'n'roller, Allman Brothers Band 

Kim Christensen
reporter, Los Angeles Times 

Andrew Davis
conductor, BBC Orchestra 

Daniel Dennett
free will is a necessary illusion 

Roman Gabriel
footballer, Los Angeles Rams 

Barbara E Jones
actress, Daughters of the Dust

4/21/2024      

Cranky Old Fart is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited. 

Tip 'o the hat to the AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, Chuff, Dirty Blonde Mind, It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, Lemmy.world, Looking for My Perfect Sandwich, Miss Miriam's Mirror, Voenix Rising, and anywhere else I've stolen links, illustrations, or inspiration.

Special thanks to Linden Arden, Becky Jo, Wynn Bruce, Joey Jo Jo emeritus, Jeff Meyer, John the Basket, Dave S, Name Withheld, and always extra special thanks to my lovely late Stephanie, who gave me 21 years and proved that the world isn't always shitty.

Cranky Old Fart
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itsdougholland.com
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Izzy

This was originally several separate posts, which I've whittled down and sewn together into one long entry. It's too many words, sorry, but I love my cat and couldn't shut up.

March 22, 2020 ♦ My semi-feral cat

For fifteen years I had a great cat, the smartest and silliest and friendliest cat I've ever known. She developed kidney disease, and the vet wanted her "put to sleep," but the cat still purred when I petted her, so euthanasia was out of the question. She died in my arms, purring and then quiet.

Eternal catnip, Minky. 

♦ ♦ ♦

After great mourning, I needed another cat in my life, but all the shelters are locked down because of the virus. A local shelter's on-line description of one of their rescue cats caught my eye. 

Isabelle, the website said, came from China, and she's a legal immigrant, with a cat passport (who knew cats could get passports?). But the people who brought her over had mistreated her, and often left her outside, even in Wisconsin's harsh winters, until they gave the cat to the shelter.

The website described Isabelle as "semi-feral," but it's a no-kill place, so Isabelle had been there for years, with no interested adopters. When I inquired on the phone, they tried to warn me away, but I'm stubborn and had decided.

A staffer wearing rubber gloves and a full face-mask fought, struggled, wrestled the cat into the carrying case I'd brought, and all during the drive to my apartment, Isabelle hissed and growled.

When I brought the carrying case in, set it down, unlatched and opened the gateway, she darted out and under the bed. After that, there's been evidence of a cat — food and water disappear — but actual sightings are rare, and there's been no contact whatsoever.

When we see each other, the cat either hisses or hides. "Semi-feral," the shelter said, but I haven't seen the "semi" part. She's feral.

It's been a week and she's never attacked me, but always looks and sounds like she might. No regrets from me, though. I admire the cat's reticence, and her sound judgment about me. 

December 18, 2020 ♦ A matched set

The shelter had warned that it might take months for the cat to accept me, or she might never. And indeed, progress has been slight. 

Sometimes Isabelle forgets to hiss at me when I step into her room. I no longer worry that she's going to attack me, but she's clearly unhappy whenever I'm near her food or water (though all I ever do is replenish her supply; I'm not sneaking a bite or a drink, honest). 

Oddly, she's never objected when I empty her litter box. She watches, and finds it fascinating. Yeah, human, that's what you're good for. 

Other cats have been 'my' cats, but Isabelle isn't, and probably won't be, ever. She's absolutely her cat, and I have still never touched her. She won't let me close enough, and doesn't like it when I try, so I stay away.

We're a matched set, I think. We both don't like people in general, and me in particular. We've both been mistreated, and have trust issues, making friendships difficult.

She's a four-legged fur-covered me, and our every interaction reminds me that maybe I should let down my defenses down once in a great while. I ought to stop hissing at strangers.

February 4, 2021 ♦ Some slight progress

Me and my feral cat might be making some slight progress. She's always hidden whenever I enter the room, but twice in the last week she's stood her ground and simply stared at me from twenty feet away — without even growling.

Maybe she's noticed that my presence coincides with the arrival of cat food, and that I've never yet attacked? Or maybe she's strategizing how to kill and eat me.

April 17, 2021 ♦ D├ętente, or the brink of war?

It was an odd night for me and Isabelle, my mostly feral cat. The closest we've been, until last night, was opposite sides of the room, with the cat glaring or hissing at me. Last night she approached twice, came within arm's reach, but I wouldn't dare.

But she looked at me, almost the way a sane/tame housecat would look if she wanted attention. Or, like a killer tiger might look, stalking me, preparing to attack. 

So I only watched, and said some soothing words, same as I would if she was further away. She came no closer, but also didn't run away, and then I must've fallen asleep.

When I woke up, and the cat was watching me again, from across the room. I put my hand down toward the floor, inviting her to approach for some petting or a treat or something. I've offered this invitation many hundreds of times, and she's never responded with anything but hissing, but this time she slowly stepped toward me.

So I withdrew my hand. Sorry, but that cat has hissed at me infinite times, and I honestly worried that she'd worked up her courage, and her intent was to rip the flesh off my hand. 

Instead I stood up, and the cat hid as she always does when I move. In the kitchen, I fetched my mandoline glove, the knifeproof hand-protection I wear when slicing vegetables. If the cat attacks, I want her to attack the glove. Makes sense, right?

Back in the bed, now wearing the glove, Isabelle watched from across the room as I lowered my hand to the floor and called her name. But she didn't approach, she hid. Maybe I'd missed my moment.

This cat has been living with me for more than a year, and we've touched twice, both times very briefly, and both times she was trying to attack me, so any optimism must be cautious. My fingers are crossed, but if the cat's nearby they're going to be crossed inside that protective glove. 

April 18, 2021 ♦ Snowfall

I adopted the cat Isabelle on March 11, 2020. The agency warned me that she was "semi-feral," and I was told it might be months before she accepts me. 

Well, it's been a year, and a month, and a week. I've fed her about 750 cans of cat food and scooped her litter box 400 times, and she's hissed when I entered the room, at first, and then whenever I was in "her half" of the room, and then whenever I came within ten feet or so. This has been our 'progress'.

She's been coming closer lately, and this morning the cat was staring at me from across the room, as she's been doing for a week now. I mumbled a few words of nonsense, hoping to convey the notion that while I'm twenty times her size, I'm not dangerous. I slipped the protective glove onto my hand, and put my hand in glove down toward the floor, beckoning.

She stared and stared and stared, and then she approached, same as she'd done last night. She came closer, close enough to touch, but I didn't. She was sniffing my chair, so I waited.. 

She sniffed at the chair and the nightstand, and then sniffed at the glove, and then, and then, and then, pushed her head into my gloved hand, so at last I touched her, through the glove. She yowled but didn't run or hiss or attack, so I gently stroked her head. 

If this cat would ever let me pet her, I always figured it would start slow, just a brief touch and then she'd retreat for a week. Boy, was I mistaken. She wouldn't let me stop. 

I removed the glove, and petted that cat for an hour and a half. She never retreated and there were no breaks and honestly, my arm is a little tired from all the petting. She loved it and so did I. 

I rubbed her head, knuckled her ears, stroked her back and her sides, gently tugged at her tail, and even briefly scratched at her belly.

Mostly, though, it was her head. Every cat has a favorite spot to be petted, and for this cat it's her head. She loves it when I vigorously rub above her eyes and to the back of her head. She was loving all of it, but she loved that the best. 

At one point, when I'd briefly stopped petting her to pick up something she'd knocked to the floor, she put her front paws up on the side of my bed-chair. It was just for a moment, and then I resumed petting her, and she went back to the floor, back to nuzzling up against me and the chair. But I'm taking that brief moment of paws-up as a hint that maybe one day she'll be in my lap or my arms. Oh, man, that would be awesome. 

Through it all, Izzy never stopped meowing, but 'yowling' is a more accurate word. She goes YOOOOWWL, and does it hoarsely. You'd barely recognize it as a meow, and I've always thought of it as a roar.

Until now the roar meant, Keep your distance, buster, but now it means something nicer, and I'm no longer scared. The yowl is growing on me. So's the cat. 

There's white fluff in the air, and a light dusting of white fluff on my bed-chair and on the floor, because Izzy is mostly white, with some orange and black scrambled in. It looks like it's snowing in my bedroom — white fluff everywhere — and a couple of times I've inhaled the fluff and spit it out, but I don't mind. If this keeps up I'll have to sweep the room once in a while, but I won't mind that either.

And finally, when Izzy decided she'd had enough petting, she curled up at the side of my bed-chair, where I'd been petting her, and she went to sleep right beside me.

When I got up to type this, Izzy scampered back to her corner of the room, because she always (and still) freaks out when I'm standing up. But she didn't hiss, she only ran. And I'm a happy old man with a happy cat. Yowl! 

April 30, 2021 ♦ Still snowing

It is fabulous to have a cat again. I’ve sorta had Izzy for more than a year, but really only had her for a few weeks, since she suddenly decided I’m OK and allowed me to pet her. Now every time I pet my big fluffy happy cat, she yowls and yowls and yowls, and I marvel at how completely she changed without warning, from a hissing monster to the wondrous friend she is.

She’s the only living thing that I’ve touched in 2021, and it’s made life better, but (like everything else) it's a mystery. I never changed my behavior, but suddenly she changed hers. Izzy does things Izzy’s way, and she wasn’t ready until she was ready.

Oh jeez, here she comes again — so excuse me, it's time to pet the cat who's now my cat.

4/30/2021   
Republished 4/21/2024   

The Fugitive (1st season, 1963-64)

The Fugitive (1963-67)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

The 1993 movie with Harrison Ford, The Fugitive, was fun and it's on my rewatch list, but it wasn't as complex, thoughtful, or just plain good as the TV show it was swiped from.

David Janssen played the title role, with a look of eternal indigestion on his dour face. You'd need Pepto-Bismol too, if your wife had died, but instead of being allowed to mourn, you were falsely accused and convicted of killing her.

The jury got it wrong. We know this because the show's narrator vouches for Dr Richard Kimble at the top of every episode, a deep voice telling us that Kimble is innocent, and the real killer was a mysterious one-armed man. It's an iron-clad rule of TV and the movies: A narrator with a deep voice never lies.

After being convicted, Kimble is escorted to death row by Inspector Gerard (Barry Morse), but spared the gas chamber by a lucky train wreck.

Kimble flees into the night, and then he's always on the run, with a different name, a different job in every episode. He never stays in one place for long, and Gerard is always on his tail, only a step and a half behind. 

I was a kid when The Fugitive premiered, but watched when I could, even though it was on past my bedtime. Watched it more in later childhood, in weekday reruns after school.

Which is strange, because there's nothing here that should appeal to children. Maybe I liked Kimble's alienation, never fitting in anywhere, and his natural distrust of strangers and authority. Seems sad that I'd relate to that, so young.

I've never seen the final episode, though, and always wondered how the show ends. With the marvel of the internet, it's easy to find out.

First, I wanted to reacquaint myself with the show's vibe. It was on for four seasons, 30 episodes each, and no way was I watching 120 hours of some 1960s TV show, so I picked a handful of episodes at random.

Guess what, though? The episodes I watched were so dang good, I went back for a few more, and then more, until finally, yeah, I'm watching every episode of The Fugitive, right up to its famous conclusion.

And I can tell you already: This isn't just TV fondly remembered from childhood. It's a great old show! Some of it sucks, sure, but most of it's good, and often it's excellent.

S01E01: "Fear in a Desert City"

In this debut episode, there's no murder, only the same opening recap that started every episode — the narrator explaining that an innocent man had been found guilty, escaped in a train wreck, etc.

Dr Kimble, calling himself 'Lincoln', is tending bar in a Tucson hotel, where the piano player (Sara Miles) is attacked by one of the customers (Brian Kieth). Kimble comes to the lady's rescue and slugs the customer, but he turns out to be the piano player's husband, and well-connected with the local police.

"I guess there isn't a man in the world who doesn't have something he wants to hide."

This touches on two rather adult themes for network TV in 1963 — domestic violence, and crooked cops. There's action, there's drama, there's action-packed drama, and it also establishes that Kimble likes cats, which makes him an even more sympathetic character.

S01E02: "The Witch"

Now Kimble is 'Fowler', handyman in a small Missouri town. He's comes across a little girl who's constantly lying, and accuses Kimble of coming after her, ripping her dress.

It's an icky subject, clumsily tackled and cringeworthy, and somehow witchcraft is involved?

If every episode was this bad I wouldn't be watching, but very few episodes of The Fugitive are this bad.

S01E03: "The Other Side of the Mountain"

Kimble wanders into a nearly-dead West Virginia town, ruined and abandoned after the coal mine shut down. Everyone's short-tempered and eager to fight, including deputy Bruce Dern, so Kimble hightails it to the hills.

There he meets a hillbilly dame (Sandy Dennis) who's always dreamed some man would take her away from the mountain to see the world. Maybe Kimble could be that man?

Unsurprisingly, he's not the man who'll take her away, but in a fine proto-feminist pep talk, he tells her that leaving the mountain and seeing the world doesn't require a man — she can do it alone.

Sounds hokey and it is, but it's also touching, and in the show's trademarked 'epilog' just before the closing credits, she's packing to leave.

S01E04 & E05: "Never Wave Goodbye"

Working for a disabled sailmaker in Santa Barbara, Kimble goes by the name 'Cooper'. The sailmaker's daughter is sweet on 'Cooper', but a co-worker disapproves, and gets suspicious about the newcomer.

Susan Oliver plays the sailmaker's daughter, and Robert Duvall, fresh from To Kill a Mockingbird but now with a German accent, is the troublemaker.

The plot of this one leans toward ludicrous, with sharks and a rubber raft, but it's still engrossing and enjoyable, like discovering an old noir movie that's not great but not bad.

Memorable moments: Gerard gives a fine soliloquy, explaining his perpetual manhunt. Kimble eludes him with a nimble two-bus transfer in Los Angeles. Gerard is revealed to have a heart. 

S01E06: "Decision in the Ring"

Kimble is 'Miller', towel boy at a Los Angeles boxing club, but with his medical training he's a better cut man than the fighter's cut man.

Boxing dramas don't much interest me unless they're done all fancy and ugly like Rocky, but this is a tidy, well-written drama. James Edwards and Ruby Dee guest star.

S01E07: "Smoke Screen"

Calling himself 'Walker', Kimble is a farm laborer in California. He's the only white worker in the fields, and the boss's orders are translated into Spanish by a co-worker named Paco (Alejandro Rey).

For reasons unknown, Paco hates Kimble, but eventually it's explained — Kimble is white and has soft hands, so he must be with the Border Patrol, trying to find workers who've come to America illegally. At least, that's what he thinks.

"Paco, the police and me are on opposite ends of the pole. I've got more reason to run from the police than you have."

So yeah, this episode is soft on illegal immigration — another reason to love The Fugitive. Watching in the middle of our MAGA nightmare, I literally cheered and applauded more than twice. Fox News would eat this ep alive!

Written by John D F Black, who wrote Ivan Dixon's Trouble Man, and Star Trek's "The Naked Time" (where Sulu fenced and Spock cried and Kirk was unsure of himself). This is the episode where the show started hitting peak Fugitive, and the one that convinced me to watch 'em all.

S01E08: "See Hollywood and Die"

This one's also quite good. As 'Fleming', Kimble is pumping gas and changing oil at a New Mexico service station, when the place is robbed. Kimble and a woman (Brenda Vaccaro from Capricorn One) are taken captive by the robbers as they drive away, and after a few minutes sizing up the situation, Kimble starts outsmarting the baddies from the back seat.

S01E09: "Ticket to Alaska"

Kimble is on a cruise to Alaska when a cop comes aboard, and soon there's trouble, but I have a few questions:

First, in the whole series it's never clear where Kimble gets his money, his clothes, his cab fare and hamburger budget. He takes whatever job will hire him, yeah, but about half the time when Kimble leaves town it's in a hurry, and everything he owns is left behind. He often doesn't have even a change of clothes, and that's gotta hurt on a working man's budget. But in this episode, he's a passenger on a cruise ship to Ketchikan? Those tickets cost serious money, and did, even in 1963.

Second, we're told that crimes at sea are investigated by the captain and his officers, and tried in a courtroom setting aboard the ship. Witnesses are under oath, and the captain is the judge and jury. I've searched the internet for a solid two minutes and couldn't confirm whether that's really the way it works, but I don't like it. If the ship is steaming up the coast, the investigation and trial should take place in the country they were steaming past, which for this ep would be either Canada or the USA.

Written by Oliver Crawford, who wrote Star Trek's outstanding "The Galileo Seven."

S01E10: "Fatso"

With that title for the episode and my own ample girth, I was uncertain, but it didn't make me cringe even once.

Kimble's new buddy is the titular 'Fatso', and everyone taunts him for his weight (though by 2024 standards he's only kinda chubby). It's handled sympathetically, and there's a deep, dark secret at the heart of the plot. Directed by the great Ida Lupino.

"Drive carefully. Do everything carefully, from the moment you wake until you go to sleep at night, if you have a place to sleep. One false move, one little quirk of fate…"

S01E11: "Nightmare at Northoak"

Well, here's a nightmare indeed — this starts with a school bus crashing and bursting into flames, while Kimble ('Porter', the new lumberjack in town) races after it, opens the emergency exit, and gets the kids and driver out safely.

He's a local hero, but got a concussion when the bus exploded. With no insurance, he's 'hospitalized' at the sheriff's home, and for a man like Kimble, that's an unwelcome complication.

It's another very strong episode, a meditation on right and wrong, guilt and innocence, and doing the right thing.

S01E12: "Glass Tightrope"

Under the name 'Carson', Kimble is making deliveries from a department store, as the store's general manager quarrels with another man in the parking lot. In dialogue so subtle that audiences might've missed it in '63, it's unmistakable that the two men are gay lovers. I accidentally outed them, sorry, when I shouted it at my cat: "Holy crap, they're gay!" 

As their argument get heated, the GM slugs the other man, who hits his head as he falls, and dies. It's an accidental killing, but Kimble was in the parking lot and saw it all. When a bum is picked up and charged with murdering the dead man, will Kimble keep quiet and let another innocent man face murder charges?

Leslie Nielsen and Ed Binns are the guest stars, in another episode well-directed by Ida Lupino.

S01E13: "Terror at High Point"

Going by the name 'Beaumont', Kimble is the timekeeper at a giant construction project. A dull-witted boy has been hired for menial work, but gets taunted by a few of the redneck workers.

You've seen this morality play a zillion times on TV and in the movies, but not with a cool scene of runaway heavy equipment, and not with Jack Klugman, Elizabeth Allen, James Best, and Buck Taylor.

S01E14: "The Girl from Little Egypt"

Doc Kimble, tonight called 'Browning', is hit by a car in San Francisco. Hospitalized, he floats in and out of consciousness, having flashbacks to his marriage, the night his wife was murdered, the one-armed man, the trial that sentenced him to death, his escape after the train wreck, etc.

It helps flesh out his backstory, but mostly this is about a young woman's affair with an older man, with Kimble there to act as guidance counselor. Pamela Tiffin (State Fair) and Ed Nelson (Peyton Place) guest star.

S01E15: "Home is the Hunted"

Kimble goes to Stafford, Indiana — the town where he grew up, where a thousand people know him.

This is a strong episode, and offers more background on Kimble and his family. There are also some startlingly stylish camera shots, and a few lines each for Bill Mumy, Clint Howard, and James B Sikking. 

S01E16: "The Garden House"

This is a horsey episode, and not horses for cowboys, but equestrian riding horses for rich people. Kimble is tending the horses, and gallops into trouble. 

Not much is more yawn-inspiring than anyone on TV or in a movie strapping into polo gear, but as directed by Ida Lupino, this is better than you'd expect for a story about rich people and equestrian riding.

S01E17: "Come Watch Me Die"

There's been a killing, a suspect has been arrested, and the suspect and four witnesses need to be taken to a hearing at the county seat. A new guy in town, farm mechanic Ben Rogers, is asked to drive them there, but before the suspect can be placed in his custody, Rogers needs to be deputized.

'Rogers', though, is actually Richard Kimble, so this time, The Fugitive wears a badge. Gotta laugh out loud at the look on Kimble's face after taking the deputy's oath. 

This one snaps, crackles, and pops. Guest stars Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd, and John Anderson (Cotton Comes to Harlem, The Fortune Cookie, Ride the High Country). Directed by Laslo Benedek (Death of a Salesman, The Night Visitor).

S01E18: "Where the Action Is"

Kimble is the lifeguard at a Reno casino's hotel pool. Telly Savalas owns the joint, and his daughter is a wild woman who's nothing but trouble.

I've never much cared for Savalas, always hammy and cocky, but he's exactly right in this. Joanna Frank (Say Anything) is badass and bodacious as his floozy daughter. The end of the episode is a bit much and with too many violins, but it's still a winner. 

And does that valet look familiar? He's Harry Dean Stanton, and the stripper is played by 'Beverly Hills'. Directed by James Sheldon (Gidget Grows Up, McDuff the Talking Dog).

S01E19: "Search in a Windy City"

A newspaper columnist (Pat Hingle) says he believes Kimble is innocent, and wants to help him find the elusive one-armed man. The columnist's wife is an alcoholic, which becomes yet another adult topic handled rather well for the time.

By the end, this one's thrilling.

S01E20: "Bloodline"

Tonight Kimble is 'Lindsay', handyman at a kennel where something's not right with the dogs. It's an OK episode, but nothing special. Cute dogs, though.

S01E21: "Rat in a Corner"

Under the alias 'Dan Crowley', Kimble is clerking at a liquor store, when a tough guy walks in to rob the place.

There's more to this story, lots more, and it's excellent, but let's say only two words: Warren Oates.

It's not crucial to the plot, but Kimble's boss is a genuine ass. A lesser TV show would either punish the character or he'd be revealed to have a 'heart of gold', but not here. Dude starts as an ass, he's an ass all the way through, and he's an ass at the end.

Also, for the first time, someone immediately recognizes Kimble from his wanted posters at the post office — an occupational hazard of being on the run.

S01E22 & E23: "Angels Travel on Lonely Roads"

You need a nun? Oh, we've got a nun, and she's not just any nun, she's a two-episode nun.

Doc Kimble is on a mission from God, accompanying Sister Veronica across the mountains, and Jesus is riding with them (not literally, but still). 

"Sister, faith is a wonderful thing, but there is also reality."

I should hate this like God hates common sense, but as scripted by Al C Ward and played by Eileen Heckart, Sister Veronica overcomes my hardened impatience with faith and believers. To my jumbo-size surprise, this is one of the season's best stories.

Ward's entire career was writing hundreds of episodes of dozens of TV dramas, plus adapting Japan's original Godzilla into Raymond Burr's Godzilla: King of the Monsters!  

Heckart should be familiar to movie buffs from her fine work in Butterflies Are Free, Bus Stop, Hot Spell, Somebody Up There Likes Me, The Trip to Bountiful, Up the Down Staircase, etc.

S01E24: "Flight from the Final Demon"

Kimble, working as a masseuse, doesn't know that the naked chubby man he's rubbing down is the sheriff (Carroll O'Connor). Then the sheriff thinks Kimble looks familiar, and soon figures out who he is from the wanted posters.

Ed Nelson (you'll know him from everything, including episode 14) plays another masseuse, a buddy of Kimble who has good intentions but not a lot of smarts.

S01E25: "Taps for a Dead War"

Under the name 'Davies', Kimble is running a roller rink, which is cool to see (are there still roller rinks?).

Anything else would be telling too much, but I can tell you that this one's good. Tim O'Connor (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century) and Lee Grant are the special guest stars.

And OK, I can tell you that I cried a little.

S01E26: "Somebody to Remember"

Going by the name 'Sherman', Kimble is a warehouse worker who's developed a close friendship with his boss, Gus. They're close enough that Gus has figured out 'Sherman' is Kimble, the notorious fugitive.

It's an unusual episode, but dandy.

S01E27: "Never Stop Running"

A sorta doltish ex-pro football player (Claude Akins) kidnaps the son of the team's owner, but the boy is hemophiliac (a bleeder), so Kimble gets kidnapped too, to keep the child alive until the ransom is paid.

It's a solid story, surprisingly under-hyped and low-key.

S01E28: "The Homecoming"

Calling himself 'Benton', Kimble is at a Georgia plantation, which immediately made me say, "Uh, oh." The lady of the mansion is the luminescent Gloria Grahame, new stepmother to a college-age daughter who screams every time she hears a dog bark.

This is drivel, and I hope it's the worst episode of The Fugitive. The story pretends to be Hitchcock by way of Tennessee Williams, has nothing to do with Kimble, he's never in any peril, and Grahame does an atrocious Southern accent.

S01E29: "Storm Center"

In wildly windy weather, a pretty blonde wants to rent a boat from 'Phelps', at a pier in the Florida Keys. 'Phelps' tells her there's a hurricane coming, to which she replies, "You're not afraid of a little wind, are you, Dr Kimble?" She's recognized him, and she has a gun, so they're going out on the water as the hurricane hits.

The storm effects are better than Gilligan's Island, but the bulk of this episode has the dame and the doctor talking and talking while they're huddled in a house that might blow down. It's possible I'd binged one too many episodes before turning in, but this one never seemed very give-a-hoot-worthy.

S01E30: "The End Game"

In an intricate opening sequence, we follow an ordinary photograph taken on a small town street, as it's snapped, developed, then discarded in the trash because it's unflattering. Later, though, it's dropped by the trash collector, picked up by a curious stranger, and carried to the counter in a hotel, where a passing patrolman recognizes Kimble in the photo's background.

Soon Gerard is in town, holding a board-game-size blow-up of the photo, and his clue-connection work is better than Sherlock Holmes. From the shadows in the photo, from Kimble's lunch pail and clean work clothes, Gerard ascertains enough to start closing in.

Says Gerard to another cop, as they stand in front of a map planning the manhunt, "Don't you think even now, he's imagining us standing in front of a map, wondering about his best chance of escape?"

Kimble, meanwhile, meets a floozy (cue the saxophone) who's seen his face on TV at a bar only minutes earlier. "Everybody but the Marines is looking for you," she says. "Front view, right side, left side — man, they made a commercial out of you."

The script has Kimble and Gerard going head-to-head even though they're blocks apart, Kimble walking past "Dragnet for killer!" headlines in a news box, Gerard deducing that Kimble is likeliest to do whatever seems least likely.

The police here are bullies, snippy and demeaning with non-cops, even with good citizens who come forward to offer evidence. One such citizen walks away from Gerard muttering, "You know something? After meeting you, I hope he makes it."

With guest stars John McGiver, John Fiedler, Joseph Campanella, Chick Hearn, and a smidgen of Stuart Margolin, this is a dang delightful episode. It's stuffed with kooky but believable characters, clever dialogue, clues that add up, tension that starts tense but gets tenser, and about a dozen loud belly laughs.

When it ended, I watched it again.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

That's the first season, and I'll definitely be back for more. The Fugitive was quality TV for its time, and still is — even exceptional, often. 

More than that, it's a show that had something to say. Week after week, Kimble rarely, perhaps never escapes by his wits alone — there's always someone who helps a little or a lot. Without such help, I think Gerard would've caught Kimble in the first episode. The implied moral is, we need each other. United we stand, divided we fall.

And fresh from the obedient 1950s, The Fugitive showed millions of viewers every week that American justice is not infallible, the death penalty is wrong, cops aren't always the good guys, and authority needs a skeptical eye.

By early- to mid-60s standards, especially on commercial television, this show was subversive as hell.

4/20/2024