Monday, April 14, 2008

I Got No Reason To Doubt It

HIGH NOON, PART II: THE RETURN OF WILL KANE. I can't imagine a more ludicrous title or concept than this. Admit it—at first glance, you'd assume this was an SCTV parody with Joe Flaherty as Gary Cooper, wouldn't ya? ("Yup.") Then you notice that it was written by Elmore Leonard, which piques your interest a little bit. And once you start to get into it, you realize that it really isn't too bad. In fact, HIGH NOON, PART II, which aired on CBS in the fall of 1980, would likely play much better under any other title, because as good as it is, it of course doesn't measure up to the 1952 classic.

More than a year after killing Frank Miller and leaving Hadleyville with his wife Amy (Katherine Cannon stepping into Grace Kelly's dainty shoes), former marshal Kane (Lee Majors) returns to buy some horses and settle down. His dreams of a simple future are shattered, however, when his horses are unnecessarily killed during a gun battle between a posse led by arrogant new marshal Ward (Pernell Roberts) and the roguish but basically decent Ben Irons (David Carradine), who has a $5000 bounty on his head. Kane knows Irons is innocent of the murder charge against him, but Ward, who delights in cruelly mistreating everyone, including his deputies Darold (Michael Pataki) and Alonzo (J.A. Preston), insists on hunting Irons anyway, ordering his men to shoot to kill on sight. As we know from the Cooper film, Kane can't bear to let an injustice pass, and his decision to bring Irons in himself to stand trial makes him an enemy of the gun-happy Ward.

Let's get it out of the way—no, Majors (in between THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN and THE FALL GUY) is no Cooper, but he isn't bad either. In fact, his casting as a durable, righteous western hero is spot-on, and he's an excellent foil for both the wry Carradine (THE LONG RIDERS had already come out) and the bigoted sadist Roberts. Nicely photographed in Old Tucson by Harry May (FRIENDLY FIRE), HIGH NOON, PART II benefits from its rousing score, which is reminiscent of Ennio Morricone (who composed the theme to Majors' earlier western series THE MEN FROM SHILOH). Since no music credit is given, and some of the score sounds familiar, I've concluded that CBS or producer Edward J. Montagne (MCHALE'S NAVY) oddly decided to use library tracks. An unusual decision for a TV-movie of that era, but an effective one. Carradine later appeared three times with Majors on THE FALL GUY (once memorably with his father John and brothers Keith and Robert), while Roberts guest-starred on Lee's series THE BIG VALLEY and THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN.

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