11/24/17

OBSCURE TELEVISION SHOWS THAT DON'T PISS YOU OFF MUCH (PT.1)



Behold "The Losers", a 1962 one-hour episode that aired on the anthology show 'The Dick Powell Theater'. It stars Lee Marvin, Keenan Wynn and Rosemary Clooney and was directed and co-written (with Bruce Geller) by Sam Peckinpah. It was Peckinpah's first piece of work after completing his second feature, the highly regarded 'Ride The High Country'. Unfortunately, that now-revered western had been poorly released by MGM as the bottom-half of a double bill paired with a Frankie and Annette beach party movie. Peckinpah was forced to go back to television, where he had toiled for a decade prior to his feature career. TV was not the 'thing' that it's become since--it was a definite step down the food chain. Nonetheless, Peckinpah--never one to not take his work seriously--dove back in with relish and created the above-posted very funny, quite eccentric and ultimately moving one-hour 'featurette'. I recall seeing it years ago and then not being able to turn it up again anywhere. The above was posted quite recently and has attracted only a few thousand hits.

The first portion of the film resembles nothing so much as a Del Lord directed 1930s Three Stooges comedy, with much slapstick, an extended card playing sequence, a car getaway melee, all accompanied by honky-tonk faux-ragtime piano music. Peckinpah gets Marvin into a rare playful space--he seems to genuinely be enjoying playing the broad comedy. Alas, the story eventually sets in around twenty minutes in and things slow down quite a bit. I have a feeling that much was probably made by the story editors and producers of the show about giving the main characters 'redemption' and making them 'sympathetic' i.e. 'lets make them boring after giving them an interesting start'. Filmmaking never really changes much.

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