Tuesday, September 08, 2015
Tuesday's Overlooked TV Movie: Powderkeg
I recently watched this movie again for the first time in more than 40 years, and I'm happy to report that it holds up pretty well. I remember really liking it when I saw it back in 1971. It's one of those sort-of Westerns set in the early 20th Century. Fernando Lamas and Michael Ansara play brothers who start out as revolutionaries in Mexico but wind up as bandits, and when Ansara's character is captured and sentenced to hang, Lamas and his gang take over a whole train full of passengers and hold them hostage, demanding Ansara's release as they run the train back and forth on the same 40 mile stretch of track. They're over the border in Mexico, so U.S. troops can't go in and probably couldn't rescue the hostages without getting them all killed anyway.
So the railroad calls in troubleshooters Hank Brackett (Rod Taylor) and Johnny Reach (Dennis Cole) to do the impossible and save the train. Brackett and Reach are soldiers of fortune who travel around the Southwest in a Stutz Bearcat, having adventures, making wisecracks, and romancing beautiful women. Will they rescue the passengers and bring the bandits to justice? What do you think?
I tell you, when I watched this in 1971, I thought it was one of the coolest movies I'd ever seen. It's still pretty darned entertaining, if a little slow in spots. I don't know if writer/director Douglas Heyes ever read any of Ben Haas's Fargo novels, but this whole set-up would have worked perfectly for one of them. Rod Taylor even wears one of those Smokey the Bear hats like Fargo did on the covers of all those old paperbacks. POWDERKEG spawned a short-lived TV series called BEARCATS!, which I watched faithfully for all 13 episodes. The movie is available on DVD, as is the entire series. I may have to watch it pretty soon, because I really enjoyed revisiting POWDERKEG.