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Barbara Stanwyck in The Big Valley

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Season 3's A Noose Is Waiting

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In this episode, Bradford Dillman guest stars as a deranged doctor who kidnaps and tries to kill Audra. There are some rather spooky scenes in the last act that are obviously inspired by Hitchcock's PSYCHO. And of course, it goes without saying Dillman is channeling Anthony Perkins' Norman Bates during the story. Dillman had played a slightly different but equally troubled man involved with Audra back in season 2's 'Day of the Comet.' He's excellent at these kinds of roles, where his character is basically tormented and experiences great mental anguish.

 

What makes it work so well is the way the story builds. Initially, there are scenes with Victoria Barkley coming down with pneumonia. Audra takes her to see the new doctor in town, where a series of grisly murders have been occurring. Later Victoria's health takes a turn for the worse, and Dillman goes out to the ranch to treat her. At this point we get a clearer sense of how psychotic he is. He nearly suffocates her with a pillow, until he decides that harming Audra would harm Victoria and the rest of the Barkleys more. It would cause prolonged suffering for them. He is doing all this to exact vengeance on the people he blames for his father's death years earlier.

 

Pieces of the backstory are carefully revealed through voice-overs. Dillman's character remembers problems experienced by his father and mother after several bad business deals. He was an impressionable boy and internalized all their pain, and it became a burden which he carried with him into adulthood. We can't help but feel sorry for him. Audra's brothers will come to her rescue at the end, but nobody will be able to save a man who is too far gone.

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Season 3's A Noose Is Waiting

screenshot.jpg

In this episode, Bradford Dillman guest stars as a deranged doctor who kidnaps and tries to kill Audra. There are some rather spooky scenes in the last act that are obviously inspired by Hitchcock's PSYCHO. And of course, it goes without saying Dillman is channeling Anthony Perkins' Norman Bates during the story. Dillman had played a slightly different but equally troubled man involved with Audra back in season 2's 'Day of the Comet.' He's excellent at these kinds of roles, where his character is basically tormented and experiences great mental anguish.

 

What makes it work so well is the way the story builds. Initially, there are scenes with Victoria Barkley coming down with pneumonia. Audra takes her to see the new doctor in town, where a series of grisly murders have been occurring. Later Victoria's health takes a turn for the worse, and Dillman goes out to the ranch to treat her. At this point we get a clearer sense of how psychotic he is. He nearly suffocates her with a pillow, until he decides that harming Audra would harm Victoria and the rest of the Barkleys more. It would cause prolonged suffering for them. He is doing all this to exact vengeance on the people he blames for his father's death years earlier.

 

Pieces of the backstory are carefully revealed through voice-overs. Dillman's character remembers problems experienced by his father and mother after several bad business deals. He was an impressionable boy and internalized all their pain, and it became a burden which he carried with him into adulthood. We can't help but feel sorry for him. Audra's brothers will come to her rescue at the end, but nobody will be able to save a man who is too far gone.

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Jarrod -

 

I am looking forward to seeing this one.

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Jarrod -

 

I am looking forward to seeing this one.

 

You will enjoy it. Dillman is fantastic.

 

By the way, I started my season 4 discs today. I watched the Pernell Roberts one where they are tracking the cat, because your recent comments piqued my curiosity.

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You will enjoy it. Dillman is fantastic.

 

By the way, I started my season 4 discs today. I watched the Pernell Roberts one where they are tracking the cat, because your recent comments piqued my curiosity.

Jarrod -

 

What did you think of "Run of the Cat"?

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Jarrod -

 

What did you think of "Run of the Cat"?

 

I didn't see it as a "straight drama." I will post my review later after I have had time to edit it.

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Season 4's Run of the Cat

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When Nick Barkley is riding the range one day with his brother Heath, he gets viciously attacked by a cougar. The animal runs off, and Nick's injuries are so severe, he requires three days of bed rest. In the meantime, their older brother Jarrod has hired a big game hunter (Pernell Roberts) to chase down the cat and kill it. Of course, not only has Nick been clawed and terrorized, his manhood has taken a blow. He figures he should be the one to go after the cat to prove a point to himself and his family. So he winds up tagging along with Roberts, even though he is still not in the best of health.

 

While they are tracking the cat, the men get to know each other. It's quite evident these two have a unique view of their own masculinity. But much of it is played humorously, especially when they take refuge at a cabin where a couple lives. The entire business about the woman not really being the man's wife and the way she is won and lost during a poker game is fairly tongue-in-cheek.

 

Many of the stories that feature Nick are more than a bit amusing, and this one is no exception. Perhaps it's because Peter Breck puts all kinds of extra flourishes into his performance. I wouldn't say he's hamming it up, but he likes to make Nick vibrant and colorful. Earlier in this episode, Nick thinks he sees the cat on a rock while they're sleeping outdoors, but he's obviously hallucinating and the intensity of it is almost funny.

 

Roberts reacts with little wry asides, and since he knows there's no real danger at that point, we as viewers don't sense danger either. It's all in Nick's head. When they both finally meet up with the cougar and start shooting, there's some ambiguity as to which one of them actually killed the animal. And the story ends with a big laugh.

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Season 4's Run of the Cat

Screen%252Bshot%252B2016-09-26%252Bat%25

When Nick Barkley is riding the range one day with his brother Heath, he gets viciously attacked by a cougar. The animal runs off, and Nick's injuries are so severe, he requires three days of bed rest. In the meantime, their older brother Jarrod has hired a big game hunter (Pernell Roberts) to chase down the cat and kill it. Of course, not only has Nick been clawed and terrorized, his manhood has taken a blow. He figures he should be the one to go after the cat to prove a point to himself and his family. So he winds up tagging along with Roberts, even though he is still not in the best of health.

 

While they are tracking the cat, the men get to know each other. It's quite evident these two have a unique view of their own masculinity. But much of it is played humorously, especially when they take refuge at a cabin where a couple lives. The entire business about the woman not really being the man's wife and the way she is won and lost during a poker game is fairly tongue-in-cheek.

 

Many of the stories that feature Nick are more than a bit amusing, and this one is no exception. Perhaps it's because Peter Breck puts all kinds of extra flourishes into his performance. I wouldn't say he's hamming it up, but he likes to make Nick vibrant and colorful. Earlier in this episode, Nick thinks he sees the cat on a rock while they're sleeping outdoors, but he's obviously hallucinating and the intensity of it is almost funny.

 

Roberts reacts with little wry asides, and since he knows there's no real danger at that point, we as viewers don't sense danger either. It's all in Nick's head. When they both finally meet up with the cougar and start shooting, there's some ambiguity as to which one of them actually killed the animal. And the story ends with a big laugh.

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Jarrod -

 

Interesting take on "Run Of The Cat" - but we will have to agree - to disagree.

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Jarrod -

 

Interesting take on "Run Of The Cat" - but we will have to agree - to disagree.

 

What did you disagree with? I know you said you felt the story was about toxic masculinity. I think it was that, but it was also a spoof of masculinity-- at least the way Breck played his part.

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What did you disagree with? I know you said you felt the story was about toxic masculinity. I think it was that, but it was also a spoof of masculinity-- at least the way Breck played his part.

Jarrod -

 

I didn't see any humor in the episode.

 

To me, it was a condemnation of a certain type of masculine behavior that insists on masculinity at any cost.

 

Peter Breck was wrong-headed in putting his life on the line - the cougar almost killed him that second time.

 

And the Pernell Roberts character was a "destroyer" in every possible way.

 

But, hey, we can see the same thing and come to different conclusions, right?

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Jarrod -

 

I didn't see any humor in the episode.

 

To me, it was a condemnation of a certain type of masculine behavior that insists on masculinity at any cost.

 

Peter Breck was wrong-headed in putting his life on the line - the cougar almost killed him that second time.

 

And the Pernell Roberts character was a "destroyer" in every possible way.

 

But, hey, we can see the same thing and come to different conclusions, right?

 

Yes. I can see what you're saying. But I am also seeing how in certain episodes, the dramas are actually thinly disguised comedies. It's like the writers are setting up what seems like a fairly dramatic premise, then they layer it with slight comical touches. And given Breck's choices as an actor, it begins to veer into satire. I also think it's significant they chose Pernell Roberts to play the guest character, because his line deliveries on all the shows he ever worked on are a bit glib. If it's truly a comedy, which I believe it is, then it had to be someone who could deliver the lines with a smirk, and Pernell Roberts fits the bill perfectly. We do not think of Pernell Roberts as a he-man.

 

But the funniest scene occurs before Roberts is introduced. It's where Nick is in bed at the ranch having a nightmare. Heath runs into the room to see if he's okay, and Breck practically has Nick foaming at the mouth. You'd think he had rabies after the cougar attacked him. It's played very broadly, though Breck is careful not to make it too cartoonish. It's not bad acting. It's a deliberate choice Breck is making as a performer. Winking at the audience that this story is definitely not something we're supposed to take very seriously.

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Yes. I can see what you're saying. But I am also seeing how in certain episodes, the dramas are actually thinly disguised comedies. It's like the writers are setting up what seems like a fairly dramatic premise, then they layer it with slight comical touches. And given Breck's choices as an actor, it begins to veer into satire. I also think it's significant they chose Pernell Roberts to play the guest character, because his line deliveries on all the shows he ever worked on are a bit glib. If it's truly a comedy, which I believe it is, then it had to be someone who could deliver the lines with a smirk, and Pernell Roberts fits the bill perfectly. We do not think of Pernell Roberts as a he-man.

 

But the funniest scene occurs before Roberts is introduced. It's where Nick is in bed at the ranch having a nightmare. Heath runs into the room to see if he's okay, and Breck practically has Nick foaming at the mouth. You'd think he had rabies after the cougar attacked him. It's played very broadly, though Breck is careful not to make it too cartoonish. It's not bad acting. It's a deliberate choice Breck is making as a performer. Winking at the audience that this story is definitely not something we're supposed to take very seriously.

Interesting comments, Jarrod, I do like what you said about Peter Breck and I do think that he is definitely undervalued as a performer.

 

Pernell Roberts always seems to be giving a performance.

 

I wonder what you would've made of today's episode on MeTV.

 

Jarrod uncovered the truth about a rape/murder that was actually something else.

 

The husband fabricated the story - his wife had left him for a younger, hotter man.

 

Would you have seen "Rashomon"-like qualities in the storyline?

 

I'm guessing - yes.  

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Interesting comments, Jarrod, I do like what you said about Peter Breck and I do think that he is definitely undervalued as a performer.

 

Pernell Roberts always seems to be giving a performance.

 

Yes, I remember you said in an earlier post that Pernell was a bit too actor-ish, or however you phrased it. I grew up in the 80s watching him each week as Trapper John M.D. so I'm a fan. I think what Pernell does in his performances are caricatures-- sometimes he gives us a flesh and blood human being, but most of the time he's giving us a portrait of a character that he thinks we need to see. He's someone who decides in advance what the audience should have, instead of being organic and letting us see the character take on its own form. He worked a lot after he left Bonanza so producers and directors must have agreed with him. But I can see where some people might find his work too gimmicky...though I don't think he intended it to come across that way.

 

Peter Breck is fabulously talented, and I see a lot of Sam Fuller's influence on his choices as an actor. He and Fuller did SHOCK CORRIDOR together, and from that experience, I think Breck decided to bring out the flashier elements of all the characters he played afterward, especially noticeable in his portrayal of Nick Barkley. Nick has a lot of wanderlust in him, and Breck makes him colorful, edgy and unpredictable. I also think Breck gets bored easily-- so if a scripted dramatic scene is too rote or by the book for him, the punches it up to make it more interesting for us to watch and more interesting for him to play.

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I just watched a season 4 episode featuring Julie London-- They Called Her Delilah. It's quite good....the ending was so bittersweet, it made me want to see her come back and reunite with Jarrod.

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Jarrod -

 

I enjoyed your comments on both Pernell Roberts and Peter Breck.

 

Thanks. One example about Breck I wanted to mention-- there's a scene in season 2's Wagonload of Dreams where the characters are in a bar and they do a little Greek dancing. The Barkleys are not Greek, so when Nick goes on the floor to do a few steps with everyone else, Breck plays it very clumsy. Everyone else is doing it nicely, and trying to keep up to the beat of the music, but not him. He's hopping around like his toes are on fire. It's quite funny. At first glance, it might appear he's hamming it up or scene stealing, but he's actually making a choice to show us how Nick tries to do something with the group but ultimately he has own internal rhythms. So even in these smaller trivial scenes, he is true to character. As a result we are drawn to Nick's energy on screen, and we watch him in a way we do not watch the other Barkley brothers.

 

There is a quote somewhere online that Richard Long once asked Breck 'why do you play Nick so intensely?' suggesting Breck was working harder than necessary. And Breck is supposed to have replied: 'Because Nick is an intense guy.'

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Thanks. One example about Breck I wanted to mention-- there's a scene in season 2's Wagonload of Dreams where the characters are in a bar and they do a little Greek dancing. The Barkleys are not Greek, so when Nick goes on the floor to do a few steps with everyone else, Breck plays it very clumsy. Everyone else is doing it nicely, and trying to keep up to the beat of the music, but not him. He's hopping around like his toes are on fire. It's quite funny. At first glance, it might appear he's hamming it up or scene stealing, but he's actually making a choice to show us how Nick tries to do something with the group but ultimately he has own internal rhythms. So even in these smaller trivial scenes, he is true to character. As a result we are drawn to Nick's energy on screen, and we watch him in a way we do not watch the other Barkley brothers.

 

There is a quote somewhere online that Richard Long once asked Breck 'why do you play Nick so intensely?' suggesting Breck was working harder than necessary. And Breck is supposed to have replied: 'Because Nick is an intense guy.'

Jarrod -

 

watching on MeTV today, "The Jonah", I could only think that Jarrod is in for a great time - it was actually a comedy with Peter Breck and Marty Allen and it was quite a departure from the usual dramatic format. 

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Jarrod -

 

watching on MeTV today, "The Jonah", I could only think that Jarrod is in for a great time - it was actually a comedy with Peter Breck and Marty Allen and it was quite a departure from the usual dramatic format. 

 

I appreciate your telling me which episodes are airing on MeTV, because then I can make sure to watch the same ones in my collection.

 

But it sounds as if MeTV is not airing them all or else is switching the order, because you didn't mention the Julie London episode so I assume you haven't seen it yet. It was produced right after the Adam West episode, and right before the Lew Ayres episode. 

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I appreciate your telling me which episodes are airing on MeTV, because then I can make sure to watch the same ones in my collection.

 

But it sounds as if MeTV is not airing them all or else is switching the order, because you didn't mention the Julie London episode so I assume you haven't seen it yet. It was produced right after the Adam West episode, and right before the Lew Ayres episode. 

Jarrod -

 

I don't get to watch "The Big Valley" every day.

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I watched two episodes this afternoon. The one with Lew Ayres called Presumed Dead. And the one with Adam West, In Silent Battle.

 

I remember watching the Adam West episode years ago on The Family Channel and hadn't seen it since. So it was interesting to re-familiarize myself with the details of the plot. I am still processing it, it was very intense. I like the risks they took with the story, and I think it was successful in its exeuction.

 

The Ayres episode had a very poignant ending, but I think I would have structured the plot a bit differently. I may do a more in-depth review on it later. These are just quick observations after watching the show today.

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I watched two episodes this afternoon. The one with Lew Ayres called Presumed Dead. And the one with Adam West, In Silent Battle.

 

I remember watching the Adam West episode years ago on The Family Channel and hadn't seen it since. So it was interesting to re-familiarize myself with the details of the plot. I am still processing it, it was very intense. I like the risks they took with the story, and I think it was successful in its exeuction.

 

The Ayres episode had a very poignant ending, but I think I would have structured the plot a bit differently. I may do a more in-depth review on it later. These are just quick observations after watching the show today.

I did think that "In Silent Battle" was a very risky episode for "The Big Valley".

 

I did like Adam West's very intense performance.

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I did think that "In Silent Battle" was a very risky episode for "The Big Valley".

 

I did like Adam West's very intense performance.

 

I think this may very well be my favorite episode of the entire series. He went in so many directions with that character.

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Jarriod -

 

Is there such a thing as an amusing drama?

 

If so, then, today's "The Big Valley" episode was one.

 

Carol Lynley guest-starred as a bank robber with her three brothers who fell in love with Heath and planned on marrying him, too.

 

Her part was amusingly written - and she played it amusingly, too.

 

But the surrounding storyline - robbing the town bank - was a pretty dramatic context.

 

Carol Lynley had a great scene in which she threatened Barbara Stanwyck (?!).

 

I am wondering what you will think of this one? 

 

Yes or no?

 

I myself did like the episode, because it was so, so off-beat.

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Jarriod -

 

Is there such a thing as an amusing drama?

 

If so, then, today's "The Big Valley" episode was one.

 

Carol Lynley guest-starred as a bank robber with her three brothers who fell in love with Heath and planned on marrying him, too.

 

Her part was amusingly written - and she played it amusingly, too.

 

But the surrounding storyline - robbing the town bank - was a pretty dramatic context.

 

Carol Lynley had a great scene in which she threatened Barbara Stanwyck (?!).

 

I am wondering what you will think of this one? 

 

Yes or no?

 

I myself did like the episode, because it was so, so off-beat.

 

I think you're starting to see what I saw in the Pernell Roberts episode. In fact, I noticed the pattern again when I watched the Lew Ayres one last night. The scene where Stanwyck rides into town and is arrested for being part of the cattle rustling scheme and can't remember anything was very comical, though Stanwyck was playing it "straight." As I said before, the writers are setting up a dramatic premise, then layering it with comic touches-- which means these are really thinly disguised comedies.

 

I haven't seen the Carol Lynley one yet, but I suspect it's more of the same. They are taking formulaic western dramas and subverting them as satires. I think it's an intelligent way to rehash stories that have otherwise been told a thousand times before. But Peter Breck and a few of the guest stars seem to be the only ones who are smart enough to realize what the writers are doing. Everyone else is trying to play it straight, too straight, for tears instead of for laughs.

 

And you can see how much of an amateur Lee Majors is, because if you watch his eyes, he's trying to master memorizing dialogue and knowing where to stand in front of the camera. He has no real conscious artistic understanding of the scripts and how to play his character with any depth. Peter Breck is  the only one who knows what's going on in these scripts. Stanwyck and Long have half a clue, while Linda Evans has a little understanding and Lee Majors has no clue at all.

 

I watch Britain's top-rated serial 'Coronation Street' and this is what they do all the time. They set up the story one way but give the actors hints with strange pieces of dialogue to play it for laughs-- the smarter actors will seize on it and really bring their characters to life. While everyone else falls on their faces.

 

Another thing going on with The Big Valley is that it's stunt-driven. The stuntmen have key scenes in each episode. But if you look carefully, you can see the stunt doubles for Stanwyck and Evans are actually men in dresses and wigs. So there's a gender bending comedy operating on another level.

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Ray,

 

I just finished watching The Jonah (the one with Marty Allen). What did you think of it? I thought it was kind of the reverse of what we've been discussing lately. In this case, the writers set up a comic premise then subverted it, so we could see the more serious problems faced by Allen's character.

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