The Western was sticking it out in 1971. Gunsmoke and Bonanza were still on the air and doing fine in the ratings. But the networks were looking for ways to modernize the genre so it wasn’t the usual tales of horses, cows and cowboys on the vast prairie. Bearcats! brought the genre into the 20th century although not that far into the contemporary. Instead of riding around the Southwest on a pair of fine horses, Hank Brackett (The Birds‘ Rod Taylor) and Johnny Reach (Felony Squad‘s Dennis Cole) rode around on a white Stutz Bearcat. The duo were mercenaries eager to help out, but the didn’t work for free. They had to charge since gas costs money. Although there was a gimmick in their payment plan. You’d give them a blank check. After the job was done, they’d write in the amount. If a client wasn’t willing to pay any price for their service, then their services weren’t necessary. Bearcats! The Complete Television Series contains all 13 episodes at a more reasonable price.
“The Devil Wears Armor” lets you know this isn’t that old of a west. Outlaws arrive in a border town eager to rob the bank. But instead of charging in on horses with guns blazing, they roll down the street in a tank. No note for the teller or even a stick ’em up. The tank runs into the building and gas is released. You can tell their dangerous since John Vernon (National Lampoon’s Animal House) is calling the shots. The only chance to stop them is Hank and Johnny. But can a Stutz do anything once it catches up to a tank? Since the series takes place right before World War I, it makes sense that the Germans would get to be bad guys. “Ground Loop at Spanish Wells” has word spread that American troops are attacking Mexican border towns. But can it be German troops disguised as Americans doing this to start a war between Mexico and the USA? It’s up to the duo to stop this distraction before war is declared. Mexico has its own troubles in “Dos Gringos.” They send agents over the border to silence a revolutionary eager to return over the border. Henry Silva (Ocean’s Eleven) takes over a bordertown so he can start his own revolution. There’s a lot of revolution talk in this show.
“Hostages” has a man kidnap a town priest as part of a revenge plot. Turns out that town hung his dad. If they want the priest back, they need to hang a citizen. The guys have to figure out a way to get back the priest without causing anyone to be exposed as a swinger. Erin Moran (Happy Days) is almost a fetus here. “Conqueror’s Gold” has another priest being taken hostage. This time he’s also got a couple Indians captured with him. Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) wants to find a lost gold treasure or he’ll bury them. There’s trouble in the oil fields during “Blood Knot.” The Germans return for “Assault on San Saba.” A German officer (Diamonds Are Forever‘s Bruce Glover) gets put in prison so he can recruit agents for the Kaiser. “Bitter Flats” has Keenan Wynn (Dr. Strangelove) hiding something while the guys are searching for a missing soldier. Rockne Tarkington (Morgan on The Banana Splits‘s “Danger Island” serial) gets mixed into the intrigue. “Tiger, Tiger” has sabotage at a military supply station. An evil Leslie Nielsen (Police Squad) steals artillery in “The Big Guns.” “The Return of Estaban” brings back a pal to help the duo prevent a small town from being destroyed by hoodlums. “Man in a Cage” gets Hank kidnapped along with a politician. It’s up to Johnny to free them.
What flattened Bearcats!? The series was given a Thursday night time slot opposite The Flip Wilson Show at its prime. Making matters worse was ABC booking Alias Smith and Jones. They had two Westerns going head to head. Only one could survive. But there’s no whining that the wrong Western was axed. Bearcats! ran the proper amount of time. It’s hard to think that the producers would have come up with plots outside of kidnapping, Germans and kidnapping. There’s not much wondering where that Stutz Bearcat could have roamed in the 14th episode. It’s easier to appreciate the show through the half season. The package is missing Powderkeg, the movie of the week that got the series green lit for it’s short run. You can get Powderkeg as an exclusive DVD on Amazon. The plot involved a train being kidnapped. But there doesn’t seem to be too much backstory missing from the first episode. The producers weren’t up for want too much emotional tension cluttering up the action adventure elements. The series brings the Western into the age of the horseless carriage.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. For a show that hasn’t had much exposure since it was yanked back in 1971, the image looks good. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. There mix is good enough for a primetime show from over 40 years ago. Nothing too dynamic busting through your speakers.
There are no bonus features.
Bearcats! The Complete Television Series is a fun show for the half season it lasted. The series turns the Texas border into a hot bed of German action just before World War I. Rod Taylor and Dennis Cole do have a good chemistry as they take the blank checks to cover their services. It’s a fun obscure series from the early ’70s.
Timeless Media Group presents Bearcats! The Complete Television Series. Starring: Rod Taylor and Dennis Cole. Boxset Contents: 13 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released: May 14, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: alfred hitchcock, John Vernon