Nevada is a huge state with two very focused population centers that cling to the western border with California. In the North is Lake Tahoe, Reno and Carson City. In the South, it’s all about Las Vegas. In between these cities and eastward is a lot of lonely stretches of highway, desert and mountains. There were only a few people assigned to keep the peace in Nevada back in the late ’50s. Luckily one of them was Officer Rod Blake (Rod Cameron) of the Nevada State Police. He was the star of State Trooper. The series ran from 1956 to 1959 in syndication. While Rod was the main trooper, he’d get assistance from Sheriff Andy Anderson (Robert Armstrong) and Sheriff Elder (Don Haggerty). The episodes would start with Rod explaining that the episode was based on a real case handled by the State Trooper of Nevada. This made the show like Dragnet except with more cowboys and tumbleweeds. State Trooper: The Complete Series brings together all those real cases with a few future superstars on both sides of the law.
“Red Badge of Death” has Rod going undercover in Las Vegas to captures hoodlums that have been mugging high rollers. “The Paperhanger of Pioche” has bogus payroll checks being cashed around time. How is Carolyn Jones (The Addams Family) tied into this scam? “What Price Gloria” puts Rod on the tracks of a boating accident that might be an attempted murder. More importantly is that it features a young Mike Connors (Mannix) when he tested out the name Jay Connors. “Room Service for 321” is historic since it features Bart Braverman as “The Boy.” Later on he’d be Dan Tanna’s sidekick in VEGA$. He’s a Nevada acting legend. “Trail of the Dead” lets Denver Pyle (The Dukes of Hazzard) playing a miner years before he’d be picking away on Grizzly Adams. “Choate of Many Colors” finds Amanda Blake (Miss Kitty) taking a break from Gunsmoke. “Buck Fever” gets hot with Michael Landon involved in a buried treasure. Landon would also become a Nevada acting legend as Little Joe on Bonanza. “No Fancy Cowboys” is a false titles since it features the fancy Guy Williams (Zorro & Lost In Space. “The Live Shell Game” guest stars none other than Chief O’Hara from Batman (Stafford Repp). “The Gandy Dancers of Steptoe Valley” guest stars Claude Akin (Sheriff Lobo) as part of a family that’s ripping off mines. Rod won’t take the shaft.
“Wild Green Yonder” disguised outlaws as military as they rob air force bases. Angie Dickinson (Police Woman) might be their moll. “710 Hysteria Street” puts Rod on the trail of a prowler preying on the bad side of town. Lee Van Cleef (The Good, The Bad and the Ugly) might be his man. “Lonely Valley” has a family going nuts from nearby atomic testing. Richard Farnsworth (robbed of an Oscar for The Straight Story) is party to the mayhem. “Fiddle Dee Dead” has Barbara Bain (Mission: Impossible) testing out her seductive glances. Even more fun is seeing Frank De Vol play himself. Besides his numerous TV theme songs, Frank was the bandleader on Fernwood Tonight. “Hard Money, Soft Touch” includes the criminal charms of James Coburn (In Like Flint). It’s only fitting that “The Patient Skeleton” guest stars Star Trek‘s Bones: DeForest Kelley.
State Trooper is a fun crime show to rewatch after nearly 60 years. In a way, Rod was the great granddaddy of CSI as he catches the killers that lurk around Las Vegas. Except he doesn’t have any of the expensive science stuff. The series is rather low budget since it was made with a syndication budget. The sets look like they were salvaged from Monogram Picture’s backlot. The show wasn’t made in Nevada. While there was footage of Rod on the streets of Reno and Vegas, most of the episodes were shot at Iverson’s Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, California. State Trooper didn’t get the nostalgia or syndication love of its peer Highway Patrol with Broderick Crawford. This is a shame since Rod does his best to keep Nevada clean for tourists eager to lose their money to the one-armed bandits.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers aren’t too bad. They’re far from pristine, but the black and white image is clean enough. The audio is Dolby Digital. The mix is fine for a low budget show of that time.
Rodeo Rough House (23:47) is the pilot for the series. The quality on this is of a EP speed VHS dupe. But this is all that remains. The show started off right with Beverly Garland (Scarecrow and Mrs. King) and Claude Akins (Sheriff Lobo) in the guest roles.
Bonus Shows featuring Rod Cameron include Tales of Wells Fargo‘s “Assignment in Gloribee,” The Men From Shiloh‘s “Gun Quest,” Alias Smith and Jones‘ “The Biggest Game in the West” and Laramie‘s “The Last Journey.” This retrospective of Rod’s guest starring work in the wild west.
State Trooper: The Complete Series is the perfect show for those who enjoy obscure cop dramas based on true cases. Rod Cameron has the perfect face for the law in a spread out state.
Timeless Media Group presents State Trooper: The Complete Series. Starring: Rod Cameron, Robert Armstrong and Don Haggerty. Boxset Contents: 104 episodes on 11 DVDs. Released: September 23, 2014.