Saturday, October 25, 2008

TV REVIEW OF ''ALIAS SMITH & JONES: The Wrong Train to Brimstone" (1971)

Hannibal Heyes (Pete Duel) and Kid Curry (Ben Murphy) masquerade as a pair of Bannerman detectives on a train carrying a load of gold in Jeffrey Hayden's "Wrong Train to Brimstone," (**** out of ****) one of the better episodes in this western comedy-drama from the first season. "Wrong Train to Brimstone" points out that no pictures of Heyes and Curry exist so it has been difficult for the authorities to apprehend our heroes.

You'd think that our heroes would stop boarding trains and stagecoaches because of the odds that somebody would recognize and arrest them. No sooner have Heyes and Curry sold their saddles and horses than Curry recognizes a couple of lawmen in the town of Bramberg and they have to get out fast. The livery stable owner refuses to sell their saddles and horses back to them for the same price. Our haunted heroes try to catch a stagecoach, but there isn't one. In this lively little episode loaded with irony, our heroes wind up aboard a train armed to the teeth with guards employed by the George Bannerman Detective Agency and supervised by Harry Brisco (J.D. Cannon of "McCloud"). "The Wrong Train to Brimstone" contains the first of several appearances that Cannon would make in the series as bumbling Brisco.

Initially, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were just trying to get out of town to avoid detection by the law. They swap places rather forcibly with two Carl Grant (Charles H. Gray) and Fred Gaines (William Bryant) and masquerade as them on the train. They learn that the train is transporting a gold shipment three times the usual amount--a mite more than a quarter of a million dollars bound for the Denver Mint--as well as a crate of sour mash. Apart from Harry Brisco and his 15 Bannerman guards, Jeremiah Daley (William Windom of "Hour of the Gun") and Sara Blaine (Beth Brickhill of the 1975 "Posse")are VIP passengers. Jeremiah has set up the gold shipment to lure out the Devil's Hole Gang, and Sara is there because she has seen the real Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry and can identify them. Jeremiah is suspicious about them because he knows the real Grant and Gaines. He confronts our protagonists about their identity and then backs off and leaves them alone. Heyes and Curry get off the train at Brimstone and intercept the telegram that Grant and Gaines have sent about getting left behind.

Heyes and Curry find themselves having thwarting a railroad heist by the Devil's Hole Gang, lead by stuntman Hal Needham, because their amnesty ranks higher in importance to them. "There ain't one in the bunch who ever killed anybody in their entire lives," Kid Curry defends his old cronies in crime. "And we cant sit on this train and let all of them get shot." The suspense grows out of the one and only female passenger who assures Heyes and Curry that she has meet them before during a train robbery. Not only do our heroes discourage the gang from attacking the train, but also they expose the twosome on board the train who are going to rob it from within. An awful lot of bullets are fired in this episode and only two Devil's Hole Gang members bite the dust. At the end, Heyes and Curry earn $500 from Brisco for helping him out. Furthermore, our heroes convince Harry Brisco that the descriptions of Heyes and Curry are inaccurate and they embellish those features with scars. Pete Duel and Ben Murphy are at their charismatic best. William Windom guest stars as a corrupt Bannerman agent. The detectives come extremely well-armed on their train with a Gatling gun.

The violence in this episode consists of guns being fired and people slamming into each other. There is no blood.