Michael Bergeron
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Blu-ray / DVD update: Spring is over edition

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Cimarron Strip has one of the best openings of any 1960s television show. A helicopter shot follows U.S. Marshall Jim Crane (Stuart Whitman) as he rides a horse across the desert. We pull in, and then we pull out to a majestic high angle wide shot. The setting is Lone Pine, California the place where the Mojave Desert meets the Sierra Nevada Mountains (that has been used in movies like Gunga Din or television shows like The Lone Ranger and a gazillion other series). The theme music is by Maurice Jarre.

Cimarron Strip: The Complete Series (E One, 5/27) offers 23 eps of the western along with a recent interview with Whitman. To put things in context westerns in this decade are like cop procedural shows in our own time. It was literally the most expensive production on an episode basis for CBS in the Fall 1967 season; Whitman’s production company owned a piece of the series. Cimarron Strip was also only one of three 90-minute series up until the time it premiered. Most episodes run around 72 minutes.

BOsuAbWMarshall Crown runs his jailhouse out of Dulcy’s (Jill Townsend) saloon and restaurant. Dulcy is a petit femme from England who moved to the area when she inherited a relative’s estate. The Scotsman MacGregor (Percy Herbert) works as Crown’s deputy. The accent meme was in effect obviously after Star Trek’s Scotty.

Whitman himself was always the actor who got movies roles that other actors turned down throughout his career. Whitman was known for replacing actors like George Peppard who walked off the set of The Sands of Kalahari, an admitted tough location shoot. This paid dividends when Richard Burton dropped out of The Mark, which resulted in an Academy Award nom for Whitman. Whitman is distinguished by his gravely voice, a voice that reminds one of Nick Nolte’s raspy delivery.

Some eps are better than others obviously but the real thrill is watching guest stars like David Carradine, Richard Boone, Warren Oates, Suzanne Pleshette and dozens others popping up in minor and major roles. A couple of eps stand out like one written by Harlan Ellison that is covered in day-for-night camera work and fog and concerns Jack the Ripper migrating to America. Look for a very young Tom Skerritt.

The transfer is good, which is to day it’s adequate. There are occasional black specs and film noise that are noticeable.

The Color of Lies (Cohen Media Group, 5/27) brings Claude Chabrol’s excellent 1999 mystery thriller to Blu-ray. Not just one but two murders are employed in the plot that occasionally follows the Hitchcock template but also incorporates Chabrol’s sense of French provincial life.

The Max Linder Collection (Kino Classics, 5/27) contains three feature length movies and one short from the honored silent film comedian. Linder was the world’s top paid film comedian in the years before Chaplin. The films on display – Seven Years Bad Luck, Be My Wife and The Three Must-Get-Theres – represent films Linder made in America for Chaplin at United Artists in the early 1920s. Linder was the highest paid film star in 1912 but was not treated in karmic fashion after serving in WWI. All of his films, French and American, are sought after classics but in a depressing side note Linder committed suicide in 1925.

The most interesting moments come in Seven Years Bad Luck where Linder uses cats, dogs and ducks to make a comic point. The mirror sequence (thus the title referring to bad luck) was later copied with updates by the Marx Brothers in 1933’s Duck Soup.

— Michael Bergeron