Warner Bros. // 1965 // 153 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Aaron Bossig (Retired) // January 11th, 2006
"Where Indian fights are colorful sights, and nobody takes a lickin'
Where paleface and redskin both turn chicken." -- Theme from F Troop
It only took a few words to get me hooked on F Troop. I had asked my father about the show, and he laughed and said "The cowboys are scared of the Indians, and the Indians are scared of the cowboys." Put in those terms, I couldn't look away. True enough, the soldiers at Fort Courage, commanded by Captain Parmenter (Ken Berry, The Andy Griffith Show), live in perpetual fear of an attack from the nearby Hekawi tribe. You see, the soldiers of F Troop aren't exactly our nation's finest. The lookout guard is legally blind, their bugle boy can't play, and even Captain Parmenter has lost battles to his own allergies.
Almost as absurd are the Hekawi. Chief Wild Eagle (Frank DeKova, The Greatest Story Ever Told) has no interest in war or battle; his tribe's livelihood is based on selling Indian souvenirs to tourists. His squaws work in shifts making arrows and moccasins to sell at a huge markup. War would do nothing but destroy his way of life: it would scare away the tourists and force his people to live off the land and scalp all white men -- you know, be a "real Indian." He'd much rather spend his days making deals with Sergeant O'Rourke (Forrest Tucker, The Wild Blue Yonder) and Corporal Agarn (Larry Storch, Out of the Inkwell), who market his tribe's souvenirs.
With both parties dreading the idea of war, you'd think this situation would spell years of peace for F Troop and the Hekawi. However, if an open dialogue between the Hekawi and the U.S. Government were started, O'Rourke's grey-market business would be exposed, leading to financial ruin for him, Agarn, and the entire Hekawi tribe. O'Rourke and Agarn have made a science out of running their business without the Captain getting wise, and if Parmenter would be replaced, it could throw the whole operation in jeopardy.
This "Television Favorites" collection showcases six episodes from the series. Although there is no rationale behind why these particular episodes were chosen, the DVD does present a very good preview of the show as a whole. You'll get to see what makes the show great. F Troop was a pleasure to watch because its humor embraced the "just be funny" rule. Nothing mattered except for getting the laughs. Chief Wild Eagle's broken English and cowardly spirit made him the perfect buffoon. He and Crazy Cat (Don Diamond, Omar Khayyam) had some of the best lines in the show -- mangled Indian metaphors mixed with 20th-century slang, resulting in Wild Eagle saying stuff like "Laughing gas? Him Indian fellow?" and maintaining total credibility. Granted, his character doesn't make for a strong Native American role model, but in the 60s, a show's entertainment value took priority over such concerns.
Likewise, the level of incompetence shown by F Troop might seem too absurd to believe. Don't forget, the show is a farce; the more absurd it makes itself, the more possibilities for humor it opens up. True, I groaned a little bit when Captain Parmenter needed written instructions to re-fold a map (I never understood why people find this so difficult). But then, watch him act perplexed as O'Rourke and Agarn divert his attention time and time again. It's hard to think a captain that dedicated could be so clueless, but the timing and chemistry between the actors makes it work. Sure, F Troop was predictable at times. If they pulled out the cannon, you knew the lookout tower was doomed. If Dobbs went to play his bugle, you knew it'd sound terrible. All the same, the jokes were done time and time again because they simply worked.
The episodes included are:
* "Indian Fever:" Chief Mean Buffalo of the Apache tribe is
staging an attack on Fort Courage. If war breaks out between the soldiers and
the Indians, it'll spell disaster for both F Troop and the Hekawi.
* "The Girl from Philadelphia:" Captain Parmenter's love interest from back east visits F Troop, determined to make a husband out of him. Wrangler Jane fumes from jealousy, while Agarn and O'Rourke panic at the idea of losing their captain.
* "The Return of Bald Eagle:" Fear strikes F Troop and the Hekawi Indians as a rogue Indian named Bald Eagle (Don Rickles, Toy Story 2) arrives.
* "The Singing Mountie:" F Troop assists a musical Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman who is pursuing a fur thief. Sadly, the prime suspect is Corporal Agarn's Canadian cousin.
* "Bye Bye Balloon:" The U.S. Army begins a military hot air balloon program, and Fort Courage is designated as its testing ground. Parmenter must serve host to a German balloon expert, who arrives ready to whip F Troop into shape. This episode contains Chief Wild Eagle's classic "It is...balloon!" line.
* "Our Brave in F Troop:" Sgt. O'Rourke tries to get Chief Wild Eagle some free dental care by sneaking him into the fort while the army dentist is visiting. A senile ranking officer accidentally promotes Wild Eagle several times, until the Indian chief prefers the army to his tribe.
These "Best of" collections are always disappointing. Instead of presenting the show in some logical format, we get random episodes placed onto a disc. They're labeled "favorites." I find it rather presumptuous that Warner Bros. claims to know what my favorite episodes are, and even more presumptuous that they assume I'd be content to watch those and ignore the whole series. The MSRP of the DVD is a paltry $9.99, which makes it an impulse-buy item, yet I hope Warner Bros. hasn't written off F Troop as a series worthy of a proper DVD release. The show only ran two seasons, so a single, full-series release is not out of the question. Video and audio quality are generally pretty good, so when complete release is announced, I'll be looking forward to it.
Review content copyright © 2006 Aaron Bossig; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 153 Minutes
Release Year: 1965
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* WB TV Favorites
* Ken Berry's Site
* Melody Patterson's Site
* Episode Guide