Warner Bros. // 1960 // 1624 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // February 20th, 2014
"It's the Moore the merrier!"
Cor blimey, who's the limey?!
Why, that's none other than Beauregard Maverick (Roger Moore, Bullseye!), cousin to brothers Bret and Bart, and namesake nephew to their vaunted "Pappy." The resemblance is uncanny -- Cousin Beau's a devilishly handsome, silver-tongued charmer, and of course, a lethal gambler. He turns up in the first episode of Maverick: The Complete Fourth Season, after five years abroad ("where I acquired this accent -- slight as it is"), and sticks around to help Bart (Jack Kelly) shoulder the workload for most of the remaining thirty-one episodes, effectively standing in for Bret, who disappeared when star James Garner quit the series, owing to a contract dispute with Warner Brothers.
Before his departure, however, Garner shot one episode, and it's a beaut. "The Maverick Line" finds the Brothers M. inheriting a stagecoach line, and a lemon of a line at that. A wickedly witty script by Ron Bishop and Wells Root provides Garner and Kelly one first-rate last chance to play off each other, with a hilarious guest appearance by Buddy Ebsen (Barnaby Jones) icing the cake.
While it's certainly reasonable to assume that without Garner, the series would go limping along as a mere shell of its former self, I found Maverick: The Complete Fourth Season to be a surprisingly solid collection. True, I haven't yet gotten through every episode here, but the healthy sampling I've done convinces me that if there are any duds among the segments (and so far, I've found none), they're part of a very thin herd.
On the other hand, one of the best episodes ("Hadley's Hunters,") artfully mixes action and suspense with comedic cameos from a majority of the highly popular Warner Brothers series that crowded ABC's prime time schedule in 1960, including: Clint Walker (Cheynne) John Russell and Peter Brown (Lawman), Ty Hardin (Bronco), Will Hutchins (Sugarfoot) and Edd "Kookie" Byrnes, of 77 Sunset Strip. Meanwhile, the story's remaining guest cast was populated with actors that would soon become icons themselves: George Kennedy (Oscar-winner, Cool Hand Luke), Edgar Buchanan (Petticoat Junction) Howard McNear (Floyd the barber on The Andy Griffith Show), and Robert Colbert (The Time Tunnel).
Colbert would show up later in the season as brother Brent Maverick, the last title character to be introduced, and the one with the shortest run (two mere episodes). Despite being introduced in a terrific episode called "The Forbidden City," the handsome young actor was hamstrung by his physical resemblance to Jim Garner, and was ordered to wear Garner's old costume to accentuate the fact. Well aware of the trouble this would probably cause, the actor reportedly said to his bosses: "Put me in a dress and call me Brenda, but don't do this to me!"
Unfortunately, his reasoned plea fell upon deaf ears, and his character was summarily rejected as a cheap substitute by angry audiences in 1961. By this time, Moore had also gone, allegedly dissatisfied with the lack of quality scripts -- Ironically, his last appearance was in yet another masterful chapter ("Red Dog"), featuring top-notch guest appearances by John Carradine (Jesse James), Lee Van Cleef (Grand Duel), and the luscious Sherry Jackson (The Mini-Skirt Mob).
Presented as a made-to-order release by Warner Archives, Maverick: The Complete Fourth Season shows no evidence of any remastering efforts. There is dirt, there are flecks and scratches apparent, but all told, it's easily watchable, and the prints have held up very well. "No frills" is the name of the game here, and it really hit home for me when I'd have to back up several times to figure out a spoken line without the aid of subtitles -- Really, guys, for what you're asking price-wise, the least you could do is provide closed-captioning for the age-battered ears of the series' target audience!
Having done quite a bit of reading up on Maverick's history, I was prepared to be disappointed by the second-to-last season. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised at being dealt such a good hand.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 1624 Minutes
Release Year: 1960
MPAA Rating: Not Rated