Monday, September 20, 2010

A Cause of Anger; Kraft Suspense Theatre; Brian Keith; Nancy Powell; Anthony Caruso

Click here for the previous episode review.

Season #1, Episode #19

A Cause of Anger

Original Air Date - March 19, 1964

Setting/Time - A modern western desert highway between California and New Mexico.

Plot/Review/Setting -

A teenage boy suffers from anger/emotional problems, but is academically gifted to the point of being a genius. His father arranges for a private detective/bodyguard/off-duty cop and a counselor/nurse to take him to an institution where he can be treated.

The plot of this episode is somewhat weak, as certain things are not explained and the conflict and resolution result in somewhat of a letdown.

The plot appears to be based on the basic premise of the old Wagon Train series (which I am sure was based on prior western movies and fiction), where small groups face dangers as they travel across the desert in covered wagons trying to reach a remote destination. The trio in this episode (cop, nurse, teenage boy) are heading by car to an institution in Kansas (as best I can recall). The journey requires them to travel on desert highways across western states. During the trip, they face unknown dangers from breakdowns, other travelers and local residents.

In particular, the cop notices a mysterious car following them. When the cop's car breaks down, the drama is heightened. The mysterious followers now have their opportunity to do harm, while the boy's emotional problems will affect the trio's interaction with local residents. (The drama is better than I am making it sound, as I am trying to avoid plot spoilers.)

The contrast with Wagon Train is made clear early in the episode with an overhead shot of the proverbial congested, interlocking Los Angeles highway system. Thus the Wagon Train theme is brought forward into the 20th century. The writer of this episode, Richard Wormser, was known for his work on westerns (as well as other television programs).

The trio ends up in confrontations with locals and other travelers, but the resolution appears to be rather anticlimactic.

Greater conflict occurs with the boy's struggle against his own emotional problems. He frequently becomes enraged at various points in the trip and must be physically restrained. We watch as the boy comes to terms with these problems and their causes. We see how these problems place the trio in greater danger from locals and the mysterious car following the trio. The writers do a nice job of wrapping up all of the conflicts (both physical and emotional) in the same resolution. The acting, writing and story, despite my reservations, are superior to most of modern television.

Miscellaneous

Whenever the boy flies into a rage and has to be restrained, the viewer hears particular background music to accompany the action. The musical score sounds like the type of Keith Mansfield/Syd Dale jazzy production music that appeared in many movies and in NFL Films highlight reels in the late 1960's. The exact same background score can be heard in "Are There Any More Out There Like You?" (episode 1.5) as the college students were driving over the pedestrian. The music seemed to work better in that scenario than in "Cause of Anger."

Actors

Brian Keith played the cop hired to take the boy across the desert. Viewers may remember his starring roles in multiple television series, such as The Crusader, Family Affair, and Hardcastle and McCormick. He made numerous additional guest and regular appearances in movies and television for more than 70 years, including Wagon Train (and other westerns), Hitchcock and many, many others.

Nancy Malone plays the nurse in the first of her two KST appearances. She acted for over 30 years, including guest roles on Twilight Zone and Kraft Mystery Theatre. She also worked as a director and producer in recent years, directing numerous episodes of Dynasty, Melrose Place and two episodes of Star Trek: Voyager (although I don't count that as a "Star Trek Connection").

Robert Crawford Jr. played the teenage boy. His acting career spanned 15 years, followed by work as a producer or associate producer on well-known movies like The Sting.

Norman Leavitt played in the first of his three small roles in KST, while Douglas Henderson played in the first of his two KST roles.

Cars

Brian Keith drives a 1964 Chrysler Imperial. The main villains were following in a 1964 Colony Park Mercury station wagon. At various scenes along the highway, the producers used the same Mercury Comet, the same Valiant (1960-1962) and the same big finned late-1950's car to complete the background traffic. The viewer also sees the same Ford Thunderbird in traffic at various points.

Star Trek Connection

There are two Star Trek connections in this episode. Anthony Caruso played Bob Cuero, the local deputy. Caruso would later play Bela Oxmyx on Star Trek's "A Piece of the Action," as well as many other roles in his 50 year career. Caruso played in many westerns, including three episodes of Wagon Train.

Oliver McGowan played Dr. Martin. McGowan was the "Caretaker" in Star Trek's "Shore Leave."

1 comment:

  1. A good episode, it deserves two viewings, as it plays oddly the first time around. Excellent performances from the entire cast. The theme is handled in a way that probably comes off as old-fashioned to many younger viewers, however it's spot on for its time. While melodramatic in structure, the characters are credible and realistically written and acted.

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