Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Portrait of an Unknown Man; Kraft Suspense Theatre; Clint Walker; Robert Duval

Click here for the previous episode review.

Season #1, Episode #22

Portrait of an Unknown Man

Original Air Date - April 16, 1964

Setting/Time - A western mountain sheep herding town in the present (in October).

Plot/Review/Discussion

Clint Walker plays a very tall man (David Wolfe) who is new in town and wants to be left alone for reasons that are unclear. As he arrives near the town, he abandons his broken down car to roll down an embankment along the road. He shows up at a general store in the mountains and orders many supplies but refuses to say why. Walker then loads his supplies on a burro and begins a 3 hour trek up the mountain to his newly rented cabin.

The following clip picks up the action after Walker has ditched his car (and just after the locals have called the sheriff to find out who won the world series after their radio broke):


video

This event begins constant gossip among the townspeople over what Walker is doing up in his cabin three hours away. Several of them even walk up there (!) to visit/spy on Walker. Much of the plot involves additional scenes/confrontations in which the townspeople seek answers from Walker, while Walker remains secretive and professes his desire to be left alone. The suspicions of the local residents were based on the fact that Wolfe paid for his purchases with a one hundred dollar bill.

The story is very much like "My Enemy, This Town" (1.15). There is a constant series of confrontations between one man and the local residents, in which the man repeats the same theme over and over again. These confrontations are much milder in this episode than in "Enemy," but the repetitiveness still makes for an inferior plot.

This'll learn ya' to use 100 dollar bills!














There is a related plot involving the general store owner and his daughter. That conflict/plot had been brewing under the surface for years prior to the events of this story. Apparently the father wanted his daughter to marry the man who molested her when she was underage. Walker's arrival in town helps bring the secondary plot to the forefront, while the secondary plot helps bring the main story to a resolution.

There are small points where the plot is difficult to believe. The writers went to great lengths to isolate Walker/Wolfe in his mountain cabin. While that isolation reinforces Wolfe's character, it makes it difficult to create additional confrontations/interactions between Wolfe and the townspeople. The writers' solution was to have townspeople take a three hour hike (each way) to visit Wolfe so that new confrontations could advance the plot.

Miscellaneous - The exterior set would be reused in "The Long Ravine" (2.24).

Cars

Clint Walker drives what is most likely a 1952 Ford at the beginning of the episode. He then proceeds to push a different 1952 Ford down the hill (either it was different or things were removed on the exterior before it was released to its destruction). This car was difficult to identify due to the beat up condition. Aside from broken windows and many dents, the only problem with the car seemed to be a broken hose - until it rolled down the embankment.

The Sheriff drove a 1964 Ford Galaxie.

Actors

Clint Walker plays David Wolfe. He was active in TV and movies for more than 40 years. He played the title character in Cheyenne for seven years. He played a small role in The Ten Commandments.

Robert Duval in "Portrait of an Unknown Man"







Robert Duval plays in one of his earliest roles as Harvey the handyman. He remains active today after more than 50 years in Hollywood. At the time this episode aired, TV guest roles were typical for Duval instead of the movie roles that he would get regularly in the 1970's and beyond.

Mala Powers played the store owner's daughter. Her acting career began with the help of Ida Lupino, when she played a rape victim in Lupino's Outrage. She guest starred on numerous television series, including Cheyenne with Clint Walker.

Quote of the Episode -

Robert Duval/Harvey (shouting indignantly): "Wait a minute! You think you can come down here, hand an order in and then just fill it?"

Clint Walker/Wolfe (matter-of-factly): "Yes."

Lessons I Learned from "Portrait of an Unknown Man."

  • If your car breaks down, just dispose of it by letting it roll down an embankment. No one will mind.


  • Sheriff's deputies, in addition to their duties as art critics, also provide sports updates.


  • You can come down here, hand an order in and then just fill it.


  • Don't trust any man who has a 100 dollar bill.


  • If your daughter is single, marry her off to the first child molester that becomes available.


  • If you are curious about a stranger in town, spend six hours walking back and forth to his house so you can check up on him.

3 comments:

  1. I really like this episode. It seems that everyone in it is either a lost soul or a bored one, excepting maybe the minister. The way the very tall man and the very frightened woman come together seems right and gives off the only feelgood vibes in the episode. Overall, a satisfying drama in a minor key, it channels the anomic, existential mood of the 60s nicely.

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  2. Exterior filming locations? Close to L.A., maybe Big Bear, maybe even closer.

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  3. Some of the exterior scenes look very much like the Universal back lot to me. Those big rocks that line the trail to David Wolfe's cabin look mighty familiar.. I've seen them in other TV shows filmed on the lot. Maybe there were some trips to Big Bear for "establishing shots" to add authenticity.

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