Monday, November 15, 2010

The Watchman; Kraft Suspense Theatre; Telly Savalas; Jack Warden; Spanish Civil War; Sydney Pollack; David Rayfiel; Ezekiel

Click here for the previous episode review.

Season #1, Episode #26

The Watchman

Original Air Date - May 14, 1964

Setting/Time - The present in New York City and Spain - plus flashbacks to mid/late-1930's Spain and late 1930's New York City.


"The Watchman" is the story of a writer/journalist and his uneasy relationship with a gangster/warlord over nearly three decades.

The conflict in this story is more subtle than in most fiction. The main conflict exists throughout the story between the writer and the warlord - although that conflict always lurks just beneath the surface.

Jack Warden plays the writer who meets a warlord/revolutionary (Telly Savalas) during the Spanish Civil War. Warden is alternately indignant toward Savalas and enabling of Savalas during the coming years. We watch Savalas execute prisoners and petty criminals without trial (and other warlord type activity) in the mountains of Spain. Savalas ends up in New York after the war and becomes involved in organized crime. Warden helps him by covering up for Savalas' crimes. The episode is careful to depict Warden as reluctant and indignant even while helping Savalas.

Most of the story is told through flashbacks as Warden discusses this history with his analyst in present day New York. Savalas has long ago been deported back to Spain. Warden discusses this matter with his analyst now because Savalas has summoned Warden to Spain for an unknown reason. Warden is once again reluctant and indignant.

The story becomes complicated when Warden reveals that he has held romantic feelings for Savalas' wife since Savalas' days in New York City. These feelings, while generally unspoken, have been known both to Warden and the wife for years. The viewer follows the story as Warden flies to Spain to confront his old benefactor/nemesis. The conflicts and complications come to the surface through a series of conversations/confrontations leading to the climax.

The flashback method of telling the story works in this episode. The story begins in modern New York with the "summons" upon Jack Warden. From there, the mystery behind the summons emerges gradually through Warden's flashbacks as he tells the history to his analyst.

The Spanish Civil War remained a favorite subject of writers (fiction and otherwise) for decades. Few subjects were so romanticized. That war has since been replaced as a favorite topic by Vietnam.

I believe the title comes from Ezekiel 33:6. That Bible passage establishes that a "Watchman" shall blow the trumpet as a warning when danger threatens the Israelites. If the Watchman fails to blow the trumpet, he shall be responsible for any deaths that follow. In this episode, Warden's character is torn and disturbed by his own belief that he has been compromised by his friendship with Savalas over the years. The viewer can judge for himself whether Warden is held accountable for failing to blow the trumpet.

The portion of the storyline relating to Savalas' wife tends to confuse the "Watchman/Ezekiel" theme. Warden never acts on his romantic interest, but that storyline is the only part of the plot that involves consequences. (Pardon my vagueness, but I am trying to avoid plot spoilers).


This episode marked an early instance of collaboration between director Sydney Pollack and writer David Rayfiel, which collaboration lead to a string of successful movies over the next three decades, including The Way We Were (1973), Three Days of the Condor (1975), The Firm (1993)("screenplay" credit for Rayfiel) and Sabrina (1995). Even though this future collaboration would tend to make this episode somewhat of an historical artifact for movie fans, this episodes lingers in obscurity.

Quote of the episode:

Warden: You've outgrown the truth.
Savalas: It changes.
Warden: No, only what we see and tell of it.


A Rolls Royce was used at one point toward the end of the episode. Aside from this scene, cars played a minor role in this episode.


Jack Warden played the title role. He enjoyed a 50 year career in many TV and movie roles, including a small role in From Here to Eternity (1953), parts in two Twilight Zone episodes and numerous additional roles. Always a well-known character actor, he achieved lasting success in 1979-1980 with major supporting roles in three hit movies - Being There, And Justice for All and Used Cars.

Telly Savalas played the mobster/revolutionary. He previously starred in "Action of the Tiger" (episode #1.16).

Victoria Shaw plays Savalas' wife. Her 25 year career saw numerous roles in well-known television programs and movies. She was married for a time to Roger Smith, star of "Knight's Gambit" (episode #1.20).

Star Trek Connection

This episode's Star Trek connection is Arthur Batanides, who played D'Amato on "That Which Survives." He acted for nearly forty years, with repeat guest appearances on shows such as Gomer Pyle, Wild Wild West and Mission: Impossible. Batanides played a police detective in this episode.

1 comment:

  1. This was actually a pilot for a series MCA/Universal wanted to sell NBC for the 1964-'65 season, which the network passed on. The series would have starred Jack Warden as a freelance writer/reporter (a la Ernest Hemingway) who travels the world in search of stories, while fighting his own personal demons at the same time.