How cool were 1950s TV Westerns? “Incident of the Druid Curse” was an episode from Season #2 of Rawhide, vintage 1960. You’re driving cattle from Texas to the market in Sedalia, Kansas, and you run into… an archeologist and his daughter (Byron Foulger and Luana Patten) searching for evidence that Druids were here, 2,000 years ago.
Just another ol’ day in the Old West, right? Try to work around the fact that the daughter 100% believes in all this Druid stuff, but it’s too late to send her back home to Boston. And throw in a little gang of bad eggs, led by Claude Akins, who are too ignorant to recognize metaphor and hyperbole when they hear it, and decide to kidnap the archeologists and force them to reveal the location of this fabulous ancient treasure that does not, in fact, exist.
Thanks to youtube, my wife and I watched this episode a few nights ago and greatly enjoyed it. At one point, even though I knew what I was going to see, I still got a bumper crop of genuine gooseflesh when I saw it. No, I’m not going to tell you what it was: that would spoil it. Suffice it to say that this is a very eerie story, brilliantly written, brilliantly performed, and most definitely not what you’d expect. I’m amazed by the skills of TV screenwriters of that era, how much action, dialogue, and insight they could pack into just 50 minutes of air time–without ever seeming to be rushing things, or jamming too much into it, or leaving out information that they ought to include.
Rawhide–best remembered now for giving Clint Eastwood his big break in acting, and Frankie Laine’s rendition of the theme song–was just another one of dozens of great TV programs from that period. Come to think of it, it also gave actor Sheb Wooley, one of the cowhands on the show, the opportunity to score with a hit record, The Flying Purple People Eater (“It was a one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people-eater…”)
[ Here is the Miller Company’s classic rendition of Sheb Wooley’s Flying Purple People Eater. Are any of you old enough to remember these great toys?]
There’s always the chance that when you look back on things you used to enjoy, long ago in life, you’re looking through rose-colored glasses and remembering things as a lot better than they really were.
Thanks to youtube, I’ve been able to confirm that those old shows that I thought were so great… really were so great!