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Bonanza: The Hayburner (1963)
Season 4, Episode 21
One of the best!
18 July 2006
Another comedic storyline and one of the top ten overall episodes from the series. This story is a great example of what Adam, as the older third brother, brought to the series and what was lost from the show when Pernell Roberts left it. This story is another competition between the three brothers (this happened a lot in the early years and led to some of the best story lines). This time it was about a horse race. William Demorest ("My Three Sons" Uncle Charlie) seems to have the ringer for the race (The Hayburner) but the edge continues to change throughout the story as Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe each throw twists and turns into the plot. The eventual winner at the end may even come as a surprise to faithful Bonanza viewers. Great story writing and excellent playoff of the brothers as they compete against and try to outdo each other (the actors truly seem like they are enjoying themselves here, too!) This story is a great example of what the original family dynamics were all about during the Adam years. While the series was still strong after Pernell left, the relationship between the characters had to changed somewhat (i.e. Little Joe grew up and became responsible, other characters were introduced, etc.) So enjoy this episode of Bonanza in its prime!
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Bonanza: Death on Sun Mountain (1959)
Season 1, Episode 2
It's a Bonanza!
18 July 2006
I think it's in this episode (it's in one of the early episodes but not the pilot), but count how many times someone mentions the Comstock Lode silver strike and the reply is always, "It's not just a silver strike, it's a BONANZA." Apparently, this was an attempt to explain the series title to the audience but it was done a couple times too many within a single hour. Just one of the many things we all love about the series. Also, as in most early first season episodes, notice the adversarial relationship between the Cartwrights and the townfolk. This would, of course, change in later episodes. Basically, the town is against them and their values early on but the Cartwrights later become Virginia City's leading citizens. It's only the jealous criminals who are against them in subsequent seasons.

Overall, a good episode and worth watching for the early series and character development.
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Bonanza: Any Friend of Walter's (1963)
Season 4, Episode 26
One of the best episodes ever of Bonanza!!!
18 July 2006
I've been a huge Bonanza fan since the 1960s and this is definitely one of the 10 best episodes from the series (Along with most of the Ben wife flashbacks, the episode "Hayburner", and a few others). In this classic comedy tale, character actor Arthur Hunnicutt (who basically, always played himself) has a lazy hound dog named Walter. The dog barely moves throughout the entire story yet Hunnicutt will spout off lines like "I haven't seen Walter this excited since he was a pup." The story is also one of the classic Bonanza themes of Hoss having that innocent trust of others that gets him sucked into something he shouldn't because of it (Little Joe, of course, certainly knew how to use this against him and it's one of the reasons everyone loved Dan Blocker as Hoss). At first, Hoss doesn't understand the so-called feedback that Hunnicutt gets from the always inanimate Walter, but by the end of the story, Hoss has become a Walter interpreter, too -- to the amazement of the rest of the Cartrights. This episode even inspired a sequel that was almost as good as this original.

Personal note: My live-in girlfriend in 1980 had a small female puppy for awhile. I don't remember the dog's actual name but I always called her Walter (in honor of this episode).
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Incredible book but so-so movie
4 February 2006
Unfortunately, as much as I love Paul Newman as an actor, the movie version of Ken Kesey's incredible book could have used a more seasoned director for its translation to the big screen. The perfect cast (the book even mentions Hank Stamper as looking like a muscular Paul Newman!), and some great performances (Fonda, Jaeckel, Remick), but the story just doesn't come across on film the way it should. I remember the first time I saw this movie was in the late 70's on TV (Portland's KPTV-12). It was so chopped-up for television that the story, character motivations, and ending made no sense at all to me. I loved Kesey's book "Cookoo's Nest" so read the novel of "Sometimes" to try to make some sense of what the story was all about. The book was an amazingly nuanced work of fiction with a great deal of depth and under-story (reading between the lines); none of which I saw on the TV screening. I later rented the video but even with the unedited version of the film, I found the story very lacking and barely comprehensive. I've recently watched the rental again (2005) and found more in the film than I had remembered, but I still feel that unless you've read the book, you can't truly understand what this movie and the character motivations are all about. They're just barely eluded to in the film version. In spite of all that, it's still a worthwhile movie to watch. If nothing else, it chronicles some great, authentic-looking logging footage. If you can, however, read the novel first and then catch the film. Also, if you ever make it to Newport, Oregon, visit the harbor bar "Bay Haven" where the scenes for the "Snag" were filmed. Tell them the old bartender from the "Embarcadero" sent you. ;-)
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