TV REVIEW: 'SMITH' BASED ON 'BUTCH CASSIDY'
by Kevin Thomas, Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times, January 6, 1971
Heyes (Pete Duel) and Curry (Ben Murphy) are the likable heroes--or anti-heroes-of "Alias Smith and Jones," a 90-minute Universal production which aired Tuesday night on ABC's Movie of the Week that introduces a new hour-long series of the same name debuting Jan. 21.
It was perhaps inevitable Fox's phenomenally successful western with Paul Newman and Robert Redford would suggest a TV series. One could wish, however, that if it had to happen its humor and characterization would at least approximate the level of sophistication of the original.
Anyway, Heyes and Curry are introduced to us as a pair of "pretty good bad men," who "unlike Robin Hood, rob from the rich and keep the money for themselves." Unfortunately, modern technology is overtaking them as it did Butch and the Kid, so they decide to seek amnesty offered by the governor of the unnamed territory in which they operate.
To accomplish this they look up an old cohort (James Drury) who's gone straight and is the sheriff of a small town. A couple of plot twists later they find themselves--now "alias Smith and Jones"--none other than guards for the local bank, presided over by its proprietor's pretty daughter (Susan St. James) in her father's absence. The hitch is what to do about their gang (headed by Earl Holliman) when it catches up with them.
Producer and series creator Glen A. Larson, working with Matthew Howard, has come up with lots of gags for a large cast to play around with, and director Gene Levitt milks every situation to the last possible drop, allowing his actors to mug away at their heart's content, which was probably a wise move in dealing with such rudimentary material.
Although Duel and Murphy, able performers both, remain pleasing throughout, "Alias Smith and Jones" gets pretty tiresome and silly. Its humor is the humor of stupidity, and watching a bunch of dolts, try to con each other palls rapidly.
Special guest star Earl Holliman, nevertheless, gets much mileage out of his particular dimwit. Miss St. James is quaintly (and effectively) naive, but Forrest Tucker, as a moronic deputy sheriff, is asked to yammer away about "transients"--i.e., crooks--about 10 times too often.
When we bid the boys adieu, Drury having
secured their amnesty, their further adventures are ensured by
its secret provision that before it's finally granted them they
must stay out of trouble for a full year, during which time everyone
else will keep on regarding them as "the most wanted men
in the West". Hmmm.
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