The Young Country the last of this season's ABC-TV Movie of the Week series made especially for TV, was the first done for the network by Universal. It is a light-hearted western cut from the old Maverick mold and therein lies its trouble, since a Maverick by any other name is not necessarily a Maverick. Young Country was [the work of] Roy Huggins, also responsible for Maverick. Young Country seems to be bits and pieces of its progenitor, simply tied together to make a film with attractive trappings in the guise of Villis Lapenieks' photography. Show was produced in conjunction with Huggins' Public Arts Productions.
The story concerns itself with Stephen Foster Moody, who is not a professional gambler, but rather "a serious student" who, after serving in both the Union and Confederate armies during the war, "took an oath to avoid hard liquor and hard work," and ascribes to the basic Bart Maverick philosophy, "Show me a man who plays poker for fun and I'll show you a loser." Therefore, he is adept at bluffing, he is likeable and quickwitted when attempting to con a free ride on a train and romantic when it comes to a pretty face. A bit like Sugarfoot in the latter department, he even closes his eyes when he kisses and allows them to linger closed for a moment after its completed.
Good guys and even bad guys who aren't really bad guys--to the core, that is--like him, so that, in the end, no one really is hurt, stolen money goes back to the bank, and the reward is divvied three ways among Moody and the baddies, who aren't really bad. The original thief, Wally Cox, got his early in the film, by the way of an accident.
Roger Davis (Moody) gets introduction billing in The Young Country but will be recognizable to afternoon TV viewers as one of the haunts from ABC-TV's Dark Shadows and various commercials. Davis, thankfully, shows none of this prior experience here and seems well suited to this kind of role. He is vocally reminiscent of a young Henry Fonda.
Joan Hackett is one of the really bad ones and turns in one of those delicately haughty performances she is so adept at, slightly befuddled but with the knowledge she'll get her way in the end. Pete Duel is her partner and competitor-friend of Davis and gives a comfortable, easy-going quality to the role. Walter Brennan as the sheriff, worrying more about his reputation than the business at hand has little to do.
Skip Young turns up ruffled and unshaved
and too long from the action as a hotel clerk. Robert Driscoll
is amusing as Harvey "fat" Chance, owner of the Fat
Chance saloon, and Richard Van Fleet has a running bit as a perennial
drunk prone to ramming hitching posts with his head.
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