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Tonto often seems brighter, and the man who played him, Jay Silverheels, could act Clayton Moore's Ranger under a boulder any day of the week. So it's painful to hear Silverheels read such lines as, "What we do?" or "Him need your help again?" Still, the episodes from the 1949-57 TV series on these three 55-minute tapes possess an irresistible nostalgia value.
Each tape includes two shows with brief new introductions by Moore, now 81. He offers trivia tidbits (e.g., Lone's real name was John Reid), but the formulaic stories are the fun: The Lone Ranger and Tonto ride into town and convince everyone he's not a bad guy despite the mask. (The mask symbolized his giving up his identity to avenge the deaths of his Texas Ranger comrades in an ambush.) Then they corral the villains, and the Ranger says something like, "Look, they've turned on each other just like the jackals they are." He and Tonto thunder off and somebody asks, "Who was that masked man, anyway?"
The stories play well, though, partly because such able character actors as Steve Brodie, Douglas Kennedy, Ray Teal and Sheb Wooley are around. The violence is usually bloodless, and today's parents may want to show the Ranger to their kids, if they can convince the little technophiles that silver bullets and the Hi-Yo, Silver business are glitzy enough. (Rhino, $19.95 each; 800-843-3670)
WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE: THE TWAIN SHALL MEET
While the Lone Ranger remains appealing in his unidimensional way, there was considerably more to the heroes of TV's age of the "adult" Western. (For those too young to remember: "adult" in this case didn't mean pornographic. It did, however, mean that these guys showed almost as much interest in women as they did in their horses and had occasional moments of weakness.) Most of the Westerns of that era, for one thing, featured actors of considerable personality—among them were James Garner, Richard Boone, Clint Eastwood, Roger Moore, James Arness and Steve McQueen, the hero of this series about laconic bounty hunter Josh Randall.
This episode, the most recent of a series of tapes taken from the show, is typically compact. Broadcast Oct. 19, 1960, it was directed by Richard Donner, who later directed such films as The Omen and the first Superman. It focuses on a Boston newspaperman who goes West to write about Randall, and while the reporter-acted smoothly by Michael Hopkins—seems like an effete Easterner, he can out-shoot and outride Randall. McQueen shows his skill at turning brief lines into telling dialogue. When Hopkins says he doesn't believe in using guns in anger, for instance, McQueen answers with a wry, "You will."
The half-hour episode also features a brief but entertaining appearance by Mary Tyler Moore as a dance-hall girl wearing a low-cut dress and a slathered-on Southern accent. Purists should note that this series of reissues is colorized. (Vid America, $9.98; 800-843-1994)