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J. Russell Finch CEO & President
The Pacific Edible Seaweed Company
Fresno, CA.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

THE TRAVELING EXECUTIONER 1970

    One of those odd little films that probably only have been made in 70's and when viewing today is also one of those projects that you look at rather unbelievably has having been produced by a major studio. Featuring a career high point performance by Stacy Keach (who's one of those actors that you're periodically reminded of just how good he really is) and a wonderful cast of 70's character actors, it just misses being a bona fide must-see cult classic as it goes off the rails a bit plot-wise toward the middle and probably could have benefited from a tighter editing job.
   Keach plays Jonas Candide an itinerant executioner who travels through the 1918 South in a brightly painted truck with a portable electric chair offering his services to prisons for $100.00 per soul. As he straps them into the chair he gives a darkly comic and strangely moving speech (which in itself is worth watching the movie for) to the condemned about their final destination in "the fields of ambrosia" complete with sunlight fields, "nights just long enough to dream through" and ever willing women "lying naked by the river- just like them French paintings hanging in the museum" all of which leaves them crying for happiness as he dispenses the fatal jolt.
   Things get complicated with his intended victims in the form of brother & sister death row inmates Willy and Gundred Herzallerliebst, especially in the form of  Marianne Hill as the female half. It's here that the movie gets a bit off track as what was a essentially a very dark comedy instead veers off into rather desperate attempts at more broader laughs. The behind the camera talent was bit strange for a project such as this with writer Garrie Bateson only having two other credits on his resume (one episode each of THE TWILIGHT ZONE and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE) and the director Jack Smight did mostly TV work, although he did helm HARPER (1966) and in the 70's would direct AIRPORT 1975, MIDWAY and DAMNATION ALLEY.
   Also featuring M. Emmet Walsh as the warden and one of Bud Cort's typical quirky little performances as Jonas's assistant. Long unavailable on home video it's now been put out as a part of the Warner Archive series.


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