HARBOR COMMAND (TV SERIES 1957-1958)

Although on the big screen the film noir/crime b-movies were on their way out (or morphing into something else), television held onto this B&W gritty aesthetic that, in this case, takes from the 1930's law propaganda programmers involving a narrator and perfectly-suited cops, in this case led by Wendell Corey of the titular waterfront HARBOR COMMAND...

The best thing is that each episode is 30 minutes, so you get in and out without a lot of fuss or... as happened on another noir-series, NAKED CITY... without an abundance of early Actor's Studio-style staging and melodrama, despite the fact that that crime-pays narration can get too wordy, mainly with expository dialogue the actors could have tackled otherwise, if not for a few lines...

And right when the plot gets underway, usually beginning with a certain crime or heist going bad around the dockside or surrounding warehouses, the episode cuts to the chase... or rather, the starting gate... So HARBOR COMMAND is always primed to move... each episode making for tight, nifty story-telling without an overboard cliche evil dame or monologue-spouting heavies, and... different from most shows of this era... there aren't a lot of non-famous cameos... so you feel like what's being played out is more real than otherwise. RATES: ****

THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN (1979)

It's odd to experience such obviously catered-to-opening-night-audience mainstream fare from the 1970's, a decade supposedly against the kind of sellout cinema churned out more obviously in the decades that followed... Yet the main problem with THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN is the title character, a has-been rodeo star played by Robert Redford, seeming so outright tired of fame that it never feels possible he was once a professional at anything... and the connected capitalism/commercialism... in the form of a breakfast cereal he's reluctantly hawking... is also too forced and overboard to take seriously...

Meanwhile the shallow corporate goons are so shamelessly unlikable that Jane Fonda... as a journalist bent on interviewing the dissociated (thus uninteresting) Redford... never has to prove herself a worthy love-interest being merely a better person than the scum surrounding her... And the buried lead plot-line, of Redford saving an abused horse used for the commercials in the central locale of glitzy Las Vegas, feels weakly tacked onto a picture that spends too much time spoon-feeding its audience, so that... after even a mere ten minutes... everything tastes the same. RATES: **

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