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The Virginian


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#161 of 208 OFFLINE   benbess

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Posted September 15 2013 - 03:33 AM

Here's my review for the first season....

 

There was drama behind the scenes in network TV-land in early 1962, and it was drama that helped create the classic show The Virginian. At that time NBC's top-rated show--and in fact the number one show for all of American TV--was Wagon Train. But it was contract renewal time for Wagon Train, and at the beginning of 1962 ABC made a bold move and legally "stole" Wagon Train from NBC by offering the makers of the show a better deal. So, NBC lost their top show and money maker. They were mad, but more than that they were going to get even, no matter what the cost. And so opposite their former show Wagon Train, which was a fairly elaborate hour show done in black and white, NBC put on a new "super Western"--an unprecedented 90-minute show done in full color, which at that time was rare and pretty costly. The Virginian was probably the most expensive show on TV when it debuted in the Fall of 1962. Each episode had a budget of about $350,000 (about $3 million today--if you could even make a show like this today), and was basically an attempt to create a good little Hollywood Western movie each week. Each episode had a top guest star, like Lee Marvin, Bette Davis, Ricardo Montalban, etc. The Virginian steadily climbed in the ratings vs. Wagon Train, and in a few years the formerly top-rated Wagon Train was off the air. NBC had won with The Virginian on their side.
 
The guest stars are great on this show, but the continuing cast is just as impressive. James Drury does an amazing job bringing the Virginian to life. The Virginian to me (and I know this may sound silly) is a little bit like a combination of Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk. He's in command and has a sense of humor and charisma like Kirk, but he's almost coldly logical and ethical in working out his decisions most of the time. He's a thinking person's hero who really doesn't like to draw his gun often, and hates to kill. There are sometimes shoot outs in this show, but mostly it's a drama set in the West, not a shoot em up kind of show. Co-starring is Trampas, wonderfully played by the charming Doug McClure. He's full of wit and fun, but is a good guy too--if not as responsible as the V.
 
One of the most famous fans of this show was former President Dwight Eisenhower. When the network messed up one of the episodes one night by showing the reels of film out of order, he called up the network himself to complain.
 
The picture quality is very good. Now this is a DVD, not a blu-ray so don't get your expectations too sky high. But on these fine DVDs it probably looks better than it did when it was broadcast at the time.

Edited by benbess, September 15 2013 - 04:36 AM.


#162 of 208 OFFLINE   benbess

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Posted September 15 2013 - 06:59 AM

Just curious. How many here now have a complete set of The Virginian on DVD? I have the first six seasons, and plan to get the last two in the next few months.

 

I'm not sure if I'll get the sequel series, Men from Shiloh. For one, the prints used for the DVDs for this show are said to be not only poor in terms of picture quality, but also edited down about 5 minutes each episode from the original broadcast length. Also, it seems such a "reinvention" of the show that I'm not sure if it counts as "The Virginian" any more....


Edited by benbess, September 15 2013 - 07:00 AM.


#163 of 208 ONLINE   Hollywoodaholic

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Posted September 15 2013 - 07:50 AM

Thanks for the info, interesting stuff. I didn't know "The Virginian" was NBC revenge programming against the loss of "Wagon Train." I was a fan of both shows, but particularly The Virginian. I have sets 1-6 and am just finishing going through the sixth season. The show upscaled looks almost as good as Blu-ray and the colors are vibrant, but I notice there are sound dropouts throughout many of the episodes (the volume fluctuates). Otherwise, a stellar release, and I'll probably finish off seasons 7 and 8, as well. I might trade in 6 to pay for 7, though.

Seasons 1-4 were the best. I like McIntire and Nolan as the Grangers, but Don Quine and Sara Lane are just poor actors stuffed in there to appeal to the younger viewers at the time. (It worked, I had the hots for Sara Lane, but now that I'm actually paying attention to her acting, not so much). Only a few stand out episodes in season 6. But, by this time, you love the characters and stick along for the ride. I just noticed a new HD channel that is showing this show, The Big Valley, High Chapparel and other westerns all day. InstHD or something like that. Showing them in original 4:3 screen aspect too (hence the HD).


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#164 of 208 OFFLINE   benbess

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Posted September 15 2013 - 09:20 AM

Thanks for the info, interesting stuff. I didn't know "The Virginian" was NBC revenge programming against the loss of "Wagon Train." I was a fan of both shows, but particularly The Virginian. I have sets 1-6 and am just finishing going through the sixth season. The show upscaled looks almost as good as Blu-ray and the colors are vibrant, but I notice there are sound dropouts throughout many of the episodes (the volume fluctuates). Otherwise, a stellar release, and I'll probably finish off seasons 7 and 8, as well. I might trade in 6 to pay for 7, though.

Seasons 1-4 were the best. I like McIntire and Nolan as the Grangers, but Don Quine and Sara Lane are just poor actors stuffed in there to appeal to the younger viewers at the time. (It worked, I had the hots for Sara Lane, but now that I'm actually paying attention to her acting, not so much). Only a few stand out episodes in season 6. But, by this time, you love the characters and stick along for the ride. I just noticed a new HD channel that is showing this show, The Big Valley, High Chapparel and other westerns all day. InstHD or something like that. Showing them in original 4:3 screen aspect too (hence the HD).

 

Hi Hollywood,

 

Thanks for these thoughts. I would be interesting to see these shows in HD! If you get any info on the name of that new channel, please pass it on.

 

There's a lively yahoo discussion group called The Virginian Authorized with many long time fans, some of whom have been watching the show since the early 60s. They share your view that the first few seasons are the best, but apparently after that season 7 has quite a few highlights for some reason. I'm now starting the 5th season, and it still seems a cut above many other shows of that era to me. 



#165 of 208 OFFLINE   FanCollector

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Posted September 15 2013 - 09:31 AM

I have the complete series. The first four seasons are my favorites also, but the quality remains high; the regular cast isn't as consistently interesting after that, but the show depends much more on the guest stars anyway, so the shows are still good. I didn't find the ninth season such a departure. There is still a mixture of shows at the ranch and away from it, with each star pretty much alternating as the lead, which had been the case for some time. If you enjoy the seventh and eighth seasons, I think you'll still like The Men From Shiloh.
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#166 of 208 OFFLINE   benbess

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Posted September 15 2013 - 11:15 AM

I have the complete series. The first four seasons are my favorites also, but the quality remains high; the regular cast isn't as consistently interesting after that, but the show depends much more on the guest stars anyway, so the shows are still good. I didn't find the ninth season such a departure. There is still a mixture of shows at the ranch and away from it, with each star pretty much alternating as the lead, which had been the case for some time. If you enjoy the seventh and eighth seasons, I think you'll still like The Men From Shiloh.

 

Thanks for this report. Yes, I really enjoy the guest stars on this show. Many of them were also on Star Trek. 

 

How is the PQ for Men from Shiloh?



#167 of 208 OFFLINE   benbess

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Posted September 15 2013 - 11:27 AM

There's a very good fan written episode guide for The Virginian at this link. Some favorite episodes have detailed essays and commentary:

 

http://ctva.biz/US/W.../V-homepage.htm

 

 

 

And at yahoo there's a good fan discussion group for the show called Virginian Authorized.


Edited by benbess, September 15 2013 - 11:29 AM.


#168 of 208 OFFLINE   FanCollector

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Posted September 15 2013 - 01:30 PM

How is the PQ for Men from Shiloh?


A shade lower than that of the earlier seasons, but it wouldn't be enough to deter you from buying the set if you enjoy the show.

And did you see the episode with Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley?
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#169 of 208 OFFLINE   benbess

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Posted September 15 2013 - 02:20 PM

A shade lower than that of the earlier seasons, but it wouldn't be enough to deter you from buying the set if you enjoy the show.

And did you see the episode with Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley?

 

Yes I did. That was a lot of fun. In fact, The Virginian is like an almost constant parade of the stars and guest stars who ended up on Star Trek.



#170 of 208 ONLINE   Hollywoodaholic

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Posted September 16 2013 - 03:50 PM

 

Thanks for these thoughts. I would be interesting to see these shows in HD! If you get any info on the name of that new channel, please pass it on.

 

 

 

INSP is a network that just started June 10th in California, Central Florida, Michigan and Alabama. I guess the INSP stands for the 'inspiration' network and it airs family type shows like "The Virginian," "The Waltons," "The Big Valley," "High Chaparral," etc.  Here's some more info...

 

Indian Land, SC – Family entertainment network, INSP, has added more than a million and a half new households as a result of launches on Bright House Networks systems in Florida, Alabama, Michigan and California. The announcement was made by Mark Kang, SVP of Worldwide Distribution for INSP.
 

“We are delighted that Bright House Networks subscribers can now join INSP’s growing and loyal audience,” said Kang.  “Millions of viewers continue to desire values-based programming and inspiring stories.  We are grateful for the opportunity to introduce INSP’s family fare to new households across America.”
 

Starting June 10th, INSP can be seen on the following Bright House Networks service areas:
 

California – Channel 446
Alabama – Channel 252
Indianapolis – Channel 252
Florida (Tampa Bay and Central Florida) – Channels 227 and 196


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#171 of 208 OFFLINE   hypnohighball

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Posted September 16 2013 - 04:06 PM

INSP is a network that just started June 10th in California, Central Florida, Michigan and Alabama. I guess the INSP stands for the 'inspiration' network and it airs family type shows like "The Virginian," "The Waltons," "The Big Valley," "High Chaparral," etc.  Here's some more info...

 

Indian Land, SC – Family entertainment network, INSP, has added more than a million and a half new households as a result of launches on Bright House Networks systems in Florida, Alabama, Michigan and California. The announcement was made by Mark Kang, SVP of Worldwide Distribution for INSP.
 

“We are delighted that Bright House Networks subscribers can now join INSP’s growing and loyal audience,” said Kang.  “Millions of viewers continue to desire values-based programming and inspiring stories.  We are grateful for the opportunity to introduce INSP’s family fare to new households across America.”
 

Starting June 10th, INSP can be seen on the following Bright House Networks service areas:
 

California – Channel 446
Alabama – Channel 252
Indianapolis – Channel 252
Florida (Tampa Bay and Central Florida) – Channels 227 and 196

I recently discovered this channel on my Comcast cable and have been checking it out, too.



#172 of 208 OFFLINE   benbess

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Posted May 14 2014 - 04:26 AM

I mostly been watching this show in order, and I'm now in the 7th season. After a dip down into dark weirdness for the 4th season, the show made a comeback in the 5th season, and then got better still in the 6th season. The 7th season, in my opinion, is the best since the first three seasons, which are TV classics. 

 

Here's a little review of my favorite episode of the 7th season so far:

 

 

7.16 Last Grave At Socorro Creek

 

This one really came together for me in every way. I'd rank it as one of my favorite episodes of the whole show. As I've gotten older, I've realized more and more how many talents and ingredients need to go into a good television show. But this one, like the best of The Virginian, really rises above almost all other television Westerns to become a good little movie. I'll start with the score by the legendary Bernard Hermann, who as everyone knows worked a lot with Hitchcock. This moody and tense piece of music is really at the level of some of his film work. Excellent stuff. Then I've got to mention the camera work by DP Enzo A. Martinelli and director Leo Penn. They got a lot of very nice shots here imho. For instance: The Virginian's shadow on the hay in the barn during the final shoot out. A few parts of this movie, as I'll call it, reminded me in a good way of High Noon, which was perhaps intentional. There were also some remarkably tense close-ups, which might have been influenced by how these were used in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly just a year or so before. The story and screenplay were very well suited to the characters. I liked the moody exchange between Trampas and the V at the beginning. It was one of those episodes where I felt we really got to know the Virginian a little better. Outstanding performance by James Drury, who brings intelligence, grief, grit, grace, and regret to this story, bringing it to life.  The villain "Four Eyes" was a hoot! Was sad to read that the actor who played him, Steve Ihnat, died just a few years later. The ending was thoughtful and poignant, and I thought rather cinematic. When this show is firing on all cylinders, I really think it's the best Western ever made for television. 

 

And so if you have the 7th season on DVD and haven't yet watched this one, I recommend you take it out and give it a spin at some point.



#173 of 208 ONLINE   Hollywoodaholic

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Posted May 14 2014 - 06:14 AM

Coincidentally, I've been going through season 7 and agree there have been several strong episodes. The Socorro Creek was excellent (and Steve Ihnat always plays such a perfect villain), and probably the most like a feature film thanks to Leo Penn. Ride to Misadventure was another highlight. They seem to be milking the comic chemistry of Doug McClure and David Hartman in several episodes. McClure obviously loved to play the comedy, but he was also a great dramatic actor and I prefer him being serious (as in perhaps my favorite episode of the entire season West from the first season).


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#174 of 208 OFFLINE   Jack P

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Posted May 14 2014 - 09:15 AM

I'm not pleased that Timeless has chosen to reissue the final season (Men From Shiloh) and just stick a bonus disc into it.   Why would anyone double-dip just for that?     That's the second decision of theirs that makes no sense to me in recent months (the first being their overpriced reissue of "I Spy" a show we don't need to see made available for the third time).


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#175 of 208 OFFLINE   HenryDuBrow

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Posted May 14 2014 - 09:36 AM

I never got around to buying it then, so I'm okay with this.



#176 of 208 OFFLINE   benbess

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Posted May 14 2014 - 09:39 AM

I'm not pleased that Timeless has chosen to reissue the final season (Men From Shiloh) and just stick a bonus disc into it.   Why would anyone double-dip just for that?     That's the second decision of theirs that makes no sense to me in recent months (the first being their overpriced reissue of "I Spy" a show we don't need to see made available for the third time).

I've decided to skip Men from Shiloh for now for several reasons. First, I've heard that these are edited episodes that are missing about 7 minutes of their original running time. Is there any chance that for the re-release they've fixed that? Highly unlikely, I suppose. They are also supposed to have only so-so pq, compared to the good to very good pq for the earlier seasons. Finally, I guess I balk at the whole idea of trying to remake the show into a spaghetti Western.

 

But I really like the first seven season of The Virginian, and I imagine I'll like the 8th as well.  And I love some episodes, which really are like movies. In my book this is not just one the best Western shows ever, but one of the best television shows period.



#177 of 208 ONLINE   Hollywoodaholic

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Posted May 14 2014 - 10:10 AM

I'm not pleased that Timeless has chosen to reissue the final season (Men From Shiloh) and just stick a bonus disc into it.   Why would anyone double-dip just for that?     That's the second decision of theirs that makes no sense to me in recent months (the first being their overpriced reissue of "I Spy" a show we don't need to see made available for the third time).

 

It also sounds to me like those bonus disk extras are the same interviews with Drury, Jones, Shore, etc. that were included in early seasons.

 

Why is season 5 at the Barnes and Noble site going for $1,622?  Is it rare out of print or something? Hell, if I could get that, I'd sell it tomorrow.

 

I'll be dipping into season 8 soon, which was on $31.

Men From Shiloh, I'll probably have to go through at some point, but I, too, have heard the PQ isn't that great. I'm still flabbergasted at the near HD quality of the prints, particularly this season 7. But I'm also flummoxed at the dropouts in audio that persist in various places throughout the episodes, where the audio gets muddy for a while before coming back.

 


 


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#178 of 208 OFFLINE   benbess

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Posted May 14 2014 - 03:26 PM

One thing I've noticed in the 7th season is that they've started, once in a while, to get almost avant-garde in their cinematography. Here are a few examples: the black and white freeze-frames in the episode "Silver Image," the distorted dream/memory sequences in "The Dark Corridor," and the red-tinted memory images for Trampas in "Fox, Hound, and the Widow McCloud." These episodes, as well as many others, had as their director of photography Enzo A. Martinelli.

 

Martinelli's imdb list shows that he was the DP for many TV shows (The Munsters, Six Million Dollar Man, Quincy, etc.)  from the mid 1960s to about 1980, when he seems to have retired at the age of 73. He'd been working in Hollywood since being an assistant camera operator on White Zombie back in 1932. He also worked on such films as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, as well as scores of B Westerns in the 40s and 50s. That kind of talent and experience was part of what made this show work. 

 

Martinelli was the director of photography for an amazing 88 episodes of the Virginian. 



#179 of 208 OFFLINE   benbess

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Posted May 15 2014 - 05:57 PM

Another classic Western movie of the tougher variety for 7th season is Ride to Misadventure. Has anyone here seen this one?  Good guest stars, including Joseph Campenella, Katherine Justice, Barbara Werle, Dean Stanton and others. They don't make tv shows like this any more, that's for sure.



#180 of 208 OFFLINE   benbess

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Posted May 16 2014 - 12:45 AM

I'm kind of surprised this show doesn't have more fans around here. I was going to write a few more capsule reviews of some of the best episodes of the 7th season to potentially encourage interest, and I still might, but then I found at amazon paulf's review that often says it better than I could, and so here's paulf's review of his notable episodes of the season:

 

VISION OF BLINDNESS -- Guest stars, John Saxon, Ben Johnson
Elizabeth Grainger, blinded in a stagecoach crash, receives succor from a seething ex-convict. Sara Lane hits all the right notes of fear, anger and despondency in supple yarn lent immense production value by a mountainous location shoot. David Hartman drips the milk of human kindness as inexperienced cowpoke David Sutton, but Johnson dries it up with a lean, mean reprise of his taunting baddie characters from "Shane" and "One Eyed Jacks."

THE WIND OF OUTRAGE -- Guest stars, Ricardo Montalban, Lois Nettleton, Lawrence Dane
Venturing far north to close a cattle deal, The Virginian and Trampas encounter a French-Canadian political exile and his fiancee, who once swindled Trampas. Montalban's trademark joie de vivre gives windy drama a push, assisted by the cushy Nettleton as his shady lady love. Drury has a bruising clash with a brawny trapper played by stunt man extraordinaire Max Kleven.

THE HERITAGE -- Guest star, Buffy Sainte-Marie
Shoshone woman who gained an education but lost her identity while studying in the east returns to Wyoming during a turbulent time for her village. Singer-peace activist Sainte-Marie plays her conflicted character soulfully under Leo Penn's direction in bountiful drama that yields generous helpings of action and is spiced by the casting of genuine Indians Ned Romero, Eddie Little Sky and TV icon Jay Silverheels as a wisely pacifistic old chief.

RIDE TO MISADVENTURE -- Guest stars, Joseph Campanella, Katherine Justice
The Virginian and Sutton track stagecoach thieves, who made off with vital anthrax serum, to a robbers' roost. Drury packs a season's worth of gunplay into uncharacteristic shoot-'em-up episode. Performances take a back seat to violence, but Virginia Gregg as a wicked-witchy town boss, Barbara Werle as a broken-down chanteuse and James Nusser as a sinister storekeeper are memorable. Sutton heedlessly lumbers into the line of fire during one gunfight, forcing The Virginian to risk his neck to bail him out.

DARK CORRIDOR -- Guest stars, Judith Lang, John Smith, Paul Winchell
The Virginian rescues a woman lost in a mental haze after a shocking event. Drury's calm presence props raven-haired Lang, whose imitation-Poe role isn't very stimulating. Murky episode is more notable for the oddball casting of ventriloquist Winchell, who whoops it up Gabby Hayes-style as a hirsute hermit. Former straight-arrow "Laramie" star Smith plays a dog heavy.

BIG TINY -- Guest stars, Julie Sommars, Roger Torrey
On a business trip to Durango, Sutton runs afoul of a jealous local Goliath, who's an old pal of Trampas. Director James Sheldon makes assets of Hartman's normal awkwardness and confusion amid plot's farcical complications, which are pretty funny. McClure, proficient at any sort of comedy, is in peak form, and spindly character actor Olan Soule is a hoot as a fruity shopkeeper. "Cat Ballou" composer Frank DeVol wrote the sprightly score.

DEATH WAIT -- Guest stars, Harold J. Stone, Sheila Larken, Murray MacLeod
After shooting a trespasser in self defense, Sutton copes with his conscience and the dead man's vengeful father and brother. Endless hand-wringing over the simple matter of going to the sheriff to explain a killing typifies contrived story's defiance of logic. Good moments are few, but veteran western supporting player Ed Faulkner has one as a cowboy who loses his nerve during a showdown. Sutton, no swashbuckling romancer he, woodenly rebuffs a saloon girl declaring her love.

LAST GRAVE AT SOCORRO CREEK -- Guest stars, Steve Ihnat, Lonny Chapman, Ellen Burstyn, Kevin Coughlin
The Virginian takes on a lawless town after a friend is lynched. Ihnat's layered portrayal of a slippery gunman who cloaks his murderous calculation with pussyfooting blandness elevates familiar morality tale. Coughlin has too much to do as the lynchee's whining son and Burstyn not enough as a non-grieving widow, although her peachy looks bask in Enzo Martinelli's cinematography. Bernard Herrmann composed the score.

THE LAND DREAMER -- Guest stars, James Olson, Cloris Leachman, Don Francks
The Shiloh crew brings in a farmer involved in a fatal shooting, but the victim's influential brother won't wait for justice to take its course. Maundering plot is reined in by some solid acting, including Leachman's refreshingly truthful portrait of a reluctant pioneer who hates the west. Sutton gets in the way as usual, frustrating The Virginian by trying to help a fugitive escape.

STORM OVER SHILOH -- Elizabeth is trapped in the abandoned mine where she took shelter from a storm. Clammy tension grows by the minute in taut drama directed by Michael Caffey and written by Frank Chase. The restrained acting of Drury, McClure, John McIntire, Jeanette Nolan and Lane reflects fortitude the viewer expects from their characters. Lane's brief reverie before the explosive climax is very moving. Strikingly shot and edited episode is one of the high marks of season seven.

FOX, HOUND AND THE WIDOW McCLOUD -- Guest stars, Victor Jory, Troy Donahue, Jean Inness
Escaped prisoner, an old cellmate of Trampas, finds refuge with a lonesome widow. Jory's captivating portrayal of wily convict Luke Nichols, a role he originated in the season six episode "A Bad Place to Die," shines in low-key drama that grows gradually engrossing, with a wrenching finale. Former teen heartbreaker Donahue impresses as an ice-cold bounty hunter. Jory and Inness were a real-life married couple.






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