Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wanted: Dead or Alive (Review)

I'm not much for 50's television, though last summer I found the first season of this old Western series starring Steve McQueen sitting at Walmart for $5. I figured it wasn't much of an investment, and McQueen was a great actor, so I decided it was worth the limited expense.

For a half-hour, low budget television show made during the golden age of the medium, this show isn't too bad. The acting is halfway decent and the plots are generally interesting, if not always original. It was reminiscent of those short western movies John Wayne did in the 1930's.

There are some prop issues, one of which I couldn't let pass. McQueen uses a sawed-off 1892 Winchester as his weapon of choice, but his belt is full of big, menacing-looking cartridges (possibly .45-70 Govt., or 50-110 Express). This is not the ammo for his rifle. The '92 took short pistol cartridges (.25-20, .32-20, .38-40, or .44-40). It is annoying to any gun aficionado to see a character wielding an 1892 Winchester and lugging around rounds for an 1886 Winchester. It would be equivalent to someone pumping kerosene into a gasoline-powered car.

There is also the timeline issue. We have some episodes with events that seem to take place well before 1892, so the weapons being used aren't chronologically accurate. They should have given McQueen an 1873 Winchester (a rifle widely used throughout the Wild West days), or an 1876 if they wanted him to lug around bigger cartridges. Again, this is a typical flaw of a lot of "early" westerns. You see John Wayne carrying an 1894 Winchester in a lot of movies that take place in the 1870's! The people in Hollywood didn't know a thing about weaponry back in those days, and figured one lever action was the same as any other. For shame!

Wanted: Dead or Alive was one of the better shows of the 1950's that I've seen, but as I said, I'm not a big fan of those early programs. They were the prototypes, a raw and untested form of entertainment limited by funding and the cultural mindset of the day. I'll give this 3 out of 5 stars. It'll prove to be a fun diversion for those of you who enjoy the Western genre, though don't expect anything fancy or unexpected.


  1. Thank you for the review - I'm a big fan of Steve McQueen and 50s to 70s TV. My particular favourites are Quincey and Ironside.

    Ellie Garratt

  2. I wouldn't have known that about the gun ammunition. Interesting observation.

    I love the outer space images as bkg for your blog posts!

    Nice to meet you on A to Z.


  3. Interesting how you analyzed the gun issue so closely. I wouldn't have even noticed.


  4. I suppose a lot of people wouldn't notice the gun inaccuracies, which is one reason Hollywood didn't spend time to correct it. Besides, it looks neat for a wild west character to carry those big rounds. There are only a few million people out there who would notice the error.

    I have a leg up on the whole gun issue for several reasons. As a writer who has recently done some Western-like stories, I've read up on such things, and my father actually owned an 1892 Winchester when I was growing up, so I know that particular weapon on a personal level. Yee-Haw!