Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Directed by George McCowan and guest starring future Oscar winner Lou Gossett Jr. and lovely Valerie Allen, Episode #4 WHEN SMITTY GOES MARCHING HOME is one of the real highlights to THE MOD SQUAD'S first season.
Working from a solid script by Tony Barrett and Harve Bennett, McCowan crafts a methodically paced and splendid bit of hour long prime-time television and gets excellent performances from everyone involved.
WHEN SMITTY COMES MARCHING HOME concerns one of Linc's childhood friends, a Vietnam veteran named Smitty who is wrongly accused of murdering one of his war time colleagues. Smitty is played beautifully by the young Gossett, an accomplished actor who would make several more appearances in THE MOD SQUAD during its five season run.
The prolific and acclaimed Gossett was in his early thirties when he shot WHEN SMITTY COMES MARCHING HOME and he was still more than a decade away from his Oscar winning turn opposite Richard Gere in AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN (1982). He had began television work in the late fifties and by the time he shot his first episode of THE MOD SQUAD he had already garnered some acclaim for his turn in A RAISIN IN THE SUN (1961) and for appearances in shows like THE INVADERS. WHEN SMITTY COMES MARCHING HOME though would mark a turning point for Gossett as he would become one of the most prolific and admired actors of his generation shortly after appearing in it.
Director McCowan, who would later be chosen to direct the MOD SQUAD television reunion film, had an interesting career mostly made up of television work on series like CANNON and CHARLIES ANGELS but he also helmed some big screen productions like the deligthful cult film FRoGS in 1972. The prolific director would pass away in 1995just a few months before his 69th birthday. His direction of WHEN SMITTY COMES MARCHING HOME is excellent with special note going to the truly odd sequences of Smitty attempting to rebuild his memories of the night his friend was murdered.
Co-star Valerie Allen makes one of her final appearances before a camera in this episode of THE MOD SQUAD, with her role in 1969's WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO AUNT ALICE being her last. The very attractive and charismatic Allen stated out as a Vegas showgirl in the fifties but was soon appearing in a wide variety of television and big screen roles with some of the more notable being THE JOKER IS WILD opposite Frank Sinatra, the Rock Hudson Doris Day smash PILLOW TALK, and the Dean Martin musical BELLS ARE RINGING. Her last major film role came in 1967 with the James Bond knock off COME SPY WITH ME where she met her soon to be husband Troy Donahue. Allen regrettably retired from acting shortly after marrying Donahue but her appearance here in WHEN SMITTY COMES MARCHING HOME shows her to still be at the very top of her game.
Other supporting cast members include character actor Natividad Vacio and an excellent Art Lewis appearing as a cab driver with a self proclaimed photographic memory.
The squad themselves are very well represented in this episode even though it is a mostly Linc driven hour. Williams once again proves that he is one of the best actors to come out of the sixties and his sensitive portrayal of Linc as a man split between dedication to his job and an old friend in need is very moving. The final shots of him embracing Gossett are in their own way as palatable as the shots of him hugging Pete and Julie in the Squad's previous episode, MY WHAT A PRETTY BUS.
Standout moments in this episode include the aforementioned memory rebuilding sequences, a delightful Peggy Lipton undercover as a drive in car hop, and an opening sequence that foreshadows the Sylvester Stallone film FIRST BLOOD by more than a decade.
WHEN SMITTY COMES MARCHING HOME might also be one of the first network dramas to capture the turmoil and angst many soldiers were struggling from after returning from Vietnam. This was, after all, more than five years before the war officially came to a halt and at least the same amount of time before Hollywood would adapt similar story lines for an endless number of productions throughout the seventies and eighties. WHEN SMITTY COMES MARCHING HOME stands as not only one of the best early episodes of THE MOD SQUAD, but also one of the most influential.
For more on this episode please visit this link.