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Traveling Executioner, The 
Written by: on October 15th, 2011


Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1970
Director: Jack Smight
Writer: Garrie Bateson
Cast: Stacy Keach, Marianna Hill, Bud Cort, Graham Jarvis, James Sloyan, M. Emmet Walsh

DVD released: October 4th, 2011
Approximate running time: 95 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: N/A
DVD Release: Warner Archive
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95


Synopsis: In 1918 an entrepreneur in an old circus truck travels the Southern prison circuit providing the wonders of electricity in the form of a portable electric chair.
 
The Traveling Executioner has been a very obscure film to date, mostly remembered by those who caught the original theatrical release. Any television prints would have been heavily edited. It seems to have been written as a play and could easily be performed on stage. It is very theatrical with Stacy Keach sinking his teeth into several lengthy monologues, especially the ‘fields of ambrosia’ execution. Marianna Hill is his love interest who is on death row. That doesn’t prevent his conjugal visits, but does cause him to spend the bulk of the film trying to save her. This includes experiments with rats: electrocuting them and reviving them with adrenaline injections.  
 
Needing money to pay the doc for the resuscitation, one enterprise has him bringing a truck load of prostitutes to the prison. This is a highlight of the film and is quite amusing. Another interesting scene has man-child Bud Cort (Harold and Maude) lying with a middle aged whore.
 
Stacey Keach looks like Jack The Ripper with his long hair and top hat. He’s probably best known today as Sgt. Stedenko in ‘Up In Smoke’, and from the two Mike Hammer series. Marianna Hill had an interesting genre television career including Kung Fu, The Wild Wild West, Star Trek, Batman, The Outer Limits, The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis and many others. Graham Jarvis (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman) plays the doctor. The director had a television background as well, so don’t be surprised if this plays rather like a number of TV episodes strung together.

The DVD:

This MOD DVD-R is widescreen 2:40:1. It is interesting that there are often characters positioned almost off the frame, so the widescreen presentation is essential. The picture is quite sharp and colorful with only a few flecks in this newly remastered edition. The lack of subtitles or closed captions are especially lamented with this dialog heavy feature. A full-screen theatrical trailer is included.
 
The Traveling Executioner is a rather talky, rambling, and low-key affair. There are memorable moments, and a subtle black humor pervades. The ending is a suitable conclusion to this quirky and eccentric feature.

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