Saturday, August 06, 2016

Saturday Morning Cult TV Blogging: Shazam: "Thou Shalt Not Kill" (September 21, 1974)

In “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” the third episode of Filmation’s live-action series Shazam (1974 – 1976), Pamelyn Ferdin (1959 - ) plays Lynn Colby, a girl who has learned that her favorite horse, Beckett, is scheduled to be put down.  

Her Aunt Jenny’s last will and testament specifies the horse’s death, and a local rancher Nick Roberts, (John Karlen) -- who was thrown from Beckett on a ride -- is insistent the execution be carried out.  

Unless someone can help, Beckett will die before sundown…

Billy Batson (Michael Gray) and Mentor (Les Tremayne) encounter Lynn, and with the help of her father, the local sheriff (William Sargent), search for some way to stop the legal death sentence.  

At first they try a peaceful demonstration to show support for Beckett, but finally Captain Marvel (Jackson Bostwick) is needed on the case.  After Nick Roberts deliberately injures Beckett when the horse escapes from custody, Captain Marvel swoops in…

“Thou Shalt Not Kill” follows the template of the previous two Shazam episodes to the letter.

Billy and Mentor consult the (animated) Elders, who tell Billy about his upcoming day, and then provide a quotation that will prove relevant and meaningful to the crisis du jour. 

In this case, the Elders tell the teenager that “there’s always a way to work things out by reason rather than by impulsive action.”  Aristotle is the literary/historical figure of the week, and he is quoted by the Elders as having said “Even when laws have been written down, they are not always to remain unaltered.”

“Thou Shalt Not Kill,” features two notable guest stars.  The first is child actress Pamelyn Ferdin who, without exaggeration, was the most prominent child actor circa 1969 – 1977, especially in terms of genre appearances.

Ferdin appeared on Star Trek (“And the Children Shall Lead,”) Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, and Sigmund the Sea Monster, and was a regular character on Filmation’s Space Academy (1977). 

In terms of feature work, Ferdin appeared in such horror films as The Mephisto Waltz (1971) and The Toolbox Murders (1979).  A generation also loves her for her role in Charlotte’s Web (1973) and her turns as Lucy in A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969) and It was A Short Summer, Charlie Brown (1969)

The second guest star this week is John Karlen, who plays the horse-hating Nick Roberts like a psychotic nutcase. Karlen is also a familiar face to horror fans from his appearances on Dark Shadows and in Daughters of Darkness (1971) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1971).

Both guest performers fully commit to the less-than-inspiring material offered here, and raise the stakes a notch in the process. Fortunately, Captain Marvel saves the horse, Beckett, (with a stay of execution from a local judge) and nasty Nick Roberts is defeated…and left to twirl his mustache.

Next Week: “Lure of the Lost.”

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