ALEXANDER THE GREAT (1964).
This abandoned one-hour pilot for a historical television series languished on the shelf for four years, until it was aired for one time only in January '68 on ABC, as a part of their family-aimed anthology show, OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD. But nowadays, it's a wet dream come true for TV icon watchers! First off, we get soon-to-be Captain Kirk, William Shatner, as Alexander himself, marching his way through Persia (played by a very unconvincing Utah) on a mission for Greek supremacy. Better still, there's a pre-BATMAN Adam West as Cleander, Alexander's right hand man; while as Karonos, director-in-training John Cassavetes tries to earn enough chump change to buy more film stock for FACES. Also on board is an aging Joseph Cotten and Simon Oakland (best known as Kolchak's blustery editor). And if that isn't enough, all of these guys are forced to strut about in mini-skirt-style togas, making this true High Camp indeed. Set three hundred years before the appearance of that over-rated Christ guy, the macho Alexander and his men are continually under attack by the barbaric Persians (hmmm, perhaps because they're invading Persia?), but Alex explains all this militaristic hooey with the simple fact that they're warring in the name of eventual peace (you see, even back then, these military guys were full of shit). But since Cassavetes thinks Alex's campaign is foolhardy, he goes in cahoots with the enemy and plans a coup, after which all these war-weary soldiers can pack up their bungalows and head home. Sounds suspenseful? Nah! This is interminable stuff with all the pomp and spectacle of a Sunday School Bible movie, and the only fun you can wring out of it nowadays is a quick round of "Spot the Ham." Of course, Shatner wins hands down, proving once again that the severe lack of talent he displayed on T.J. HOOKER was no fluke. The unfortunate director of this televised bowel movement is Phil Karlson, who cranked out good, gritty B-movies in the '50s (KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL, THE PHENIX CITY STORY), only to be stuck in later years with this wretched slop. The desert locales look suspiciously like Utah (you mean they didn't actually fly the cast and crew to the Middle East? Outrageous!) and the badly-matched stock footage tries to cover up the fact there's only about two dozen stuntmen in each massive "army". Slow, cheap and unforgivably pompous, you can understand why this fiasco has never resurfaced, remaining justifiably forgotten to all but the most bored vidiots. I'll bet even Adam West was embarrassed.
© 1995 by Steven Puchalski.