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Old West of 'Cimarron' Hitting the Trail Again

Videos: The '60s series is being marketed under the title of individual episodes and will also soon be on cable.

June 07, 1996|DAVID WALSTAD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Cimarron Strip," the 1967-68 western series that starred Stuart Whitman and was shot on such glorious locations as Lone Pine, Calif., and Las Cruces, N.M., is resurfacing on home video.

But not as "Cimarron Strip."

Instead, each of the 10 episodes that are available is being marketed under the title of the individual episode.

Whitman, one of the rare breed of actors who owns a considerable chunk of his series, says the decision was made by the company to which he licensed the show, Mntex Entertainment of Troy, Mich.

"I think it was wrong, but their feeling was that the videos would sound more like stand-alone movies," he said. "It was a decision their marketing department made."

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The initial offering includes two of Whitman's favorite episodes: "Battleground," with Telly Savalas and Warren Oates, and "The Roarer," with Richard Boone. Both place Whitman's U.S. Marshal Jim Crown at odds with men who are coping with the end of the West they'd loved--Savalas as a hard-drinking drover and Boone as a hard-drinking soldier.

Also for sale at $13 each are "The Legend of Jud Starr," with Darren McGavin; "Fool's Gold," with Robert Lansing and Slim Pickens; and "The Hunted," with David Carradine. Each video runs 72 minutes and is in color.

The full series of 23 episodes can be seen on cable superstation WGN beginning June 23, using the "Cimarron Strip" title.

"Cimarron Strip" premiered on CBS with much fanfare as the western was enjoying its last heyday with the likes of "The Big Valley," "The High Chaparral," "The Guns of Will Sonnett" and the long-running "Gunsmoke," "Bonanza" and "The Virginian." And even though it only lasted one season, that was all it took to typecast its star.

"I got stamped as a cowboy," Whitman grouses. Previously he'd been a leading man or a co-star in films such as "Murder, Inc.," "Ten North Frederick," "Shock Treatment" and "The Commancheros."

"People forget I was nominated [in 1961 for an Oscar] for 'The Mark,' about molestation," he says. "It was and is very timely."

Now 68 and living in Santa Barbara, Whitman still acts when asked. In recent years he's appeared in low-budget independent films, TV movies and episodes of "Walker, Texas Ranger," "Time Trax" and "The Adventures of Brisco County Jr."

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