The Fugitive: Season 1, Volume 2
March 5, 2008
Created by Roy Huggins and produced by the legendary Quinn Martin, The Fugitive ran from 1963 to 1967. At its heart is a basic premise that is genius in its simplicity. Dr. Richard Kimble (Janssen) comes home to spot a one-armed man (Raisch) running from his house and discovers that his wife has been murdered. Charged with the crime and sentenced to death, Kimble is escorted to prison by Lieutenant Philip Gerard (Morse). Fortunately, a freak accident occurs and the train the two men are on derails enabling Kimble to escape. Each episode features the good doctor trying to stay one step ahead of the law – as represented by the ever persistent Gerard – while also trying to find the one-armed man. This quest takes him all over the country as he assumes other identities and helps people along the way. This volume collects the second half of the first season.
Each episode kicks off with an introduction that brilliantly summarizes the show’s premise in a few hardboiled sentences (“…but in that darkness, Fate moves its huge hand…”) spoken with solemn gravitas by an omniscient narrator (William Conrad). The show follows a four-act structure with an epilog that is announced with title card that has a wonderful old school look that is sadly missing from television shows of today.
In “Search in a Windy City,” Kimble tracks down a lead that the one-armed man may be in Chicago and enlists the help of a hard-nosed reporter (Pat Hingle) sympathetic to his cause. This episode illustrates what a wonderful snapshot of the times the show is as everyone seems to be smoking. It also begins with a fantastic establishing shot of the city skyline which looks a lot different now. This is one of the great episodes with Gerard and the one-armed man. Kimble always gets close to catching him just as Gerard almost nabs our hero but both evade their pursuers time and time again.
David Janssen brings a noble dignity to his sympathetic portrayal of Kimble. You really feel for the guy – he’s on the run, unable to trust anyone, and always looking over his shoulder. It’s all in the eyes as Janssen conveys a wide range of emotions through his most expressive attribute. He always looks like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Kimble can never rest until he finds his wife’s killer and clears his name.
Barry Morse brings a no-nonsense intensity to the role of Gerard with an authoritative presence. He shares Kimble’s single-minded determination only he wants to find our hero and bring him in. This results in a conflicted reaction from the audience. On the one hand, we admire his dedication to justice but he’s also trying to capture an innocent man. One of the things that is so impressive about Morse’s performance is his ability to create a credible Midwestern persona when in reality he was very British!
The direction is straightforward, strictly meat and potatoes reminiscent of people like Don Siegel or John Frankenheimer. There’s nothing flashy about it but it is consistent and gets the job done. The direction is ably supported by haunting theme music composed by Pete Rugolo that helps set the right tone. While he gets credit for the music throughout the series, the producers actually relied mostly on stock music but it works well with the show.
The Fugitive went on to inspire a very successful 1993 film starring Harrison Ford as Kimble and Tommy Lee Jones as Gerard and a short-lived, lackluster remake on T.V. in 2000. It also went on to inspire like-minded/themed shows like Prison Break, Quantum Leap, and Starman to name but a few. However, nothing surpasses the original which had all the right elements in perfect proportions.
Aside from stupidly splitting up the season into two separate volumes, there are no extras at all.