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Alias Smith and Jones - Season 1

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

BEFORE you ask, no, that isn’t a typing error. It really is Alias Smith and Jones, a western series that originally aired in the UK between 1971 and 1973 but is now available on DVD for the first time. So, if not a pair of affable comedians, who exactly are Smith and Jones?

They are, in fact, none other than Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, “two of the most successful outlaws in the history of the West and in all the trains and banks they robbed, they never shot anyone” which, of course, made them very popular – “with everyone but the railroads and the banks.”

However, after one botched robbery too many, the pair agree to go straight but until the governor decides they deserve an amnesty, they will still be wanted, each with a $10,000 reward on his head. All they have to do is stay out of trouble and avoid capture – no easy task even with Heyes’ ‘silver tongue’, Curry’s quick shooting and the Alias Smith and Jones.

Pete Duel originated the role of Smith/Heyes although, sadly, he committed suicide while filming the third series and was replaced by Roger Davis, the show’s narrator; while Jones/Curry was played by Ben Murphy in all three series.

But it was Duel and Murphy who really gelled as the reformed outlaws, sharing the same on-screen chemistry as Redford and Newman’s Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid. But the similarity doesn’t end there. Like the 1969 film, the TV series blended action and amiability; it’s even been suggested that Murphy was chosen for the role because of his resemblance to Newman.

Not surprising perhaps, as Curry was actually based on the real Kid Curry who was a member of the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang which, in turn, was the inspiration for movies such as The Wild Bunch and, of course, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Heyes on the other hand, was entirely fictional.

In all likelihood, Alias Smith and Jones will appear ‘tame’ by today’s standards – violence is minimal and sex inferred rather than explicit. Which brings me to an interesting point – although the pair frequently shared a room, it was never once suggested they might be ‘gay’. How times have changed…..

Storylines also combine humour with poignancy, never more so than in an episode entitled Journey from San Juan in which Jones falls for a young woman stranded in Mexico. But like all his loves (and Jones is quite the ladies man!), it’s doomed simply because he cannot reveal his true identity.

Alias Smith and Jones won a cult following back in the 1970s and its release on DVD will, I’m sure, be warmly welcomed by its many fans (myself included). Hopefully, Series 2 and 3 will follow. In the meantime, enjoy this good-natured, refreshingly wholesome and highly entertaining blast from the past.

Episodes:
Alias Smith and Jones Pilot
The McCreedy Bust
Exit from Wickenburg
Wrong Train to Brimstone
The Girl in Boxcar 3
The Great Shell Game
Return to Devil’s Hole
A Fistful of Diamonds
Stagecoach Seven
The Man Who Murdered Himself
The Root of It All
The 5th Victim
Journey from San Juan
Never Trust an Honest Man
The Legacy of Charlie O’Rourke