A newly added film poster to the vault here at home, the headquarters of Mike’s Take On The Movies has prompted me to do a feature on the release of “cheater” movies. What I’m referring to are so called movies actually released to theaters years ago that were episodes of TV shows strung together and padded out to a feature length running time.
How about The Bull of the West which is the key piece to this posting as I now have the proof that it really did exist. An original 1972 one sheet. The poster alone tells us the reason for wanting to string two episodes of the western series, The Virginian together to turn a few bucks at the box-office. It’s the emergence of Charles Bronson’s rising star abroad which would eventually translate to paying customers in North American theaters as well. It’s a hell of a cast and too bad Charlie never worked with them in an official theatrically released western. In the bottom corner of the one sheet is the copyright date of 1972. A Universal Picture. Distributed by Cinema International Corporation. The episodes of The Virginian used here actually date to 1963 and 1965 titled Duel At Shiloh and Nobility of Kings.
Joining Bronson in this crooked promotional venture is George Kennedy and series regulars like Lee J. Cobb, Doug McClure and James Drury. The Brian Keith part of the story is taken from an entirely different episode so I’ll have to assume if he and Bronson appear at all together it’s thru some choppy editing.
The same kind of shenanigans would be pulled again for a western release titled The Meanest Men In The West which attempted to give us another teaming of Bronson opposite Dirty Dozen pal Lee Marvin. I actually saw this one years ago when it was released on VHS tape when I was in my early years of discovering films and quickly realized I’d been had.
I’m no expert on these so called movies but I am aware of the fact that the Tony Curtis/Roger Moore TV show which I thoroughly enjoy, The Persuaders pulled the same trick. Or at least some shady producer did by stringing some episodes together and releasing the new found films to theaters as Mission : Monte Carlo, London Conspiracy and Sporting Chance.
The two part episodes of Robert Vaughn and David McCallum’s iconic turns in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. would also work their way into movie theaters under newly minted titles and ultra cool posters to accompany them with some casting to die for.
From what I can tell, there were a total of 8 movies derived from the episodes of U.N.C.L.E. where Vaughn as Napoleon Solo and McCallum as Illya Kuryakin battled the evil forces of T.H.R.U.S.H. Titles include, To Trap a Spy, The Spy With My Face, One Spy Too Many, One of Our Spies Is Missing, The Spy In the Green Hat, The Karate Killers, The Helicopter Spies and How To Steal The World.
Assuming the actors of these quickly thrown together ideas had been paid for work done on the TV episodes, I wonder if they were all financially rewarded for these “movies” that could now turn up on their filmography lists. Not just the leading players either, but what about the crew from the director on down. Pretty much anyone who received an on screen credit.
I’m sure this idea wasn’t only kept to these three series examples. As I’m putting this together off the cuff, I can’t think of any others so if you know of some, please share. On that note I should add that I am aware that the Planet of the Apes TV series of the 70’s would be treated to the same fate but as far as I know, only as TV movies and not theatrical releases.
As for the TV shows these “movies” were derived from, I’ve never seen The Virginian which I’ll admit is odd considering my love of the western. However, The Persuaders is a gem if you like Tony and Roger playing to their playboy strengths and I’m also a fan of Vaughn and McCallum’s work for U.N.C.L.E.