Hank Brackett and Johnny Reach
Created by Douglas Heyes

"Ridin' around in a Stutz Bearcat, man, those were different times."
- "Sweet Jane" by Lou Reed

HANK BRACKETT and JOHNNY REACH were two freelance adventurers (uh, mercenaries, uh, troubleshooters, uh, private eyes?) roaming around the American Southwest circa 1914 in their snazzy Stutz Bearcat in this fondly-remembered (by me, anyway) but short-lived (okay, I was, like, twelve!) TV action adventure series.

Their fee? A blank check, which they would fill in after the job was done. Maybe not a lot of detective work, but a good rock 'em-sock 'em showdown seemed to wrap up every show. It was great seeing those vintage planes and trains and soldiers on horseback, but the image that remains with me is of those large spoked wheels twirling, churning up a cloud of dust and a goggled Johnny firing off a .303 Vickers Maxim machine gun strapped to the fender of the Bearcat, while Hank struggles to gain control behind the driver's seat.

Unfortunately, it was an action show at a time when television went through one of its periodic eras of cleaning house, disposing of relatively marginal shows as a sop to anti-violence groups. And it didn't help that it was pitted against Flip Wilson in its time slot.

Of course, now that it's FINALLY available on DVD, I can see it for what it was: a cornball of a show with minimal plotting, formulaic scripts and far too much padding. Taylor bulled his way through the shows, as if he was in a hurry to get off the set, while Cole showed off his pearly whites in almost every scene, whether it was appropriate or not, as though he and he alone was enjoying a private joke. But hey, a lot of things got blown up in every episode, guns would be fired, and a serious number of big-breasted Hispanic beauties were rescued during the show's short run. And THAT car! I loved it all!

Creator, producer and director Douglas Heyes has written for several other TV detective shows, and The Lonely Profession, a "fine private-eye teleflick," according to Ric Mayers in TV Detectives. He's also written a few private eye novels, featuring various eyes, such as Steve Mallory and Ray Ripley.

OVERLY SENTIMENTAL EDITORIAL MOMENT

  • Gee, I wonder what ever happened to the 1/25 scale model of the car I built? It was one of my favourites...

UNDER OATH

  • "I wanted to let you know that I'm pleased that someone else remembers "Bearcats!" It was one of my favorite TV series during my high school years and it's what got me interested in antique cars.
    .
    I know what you are thinking "Why is this guy telling me his life story? Well, I happen to own one of the two Bearcat replicas built by George Barris (the TV Batmobile designer) for the series. After a nearly 30 year search I stumbled across one (itself a pretty good job of dectective work even if I do say so myself) last year and it's just finishing a restoration.
    .
    Alas, my car didn't come with machine guns, though I have a photo of it (with Rod Taylor) where there is one on the back...à la Rat Patrol. I also have a picture that Barris sent me of both Taylor and Cole in my car. A third replica Bearcat Barris made was used for car shows exclusively... it was heavily chromed and BRIGHT yellow (unlike mine) and it came with 3 pseudo guns. That car was just bought by an acquaintance of mine from a collector in California.
    .
    Why all this fuss over copies? Well, a real Bearcat goes for $150,000-200,000.
    .
    And for a working stiff that's a lot of dough until my ship...or some ritzy dame...comes in."
    -- John Boyle

  • "Hey, I was twelve when I fell in love with Hank Brackett and Johnny Reach and their wonderful Stutz Bearcat!!! Small world. I saw the model of the car one time and didn't have enough allowance to buy it. The next time I looked for it -- it was gone and I've been looking for 25 years now and still can't find it. Thanks for posting the pix! Wow, those were the days!"
    -- Lisa Simmons

  • "I too must admit to quite fond remembrances of both the movie and the T.V. show that followed. It started my undying interest in the Stutz Motor Car co., and the Bearcat. The car is actually a 1914 Stutz Bearcat, series E Torpedo roadster. It could be had with either a 4 or 6 cylinder Wisconsin engine, of 'T' head design, common to the era. What was not common was the rear trans-axle, extremely unique, which gave the car an almost perfect weight balance. The machine guns seen in the movie were Vickers .303 heavy machine guns, water cooled. A few years back I was fortunate enough to assist in the restoration of an original Bearcat, although this one was red, not white as in the movie. Oh well! Thanks for letting me share these remembrances"
    -- Geoffrey Bernstein

  • "Just a line to let you know that I am one of the fans of the TV series, "Bearcats!" I was in the Army, stationed in Viet Nam, when the pilot episode was originally broadcast over the Armed Forces Television Network. Fortunately, I made it home, with discharge papers in hand, when the series debuted on CBS. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and was in a state of fit when it was cancelled mid-way through the season. Not too long ago, I was able to find a mint condition model of the "Bearcats!" car on EBAY. I was the only bidder and "stole" it for approximately $25.00. Not exactly like putting your hands on the real thing, but definitely within my meager budget. Thanks for keeping the memories of a noteworthy series alive, over 30-years after its demise. Other than the pilot movie that I have, I sure would like to find a source for VHS copies of the handful of episodes in existence. Keep up the good work!"
    -- Vince Marzo, Glendale, CA

TELEVISION

  • POWDERKEG..Buy this DVD
    (1971 TVM, CBS)
    2 hour pilot
    First Aired: April 16, 1971
    Written by Douglas Heyes
    Directed by Douglas Heyes
    Produced by Douglas Heyes
    Executive Producer: Phil Feldman
    A Filmways/Rodphi Production
    Music by John Andrew Tartaglia
    Starring
    Rod Taylor as HANK BRACKETT
    and Dennis Cole as JOHNNY REACH
    Also starring
    Fernando Lamas, John McIntire, Luciana Paluzzi, Michael Ansara, Tisha Sterling, Reni Santoni, Melodie Johnson, William Bryant, Jay Novello

  • BEARCATS!..Buy this DVD
    (1971, CBS)
    Created by Douglas Heyes
    Writers: Douglas Heyes
    Directors: Douglas Heyes
    Produced by Douglas Heyes
    Starring Rod Taylor as HANK BRACKETT
    and Dennis Cole as JOHNNY REACH
  • 1st Season
  • "The Devil Wears Armor" (September 16, 1971)
  • "Ground Loop at Spanish Wells" (September 23, 1971)
  • "Dos Gringos" (September 30, 1971)
  • "The Feathered Serpent " (October 7, 1971)
  • "Hostages" (October 14, 1971)
  • "Conqueror's Gol" (October 28, 1971)
  • "Blood Knot" (November 4, 1971)
  • "Assault on San Saba" (November 11, 1971)
  • "Bitter Flats " (November 18, 1971)
  • "Tiger! Tiger! " (November 25, 1971)
  • "The Big Gun" (December 2, 1971)
  • "The Return of Estaban " (December, 23 1971)
  • "Man in a Cage " (December, 30 1971)

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. And a really, really big and heart-felt thank you for the scan of the model kit box that John Boyle sent me. In fact, John's something of a car nut, and actually owns one of the cars used in the show. John adds "The car pictured is a real Bearcat used in the pilot film "Powderkeg". To save money the model company airbrushed the brass radiator and made it chrome."


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