From: "RG Naylor"
Date: Tue, 8 Jun 1999 01:38:55 -0700

Here is the review of the pilot episode of the Rockford Files, Backlash of the Hunter. It starred James Garner (of course) as Jim Rockford, Lindsay Wagner (excellent choice, very hot) as Rockford's client (damsel in distress), Sara Butler, and William Smith as the villain, Jerry Grimes (very psycho bad guy). Smith later co-starred in Any Which Way You Can as Clint Eastwood's antagonist, and I bet he got that role because of this Rockford pilot.

The story begins at Pacific Palisades, where Sara Butler's father (Harvery Butler) is murdered by Jerry Grimes. Grimes tells his victim to "relax" like a true wacko as he strangles him. This hot dog wears bright red pants and a yellow shirt to do a murder. The actor playing Harvey Butler (Bill Quinn) plays other characters in other Rockfords as well. This murder goes to the inactive files due to the heavy caseload of sergeant Dennis Becker.

Rockford's father in the pilot was played by a different actor than that of the subsequent Rockfords, and I for one preferred Noah Beery because of his jovial personality and tendency to henpeck Rockford. Lindsay Wagner is in her prime as a twenty-something California babe. Sara Butler's brother is played by Bill Mumy of Lost in Space fame.

A witty remark from Rockford when Sara lays "bad paper" on him: "People who like each other hardly ever do that sort of thing." And: "Don't drop it, it may bounce up and hit you on the chin." This episode marks the first appearance of Angel Martin (Stuart Margolin).

When Rockford visits Mrs. Elias at her posh home, he shows his skills as an actor for the first time. It's clear that he bones up for these little performances because as she becomes suspicious, he sidesteps her query with hands on knowledge.

Here is the SCENE OF THE EPISODE. Rockford lures Grimes into the funky circus/bar, and baits a trap for him in the bathroom. He acts like a drunk to get the only patron out of the bathroom (hilarious),and then squrts soap all over the floor. Then, when Grimes come in, he calls him "queer", and eggs him into attacking with a karate kick. He slips on the soap, and Rockford sucker punches him with a roll of quarters in his fist. He then ties his legs to the coat hook on the stall door, and "interrogates" Grimes. Garner's brother Jack then enters the bathroom in the middle of this. All very well done.

Another classic line: Sara Butler asks him is he's afraid of Grimes, and he says, "You're damn right I am." While Rockford and Sara search the apartment, Grimes tries to get up (he's been slipped a mickie), creating a suspenseful scene. He never makes it though.

After Angel spills the beans about Jim's prison stint, they have a talk about it at Sara's place. Here, Jim states for the first and only time (as far as I know) that he was in prison for an armed robbery he didn't commit. Rockford and Sara then figure out the answer to the case. Harvey Butler is used as a stand in for the dead Mr. Elias, so that Mrs. Elias can inherit the money. Very clever plot. Sara is aghast that Jim didn/t have a gun on him when she played decoy to Grimes, saying, "He could have raped me." And Rockford delivers a witty retort, "He wouldn't do a thing like that.'

So the climax to the story ends in the Nevada desert outside of Las Vegas. Rockford shoots the plane that carries Grimes and his cohorts, then they borrow someone's cement truck and corner the two crooks. Rockford holds them at gunpoint inside the mixer, as Sara drives into town with the mixer spinning.

The end of the episode finds Jim being arrested for shooting down light aircraft. As he's being booked, Jim puts a nickle into a slot machine, and says, "I bet you don't get many winners in here." alluding to the possibility that the machine is rigged by the cops. A good episode all in all. I can see why they were able to make it a series based on this pilot.