This pilot film for a promising western series features a to-be-continued gimmick (the amnesiac hero's search for his identity) that would have ensured the show a decent run. Panicked by their star Robert Urich's cancer diagnosis, the producers scuttled the series, which combined "The
Fugitive" and "Branded" into adult western escapism with deeper psychological underpinnings than most hard-riding frontier adventures.
Buried alive, the Lazarus Man (Robert Urich) is found near death by young Davey Patchett (John Christian Graas) and his circumspect father, Nat Patchett (John Diehl), on All Hallow's Eve, 1865.
Nursed back to health by Nat's wife, Elizabeth (Elizabeth Dennehy), the confused stranger awakens weeks later, sans memory, in San Sebastian, Texas, where rancor about the Civil War persists. Unsure of his own sympathies, the Lazarus Man witnesses the slaying of a bluejacket soldier by an outlaw
Rebel vigilante group, the Blood Knights, headed by Tom Holleran (Brion James). After kidnapping the Lazarus Man, Holleran releases him because he believes he is actually Jack Broussard, a desperado the Blood Knights have hired to assassinate visiting President Ulysses S. Grant.
Down at the military settlement, suspicious Yankee General Sherman (David Marshall Grant) keeps a watchful eye on the Lazarus Man; flashbacks suggest that the man with no memory also might have been a secret serviceman. The Lazarus Man becomes further sidetracked when he has to save his
benefactor, Nat Patchett, from the paranoid Blood Knights.
One possibility about the Lazarus Man's identity clears up when the real Jack Broussard (Jake Walker) turns up to kill President Grant. After escaping a lynching at the hands of Holleran, the Lazarus Man thwarts the assassination attempt by lobbing a baseball at Broussard's firing arm. General
Sherman guns down the rabid Holleran; Nat gets wounded while preventing Broussard from retaliating against the Lazarus Man; and the Blood Knights are wiped out by the US Cavalry.
Star-powered by TV veteran Urich, this gritty western sets up an intriguing premise: from a living death, a frontier Galahad is reborn as a blank slate that both the Yanks and the Rebs want to write on. Nailing the rancorous historical period following the Civil War, this morality tale registers
more authentically than other standardized frontier sagas; in this movie, one can feel the characters shaking off the prairie dust.
If the protagonist's desperate detective work lacks variety and if the film's echoes of SHANE (1953) are too pronounced, THE LAZARUS MAN still maintains a brisk canter past most western cliches. With several standout set-pieces, such as the graveyard resurrection that opens the film and the water
tower contretemps between Broussard and the Lazarus Man during the assassination attempt, this dark fable engrosses even when it drops the suspense ball, and intrigues even when the other cast members don't measure up to Urich's vigorous portrayal of the hero. (Graphic violence, profanity, adultsituations.)
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- Released: 1996
- Rating: NR
- Review: This pilot film for a promising western series features a to-be-continued gimmick (the amnesiac hero's search for his identity) that would have ensured the show a decent run. Panicked by their star Robert Urich's cancer diagnosis, the producers scuttled th… (more)