Tony Mastroianni Review Collection
"Traveling Executioner" won't exactly slay you
Cleveland Press March 4, 1971
Not only black but bleak is this comedy about a man who travels about the countryside back in World War I days with his own special electric chair.
Stacy Keach plays the title role in "The Traveling Executioner" and while his performance often takes on a larger-the e-life quality it isn't enough to overcome the odd mixture of elements in the film.
These are basically serious or sordid and the attempt at comedy is eventually washed out in the grimness of the entire tale.
WE MEET Keach at the height of his career, successful not only because o£ his unfailing chair but because ". . . condemned men seem to trust me."
Something of a primitive psychologist he puts his victims at ease by giving them his "fields of ambrosia" speech which promises them a far better life than the one they are leaving.
Keach loses his zest for his calling when he sees his next victim, pretty Mariana Hill. "Too good to fry," is his verdict, especially after she has seduced him.
IT'S DISASTER all the way as his schemes to save her run afoul and eventually he ends up in his own chair.
There is a curious attempt at folksiness in the telling of this tale although hardly anyone in it is just plain folks.
Juxtaposed against this odd slice of Americana are the moviemaker's attempts to deal with heavier topics - prison brutality, capital punishment, the callousness to suffering that is evoked in the carnival atmosphere that surrounds the executions, a general corruption.
In the end the picture simply collapses from the weight of its own excesses.