Created by Steve Fisher & A.C. Lyles
CONFIDENTIAL HUMAN RELATIONS
— sign on Rogue’s office door
Roger Smith starred in Rogue’s Gallery, a 1968 snoozer of a flick, as JOHN ROGUE, a struggling Los Angeles private eye who’s hired by a therapist to keep an eye on a suicidal patient, Valerie York, who just happens to be the fiancée of a friend of Rogue’s who had died in a skydiving accident.
Although intended for theatrical release, the slick, late 60s film has a vaguely made-for-TV vibe to it. Perhaps it was the overly familiar Los Angeles setting, or Smith’s years as Jeff Spencer on 77 Sunset Strip, but even more so was the deliberate but unexplained quirkiness of the character which played out exactly the way so many television pilots do: as a means to quickly establish and distinguish a half-baked character, theoretically quickly endearing him to a potential audience.
Sometimes it works.
But Rogue isn’t just struggling; he’s taken to sleeping on the couch in his one-room office, stowing his bedclothes in his empty filing cabinet drawers, mooching cigarettes and avoiding bill collectors. He hasn’t paid his long-suffering secretary Maggie for over a month, he’s hocked his gun, and his vehicle is a rusty (in LA?) convertible with a trunk that’s kept closed with a rope. It looks more like a clown car than anything. The “Rogue’s Gallery” of the title is a collection of snapshots of former clients tacked onto the inside of a closet door to remind him of his “greatest cases.”
Maybe he did have some great cases; but it wasn’t this one. The film’s a non-sensical derivative mess we’ve seen a zillion times before (and since), and it’s not even done particularly well. There’s a mysterious club with a secret agenda, car chases (including one that ends when Rogue’s beater runs out of gas), our hero gets slugged, a dead body pops up, a shootout or two, a few brawls and a “surprise” twist at the end that even Longstreet could have seen from the opening credits.
Perhaps that’s why it was never released and sat in the can for years, only eventually appearing–not in theatres as originally planned–but on television, on NBC in 1972. It’s not even that it’s particularly bad–it’s just that it’s not particularly good.
And by then, it already seemed helplessly dated, a low-budget Mannix with a pile of TV-ready quirks only solid writing and someone like James Garner could pull off–and actually would to great success in another year or so as Jim Rockford.
And let’s face it–he may have been affable and handsome enough, in a bland sort of way, but let’s face it: Roger Smith, alas, was not James Garner.
- Although often assumed to be based on the classic radio drama, Rogue’s Gallery, this cheese stands alone.
- ROGUE’S GALLERY
Premiere: 1972 (NBC)
Based on a story by Steve Fisher & A.C. Lyles
Screenplay by Steve Fisher
Directed by Leonard Horn
Produced by A.C. Lyles
Starring Roger Smith as JOHN ROGUE
Also starring Greta Baldwin, Dennis Morgan, Mala Powers, Edgar Bergen, Brian Donlevy, Farley Granger, Richard Arlen, Jackie Coogan, Johnnie Ray