The Moscow Connection

The State Department sends Chief Clifford and McCloud to Moscow with a touring country & western singer, undercover.

The Red Rolls-Royce

The central image is Johnny Starbuck (Hoyt Axton) in a sudden access of lunacy after that last needle, holding a broken bottle to a woman at the reception following his New York performance (at which he sings “Bony Fingers”).

Characteristically, the image is decorated with the second theme in dialogue. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has reported cases of radiation poisoning, the Soviet government is suspected, a Red Army officer offers information in exchange for help with his daughter, whose involvement with a drugrunning filmmaker threatens to compromise them both with the KGB. Marshal McCloud and Chief of Detectives Clifford go undercover with Starbuck’s band on its Russian tour.

The themes are joined at DOM KINO or The Movie House, a semi-psychedelic Moscow nightclub where the music is “Strangers in the Night” sung in Russian. Yalta is where Turkish drugs are smuggled in, the deal is made, and Starbuck gives his last show before heading to Switzerland for the cure.

In the midst of this rather fantastic hallucination, there is a device Mark Twain had a hand in developing. Tereshkoff (Nehemiah Persoff) of the KGB calls McCloud’s bluff on the train to Yalta by obliging him to play that guitar. The Marshal hems and haws a bit, then launches into a song which provides entertainment for the passengers in the dining car. “I’m a cop in a little bitty town,” he sings, “and I don’t get much pay.” The song describes this peace officer’s practice of stopping out-of-state cars and letting his friends go. It’s a lucrative profession, “this year so far I’ve made four hundred thou... I make more’n the President now” (with the spoken afterthought, “o’ course, he’s honest”). The moral is—

If you’re drivin’ down the road
And flashin’ lights ya see,
If they’re on top of a red Rolls-Royce
You can bet your boots it’s me.

Britt Ekland in her second McCloud episode is altogether a different persona as Tatiana, with a peculiar nervousness shading the diffident ennui of her cat-burgling stewardess in the third season. Axton sings all or part of half-a-dozen songs, and acts the part. Persoff as a KGB man under Brezhnev is naturally subtle. His home town was recently struck by an earthquake, a thousand lives were lost, “but that’s a statistic,” he tells McCloud while questioning him, “the suffering of one man is a tragedy.” Morgan Paull comes alive in the Crimea directing a nineteenth-century battle epic. L.Q. Jones, Rick Traeger and Arthur Malet form the background.

Kessler films on and around the back lot with interjections of location footage and a superb matte. The saloon fight at Dom Kino calls for a large pair of spangled spectacles to be smashed.

In a gag from “The Man with the Golden Hat”, a KGB man on the train to Yalta inspects McCloud’s Stetson in his absence. McCloud introduces a couple of new sayings among the old comrades (“I feel like I’ve been rode hard and put away wet,” which puts KGB research to work, and “hang tough”) before reverting to type.


Hoyt Axton Johnny Starbuck
Britt Ekland
Tatiana Krasnavian
Nehemiah Persoff
L.Q. Jones
Kenny Hingle
Morgan Paull
Pierre Belsen
David Hurst
Andrei Krasnavian
Robert Phillips
Lew Palter
Hotel Clerk
Arthur Malet
Hotel Clerk #2
Rick Traeger
Walt Davis
Tom Henschel

Written by Michael Kozoll

Directed by Bruce Kessler

45604, 1.23.77

McCLOUD: Now, you know that it takes two t’ decide on the price o’ beans.

(Passing through customs with the American Country Jubilee in Moscow, McCloud is detained by the KGB when an x-ray machine discloses his six-shooter.)
The travel manifest says you are a guitar player. Do you use the gunbarrel to hit the strings?
McCLOUD: Well, I’m kinda half a guitar player and half personal security for Johnny Starbuck. A celebrity like Johnny is always in danger from unsavory individuals.
TERESHKOFF: Unsavory individuals is not a problem in Soviet Union. They do not exist.

McCLOUD: Feel like I’ve kinda been rode hard and put away wet.
TERESHKOFF: Uh-huh. (Goes to door, confers with assistant sotto voce.) “Rode hard and put away wet.” Get that to Ciphers immediately.

TERESHKOFF: (To McCloud.) I was born in a small town a hundred miles from Moscow. Last month there was a terrible earthquake there. A thousand people died. Well, that’s a statistic. One man’s suffering, that’s a tragedy. Why don’t you tell us why you come to our country?

I got the feelin’-like-a-prairie-dog-sittin’-by-the-freeway blues.
—Song performed by the American Country Jubilee in Moscow.

(After suffering withdrawal synptoms onstage in Moscow, Johnny Starbuck has one more performance in him before heading off to a Swiss clinic.)
It’s a long way to come, to find out you’ve reached the end o’ the line.

 (McCloud is arrested after being knocked out during the fistfight at Dom Kino.)
First you bring a gun into the Soviet Union. Then you instigate a riot in a nightclub. Then you try to evade the police while in possession of Turkish drugs.
McCLOUD: Yeah, yeah, I do my best evadin’ while I’m unconscious, that’s true.

LUKOFF: From Ciphers. “Rode hard and put away wet.” Western American expression meaning hard labor, followed by no reward.
TERESHKOFF: (Musing.) “Rode hard...”

McCLOUD: (To Tatiana.) Ma’am, I’ve never been one t’ manhandle a lady. Y’understand? But if it means gettin’ the truth outta ya, I’m goin’ t’ give it a shot.

McCLOUD: Well, ya know, there’s nothin’ more disturbin’ to a chicken coop than an intrudin’ rooster.
CHIEF CLIFFORD: Does that lend itself to any kind of English translation?  

TERESHKOFF: I was hoping to learn something about the American way of life. While it lasts.
McCLOUD: Well, I think we’ll be in there kickin’ for some time yet.

(In the club car on the train to Yalta, Tereshkoff calls McCloud’s bluff by asking him to sing, which he does as follows.)

I’m a cop in a little bitty town
And I don’t get much pay.
I caught seventeen out-o’-state cars
And four o’ muh friends today.

Well, I let the hometown boys go on home,
They paid five dollars bail.
But all the drivers in the out-o’-state cars,
They had to go to jail.

[A spoken riff continues, “and old Charlie, he’s workin’ out real good down at the corner drugstore where the red light signal is. I tell ya, that ol’ boy can spot an out-o’-state car ten blocks away.” As it approaches a green light, Charlie operates a “secret button” which lets the yellow light show for “a tenth of a second.”]

The way it stands this year so far
I’ve made four hundred thou.
For a high school dropout I’m doin’ fine,
I make more than the President now.
[Spoken.] (O’ course, he’s honest.)

If you’re drivin’ down the road
And flashin’ lights ya see,
If they’re on top of a red Rolls-Royce
You can bet your boots it’s me.
If they’re on top of a red Rolls-Royce
You can bet your boots it’s me.

PIERRE BELSEN: (Descending on a camera crane.) Fantastic, it’s beautiful, I’m a genius! Bresnovitch, put a thirty-five on this. Perfect! OK, yes, fine... (Etc.)

PIERRE BELSEN: (Working with the cast of his film, a historical epic called Andrei Vasilievich.) You’re not paying attention! You must pay attention when I give you these notes! ...You’re soldiers, you understand?

McCLOUD: Do svidanya!
TERESHKOFF: Marshal, why is it I feel I’ve been rode hard and put away wet?
McCLOUD: There ya go.