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The California Kid is a 1974 TV movie starring Martin Sheen, Vic Morrow, Nick Nolte, Michelle Phillips, Gary Morgan, and Janit Baldwin.

The California Kid
Film poster
Written byRichard Compton
Directed byRichard T. Heffron
StarringMartin Sheen
Vic Morrow
Michelle Phillips
Nick Nolte
Gary Morgan
Fredric Downs
Janit Baldwin
Music byLuchi De Jesus
Hal Mooney
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Executive producer(s)Paul Mason
Producer(s)Howie Horwitz
Production location(s)Piru, California
Ojai, California
CinematographyTerry K. Meade
Editor(s)Robert F. Shugrue
Richard Belding
Running time74 minutes
Production company(s)Universal Television
DistributorNBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original networkABC
Original release
  • September 25, 1974 (1974-09-25)


The story takes place in 1958, and involves a town, Clarksberg, with a famous speed trap. Disturbed Sheriff Roy Childress (Vic Morrow), whose wife and daughter were killed by a speeder, turns bad, with a habit of punishing speeders by deliberately pushing their cars off the mountain highway curves with his 1957 Plymouth Belvedere.

Two Navy sailors on leave (one portrayed by Sheen's younger brother, Joe Estevez), speeding to get back to base on time in a 1951 Ford Custom, are pushed to their deaths by the sheriff. Soon after, a stranger arrives, driving a hot rodded black 1934 Ford three-window coupe. He provokes Sheriff Childress into giving him a speeding ticket on purpose, establishes his credentials with the sheriff as a hot rodder and potential speed maniac, boasting it can do 75 mph in 10 seconds. He pays the ticket in front of Judge J.A. Hooker (Frederic Downs), and it is revealed he is Michael McCord (Martin Sheen), older brother of one of the sailors.

Believing his brother's death was no accident, he does his own investigating, with the help of Maggie (Michelle Phillips). He finds the wreck of his brother's Ford at the impound yard, with the rear bumper dented as if by pushbars. He checks out the lay of the land. Knowing how his brother was killed, he goes out to the Curve, testing its limits and tuning his car to better handle the terrain.

Lyle Stafford (Gary Morgan), the younger brother of the town's auto mechanic Buzz Stafford (Nick Nolte) is killed and his girlfriend Sissy (Janit Baldwin) badly injured by the sheriff after the duo go for a drive in a 1955 Mercury. Buzz wants to kill the sheriff for revenge, but McCord says there's another way. Then the sheriff tries to run McCord out of town, and the stage is set for the climactic duel.

McCord then runs the speed trap, challenging the sheriff, who tries to run him off the road. McCord is ready, knowing his car's limits for the curve, and the sheriff is a victim of his own obsession, going too fast to make the deadly turn. He drives off the cliff as Buzz and a deputy look on, while McCord slides to a stop on the sandy shoulder.


Replica of a 1960 Fury, typical of the film's interceptor.
Actor Role
Martin Sheen Michael McCord
Vic Morrow Sheriff Roy Childress
Stuart Margolin Deputy
Frederic Downs Judge J.A. Hooker
Joe Estevez Don McCord
Michelle Phillips Maggie
Janit Baldwin Sissy
Monika Henreid Gerry
Sandy Brown Wyeth Leona
Barbara Collentine Edith
Nick Nolte Buzz Stafford
Gary Morgan Lyle Stafford
Don Mantooth Jack (as Donald Mantooth)
Britt Leach Johnny
Norman Bartold Howard
Michael Richardson Charley
Gavan O'Herlihy Tom
Jack McCulloch Pete
Ken Johnson Harlie
Trent Dolan Stranger

External linksEdit