They, their wives and families, who all share a log cabin, have moved to Texas from the Carolinas to ranch and to skip the Civil War.

They, their wives and families, who all share a log cabin, have moved to Texas from the Carolinas to ranch and to skip the Civil War.

Oddly, the ex-Carolinians speak in only moderate Southern accents. Now smalltime ranchers, they discover the Army’s too busy with the Civil War to protect settlers against Indians, who are intent on driving them all out by killing them or taking them hostage.

All the assembled Johnsons, a pointedly bigoted guest Fitzpatrick (Chris Benson) and his family are sitting ducks.

The Comanches and the Kiowas swoop down and scoop up the women and children. Since he’s black and the Indians respect blacks, Britt, who’s given the name Black Fox by the Indians, volunteers to parley with the Kiowas’ chief about trading the hostages for horses.

The opening telefilm of the series — other entries air on successive Fridays — as directed by Steven H. Stern doesn’t set up much of a challenge to Reeve in this vidpic, one of the three made before his accident.

Alan proclaims his brotherhood with Britt too much and stupidly follows Britt into the wilderness when Britt doesn’t return from his mission. Janet Bailey, playing Britt’s strong, caring wife Mary, gives a strong perf.

Todd works his role for all it’s worth, which is limiting. Raoul Trujillo as English-speaking Kiowa Running Dog is OK, as is Nancy Sorel’s Sarah, Alan’s wife.

The camerawork is fine, and Ron Wisman’s editing is solid. Production designer John Blackie, shrewdly using Alberta locationing for Texas plains and slopes, gives the telefilm an authentic feel.

But “Black Fox” so far lacks much excitement. Diehard cowboy-and-Indian fans may take to the first chapter and come back for more; on the other hand, they might find it pretty thin going.

Cbs Friday Movie Black Fox

(Fri. (28), 9-11 p.m., CBS)

Production

Filmed in Calgary, Alberta, by Black Fox Prods. and Western Intl. Communications Ltd. and Cabin Fever Entertainment Inc. Exec producers, Tony Allard, Robert Halmi Jr., Norman S. Powell; producer, Lee Kimber; director, Steven H. Stern; writer, John Binder; based on novel "Black Fox" by Matt Braun; camera, Frank Tidy; editor, Ron Wisman; production designer, John Blackie; sound, Robert Abbott; music, Eric N. Robertson. #Cast: Christopher Reeve, Tony Todd, Raoul Trujillo, Janet Bailey, Nancy Sorel, Chris Wiggins, Chris Benson, Lawrence Dane, Cindy Preston, Dale Wilson, Leon Goodstriker, Morningstar Mecredi, Joel Phage-Wright, Don S. Davis, Byron Chiefmoon, Buffalo Child, Denis LaCroix. First entry in CBS' vidpic trilogy, starring Christopher Reeve as a former plantation owner and Tony Todd as an ex-slave, badly needs a dose of giddyup-and-go before it'll gallop. Writer John Binder's stock characters don't generate many thrills in the 1861 Texas Western, and the action has all the spontaneity of a Sunday pageant; an oater's in trouble when the two things best remembered are an assault on a woman and a tug-of-war. Reeve plays Alan Johnson and Todd is Britt Johnson, self-proclaimed blood brothers. They've been together since Alan freed Britt when they were boys.

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