"The Iron Box"

(Original air date 11/28/66)


When Nick and Heath are wrongfully accused of theft, they are taken to a
prison camp ran by a sadistic warden


Writer: Steven W. Carabatsos

Director: Bernard McEveety

Nick and Heath haggle a price for a bull. The owner, McGowan (Micheal Fox), agrees to their terms but informs them that he's fresh out of receipts. He suggests they take the bull and he'll have one of his men catch up with them with the bill of sale. Little do they know that McGowan is in connivance with the town's crooked sheriff.

On the ride back to the ranch, the boys stop to rest and eat. Soon, they are cornered by Sheriff Barnes (Frank Marth) and four deputies. They tell Nick and Heath they are under arrest for stealing. Nick attempts to clear the misunderstanding but can't prove their innocence without the receipt.

They engage in a scuffle during which Heath's leg is burnt as he accidentally rolls into the camp fire.


The sheriff brings them before the warden of a prison camp, Captain Jonathan Rizely (David Sheiner), a ruthless ghoul who revels in other people's suffering. He resents prisoners who speak before they are spoken to, as Nick finds the hard way with a rifle-butt blow to the stomach. Heath tries to reason with Rizely but to no avail. They are taken to jail.

The next morning, the prisoners are gathered in formation to go work in the fields. Nick asks Rizely to have a doctor take a look at Heath's leg but the warden denies his request and says to wait for tomorrow.


On the chain gang, Heath and Nick befriend two cellmates, Young Billy (Walter Burke) and Lobo Brown (Yaphet Kotto) who describe the barbaric treatments afflicted upon the men. They add that McGowan often pulls these receipt schemes in order to provide Rizely with a reason to arrest the men and make them slaves in his camp.

At night, Billy and Lobo discuss the possibility of breaking out, but Nick believes they should wait for Jarrod to return with the circuit judge. The caring brother worries about Heath's injury which appears to be worsening.

At the ranch, Jarrod frets about his brothers who are three days late getting home. He packs up to go looking for them after hearing that two men fitting their descriptions were wrongfully taken prisoners in a town where they arrest people for no valid reason.


A day later, Heath is finally taken to the doctor's office, but finds the medical man dead drunk on his cot. Heath proceeds to clean his wound as Rizely enters. A vehement discussion about Rizely's past as a Navy officer ensues, ending in Rizely ordering Heath to be publicly whipped in front of Nick and other prisoners as a lesson to all. Nick is tortured at each crack of the whip, feeling his brother's pain.


The next day, it's back on the chain gang. However, Heath is sick and barely standing. Jarrod arrives to witness the piteous sight. He begs Nick to refrain himself from antagonizing Rizely further until he returns with the circuit judge.

Riled up by Jarrod's warnings, Rizely devises a plan to force the prisoners to attempt an escape to thus hold a legitimate reason to shoot them. He orders that Heath be locked inside an iron box, without any water, under the scorching hot sun in plain view of the cell where Nick watches helplessly behind bars. Lobo tries to coerce Nick into escaping in order to rescue his brother, but Nick insists they must await Jarrod's return.


The next day, Nick calmly asks Rizely to bring Heath some water. Rizely wants Nick to bow to him but the proud man refuses. Listening to Rizely describing the horrendous mental tortures a man is subjected to inside the sweat box, Nick swallows his pride and kneels before Rizely who just laughs and kicks him out.

Back in the cell, Nick tells Billy and Lobo that he has no choice but to attempt an escape tonight, but only to free his brother. He doesn't want the others to risk their lives. The two men won't hear of it, especially that they can be of some help to him.


At night, while Lobo is busy cutting the fence, Nick sneaks into Rizely's office and grabs the key to the iron box. Lobo meets with Nick to inform him that he's seen Rizely and a few of his men lurking in the shadows behind the fence, ready to catch them in the act. Nick proposes that they free Heath, then stay put in the cell awaiting Jarrod's arrival.

However, Rizely has different plans for the prisoners. Holding Nick at gunpoint, he forces him to go through the cut fence. As Nick hands him the key to the box, he kicks the gun out of the terrorized man's hands who begs for mercy. Eyes ablaze with rage, Nick tightens his grip around Rizely's neck, ready to choke him.


Nick hurries to the iron box to free Heath who slumps into his arms as he opens it. Nick desperately tries to coax his unconscious brother to respond.

Jarrod arrives with the cavalry and the circuit judge who demands to be told the identity of the man responsible for this heinous crime. Nick points to Rizely who's then taken away.


Days later, Jarrod promises the prisoners that their cases will be reviewed individually and chances are they will soon be free. Heath gives Billy the address to the ranch telling him to look him up once he's out.


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