Finally this classic western is released to DVD! Universal has done a fine job the shows themselves look extremely good (with just a bit of dirt and grit during the opening montage for each episode–probably due to the original source elements). We get the entire first season of the series as well as the TV movie that essentially served as a pilot episode for the series. While the tone differed a bit from the pilot, the series is equally as good with top notch production values and acting.
The story revolves around Hannibal Heyes (Pete Duel) and Kid Curry (Ben Murphy)a pair of robbers who never killed anyone as they broke the law (although interestingly, Roger Davis who went on to play Hannibal Heyes played a villian that WAS killed by Curry)during the regular season. They’re given an option to go straight by the governor (they see a handbill offering amnesty to criminals who haven’t committed any murders)–if they can stay clean for an entire year. It’ll be their secret until the 12 months (probably in case it fails) are up but that also means the guys are fair game for bounty hunters who may discover their identity. Trouble follows them wherever they go though and they end up performing one good deed after another hoping that they don’t get caught in the gun of someone’s crosshairs since the original wanted poster still says “Dead or Alive”.
The first season set include the pilot movie plus the first 14 episodes of the show (the show was a mid-season replacement which is why it doesn’t have a full season of 22-24 episodes). While clearly inspired by “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” the film achieves its own quirky tone by the first regular season episode. Duel and Murphy’s charm and chemistry on camera is immediately evident. 30 plus years later the show still retains its charm.
The show looks good in its first ever DVD presentation. Colors have faded a bit (but that’s to be expected given the age of the show)and some of the stock footage (including the opening for the pilot)has some dirt, grit and a bit of wear and tear evident but overall the show looks darn good. The guest star list is a who’s who of TV from the 70′s including Early Holliman, Forrest Tucker and Susan Saint and James Drury–just in the pilot episode alone! Later guest stars would include Burl Ives, Slim Pickens and Sally Field among many others.
The lone extra here is a commentary track by co-creator/co-writer/producer Glen A. Larson. While there are some stretches of silence Larson’s comments are intelligent, observant and has trivia about how the series came to be produced. He notes that the amnesty plot that makes the series different from other westerns was real and, in fact, was offered to Butch and Sundance as well as the real Kid Curry. When news of the amnesty was delayed, they got mad and robbed a bank blowing their chance of receiving it!
While we did get Alias Smith And Jones: Seasons 2 & 3 the second set looks a bit rough at times (although the best looking episodes rival those seen here). Unfortunately, the second boxed set with seasons 2 & 3 don’t have any extras that are worthwhile although the longer season opener from season two is included. You can also buy the entire series repackaged as Alias Smith and Jones – The Complete Series! 50 episodes on 10 DVDs!.
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I have all my “biggies” from the 70′s. Columbo, Kung Fu, AITF, Rockford; I’m sure you guys know the long list. Anyway, I had never heard of this show much less “seen” it before. How can this be? This show is FANTASTIC!! I had some extra bucks laying around, plus I did like Pete Duel from Gidget even though I didn’t care for the show; so I gambled. Well, the chemistry and writing are top notch, the story is interesting, and the humor is perfect, I couldn’t be more pleased.
Sadly, this isn’t a full season of 22-24 eps, though 15 seems enough I suppose. The transfer quality is pretty good for a show this old, the sound is standard fare, but they really did a nice job with the boxart and ONE sided discs. Gary A. Larsons commentary is generally helpful (when he speaks) and I find it a bit funny he says this is “one of his favorite shows” he has produced, I had to read between the lines but when I saw he was also the creator of Night Rider, I quickly realized he meant this IS his favorite but he was too polite to say:) C’mon, Alias Smith and Jones… or drek from the 80′s like Night Rider? Gah.
As a side note; of course I am still generally shocked of Pete Duel’s fate. I see his amazing smile, witness his relentless talent, and shake my head in disbelief…. how can it BE? R.I.P. Mr. Duel.
What we’ve been waiting for so long has come! Finding the pilot on VHS 7 years ago was great, and I was happy to see it again after so long.
I spent so many years searching for this show to be broadcast somewhere, then nearly two years ago Encore Westerns began to run the series, and I thought that was the best there could be–I finally got to see all of the episodes (with the exception of the second season opener), many I hadn’t seen for 30+ years! Now to have the first season out on commercially produced DVDs (with seasons 2 and 3 not far behind, I hope!) this is the very best! Please let there be outtakes, let there be interviews, let there be behind the scenes!
Thank you Universal! You have made many, many people very happy!