ESSENTIAL TV WESTERNS is a most interesting mix of 150 episodes of mostly 1950s and ’60s television. Among the 18 series represented are the expected programs, like BONANZA, ROY ROGERS or ANNIE OAKLEY. Of especial interest are the shows that came and went with little fanfare, such as 26 MEN, RANGO, OUTLAWS, COWBOY G-MEN and TATE. Some, like “Outlaws” featured many famous guest stars during their brief run. “Rango” was a comedy starring Tim Conway and Guy Marks (he sang the spoof song, “Loving You Has Made Me Bananas”). “Tate” is a Civil War vet who lost part of his left arm. When he can’t find work, Tate becomes a gunslinger. “26 Men” is based on the actual files of the Arizona Rangers. “Cowboy G-Men” stars Jackie Coogan (Uncle Fester in “The Addams Family”) as a government agent.
The dozen DVDs in this collection are stored in gloss-coated heavy paper sleeves that are housed in a sturdy easy-access box. Transfer quality, although primarily dependent on source material, is uniformly good. For variety alone, this third edition of MILL CREEK’s 150 episode box sets may be superior to its two fine predecessors. And that’s no yarn, Pard!
To complete your western TV show collection, all you’ll need is CLASSIC TV WESTERNS, also from MILL CREEK ENTERTAINMENT. This amazing mega box contains the previously issued ULTIMATE TV WESTERNS and WESTERN TV CLASSICS. That’s a grand total of 300 episodes for one low price.
ADVENTURES OF JIM BOWIE– On ABC-TV from 9/7/56 to 5/23/58. Cast: Jim Davis/Minerva Urecal/Peter Hansen
ADVENTURES OF KIT CARSON– Syndicated from 8/11/51 to 9/1/55. Cast: Bill Williams/Don Diamond/Hank Patterson
ANNIE OAKLEY– Aired in syndication from 1/2/54 to 2/1/57. Cast: Gail Davis/Brad Johnson/Jimmy Hawkins
BONANZA– An NBC-TV superstar from 9/12/59 to 1/16/73. Cast: Lorne Greene/Pernell Roberts/Michael Landon/Dan Blocker
COWBOY G-MEN– Syndicated from 9/13/52 to 6/13/53. Cast: Jackie Coogan/Russell Hayden/Phil Arnold/John L. Cason
DUSTY’S TRAILS– In syndication from 9/11/73 to 3/12/74. Cast: Bob Denver/Forrest Tucker/Lori Saunders/Jeannine Riley/Ivor Francis/Lynn Wood/William Cort
THE GABBY HAYES SHOW– On NBC-TV from 12/11/50 to 1/1/54. George ‘Gabby’ Hayes hosted this series.
JUDGE ROY BEAN– Syndicated from 9/1/55 to 9/1/56. Cast: Edgar Buchanan/Russell Hayden/Jack Buetel/Jackie Loughery
NORTHWEST PASSAGE– Aired on NBC-TV from 9/14/58 to 3/13/59. Cast: Buddy Ebsen/Keith Larsen/Don Burnette/Philip Tonge
OUTLAWS– On NBC-TV from 9/29/60 to 5/10/62. Cast: Barton MacLane/Slim Pickens/Don Collier
PISTOLS ‘N PETTICOATS– Aired on CBS-TV from 9/17/66 to 3/11/67. Cast: Ann Sheriden/Douglas Fowley/Ruth McDevitt/Gary Vinson/Carole Wells/Robert Lowery
THE RANGE RIDER– Syndicated from 4/5/51 to 9/1/53. Cast: Jock Mahoney/Dickie Jones
RANGO– On ABC-TV from 1/13/67 to 9/9/67. Cast: Tim Conway/Guy Marks/Norman Alden
THE ROY ROGERS SHOW– Popular NBC-TV series ran from 12/30/51 to 6/23/57. Cast: Roy Rogers/Dale Evans/Pat Brady
STORIES OF THE CENTURY– Syndicated from 1/1/54 to 3/1/55. Cast: Jim Davis/Mary Castle/Kristine Miller
TATE– Summer replacement on NBC-TV from 6/8/60 to 9/21/60. Starred David McLean as Tate.
26 MEN– In syndication from 11/1/57 to 10/1/60. Cast: Tristram Coffin/Kelo Henderson
U.S. MARSHAL– Syndicated from 10/1/58 to 3/26/60. Cast: John Bromfield/James Griffith/Stan Jones
FOR COMPLETE DETAILS OF ALL EPISODES, INCLUDING AIRDATES AND GUEST STARS,
SEE COMMENT #1 (LINK TO THIS IS LOCATED DIRECTLY BELOW).
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The Essential TV Westerns 150 Episode Pack may not have many surprises – most of these shows have been available for some time – but if you’re just starting you’re collection, you can’t beat the price. The videos are mostly in good shape (the night scenes are pretty murky, but that’s a minor caveat IMHO) and you get a nice mix of programs.
The Adventures of Jim Bowie (1956) – this show, starring Scott Forbes, ran two years and was set in 1830s New Orleans before the title character moved to San Antonio – and his date with destiny. As such, it’s really more of a “southern” than a “western”, but the unusual setting is what sets it apart from other contemporary offerings – that, and the protagonist’s primary weapon, his nine-inch long Bowie knife. Episodes included in this set are: Gone to Texas, Jackson’s Assassination, Jim Bowie Comes Home, Monsieur Francois, Osceola, Outlaw Kingdom and The Select Females.
The Adventures of Kit Carson (1951) – In this early western series Kit Carson (Bill Williams) and his Mexican friend El Toro (Don Diamond) roamed the frontier in the 1880s looking for adventure. Plot lines and dialogue were pretty advanced for a show aimed at the kiddies and Williams made a likeable hero. Diamond’s El Toro character was also unusual because, unlike most sidekicks, he frequently offered sage advice and was an effective fighter when the going got tough, while still having enough rough edges to serve as an effective foil for the lead character. The series ran for four years. Episodes included in this set are: Bad Men of Marysville, The Baron of Black Springs, Border City, Border Corsairs, Danger Hill, Devil of Angel’s Camp, The Hero of Hermosa, Road to Destiny, Road to Monterey, Singing Wires, Thunder over Inyo and Trouble in Tuscarora.
Annie Oakley (1954) – Gail Davis starred as the titular sharp-shootin’ pigtailed frontier heroine, who always managed to rescue her lawman boyfriend from the hands of notorious owlhoots who threatened their small desert community. The kid’s series, produced by Gene Autry’s Flying `A’ production company, ran for three years and is represented by these episodes: Ambush Canyon, Annie and the Leprechauns, Annie and the Lily Maid, Annie Calls Her Shots, Annie Finds Strange Treasure, Annie Gets Her Man, Annie Trusts a Convict, Bull’s Eye, Dilemma at Diablo, The Dude Stagecoach, Gunplay, The Hardrock Trail, Justice Guns, Shadow of Sonoma and Sharpshooting Annie.
Bonanza (1959) – This landmark western series, one of the first to be shot entirely in color, struggled to find an audience at first, but when the program finally hit its stride it spent most of its 14 seasons in the Nielsen Top-10. Episodes include: The Abduction, The Avenger, Blood on the Land, Breed of Violence, The Courtship, Death at Dawn, Escape to Ponderosa, The Fear Merchants, The Mission, Showdown, The Stranger and The Trail Gang.
Cowboy G-Men (1952) – Russell Hayden and Jackie Coogan starred as undercover federal officers operating in the American West in this series that ran for but a single season (39 episodes). Episodes included in this set are: Beware – No Trespassing, Gypsy Traders, Hush Money, Mysterious Decoy, Rawhiders, Sawdust Swindle, The Secret Mission and The Woman Mayor.
Dusty’s Trail (1973) – Think Gilligan’s Island set on the frontier. Due to the ineptitude of an assistant scout (Bob Denver), two wagons become separated from the rest of the train and blunder around the West while trying to reach California. Any similarity between the characters in this series and those from “Island” are purely intentional. That fact, and the extremely annoying laugh track, caused this viewer to wonder why this show wasn’t put out of its misery after the pilot was lensed. Episodes foisted on the buyer by this set include: Brookhaven USA, The Cavalry Is Coming, Duel in Disguise, Half Moon, Here Comes the Grooms, Horse of Another Color, John J. Callahan, Love Means Bananas, Magician, Nothing to Crow About, Phoney Express, Then There Were Seven, Treasure of C. Harry Motley and Witch’s Trail.
The Gabby Hayes Show (1950) – Gabby frames heavily edited 1940s PRC westerns with his tall-tale spinning asides. The six episodes included in this set have no splash frame identifying the episode title, but most feature Eddie Dean.
Judge Roy Bean (1956) – For thirty nine episodes, Edgar Buchanan played the titular self-appointed jurist of Langtry, Texas, who claimed to be “the law west of the Pecos.” Episodes included in this set are: Ah Sid Cowboy, Border Raiders, Citizen Romero, Connie Comes to Town, Judge of Pecos Valley, Letty Leaves Home, Slightly Prodigal, Spirit of the Law, The Travelers and Vinegarone.
Northwest Passage (1958) – If “The Adventures of Jim Bowie” was a `southern’ than this series was a `northwestern’. Major Robert Rogers (Keith Larsen) and his fellow…
The third of Mill Creek’s 150 episode western packs is a bit of a disappointment. On the upside we get more episodes of Northwest Passage, Kit Carson and Jim Bowie. But with only 18 series featured the overall quality suffers from way too many Boot Hill occupants. The three sitcoms on offer are all pretty lame, especially the post-Gilligan Bob Denver vehicle Dusty’s Trail which takes up a whole disc. Also scraping the bottom of the barrel is a full disc of Sheriff of Cochise – a ‘contemporary’ cop show that isn’t really a western at all.
Bonanza nostalgics get another dozen early episodes, although as in the past the magnificent theme music is substituted for copyright reasons. The obscure gems include nine episodes of Tate featuring a one-armed gunslinger and a couple of episodes of Outlaws which gives us the baddie perspective as well.
Unlike previous sets, the discs in the pack I received are single-sided. A couple of them ‘buzzed’ in my (fairly new) DVD player – a problem I have not encountered with the double-sided discs. If you deadset loved the two earlier collections and are fanging for more this might do the trick. Don’t start with this one though, as the others are much better.