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  • NR
  • DVD
  • 16 discs
  • Region 1 USA/CA (info)
  • WAGON TRAIN -- which started out inspired by the John Ford movie WAGONMASTER -- was practically a television institution to eight seasons, from 1957 until 1965, and for at least two of those seasons was the number one or number two top-rated television series in the country. This 16 DVD set, covering the series' switch to a 90-minute episode format (previous seasons had been 60 minutes) and to color shooting, seemed at first like too much to bite off in one gulp, and the kind of release that could only interest series fanatics -- but this reviewer's first reaction was wrong, as he quickly discovered. What made WAGON TRAIN work, and last as long as it did, was the quality of the cast, the scripts, and the guest-stars that it would get -- at a time when most movie actors with viable careers either couldn't or wouldn't appear on television, WAGON TRAIN was getting guest stars such as Ralph Meeker and Barbara Stanwyck, and had as its original star movie veteran Ward Bond. By the time of the seventh season, the 32 episodes of which take up most of the 16 discs in this set, the producers not only had making the show (which shot almost all-year-long on this season) down to a science, but had generally first-rate writers and directors, and top casts, from series star John McIntire (who succeeded Bond, who passed away in 1960) on down, including guest stars such as Ronald Reagan, Ann Blyth, Joan Blondell et al. Upon opening this set and choosing shows at random, this reviewer realized that it really isn't a full season of WAGON TRAIN -- oh, that is there, to be sure, but the contents are much more than that; buying this set is like purchasing 32 full-length, generally first-rate western movies, made by the likes of directors such as William Witney (a B-movie expert often compared to Raoul Walsh). With the exception of the final episode of the season, which utilizes a somewhat awkward flashback structure and was also directed by its writer -- and where the makers were very obviously stretching a budget that was neatly empty -- everything here is worth watching more than once or twice. As to the set itself, it's neatly packaged and put together (it is hard to put 16 single-sided DVDs between one set of covers conveniently), in a handy box. The transfers are good but not always great, and some episodes and transfers look better than others -- given what Universal spent producing this series, one would think that they would have kept preservation-quality masters on everything, but that seems not to have been the case, and the full-screen (1.33-to-1) image reveals that the color has faded slightly in parts of various shows; and there are also a few flaws in the transfers in evidence, but that's not entirely surprising, given the 3900 minutes contained in this set. And there's nothing to mar the overall enjoyment -- indeed, one aspect of this set that is a pleasant surprise is the volume of the audio, which is set very high, for a change with a DVD release; this reviewer had to cut the audio level on his monitor for the sake of his neighbors on one early morning viewing session. The Season Seven episodes have all been given chapter breaks matching the breaks in credits and commercials for the original episodes, which means they get eight chapters each, and each disc opens automatically to a menu allowing "Play All" and individual episode access, the only flaw being that it is a little hard to tell which episode is highlighted when using the latter function. The producers have also included 16 shows from the other seven seasons of the series, which seem to have mostly been chosen based on their guest stars -- these black-and-white shows haven't been transferred quite as well, though they're still eminently watchable, and included among them is a 1957 show entitled "A MAN CALLED HORSE", starring Ralph Meeker and based on the same Dorothy M. Johnson story that was later the source for the Richard Harris movie and its sequels. The bonus episodes have only been given three chapters each. The other major bonus features appear on the 16th disc, in the form of extended interviews with surviving stars Robert Fuller and Denny Scott Miller, who are funny and highly informative in their reminiscences, which are supported by clips from relevant episodes and tv series. The whole set is not only entertaining but highly enlightening at times, and many of these scripts and stories are as good as (or better than) a lot of the western feature films that were in being made at the time.
0 Stars 0 average rating
  • Genre: Television
  • Run Time: 3900:00
  • Released: 11/4/2008
  • UPC: 011301678041
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Our price $83.96
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