HTF Review: The Best of Mr. Ed - Vol. One

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Jason Perez, Dec 20, 2003.

  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

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    [​IMG]

    The Best of Mr. Ed: Volume One






    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1961 – 1963 (series ran until 1966)
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 25 minutes per episode / 544 minutes total
    Aspect Ratio: Full-Frame (4:3)
    Subtitles: None
    Audio: English – Monaural






    The rise to stardom of Mr. Ed, the “talking” horse began with the unaired pilot The Wonderful World of Wilbur Pope. In this pilot episode, television executives saw promise, and since legendary entertainer George Burns was its producer, they agreed to move the project forward (after a few changes were made). Shortly thereafter, Mr. Ed burst forth from his starting gate in October of 1961, as a syndicated show no less, and ran strong for 5 years and 143 episodes!

    In this comedy series, the misadventures (some of them quite ridiculous) of architect Wilbur Post and his talking horse Ed are chronicled. As you might expect, many episodes involve Wilbur’s equine companion getting him into hot water. Mr. Ed boasts solid direction from Arthur Lubin (Abbott and Costello, Frances the Talking Mule), and talented Alan Young as Wilbur Post, unquestionably his most memorable role. The series also featured guest appearances from prominent stars of the time, such as Zsa Zsa Gabor, Donna Douglas, Alan Hale Jr., and George Burns.

    This “best-of” set features 21 episodes culled from throughout season 1-3 of the series’ five-year run. The episodes included, which are spread over the front and back of two separate discs, are listed as follows:

    NOTES: Episode numbers correspond to the order the episodes are in on this 2-disc set, not the episode’s number in the series. Also, asterisks that precede the episode number note the episodes I viewed for this review.

    ** Episode 1 – “Ed, The First Meeting” (Air Date1/4/1961)
    Wilbur is shocked when the horse housed in his barn begins speaking to him! Needless to say, his wife Carol (Connie Hines) is just as surprised when Wilbur’s claims his new horse can speak.

    Episode 2 – “Ed, The Songwriter” (Air Date 3/29/1961)
    As part of a rather intricate scheme, Wilbur has a music publisher record a song written and performed by Mr. Ed, and he takes the credit for it.

    Episode 3 – “Psychoanalyst Show” (Air Date 5/10/1961)
    Mr. Ed develops a fear of heights, so Wilbur retains the services of a psychiatrist to help cure him. Unfortunately, the shrink thinks it Wilbur that has the problem.

    ** Episode 4 – “Wilbur Sells Ed” (Air Date 6/28/1961)
    Mr. Ed falls in love with a filly, and convinces Wilbur to sell him, but both soon regret the transaction.

    ** Episode 5 – “The Horsetronaut” (Air Date 10/8/1961)
    Wilbur takes an office downtown, away from Mr. Ed, who subsequently feels unwanted. To retaliate, Ed decides to join an equine astronaut program and become the first horse in space.

    Episode 6 – “Ed’s Ancestors” (Air Date 10/15/1961)
    Mr. Ed is to be the model for a statue that will celebrate the American Palomino, and becomes convinced he is descended from royalty. However, when research shows he is descended from criminal horses (is there such a thing?), Ed sentences himself to a life of hard labor to make up for his ancestors’ actions.

    ** Episode 7 – “Ed’s Blues” (Air Date 11/19/1961)
    Mr. Ed refuses to cooperate when everyone wants Wilbur to compose a hit song that will save a music company from having to file bankruptcy.

    Episode 8 – “Zsa Zsa” (Air Date 1/28/1962)
    When Wilbur discovers his new “nosy neighbor” is movie star Zsa Zsa Gabor, he allows her to buy Mr. Ed for her next film.

    Episode 9 – “Ed, The Beneficiary” (Air Date 1/21/1962)
    Mr. Ed reads of a cat that inherits a large sum of money, and persuades Wilbur to provide for him in the event of his death. When Carol discovers this, she fears Wilbur’s days are numbered.

    ** Episode 10 – “Ed’s Bed” (Air Date 1/14/1962)
    When Wilbur wait on Mr. Ed hand and foot in an effort to cure his cold, Carol threatens to leave her husband, and his hypochondriac horse, for good.

    ** Episode 11 – “Horse Wash” (Air Date 2/4/1962)
    When Wilbur’s father-in-law decides to visit, he tries everything to win his approval, with disastrous results. However, when a couple of crooks try to swindle his father-in-law, Wilbur and Mr. Ed seize their opportunity to save the day!

    Episode 12 – “Ed, The Beachcomber” (Air Date 4/1/1962)
    Addison’s (Larry Keating) beach property is jeopardized by a bunch of ruffians, but when Wilbur attempts to help, his plan backfires, as Mr. Ed ends up joining the squatters.

    Episode 13 – “George Burns Meets Mr. Ed” (Air Date 2/18/1962)
    Mr. George Burns himself offers $25,000 for a new act to appear at his Las Vegas show. As a result, Wilbur theorizes that Mr. Ed could become a virtual gold mine, and pleads with Ed to talk to the legendary entertainer.

    ** Episode 14 – “Clint Eastwood Meets Mr. Ed” (Air Date 4/22/1962)
    When a neighbor’s stallion steals Mr. Ed’s filly friends, Ed decides to get even, until he and Wilbur realize the neighbor is movie icon Clint Eastwood.

    Episode 15 – “Horse Sense” (Air Date 11/1/1962)
    When Mr. Ed learns of plans to remove his beloved bridle path to extend the golf course, he pens a letter of protest to the newspaper in Wilbur’s name. The editor is so moved by the letter that he commissions a book from “literary genius” Wilbur Post!

    ** Episode 16 – “Wilbur, The Masher” (Air Date 12/13/1962)
    Wilbur, while riding in the park, gets into hot water with a beautiful married woman, after Mr. Ed becomes smitten with the filly she is riding and makes a phone call to her home.

    Episode 17 – “Ed, The Emancipator” (Air Date 3/28/1963)
    Wilbur and Carol buy Kay Addison a cockatoo for her birthday, much to the disappointment of Addision. Mr. Ed, however, is absolutely delighted, and takes it upon himself to become the bird’s mentor.

    ** Episode 18 – “The Price of Apples” (Air Date 3/7/1963)
    Mr. Ed becomes obsessed with Addision’s apples, almost to the point of addiction. Addison, however, is quite unsympathetic, so Wilbur forces Ed to try and quit stealing the tasty treats cold turkey.

    Episode 19 – “Doctor Ed” (Air Date 3/31/1963)
    When Addison’s television goes on the fritz, he borrows the one in Wilbur’s office. Subsequently, Mr. Ed becomes upset when he can no longer watch his favorite program, and declares war on Addison.

    ** Episode 20 – “Ed The Zebra” (Air Date 3/21/1963)
    When Addison wants Mr. Ed to pose for an undignified contest photograph, he runs off to the zoo in hiding.

    Episode 21 – “Wilbur Post, Honorary Horse” (Air Date 10/6/1963)
    Addison has Wilbur working on the design of a new facility he is proposing to build, but Ed distracts him with ideas for a horse book.






    SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
    MGM presents Mr. Ed in black and white, full-frame (4:3) format, with rather impressive results. For being an “older” show, the images look remarkably clean, despite a fair amount of specks and spots. Further, whites are crisp, blacks are deep and true, and fine detail borders on wonderful. Shadow detail is also quite good, and the image is consistently clear and sharp, with only an occasional, and slight, amount of background noise to detract from the visual experience.

    All in all, the appearance of these episodes probably won’t blow anyone away, but Mr. Ed has no business looking this good, especially at his advanced age!




    WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
    Mr. Ed whinnies, neighs, and chatters his way into home theaters in monaural sound, and while the results do not impress the way the visuals do, there is not too much to complain about. I should begin by pointing out that episode number one “Ed, the First Meeting” did sound decidedly worse, to my ears, than any of the others I watched. Specifically, in this episode dialogue was distorted and “tin-canny”, especially when characters raised their voices or the laugh track kicked in.

    For the rest of the episodes, audio presentation was acceptable, although not outstanding, since the soundstage is somewhat narrow during sequences that are “busier”, in terms of audio information, and high frequencies sound a little rolled off. However, MGM did deliver in the dialogue department, which is tremendously important for this type of program. In Mr. Ed, dialogue drives almost all of the action, and this set renders characters’ speech in a warm, precise manner (for the most part). Music reproduction is not bad either, and the show’s opening theme sounds particularly good (though it did annoy me after a few listens), although the score does sound muddy on occasion.

    Micro-dynamic sounds, like the rustle of a newspaper or turns of a doorknob are also handled well, which helps make up a little for the lack of surround channel used and low frequency information. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about the lack of rear channel usage and LFE effect, because it is not in the source material. It is just very nice that minute audio details seem to jump out of these episodes. Overall, with the exception of the introductory episode, the encoded audio does a fair job of bringing the sounds of Wilbur and Ed’s misadventures to life!




    EXTRAS, EXTRAS!!!

    None




    SCORE CARD

    (on a five-point scale)
    Episodes: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Video: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Extras:
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]



    THE LAST WORD
    Mr. Ed is far from my favorite comedy series, but it has not held up too badly despite being four decades old. It is always a good thing when you laugh a little more than you expect to, and this was the case with my revisiting of Mr. Ed. In terms of presentation, anyone who enjoys the antics of Wilbur Post and his talking horse should appreciate the fact that the episodes on this 2-disc set look and sound better than they ever have!

    If you are a fan of the show, the decision to purchase this set is probably a no-brainer, although I really am not informed enough to determine whether the episodes included (from seasons 1-3) are among the best the show has to offer. Personally, I prefer season sets, but MGM’s offering is fairly substantial, with 21 episodes of Mr. Ed spread over two discs. The only drawback is the complete lack of any extras. Some biographical material, or at least some detail on the history and creation of the show, would have been nice. Still, this little slice of nostalgia is treated kindly enough overall to warrant a purchase! Recommended!!!


    Stay tuned…



    Release Date:
    January 13th, 2004
     
  2. Paul Drake

    Paul Drake Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for a well written review Jason.

    I am on the fence about this release. When I first heard that "Mr. Ed" was coming to DVD I was all over it, thinking that it was going to be a "first season". But my enthusiasm waned a bit when I found out it was a best of with the same MSRP as "Green Acres" even though a significantly fewer amount of episodes are included.

    At the same time, I know I shouldn't complain becase this is one series I never thought would make it to DVD, and I know full well that if other classic TV shows are ever to come to DVD then this one better have decent sales.

    I will give MGM credit for calling this "Volume 1". The lack of extras don't bother me, although it's a bit surprising considering that Alan Young is still somewhat active as an actor and makes appearances at nostalgia conventions. It's too bad the producers didn't include a brief interview with him.

    Connie Hines, who was one of the prettiest actresses to ever grace a TV screen, seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth. I believe the last surviving neighbor passed away earlier this year leaving Young and Hines as the only surviving regular actors from this show.
     
  3. Randy A Salas

    Randy A Salas Screenwriter

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    I talked to Alan last week and, at 84, he's as sharp and charming as ever. Although he agreed to do interviews to promote the upcoming release, he said he had no involvement at all in the set and was not asked to contribute to it. He not only didn't pick the episodes (that was done internally at MGM), but he wasn't even aware of which ones were on the set and had not seen the DVD.

    MGM said there are no extras, because it wanted to devote all the space to the episodes and keep the price down.

    I asked MGM why virtually every other TV show in its catalog, including the similar-era, similar-appeal Green Acres, has gotten a season set and why Mister Ed hasn't. The answer didn't satisfy me enough to repost here--non-sensical PR speak.

    Best-of sets are OK, I guess, if a studio wants to gauge interest in a series. But it would be ideal if the show was at least given a fighting chance, such as including what many feel is its best episode.
     
  4. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

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    Randy,

    Your comments are as insightful as ever. Thanks for taking the time to provide some additional details for people to consider. People like yourself, who have access to "inside" information, and are willing to share this information with the other members of the Forum, are one of the many things that makes this site such a great place!!! [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Happy Holidays!

    Jason
     
  5. Dane Marvin

    Dane Marvin Screenwriter

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    Great early review, Jason, and thank you, Randy, for a top-notch post. I had no idea that "Mr. Ed" even had such a highly-regarded episode in its series run (to be included in a list of the best ever by TV Guide). Also, I envy you for getting to speak with some of the TV greats. It's sad that Alan Young wasn't included in this, just one more reason to be angry with MGM's home entertainment division.

    This is an old favorite of mine from when I was growing up in the '80s (it aired on Nick at Nite at the time). I used to watch it with my grandfather, who had been a big fan of the show since it originally aired.

    I'm on the fence about it, but not because of the "Best of" status. Namely because there are so many DVDs I HAVE to buy in January and February that I guess I won't really know until I actually see it.

    Speaking of seeing it -- what's the packing like? Does it snap closed like The Outer Limits sets or is it a fold-out style set with a slip case?
     
  6. Randy A Salas

    Randy A Salas Screenwriter

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    I neglected to add that the review was excellent, Jason. I wasn't trying to usurp the thread, just adding additional info.
    [​IMG]

    For what it's worth, I watched Mr. Ed while growing up (reruns on a UHF station), but wouldn't call myself a big fan. While waiting to talk to Alan, I had the set on my desk. Three colleagues in their 40s and 50s stopped by my desk at different times and, without knowledge of the others' visits, said something to the effect of: "Oh, Mr. Ed. I loved this show growing up. There was this one episode with the Dodgers ..."

    When I saw that the episode wasn't on the set, I did some digging, which led to my previous post--and will guide my write-up when it's released.

    But the fact that the first thing bigger fans than I looked for was the Dodgers episode doesn't bode well for sales.
    [​IMG]
     

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