DVD Review Peter Gunn: The Complete Series DVD Review

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Richard Gallagher, Oct 30, 2012.

  1. Richard Gallagher

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    Peter Gunn, one of the iconic detective television shows from the late fifties and early sixties, has finally come to DVD in this mostly excellent box set from Timeless Media. It is not perfect. Although the overwhelming majority of the 114 episodes presented here are in excellent shape, at least three of them are edited syndicated versions and several others were mastered from elements which are at least a generation away from the elements used for most of the series. Even so, fans of the series should be thrilled to see that the entire run of Peter Gunn is now available.




    Peter Gunn: The Complete Series

    Studio: Timeless Media Group
    Year: 1958-1961
    Rated: Not Rated
    Program Length: 2900 minutes (approximately)                  
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    Languages: English Mono Dolby Digital
    Subtitles: None

    The Program

    Peter Gunn, one of the iconic detective television shows from the late fifties and early sixties, has finally come to DVD in this mostly excellent box set from Timeless Media. It is not perfect. Although the overwhelming majority of the 114 episodes presented here are in excellent shape, at least three of them are edited syndicated versions and several others were mastered from elements which are at least a generation away from the elements used for most of the series. Even so, fans of the series should be thrilled to see that the entire run of Peter Gunn is now available.

    Peter Gunn was created by producer-director-writer Blake Edwards in 1958. Although television had already seen its share of private detectives, Peter Gunn (Craig Stevens) was unique - he is expensive (charging a standard fee of $1,000), suave, and hip. Instead of whiling his time away in a dingy office lit mostly by exterior neon lights, Gunn holds court at Mother's, a jazz club owned by - well, by Mother (Hope Emerson), an exceptionally tall woman who apparently spent her youth in speakeasies during Prohibition. Gunn's lady friend, Edie Hart (Lola Albright), is the sultry singer who headlines the marquee at Mother's. Gunn also has a mostly friendly relationship with a police detective, Lt. Jacoby (Herschel Bernardi). The action takes place primarily in an unnamed city (many fans of the show believe it is San Francisco, but that is far from clear). Blake Edwards wrote and directed most of the early episodes, and many others were based upon stories which he wrote.

    But what really sets Peter Gunn apart is its atmosphere, which goes beyond the jazz club. The series is very noir in appearance, with most of the activity taking place at night. In addition, the series is greatly enhanced by the original music composed by Henry Mancini. The theme music for Peter Gunn is one of the most recognizable of all television shows, and Mancini's original modern jazz scores were effective enough to spawn two soundtrack albums, the first of which won a Grammy Award. Mancini also received an Emmy nomination for the theme to Peter Gunn. Please see the audio section below for more information about the longevity and popularity of the Peter Gunn theme.

    Several changes take place over the course of the series' three seasons. Hope Emerson was nominated for an Emmy for her performance as Mother in Season One, but she left the show and Mother is portrayed by Minerva Urecal in Season Two (Emerson probably left the show because of health concerns; she passed away from a liver ailment in 1960). Mother's is phased out when Season Three begins and Edie opens her own place, called Edie's. In Season Three several episodes take place in a tropical setting.

    Peter Gunn was not quite a smash hit, but during its inaugural season on NBC it tied for 16th place in the Nielsen ratings. The show dropped out of the Top 30 during its second season but it then moved to ABC, where it ranked #29 during its third and final season. Guest appearances were made by such familiar faces as James Coburn, Jack Weston, Whit Bissell, Joan Taylor, Anna Lee, Frankie Darro, Ross Martin, Nita Talbot, Ruta Lee, Myron Healey, Jackie Coogan, William Schallert, Jeanette Nolan, Ted Knight, Shelley Berman, Frank Albertson, J. Pat O'Malley, Norma Crane, John McIntire, Harry Lauter, Sid Melton, Elisha Cook, Bruno VeSota, Sterling Holloway, Edward C. Platt, Billy Gray, George Kennedy, Gavin Macleod, Lawrence Tierney, Norman Fell, Harold J. Stone, Patrick Knowles, Milton Selzer, Joe Besser, and Virginia Grey. Notable musical guests include Pete Candoli, Shelly Manne, Jane Morgan, and Diahann Carroll. In one episode fitness guru Jack LaLanne appears as himself, and another episode features Ed Wood's favorite Swedish wrestler, Tor Johnson. Directors who worked on the series included Boris Sagal, Lamont Johnson, Jack Arnold, George Stevens Jr., and Robert Altman.

    The following is a list of the 114 episodes, along with their running times. One episode from Season One ("Keep Smiling") and two episodes from Season Three ("Short a Motive" and "Voodoo") have running times of less than 24 minutes and clearly are syndicated versions. Presumably those were the best prints that Timeless had to work with.

    Season One

    1.  The Kill 25:55
    2.  Streetcar Jones 25:49
    3.  The Vicious Dog 25:39
    4.  The Blind Pianist 25:53
    5.  The Frog 25:35
    6.  The Chinese Hangman 25:52
    7.  Lynn's Blues 25:45
    8.  Rough Buck 25:27
    9.  Image of Sally 25:42
    10. The Man With the Scar 25:09
    11. Death House Testament 25:44
    12. The Torch 25:28
    13. The Jockey 25:31
    14. Sisters of the Friendless 25:34
    15. The Leaper 25:29
    16. The Fuse 25:31
    17. Let's Kill Timothy 25:36
    18. The Missing Night Watchman 25:38
    19. Murder on the Midway 25:21
    20. Pecos Pete 25:25
    21. Scuba 25:32
    22. Edie Finds a Corpse 25:34  
    23. The Dirty Word 25:34
    24. The Ugly Frame 25:16
    25. The Lederer Story 25:32
    26. Keep Smiling 22:35
    27. Breakout 25:28
    28. Pay Now, Kill Later 25:18  
    29. Skin Deep 25:18
    30. February Girl 25:28
    31. Love Me to Death 25:25
    32. The Family Affair 25:38
    33. Lady Windbell's Fan 25:41
    34. Bullet For a Badge 25:18
    35. Kill From Nowhere 25:32
    36. Vendetta 25:20
    37. The Coffin 25:37
    38. The Portrait 25:24

    Season Two

    1.  Protection 25:15
    2.  Crisscross 25:13
    3.  Edge of the Knife 25:07
    4.  The Comic 25:06
    5.  Death is a Red Nose 25:23
    6.  The Young Assassins 25:19
    7.  The Feathered Doll 25:12
    8.  Kidnap 25:08
    9.  The Rifle 25:22
    10. The Game 25:10
    11. The Price is Murder 25:12
    12. The Briefcase 24:58
    13. Terror on the Campus 25:09
    14. The Wolfe Case 25:06  
    15. Hot Money 25:13
    16. Spell of Murder 25:14
    17. The Grudge 25:22
    18. Fill the Cup 25:03
    19. See No Evil 25:19
    20. Sentenced 25:08
    21. The Hunt 25:17
    22. Hollywood Calling 25:05
    23. Sing a Song of Murder 25:18
    24. The Long, Long Ride 25:12
    25. The Deadly Proposition 24:56
    26. The Murder Clause 25:04
    27. The Dummy 25:18
    28. Slight Touch of Homicide 25:15
    29. Wings of an Angel 25:11
    30. Death Watch 24:31
    31. Witness in the Window 25:26
    32. The Best Laid Plans 25:12
    33. Send a Thief 25:15
    34. The Semi-Private Eye 24:53  
    35. Letter of the Law 25:13
    36. The Crossbow 24:52
    37. The Heiress 25:19
    38. Baby Shoes 24:26

    Season Three

    1.  The Passenger 25:23
    2.  Mask of Murder 25:25
    3.  The MaĆ®tre D' 25:24
    4.  The Candidate 25:15
    5.  The Judgment 25:23
    6.  The Death Frame 25:29
    7.  Death Across the Board 25:20
    8.  Tramp Steamer 25:27
    9.  The Long Green Kill 25:13
    10. Take Five for Murder 25:28  
    11. Dream Big, Dream Deadly 25:15
    12. Sepi 25:13
    13. A Tender Touch 25:28
    14. The Royal Roust 25:17
    15. Bullet in Escrow 25:26
    16. Jacoby's Vacation 25:24
    17. Blind Item 25:30
    18. Death is a Sore Loser 25:18
    19. I Know it's Murder 25:01
    20. A Kill and a Half 25:28
    21. Than a Serpent's Tooth 25:27
    22. The Deep End 25:18
    23. Portrait in Leather 25:26
    24. Come Dance With Me and Die 25:28
    25. Cry Love, Cry Murder 25:27  
    26. A Penny Saved 25:15
    27. Short a Motive 22:35
    28. The Murder Bond 25:25
    29. The Most Deadly Angel 25:35
    30. 'Til Death Do Us Part 25:27
    31. Last Resort 25:10
    32. A Matter of Policy 25:21
    33. A Bullet for the Boy 25:34
    34. Death is a Four Letter Word 25:20
    35. Deadly Intrusion 25:24
    36. Voodoo 23:21
    37. Down the Drain 25:28
    38. Murder on the Line 25:28

    The Video

    As noted above, most of the 114 episodes in this set look very, very good. The images are reasonably crisp and sharp, contrasts are strong, black levels are good and shadow detail is acceptable. However, it is easy to distinguish to very good prints from those which are merely watchable. All three of the syndicated episodes are considerably softer than their counterparts. In addition, there are a number of complete episodes which appear to come from second or third generation elements and which lack the crispness seen in the overwhelming majority of episodes. Those somewhat problematic episodes are from Season Two:

    The Long, Long Ride
    Death Watch
    Send a Thief
    The Crossbow
    Baby Shoes

    In addition, there is a glitch in the closing credits of the Season Three episode, "The Last Report," wherein the last 13 seconds of the credits are repeated.

    Season One was shot on Universal's lot. Savvy viewers will notice that the opening scene in the episode "Kill From Nowhere" looks very much like Wisteria Lane in Desperate Housewives. Seasons Two and Three were shot at MGM. Much of the credit for the noir-ish look of Peter Gunn must go to cinematographer Philip Lathrop, who went on to have a very successful career in feature films.

    Overall, the video quality of this set is a notable improvement over the previous sets issued by A&E, which included only the first 32 episodes in the series. Those who own the A&E sets will be happy to observe that syndicated versions in those sets, such as "The Chinese Hangman," are now complete (with the exception of "Keep Smiling").

    The Audio

    The Dolby Digital mono audio is mostly satisfactory, although the volume tends to vary from episode to episode. Still, it is cleaner than it sounds on the A&E releases and is mostly free from noise and distortion. Played through a decent home theater audio system, Peter Gunn sounds head and shoulders above how it came across on a low-fidelity television set in 1958.

    As noted, the theme to Peter Gunn has been a huge hit and has been successfully recorded by a number of artists. Fans who would like to hear several of the more prominent versions may want to check out the following You Tube links:

    1. Henry Mancini's version, which appears on the soundtrack CD

    2. Bandleader Ray Anthony's version, which reached #8 on Billboard's Pop chart in 1958

    3. Guitarist Duane Eddy's 1959 rock 'n' roll version (featuring Steve Douglas on saxophone), which reached #27 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart in 1959

    4. In 1986 Eddy recorded a new version with the U.K. techno-pop avant-garde group Art of Noise. This rendition won the 1986 Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental

    The Supplements

    The only extra which comes with this set is a welcome one - a CD of Henry Mancini's hit soundtrack album. The CD comes in a paper envelope, so you will have to provide your own jewel box for it.

    The Packaging

    The 114 episodes are spread over 12 discs. Six of the discs contain 10 episodes and the other six contain 9 episodes. The discs are packaged three keep cases, four discs per keep case. The discs are overlapped, two per side, but they are held securely in place. One complaint that I have is that the individual discs list the episodes but they are not numbered. It is not that difficult to figure out in which order they should be played, but it would have been nice if Timeless had labeled them "Disc One," "Disc Two," etc. The three keep cases come in a rather flimsy cardboard slipcase.

    A couple of minor mistakes slipped through. The photo of Craig Stevens on the covers has been reversed and has the part in his hair on the right side, whereas it should be on the left. The word "vicious" is spelled correctly on the label of the first disc, but it is misspelled in the onscreen list of episodes.

    The Final Analysis

    As noted, this is not a flawless release, but it is eminently watchable and is undoubtedly the best collection of Peter Gunn which we are likely to see. Fans of Peter Gunn also will want to check out the Timeless release of the complete series of Mr. Lucky, which also was created by Blake Edwards and features memorable music by Henry Mancini.

    Equipment used for this review:

    Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
    Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specification by Gregg Loewen
    Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
    BIC Acoustech speakers
    Interconnects: Monster Cable

    Release Date: October 23, 2012

     
    Professor Echo likes this.
  2. davidHartzog

    davidHartzog Cinematographer
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    Good review. Bought it, love it.
     
  3. Charles Ellis

    Charles Ellis Screenwriter

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    Wow! I already have the A&E sets, and am a huge fan of Lola Albright- this is a must-buy!
     
  4. ChrisALM

    ChrisALM Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the excellent review, Richard. I look forward to getting this set. All in all, Timeless did a pretty good job, and I am happy to hear they included the soundtrack CD.
     
  5. willmo

    willmo Auditioning

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    Great program to watch.
     
  6. willmo

    willmo Auditioning

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    Great program to watch.
     
  7. willmo

    willmo Auditioning

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    Great program to watch.
     
  8. PatrickGoodluck

    PatrickGoodluck Stunt Coordinator

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    Thank you, Richard for that outstanding and comprehensive review.
    You answered all my questions and more. Especially good that you took the time to note the timings for each episode, that would have been my first question. :)
    I'm glad the audio cd was included in the package. I have the Henry Mancini, Duane Eddy and Ray Anthony themes all on 45's (I dig them all for different reasons) so it would be nice have clean versions of them all on disc.
    As you said, it's not a flawless release but it sure is an essential buy nevertheless. :)
     
  9. disctrip

    disctrip Stunt Coordinator

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    Great series. Glad to have it on dvd. Craig Stevens WAS Peter Gunn.
     
  10. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

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    You're welcome. I knew that there would be questions about syndication prints, so while spot-checking the quality of each episode I also checked the running time of each. I was happy to discover that so few of them are syndication prints.
     
  11. shoeshineboy

    shoeshineboy Second Unit

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    Darn -- already OOP and unavailable. That seems oddly quick, doncha think?
     
  12. Guy Foulard

    Guy Foulard Second Unit

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  13. shoeshineboy

    shoeshineboy Second Unit

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    As I noticed today -- ordered it from deep discount. But 5-6 days ago I was at their site, and amazon.ca, and neither of them had it, or listed as backordered. Just stated it was 'unavailable.'
    I didn't let the opportunity pass me by a second time.
     
  14. shoeshineboy

    shoeshineboy Second Unit

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    While I wait for Peter to arrive, I had a thought about another Craig Stevens show, Mr. Broadway, created by Garson Kanin. It only ran for 13 episodes apparently, but you can catch a glimpse on YouTube. It would be great to see that show on DVD - highly unlikely, but I can still hope!
     
  15. davidHartzog

    davidHartzog Cinematographer
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    Now, when do we get the 1967 movie on dvd?
     
  16. Peter M Fitzgerald

    Peter M Fitzgerald Screenwriter

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    At this point, I think that's only likely if Olive Films licenses it from Paramount, or if Shout somehow works out a deal for some further Paramount deep catalog stuff (apart from the WALKING TALL trilogy and THE DUELLISTS), as they've done with MGM and Universal. Call me crazy, but I can't picture a GUNN release coming from Criterion.
     
  17. davidHartzog

    davidHartzog Cinematographer
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    Criterion did that worthless michael bay movie and all those obscure yakuza movies, the least they could do is a little blake edwards. And it wouldnt kill them to do some alain tanner.
     
  18. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

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    A couple of HTF members suggested it to some Paramount people when we visited the studio in October, so at least they know that there is some interest.
     
  19. Charles H

    Charles H Screenwriter

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    GUNN is a terrific picture (although Lola Albright and Hope Emerson are sorely missed. Amazon's video-on-demand is showing it.
     
  20. Mike*HTF

    Mike*HTF Supporting Actor

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    I believe Gunn was/is streaming on Netflix at one time and apparently it looked fabulous.
     

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