SUGARFOOT and other Warners TV Westerns

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Jeff Flugel, Jul 15, 2007.

  1. Jeff Flugel

    Jeff Flugel Stunt Coordinator

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    Just watched a Japanese dvd of SUGARFOOT, the classic Warners western that ran from 1957-1961 in rotation with CHEYENNE and BRONCO. The dvd only featured one episode, "The Return of the Canary Kid," with star Will Hutchins playing dual roles as Tom "Sugarfoot" Brewster and his roguish twin the Canary Kid. I had never seen this show before (never ran in syndication when I was growing up in the 70s) but was very impressed by the smart writing, engaging supporting cast, the overall tone of high good humor and Hutchins' boyish appeal.

    I know there's been a fair amount of comment as to why Warners' TV-on-dvd division is such a poor cousin to its classic film output. And I know guys in the know like Gord Lacey have stated time and again the reluctance of studios in general to relaease vintage b & w TV product (unless it's a TV Land staple like I LOVE LUCY). Doesn't mean it ain't a shame. I'm not convinced that there aren't a lot of boomers who remember shows like SUGARFOOT fondly and would be willing to part with some of their hard-earned cash to have them on disc. Hell, I'm not even a boomer and I'd buy a season set in a heartbeat (even in the dreaded split volumes per single season which have become increasingly common of late.)

    But, alas, the studios don't seem to care. I picked up the CHEYENNE season 1 set, and now it seems that further sets are not likely to be coming. The studio is making some vague noises about MAVERICK, which may very well not come to fruition. If Warner's is hemming and hawing over such a famous title as MAVERICK, then what chance do lesser known shows like SUGARFOOT, BRONCO, COLT .45, LAWMAN, etc. have? You'd think at least they could put out some compilation featuring 2nd season CHEYENNEs mixed in with some BRONCO and SUGARFOOT eps, much as they used to run back in the late 50s.
    Or at least license these shows out to smaller outfits like Critics Choice.

    Don't really know where I'm going with this. Sorry for the rant. Just chaps my hide, is all.

    What do you classic TV buffs think?
     
  2. Jeff#

    Jeff# Screenwriter

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    Of all the westerns (and other TV series) that Warner Bros. produced in the 1950s and early 1960s, the only one that I enjoyed was MAVERICK. The only problem I have with Maverick and the rest of them from that era, is that the music heard throughout the show is primitive even for its time. I've heard dramatic radio shows from the 1940s / 1950s with better music (SUSPENSE and ESCAPE are two noteable examples).

    Although the incidental music heard throughout every episode of Maverick is badly dated, the title theme itself is entertaining. The lyrics are far more memorable than the those used on Rawhide, however Rawhide was a CBS western and had the same enjoyable (albeit overused) incidentals heard on every CBS TV and radio series from that period of time.
     
  3. Jim Bur

    Jim Bur Stunt Coordinator

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    Jeff; I agree that Sugarfoot appears to have been an excellent series based on the several epsiodes I have seen. Your comments about smart writing, etc, are dead on.

    Warners has been a poor custodian of their treasure trove of great TV series from the 1950's. They kept most of them out of circulation for so long that they were forgotten by some older fans and not available for rediscovery by later generations. Due to Warner's neglect and lack of diligence in the past, perhaps they are right in now claiming there isn't currently a sufficient market for these shows. What needs to be done is to elevate the public's awareness of the high quality of some of these shows. A good start would be if Warners would make some arangements with a cable network like the western channel to run some of these vintage series. Among the current offerings on the Western channel are such lightweight TV show fare as Bat Masterson with Gene Barry. A series like Sugarfoot would be a head and shoulders improvement, and enough people would become aware of the high quality of the series to perhaps create a sufficient market for a later DVD release. Alias Smith and Jones and The Big Valley, took the same route with success. First, a cable run and then a DVD release.

    However, the problem could also be that the people in control of Warners just don't like westerns. Warners is excellent in releasing classic movies in every genre except the western genre. This year for instance Warners has promised the release of 200 classic films to DVD, and so far they have released or announced the release of well over 100 films. Of those films, just 1 is a new to DVD western, yet half of all the films in Warners library are westerns. In the same period Universal which has far fewer westerns in its library, has released 9 westerns, and Fox has released 8 westerns. Warners has scores of outstanding movie westerns from the 40's and 50's such as Blood On the Moon, Colorado Territory, Wagon Master, The Hanging Tree, The Lusty Men, Escape From Fort Bravo, The Law and Jake Wade, Panhandle, Station West, Fort Dobbs, Rancho Notorious, Rocky Mountain, Across the Wide Missouri, Yellowstone Kelly, etc which they have never bothered to release on DVD. So what chance does a TV series like Sugarfoot have?
     
  4. Bert Greene

    Bert Greene Second Unit

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    Last summer, when "Cheyenne" and the first-season of "F Troop" were released, I can't say I particularly expected the floodgates to open, but I certainly was expecting more from WB than what we've gotten. I especially thought "Maverick" would have been released by now, owing to its popularity, along with perhaps a little foray into their detective-show library. So, yep, I've been very, very disappointed with WB.

    Speaking of WB's tv westerns, I finally got to see a couple of episodes of "The Dakotas" (including the rather notorious "Sanctuary at Crystal Springs" episode), and wow, was that some rough, violent, grim fare. Great writing and cinematography, too. Shame it was so short-lived. If the two episodes I viewed are represenative of the series, it's certainly something that would merit dvd-release, unlikely though that may be.
     
  5. Corey3rd

    Corey3rd Screenwriter

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    I was surprised when Warners put out the second season of F Troop.
     
  6. changa

    changa Stunt Coordinator

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    At the end of the day,if WB doesn't want to release their classic tv shows from 55-63',then they should give it to somebody who will.
    As far as I am concerned,WB have shot themselves in the foot, for not releasing more CHEYENNE Season Sets,along with their other classic TV Westerns,from that era.
     
  7. Jeff#

    Jeff# Screenwriter

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    You mean they shot themselves in the Sugarfoot. [​IMG]
     
  8. Corey3rd

    Corey3rd Screenwriter

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    it's all about the costs. While a company like Shout! Factory could carry some of these titles, the big question is has Warner made HighDef transfers from the best film sources? Are you really going to pay for an old Beta tape master transfer?
     
  9. David Levine

    David Levine Supporting Actor

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    It would be nice if Warner would license out shows they have no intention of releasing.

    Although there is substantial risk involved for the licensing company. If Warner puts out a show and it tanks, they're pretty much just on the hook for excess inventory. If someone else puts it out and it tanks, they have the same liabilities, plus they probably won't make back anywhere near the advance they paid to acquire the show.
     
  10. Jeff#

    Jeff# Screenwriter

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    From TV reruns I've never seen high quality film prints of Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye, or any of the old Warner Bros. shows from that time period.
    What did they do with those few episodes of Maverick already sold on DVD -- were they remastered?
     
  11. silverking

    silverking Guest


    I think they were remastered for the Columbia House video releases some years back. I have all these and quality was excellent.
     
  12. Tom.W

    Tom.W Stunt Coordinator

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    I don't know if complete remastering was done to these shows, but some work was done on them when they aired on Goodlife and ALTV. HE, 77SS, Surfside 6, as well as Sugarfoot, Maverick, Cheyenne, and Bronco looked sharp and cleaned up. Unfortunately, few people can get this network, and now all but 77 Sunset Strip have been removed. The changes in management of ALTV (formerly Nostalgia) have coincided with shifts in commitment from programs of the 50's/60's to 70's/80's. Previous programmers at the network seemed interested in giving exposure to the classic westerns and detective shows. Whether Warner's cared about marketing these shows is doubtful.
     
  13. Jeff#

    Jeff# Screenwriter

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    I don't get American Life (never did) on my cable system, and not even when it was Nostalgia Network. But my only exposure to Hawaiian Eye was a few episodes that aired on TV Land's 50th anniversary tribute to Warner Bros. TV that aired two years ago. They also had one or two episodes apiece of shows I've seen elsewhere over the years: 77 Sunset Strip (got a few from VHS tape trading in the 1980s, and I didn't like that or Hawaiian Eye) and I show I would love to see more of that's rare in spite of always being in color and lasting 9 years: Quinn Martin's THE FBI.
     
  14. Hank Dearborn

    Hank Dearborn Supporting Actor

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    I believe they remastered all but The Alaskans, Roaring 20s and Colt 45 as those were the only vintage WB shows that didn't air on ALTV. So remastering costs are not the issue. The viability of the show's appeal in Warner's minds are the problem.
     
  15. Jeff Flugel

    Jeff Flugel Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the input, everyone!



    Points well taken, Jim. I had no idea just how poor Warner's filmic Western output has been on dvd. It's rather shocking, actually. So perhaps it's a corporate mindset at fault here, reflecting the (sadly true) diminishing of the western as a popular genre. This exponentially worsens when the programs in question are in b & w.

    All of which leads to a pretty bleak picture when it comes to fans of these old TV westerns. Still, there is some good news...WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE, season 2. RAWHIDE and THE BIG VALLEY continuing (for the moment). GUNSMOKE season sets. And that THE WILD WILD WEST (love that show!) is halfway complete and stands a good chance of making it to the 4th season on dvd. For these releases (plus other miscellaneous non-western vintage TV product), I'm most grateful.

    And Jeff#, THE F.B.I. shows here in Japan regularly on the Mystery Channel, in nice colorful prints. Maybe once the other more famous Q-M productions get released, we'll see that one as well.

    Jeff "trying to stay hopeful in the face of a dwindling classic TV-on-DVD market" Flugel (props to Gary O)
     
  16. changa

    changa Stunt Coordinator

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    Interesting to note,that another organisation has released:-
    Wanted Dead Or Alive (Season 2).
    Looking forward to my DVD Disc,when it arrives in Australia in early August,as I enjoyed the 1st Season very much.
    Let's hope they decide to make TV Westerns as their Number 1 Priority.
     
  17. Elena S

    Elena S Supporting Actor

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    Agree with those who want to see these shows on DVD.

    Question for Jim Bur: How did you learn of the upcoming Warner releases and how might I find out what they are?
     
  18. Jim Bur

    Jim Bur Stunt Coordinator

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    Elena: A member, named Corey, over on the Film and Documentary Section has been carefully keeping track of the WB DVD releases this year. He has a thread entitled "Warner's 200 Classic Films for 2007". I believe when I lasted checked he had about 110 titles listed so far representing films that had been either released or announced for release. Hope this helps.
     

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