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Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by DeWilson, Feb 1, 2013.
Yes, must have been. Playing fine now.
How does JERICHO hold up? I have very little memory of it. Is it all backlot or was there any European location shooting?
Typical cheapo MGM cheesy backlot shooting. I was actually thinking about this the other day. Did either Warner or MGM ever do a show on location in the 50s, 60s or 70s? I guess Harry O wasn't completely shot on a set. Were there any before that?
Daktari must have done some location work, at least in parts of California outside the studio.
That's too bad, but is expected, even though I always hope some of these vintage shows may have at least have had some second unit work done on location. You pose a great question. Offhand I can't think of a show either of those studios handled that wasn't backlot centric. I mean besides going to Griffith Park and the observatory, which was always popping up.
And that's why I'm not as big a fan, generally speaking, of the WB or MGM series. It's hard for me to watch something like HGWT or Rawhide and then plug in a WB western. They're just so darned claustrophobic. The actors are solid. And the plots, while sometimes cookie-cutter, are fairly solid. But I just have such a hard time viewing everything on a sound stage or seeing the same couple of backlot locations over and over and over again. It's just very tough for me personally.
Gary "watching some of the Hawaiian Eye episodes were incredibly difficult for this very reason" O.
I'm always puzzled by this as all the TV westerns I've seen always use a combination of Outdoor and Studio work, some more than others of course but since they all do it I just accept it accross the board and can't seeing singling out a single show or studio. I have more of a problem with western TVshows using outdoor footage and seeing the same local hills and woods around hollywood or LA, Griffith Park or the Universal open Land used over and over and substituting it for the real west. In many ways I find this cheaper and more cookie cutter than studio sets. Its definately cheaper to take a short drive to some local location and film than it is to build expenseive sets from scratch. Maybe its from living all my life in Southern Cal and being familiar with alot of the locations that I just can't buy most of the outdoor footage as "The Real West". Also since I love and mostly watch films of the 30's to 60's studio sets are so common and I enjoy the work put into them more than finding them a distraction.
I would think that Studio Set shots are much more convenient for the studios and actors. TV shows (at least in the days of b&w TV) had much smaller budgets and couldn't go on location very much. The only show from that era that used a significant amt of on location shooting is "Have Gun, Will Travel", and that was probably due to the insistance of Richard Boone. Anyways, the only show that bugged me with their sets was Bonanza, and that is probably because it was shot in color, and much easier to forgive the look of Studio sets when it is in B&W, at least for me.
We'll have to agree to disagree on this one, Randy. Going all the way back to the early days of MGM and Universal, I always preferred the less expensive Universal Abbott & Costello pictures to the higher budgeted MGM pictures for the very reason you mentioned - just in reverse. Studio sets can be very exotic and expensive, but at the end of the day they are still sets and they always come across that way to me. It creates a claustrophobic feel, imho, that just isn't something I find appealing. Sure, I'd rather not see the exact same location shots in LA, and the surrounding areas in California that do show up a lot in TV westerns, but I'll take them to a sound stage where I can clearly tell the road leading out of town is actually a big painted backdrop any day of the week. I just don't care for that type of setup. And for the record, I specifically mentioned Rawhide and HGWT because they didn't just stay camped out in LA, but actually moved around some and utilized some beautiful locations in other parts of California, as well as going out of state to places like Oregon, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.
Gary "this is apparently a case of different strokes for different folks" O.
Richard, I agree that it gets worse when color comes into the equation. At least with b/w it's not so obvious.
Gary "all I ask for is a little bit of actual real life scenery in my westerns - not just a sound stage or a small, hemmed in back lot shot" O.
One of the worst offenders for me personally are the color episodes of DANIEL BOONE where the switch from location to stage can happen repeatedly in the same scene, from shot to shot! It's so blatant and obvious and completely distracts one from the specific scene and story in general. The first season, which is black and white, uses some of the same locations far too frequently, but it's much more consistent with being outdoors. I'm all for the often beautifully conceived and designed sets of American films of the 20's through the 40's, but there are certain genres where even the best of art direction will not work and westerns is one of them. Whenever I see a studio bound western street all I can think of is how bad it must have smelled in there with all that horse crap.
I watched an episode of the Big Valley the other day, and one of the extras ran past the painted backdrop, causing it to wave by the breeze. Talk about spoiling the illusion!
I don't remember Jericho at all, but it sounds interesting, as it was obviously based on the real life Jedburgh sabotage trios of WW2...I wish I could view the offerings on WB's new streaming service, but I'm in Canada and our broadcast regulator (federal gov't) "protects" me from being able to ever see it, at least for the time being... A few more thoughts on tv westerns and the value of location shooting...with Rawhide it would give the show feature film production values apparent in the show's look...I couldn't care less if the Arizona locations were not on the mythic Sedalia trail...seeing Mission San Xavier del Bac, the Casa Grande ruins and Cochise Stronghold Canyon gave the show a unique look...the beautiful Oro valley and Santa Rita mountains, Coronado National Forest, Old Tucson...the show also shot in New Mexico...in August 1959 the production company arrived in Tucumcari, N.M. to film 5 episodes for season two...the production company numbered some 65 people..a six week shooting schedule being.an expensive undertaking, for sure, but the film footage taken there would turn up repeatedly for the seasons to come...to edit into the outdoor footage shot on the day commutes to Bell family ranch, Iverson, Griffith Park etc...I wonder if the U.S. park service would allow a film company to rig pyrotechnic bullet ricochest effects for a shoot out sequence at a National Monument like Casa Grande today? ha, ha... I know that Bonanza too often remained stuck on their soundstage Ponderosa set, but when they ventured further afield to places like the Antelope valley and Lake Los Angeles the results were stunning...take a look at the episode "Twilight Town" on the recently released season five...wow...
Good info, Randall. Thanks for sharing that with us. You summed up my feelings well with your comments.
The point for me isn't whether a filming location is the actual location, but whether or not it feels real to me. When a western films outdoors (not even a small back lot, an actual outdoorsy location) I can get into the moment onscreen. But when I can clearly see the backdrop is nothing more than just that - a painted backdrop or projected backdrop - I'm generally taken out of the moment in a hurry. Those that aren't affected by this phenomenon should count themselves blessed. I wish it didn't stick out to me like a sore thumb. But it does and there's really nothing I can do about it. So I'm going to prefer the location shooting westerns to sound stage westerns every single time. It just is what it is.
Gary "no disrespect to WB classic TV fans intended - just sharing my view on their westerns (and to a lesser extent their detective series)" O.
Thanks, Gary! I'm thrilled that we're getting season 6 of Rawhide soon...season 5 had quite a few great episodes, and we know that season 6 is likewise...I'm glad that WB has launched the new streaming service, but hope that doesn't preclude dvd releases of the corresponding shows, I don't think it will, considering the sucessful model developed by the Warner Archive...I'm looking forward to buying Dr. Kildare, and quite a few more of their coming releases...
I've been going thru Hawaiian Eye and am pleased with the quality of the transfers, video and audio. The last episode I saw guest starred a young George Takei. At first I didn't think it could be him--he looked so young--but the voice is too distinctive to mistake. Several episodes were better than I expected, a little more creative than the typical Kookie-cutter WB detective plots. In season three the Shell Bar where Connie Stevens sings is identified as being in a Hilton hotel; if that branding was present in the first two seasons I missed it. BTW I've gotten to where I look forward to her musical numbers. Great old standards from the Warner song library, and she's a pretty good singer. They also do some nice, stagey stuff with the lighting. It's obviously a backlot show, but in one or two episodes I did see some external shots where it looked like Anthony Eisley might have actually been in Hawaii. Maybe they did a few location sequences or maybe they just found some good locations in CA. I found the opening titles starting with season two kind of impressive--those shots of the three stars riding on surfboards do not look phony to me, and I look for signs of trickery every time I see them. EtA: This article answers some of the things I mention above.
Since you keep singling out WB westerns I'm curious which ones you are referring to that are all or mostly filmed on stages. I'm assuming it must be Sugarfoot, Bronco, Colt .45 and The Dakotas as I have not seen those but I thought they would have been the same as the ones I've seen. I have seen most of Maverick, Cheyenne and about a season of Lawman and those are definately no different than the average TV western like Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Rifleman, Big Valley, Wagon Train, Wanted Dead or Alive The Virginian and most of the Westerns Timeless has released. Meaning they are 50% soundstage, 50% outdoors. So I don't see the reason for singling out WB when their western TV shows were par for the course on outdoor photography vs. stages. What makes Maverick and Cheyenne standout though is the production values and great scripts they were given make them feel more like a movie. Gunsmoke is another that has this quality. Back to the indoor sets I don't think it bothered the genaral public much since the two longest running westerns and tv shows in general Gunsmoke and Bonanza were full of indoor sets. To be honest if you didn't point this out I would have never given it a thought as soundstages are so common with TV of the 50's and 60's and all movies from the 30's - 60's that I never pay attention to it. I'm used to it I guess since thats what I mainly watched. It sounds more like a complaint from someone younger when they complain about b & w vs. color or model work vs. CGI.
Randy, I think you are taking my comments way too personally. We all know you have a fondness for WB shows. And that's wonderful. More power to you, my friend. I can assure you I have no agenda. I'm simply sharing my thoughts on the b/w westerns. And for me, the WB westerns had a more claustrophobic feel to them than other westerns from different studios. One need only go to IMDB and look up any WB b/w western and check out the filming location details and they'll clearly see that a vast majority of those series shot on the WB sound stages. Many almost exclusively so. There's simply no denying that. Just as you yourself pointed out, WB (and MGM) seemed to prefer elaborate studio staging to shooting outdoors, especially if it meant moving around and doing on location shooting. And that's fine. I just simply don't care to see that as much as I do with their westerns. And all things are NOT even in this regard if you are trying to tell me all b/w westerns, from all the different studios/companies, were shooting at the same sound stage ratio as Warners. They were not all doing that at the same clip. I wouldn't put Gunsmoke on the same level as most of the WB westerns in that regard. I will say that Lawman was better at being shot a tad more outdoors.
It's not a big deal, all these preferences are just my opinion. Well, to be honest it's not just my opinion. I have several friends from this board who I've talked to by phone that feel exactly the same way, so I know I'm not "on the moon" by myself in feeling this way. But it's still nothing more than my opinion. You are more than free to disagree with me all you want.
Gary "didn't think what I was saying was all that controversial..." O.
P.S. The Dakotas, from the eps I've seen, is actually much better about not being on a sound stage all the time.
Just a little more clarification on this discussion between Randy and I, then I'll let him respond if he wants. I think there's a distinction to be made on a couple of levels when it comes to location shooting and sound stage shooting, especially as it pertains to the western genre. Firstly, I have no problem with sets when it comes to indoor shooting. Something like the indoor scenes of the Barkley home in Big Valley is perfectly acceptable as a set. When an outlaw is put into a jail, or when you have the saloon scenes, it's understood that most all of these will be sets and not actual indoor on location spots. No problems there from me at all. Heck, I'm looking forward to Dr Kildare and it's almost a completely studio bound show. But it's a medical drama taking place inside a hospital. Not a western or detective show where many scenes are supposedly taking place outdoors in wide open space. That's the difference.
The second level, if you will, is when a town is involved. Here you might have a North Fork in The Rifleman where the entire town is a set. That's where it gets a tad claustrophobic for me. I'm not real keen on seeing the painted backdrop at the end of town when it's obviously just that, a backdrop. But even there I can live with some outdoor in-town scenes that are just sets. The biggest issue I have, with the WB westerns in particular, were when they'd supposedly be outdoors and out of town. Deserts and grand vistas were particularly bad when they were clearly filmed on sound stages. And I'm sorry, but there's no way Universal/Revue, CBS/Paramount, or the ZIV shows, were as bad as WB was about filming on the sound stages. It's not even a close call, imho. This is where they'd often lose me. It's understandable that night (or at times even day) scenes, which called for a lot of dialog, would require some set shots. But to use the sound stages as much as WB did in almost all their westerns and detective shows took me out of the moment. It's just a personal preference, to be sure. I'm emphasizing that to all the fans of the b/w WB shows, some of which I'd like to see. What I have seen of The Dakotas is that they at least got out of the sound stage mentality more than most of the other earlier WB westerns. And I like that and would enjoy seeing that one get released. I will also agree with you that some of them were very well written and didn't go with the same cookie-cutter plots. No doubt about it. But to say Warners typically used the same ratio of sound stage shooting vs outdoor shooting as the standard Uni, CBS, or ZIV western or detective show? No way.
Gary "hope this clarifies my personal preferences and why I generally prefer some studio westerns over others - keeping in mind that there are always exceptions to the rule" O.
In some cases, the artificial lighting can also spoil the illusion--especially when you see a character's shadow(s) on the ground. One shadow on the left and another shadow on the right can also take you about of the moment. Maybe they live in some alternate world with two suns!