The Best Of Mr. Ed: Volume Two
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 8 Hours 27 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Screen (1.33:1)
Audio: English – Monaural
March 8th, 2005
Mr. Ed, the show that featured television’s famous “talking horse”, started just as simply as other television programs do, with a pilot episode (unaired), entitled “The Wonderful World of Wilbur Pope”. In this pilot episode, the network brass saw some potential, and since legendary entertainer George Burns was already on board as producer, the project was green-lit (after some tweaks to the concept). Mr. Ed finally hit the small screen in the Fall of 1961, a point from which the show had a successful run of 5 years and 143 episodes!
Basically, the show chronicles the misadventures (some of them truly outrageous) of an architect named Wilbur Post and his talking horse Ed. As you might expect, many episodes involve Wilbur’s pal getting him into hot water, and the hilarity that ensues as he tries to get himself out. Surprisingly, even though some of the premises are absurd, Mr. Ed still manages to not only work, but generate plenty of laughs, thanks to solid direction from Arthur Lubin (Abbott and Costello, Frances the Talking Mule), and an excellent comedic performance by the talented Alan Young as Wilbur Post, unquestionably his most memorable role. The series also adopted the practice of featuring guest appearances by contemporary stars, like Zsa Zsa Gabor, Donna Douglas, Alan Hale Jr., and George Burns.
This second “best-of” set features 20 episodes specially selected from Mr. Ed’s five-year run. As I mentioned, and bear in mind that it is only my opinion, but most of the episodes are better than I would have expected them to be. That being said, I thought a couple installments were extremely unfunny, and that the selection of episodes included in Volume Two was slightly inferior to the initial “best-of” set. As I have often said, however, comedy is a subjective thing, so take my comments for what you will…
The following is a complete, but brief, rundown of all 20 episodes that comprise The Best of Mr. Ed: Volume Two:
--- “Ed Gets The Mumps” – Air Date 1/5/1964
Being the nice people that they are, Wilbur and his wife Carol agree to look after a neighbor’s infant for a few days. But when the cranky child gets more attention than Mr. Ed, the spoiled horse turns into an even bigger baby than the infant, and plays for attention by coming down with a case of the mumps!
--- “Ed Visits A Gypsy” – Air Date 3/1/1964
When Mister Ed falls in love with a magnificent mare named Princess, he becomes torn between the idea of settling down or continuing to play the field. In the meantime, a traveling gypsy arrives in town, and the superstitious Ed decides to have his hoof read to decide whether or not to get more serious with Princess.
--- “Ed, The Chauffer” – Air Date 4/12/1964
It is surprising that he never noticed it before, but Mr. Ed finally realized that horses sleep standing up, and he becomes worried about the damage it might do to his hooves. As luck would have it, the neighbors purchase a new automobile, and Ed theorizes that their new car might be just the thing to get him off his feet. Unfortunately, horses are not the best drivers, so when Mr. Ed gets behind the wheel, things are liable to go awry!
--- “Ed, The Donkey” – Air Date 2/23/1964
After Mister Ed and Wilbur become lost in the woods, Ed becomes convinced that his poor sense of direction means that he must be a donkey, and not a horse. To break him of his delusion, Wilbur takes Ed into the vet, who begins to think that Wilbur is really the one with the problem.
--- “Mae West Meets Mister Ed” – Air Date 3/22/1964
Superstar Mae West is in the process of building some luxurious new stables for her stallions, and hires Wilbur to help design them. Of course, Mister Ed learns of the posh lodging that Wilbur is designing, and decides to pay Mae West a visit himself, only to find that too much grooming is not a good thing.
--- “Mister Ed Writes Dear Abby” – Air Date 10/18/1964
Mister Ed is really living it up, staying out late and enjoying the company of mares, and decides that he really needs his own place. Of course, Wilbur becomes concerned and tries to curb his friend’s behavior, and Ed responds by writing a letter to Dear Abby, asking for advice on the situation.
--- “Like Father Like Horse” – Air Date 2/10/1965
When Colonel Kirkwood enters a jingle-writing contest, Mister Ed seizes his opportunity to play a prank by making everyone think that the Colonel has won the grand prize. His joke backfires though, when the Colonel’s jingle does win, which makes Ed look foolish.
--- “Ed The Race Horse” – Air Date 1/27/1965
When Colonel Kirkwood rents a horse and challenges Ed and Wilbur to a little race, they are ready and willing to answer the call. Unfortunately, Ed loses the race, and an incensed Mister Ed decides that he has to get a pair of running shoes, so he can avenge his defeat.
--- “Ed, The Pilot” –Air Date 1/6/1965
As anyone who has watched this show knows, Mister Ed can do it all, or at least he thinks he can. When Wilbur and Colonel Kirkwood decide to buy an airplane, Mister Ed thinks flying is no exception, and he decides to become a pilot! In fact, he gets so excited that he steals an aircraft and takes it up into the wild blue yonder by himself. The only question is, how will he get back down?
--- “Ed, The Stowaway” – Air Date 2/17/1965
The Posts and Kirkwoods are in dire need of some rest and relaxation, so they head for the beautiful islands of Hawaii. Little do they know, however, that Ed has stowed away on their cruise ship, and is ready for a little vacation of his own!
--- “Animal Jury” – Air Date 1/13/1965
In this episode, Wilbur’s aunt comes to town with her pet parrot for a visit, and Ed decides that his barn is not big enough to share with another talking animal. Taking action into his own hands, Ed kidnaps the bird, but Wilbur becomes suspicious of his four legged friend, and conducts a strange inquiry into the matter.
--- “Ed’s Juice Stand” – Air Date 2/3/1965
Concerned about his financial situation (what horse isn’t?), Mister Ed decides to open up a juice stand to earn some money to fund his retirement. What he could not have known, however, is that his drink recipe is a hit, and everyone wants to find our what his secret ingredient. Some secrets, as it turns out, are better left untold!
--- “Ed’s Contact Lenses” – Air Date 3/24/1965
In this installment, Ed wonders whether fillies find horses that wear glasses attractive. Indeed, he is so concerned over the matter that he elects to swap his spectacles for contact lenses. Of course, when Wilbur finally agrees to take his friend to the optometrist, he finds that the doctor is not quite ready to give contact lenses to a horse!
--- “The Bank Robbery” – Air Date 4/14/1965
It is not Wilbur’s lucky day, and he finds himself in the middle of a bank robbery. Fortunately, Mister Ed foils the robbery attempt, but the crooks hide their booty in Ed’s saddle as they flee, and later come looking for it!
--- “My Horse, The Mailman” – Air Date 4/28/1965
When Wilbur tells Ed the story of the famous Pony Express, Mister Ed becomes bound and determined to carry on the special tradition. Unfortunately, the way he does this is to break into the local mailbox and pilfer the mail to make his deliveries, which puts him at odds with Wilbur.
--- “Robin Hood Ed” – Air Date 5/12/1965
After Mister Ed reads the story of Robin Hood, he becomes inspired, and wants to follow in the footsteps of the man who stole from the rich to give to the poor. Unfortunately, he decides the best way to go about this is to take from the Kirkwoods and give to the Posts!
--- “Ed, The Artist” – Air Date 5/19/1965
When Mister Ed decides to make a contribution to mankind, he tries his hand at painting. But when the abstract he paints of Carol attracts the attention of a renowned art professor, will he become the first pony Picasso, or just a four-legged hack?
--- “Ed A Go-Go” – Air Date 9/19/1965
In this episode, Ed the stubborn horse matches wills Wilbur, who is not at all happy with the fact that his neighbors are partying into the wee hours of the morning. As you might expect, Ed is just fine with this, and equally annoyed at Wilbur for trying to put a stop to his fun!
--- “Coldfinger (aka Ed Sniffs Out A Cold Clue)” – Air Date 9/26/1965
The Secret Intelligence Agency has called upon Wilbur to recover a top-secret shortwave radio! But while Wilbur uses his head, Mister Ed uses his nose to sniff out the crooks, proving that he is no mere animal.
--- “Ed Breaks The Hip Code (aka Spies Strike Back)” – Air Date 10/3/1965
When the Secret Intelligence Agency needs to crack a top-secret enemy code, Wilbur and Mister Ed are recalled to spying duty. They soon learn that the code is being transmitted by the seductive dance of a beautiful girl, turning this into a mission they can really enjoy!
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
As was the case with the previous “best of” compilation, MGM presents Mr. Ed in its original black and white, full-frame (4:3) format, and the results are once again impressive. For an “old” show, the images look remarkably clean, despite the presence of a fair amount of dirt, grain, and minor imperfections in the prints. The image also boasts crisp whites, deep and consistent blacks, good contrast, and plenty of detail.
The deep blacks also lead to a pleasing sense of shadow delineation, and the episodes are free from any major distractions or imperfections. Indeed, a small amount of background noise and debris are about the only things that detract from the visual experience, although they never prove to be serious distractions.
On the whole, the appearance of these episodes probably won’t cause anyone’s eyes to pop out of their sockets in disbelief, but this compilation of Mr. Ed episodes really does look good, especially considering the show’s age! At the very least, they are much easier on the eyes than the reruns that you can catch on TV Land!
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
The sounds of Mr. Ed are offered in a very basic monaural, and while the results do not impress the way the visuals do, there is not too much to complain about. To be sure, in a handful of episodes dialogue became slightly distorted when characters spoke loudly or the laugh track kicked in, but such instances were relatively rare.
Indeed, the overall audio presentation was acceptable for the most part, especially by TV product standards, despite the narrow soundstage being incapable of reproducing sequences with a lot of audio information as cleanly as I would have liked, and high frequencies sounding as though they were rolled off a bit. That being said, these issues were not a persistent problem, and MGM did a very good job with overall dialogue reproduction, which is tremendously important since speech drives almost all of the action in Mr. Ed. More specifically, this set renders characters’ speech (even the peanut-butter induced kind) in a warm, precise manner, with only a minimal amount of hissing or sibilance.
Music reproduction is not bad either, as the show’s annoying opening theme sounds particularly good! On another note, there is no surround channel usage, or low bass, but it is not in the source material either, so forgive me for stating the obvious. Overall, the encoded audio does a fair job of bringing the sounds of Mr. Ed’s crazy exploits to life!
Aside from a color booklet that briefly describes each episode, there are no extras included!
(on a five-point scale)
THE LAST WORD
Mr. Ed is far from my favorite comedy series, but it really has not held up too badly over the past four decades. I suppose it is always a nice surprise when you laugh a little more than you expect to, and this was the case with my revisiting of Mr. Ed, as the selection of episodes in this volume are quite funny. In terms of presentation, anyone who enjoys the antics of Wilbur Post’ talking horse should appreciate 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 are truly among the very best the show has to offer (personally I liked the episodes on Volume One better). Personally, I prefer season sets, but MGM’s offering is fairly substantial, with 20 episodes of Mr. Ed spread over two discs. The only drawback is the complete lack of any extras. Anything, like some detail on the history and creation of the show, would have been nice for more casual fans of the show, like myself. Still, it is the episodes that matter most, and one of television fans’ favorite animals has been treated kindly enough overall to warrant a purchase! Recommended!!!