[img]http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htf/imgcache/11996.imgcache"> QUICK DVD STATS:
- Number of DVDs -- 4 (Single-Sided; Dual-Layered).
- Total Episodes -- 15 (Approx. 51 minutes each).
- Video -- Full Frame OAR (1.33:1).
- Audio -- English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono.
- Color/B&W -- B&W.
- Bonus Materials? -- No.
- Subtitles -- None.
- "Play All" Included? -- Yes.
- Chapter Stops? -- Yes.
- DVD Distributor -- CBS Paramount Television / Paramount Home Entertainment.
- DVD Release Date -- August 14, 2007.
- DVD Cover (Back Side).
What is it that makes a television show a particularly great one, or that makes it highly memorable, or that makes it eminently rewatchable time after time?
Is it the actors? The characters and the interaction between them? The surroundings? The writing? The direction? The photography? The atmosphere? The music? Or the believability of the stories being told on the screen?
The answer, of course, is "All of the above". And when a TV series comes along that earns very high marks in every single one of the above-mentioned categories, as I believe "The Fugitive" (the original 1960s version) easily accomplishes, then I think it's safe to say that such a television program is deserving of an ample amount of attention (and praise).
And it's for those reasons I am proud to call Quinn Martin's "The Fugitive" one of my favorite TV series of all-time....and certainly my very favorite drama series ever shown on television.
For four seasons, David Janssen starred as Richard Kimble, a soft-spoken doctor who was falsely convicted for the murder of his wife.* Dr. Kimble was kept running for 120 TV episodes from 1963 to 1967.
The first 15 of those shows are presented in this nicely-done, 4-Disc DVD boxed set from CBS/Paramount Television.
* = For those people who are totally unfamiliar with this TV series, the above declaration of Kimble's innocence is not a "spoiler" of any kind. And that's because the viewing audience is told, point-blank, within the first few seconds of the opening credits of the very first episode that Dr. Richard Kimble is "innocent" of the murder charge for which he was convicted.
"The Fugitive" made its debut at 10:00 PM (east-coast time) on Tuesday, September 17, 1963, when ABC-TV aired the pilot episode, "Fear In A Desert City".
The final show of the series ("The Judgment"), which was first broadcast in the United States in August of 1967, is one of the highest-rated television programs ever. At the time of its initial airing, in fact, "The Judgment Part 2" surpassed all records and became the single most-watched program ever aired in the USA. It was eclipsed 13 years later by an episode of "Dallas" (and then by the final episode of "M*A*S*H" in 1983).
David Janssen was interviewed by Joey Bishop just hours before the final episode of "The Fugitive" aired on August 29, 1967. Jokingly, Janssen said to Bishop: "I killed her, Joey. She talked too much." [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/8/8d/htf_images_smilies_smile.gif[/img]
You can hear that fascinating 9-minute interview by clicking the "Play" button below:
In addition to its always well-written scripts, much of the enjoyment of "The Fugitive" (for me) lies in its instantly-recognizable music, composed by Pete Rugolo. The main title theme plus the wide variety of mood-enhancing musical cues and "bridges" used in each episode evoke singular thoughts and memories of this 1960s TV series. It's impossible to imagine any other music being used for this show. It's utterly perfect for this program.
Not all of the music we hear in "The Fugitive" was written by Rugolo, however. Some of the background musical arrangements for parts of the episodes were taken from Hollywood's vast library of "stock" music. But this music blends in nicely with Rugolo's classic compositions. Some of the "Fugitive" music can also be found in other popular TV shows of that era, like "The Twilight Zone" and "The Outer Limits".
Interestingly enough (at least it's interesting to me, as a fan of both shows), I have learned from this list of music credits that Pete Rugolo also contributed some of the music that can be heard in the 1957-1963 TV comedy series "Leave It To Beaver". I hadn't realized that fact previously.
"The Fugitive" also benefited greatly from a very talented cast....beginning, of course, with David Janssen as the title character. Sadly, Janssen (born David Harold Meyer) died way too soon, passing away of a heart attack in February 1980. He hadn't even turned 50. David was nominated for an Emmy Award three times during his 4-year stint as the perpetually running physician on "The Fugitive".
Janssen's performance as Richard Kimble, right from the get-go in "Fear In A Desert City", somehow already seemed refined and tuned to just the right pitch. It's really quite remarkable that Janssen was able to accomplish such a "veteran" feel to his character after just a single episode.
The series, in my opinion, also possessed just the right "feel" to it starting with the very first show. Many TV series fail to reach full stride or their full potential in their rookie season. I'd say that "The Fugitive", thanks to a great cast and the top-notch writing and directing, was a series that didn't suffer from this common problem.
Dr. Kimble's chief nemesis throughout the four-year run of the series was Indiana Police Lieutenant Philip Gerard, played to absolute perfection by London-born actor Barry Morse.
Morse's portrayal of Gerard counters Janssen's Kimble to a tee. Invariably, the very best "Fugitive" episodes were the ones in which Gerard was on screen, physically pursuing his elusive prey.
Morse/Gerard is relentless in his pursuit of the prisoner who slipped through his grasp when fate intervened. But, then too, Gerard isn't overly ruthless or blood-thirsty. He still maintains some level of compassion and kindness, even though his #1 priority in every episode in which he appears is to do his duty as "an instrument of the law" and re-capture Dr. Kimble.
The character of Philip Gerard actually appeared in less than 40 of the 120 episodes during the series (not counting the opening credits, where he is always shown). It truly seemed, though, as if Morse had actually appeared in many additional episodes. Gerard's "presence" is felt in nearly every show. But in most of them he's not physically shown on camera.
Other semi-regular "Fugitive" cast members include Bill Raisch (as the "one-armed man", Fred Johnson), (who portrays Richard Kimble's sister, Donna), and Paul Birch (as Captain Carpenter).
Raisch, by the way, really did have an arm missing. He lost part of his right arm during World War 2, after being badly burned while fighting a fire.
Also worthy of an endorsement is William Conrad, who is never seen on the screen, but who has a strong presence in every episode as the very capable narrator. Conrad's booming voice is heard at the start of each show throughout the series (except one, "The Girl From Little Egypt"), as he smoothly ushers the audience into Richard Kimble's world.
We also hear Conrad again at the end of every episode, at the conclusion of the "Epilog" scene, when he often reminds us of Dr. Kimble's ongoing predicament -- "This is the way it is with him....because Richard Kimble is....a fugitive."
In addition to its stellar main cast and narrator, "The Fugitive" offered up plenty of opportunities to feature a large selection of Hollywood talent in supporting roles. Many top-name actors appeared in the series.
In the first season alone (covering 30 total episodes), the roster of guest stars included: Robert Duvall, Jack Klugman, Leslie Nielsen, Bruce Dern, Brenda Vaccaro, Susan Oliver, Jack Weston, Sandy Dennis, Eileen Heckart, Vera Miles, Carroll O'Connor, Joanna Moore, Beverly Garland, Telly Savalas, Tim O'Connor, Jerry Paris, George Voskovec, Geraldine Brooks, Frank Sutton, Warren Oates, Brian Keith, Gilbert Roland, Pat Crowley, Ruby Dee, Ruta Lee, James Best, Edward Binns, John Fiedler, Alejandro Rey, Claude Akins, and Lee Grant.
Some of my all-time favorite "Fuge" episodes are located within the very first season of the series, including a few of the 15 shows we find in this DVD set -- such as: "Fear In A Desert City", "The Girl From Little Egypt", "Nightmare At Northoak", and the two-parter "Never Wave Goodbye".
Actually, in my opinion, "Volume 2" of the first season of "The Fugitive" (which is bound to follow this first volume in relatively short order; knock wood) will contain even a better batch of overall episodes than Volume 1.
When the second half of Season 1 emerges on DVD, some of the top-flight Fugitive offerings that we'll be in store for include: "Search In A Windy City", "Somebody To Remember", "The End Game", "Rat In A Corner", and the superb two-part episode "Angels Travel On Lonely Roads" (with Eileen Heckart giving a "heavenly" performance [pun, pun [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/8/8d/htf_images_smilies_smile.gif[/img]] as Kimble's travelling companion).
"PQ" TALK (AND OTHER STUFF):
The DVD video quality for these fifteen "Volume 1" programs is stunning ... glorious ... fabulous ... picture-perfect (take your pick from any of these descriptive terms, because I think they all apply).
I was immediately struck by the superior image clarity right from the very first moments of the premiere episode ("Fear In A Desert City"), as Richard Kimble's bus pulls into the Tucson terminal. Just fantastic. (Some sample images from the DVDs are shown below, courtesy DVDBeaver.com.)
Each of these episodes has been "transferred from the original negative with restored audio" (per a notation on the back of the DVD box). And you can hardly ask for more than that.
The superb black-and-white photography that helps propel each of these episodes looks incredibly clean and crisp and almost blemish-free on these DVDs. A little bit of grain and/or a few dirt specks pop up here and there....but the overall grade for the "PQ" on this DVD set can't be anything less than an "A", in my opinion.
The deep blacks that make up the many night shots and shadowy scenes contained within many of these episodes are simply beautiful, even when viewed on a large-screen TV.
The mono audio sounds quite good too, with Pete Rugolo's incomparable music coming through in fine style here.
The DVD packaging claims that some music "has been changed" for this Paramount DVD release, and that "some episodes may be edited from their original network versions".
I, however, haven't been able to detect any major changes or edits of any kind. Perhaps there are a few and I haven't noticed them; I'm not sure. But the average episode running time on these four discs is more than 51 minutes per show....so if anything has been cut out, it sure can't amount to very much.
About the only "change" that I can see pertains to the opening credits for the first episode. That show's opening on the DVD could possibly be a slightly different version of the title sequence from what originally aired on TV in 1963.
And there's also a different piece of music utilized during the "Desert City" opening when compared with a VHS tape I have for that episode, which could conceivably account for each of the package disclaimers for this DVD release (the parts about both "music" and "edits").
Note: When originally aired, the first season of the series did not include any "previews" at the start of each episode. Those "coming up next" type of preview scenes weren't included until Season #2.
MORE DVD SPECS:
DVD Packaging: A standard style plastic "Keepcase" has been used for this 4-Disc set (very similar to the type of case shown here), which nicely holds the four discs in a compact manner via an extra "page" that has been inserted inside the case which holds Discs 2 and 3.
The case is clear, with episode information visible on the inner panels of the case (when Discs 1 and 4 are removed, that is). I would have liked it if a quick-reference episode list had also been printed on the back cover of the DVD case. That would have been handy. Paramount has done just that for other TV-DVD products, including several sets of "The Andy Griffith Show".
Overall, though, I like this packaging style. This is the first multi-disc DVD set I've bought which uses this type of case, and it's a real space-saver, to be sure.
Bonus Material: None (except for a few "Previews" advertising some other DVDs, viewable on Disc 1 only). It's too bad that a few audio commentaries couldn't have found their way onto this collection of discs. A few years ago I heard a rumor about Barry Morse and Jacqueline Scott possibly recording some commentary tracks for a future "Fugitive" DVD release; but evidently that rumor never panned out (at least not for this first set of DVDs anyway).
Video: Original TV ratio of 1.33:1 (Full Frame). All episodes are in crisp, exquisite-looking black-and-white.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. In English only.
Subtitles: None. But English "Closed Captioning" is available for all fifteen shows. Just remember to switch off "Progressive Scanning" on your DVD player. If you don't turn that off, the captions will never appear on screen. At least it's that way with all Panasonic DVD players that I've owned. It's possible that other players vary regarding this strange "captioning" anomaly.
Chapter Stops?: Yes. There are 7 chapters per episode, with each break coming at appropriate locations throughout each program -- at the end of each "Act", as well as a break just after the opening credits and right after the "Epilog" scene. I very much like the ability to go straight to the very beginning of a particular "Act" in any episode via these DVDs. This chaptering was perfectly done by Paramount. And it's just another small factor that makes this DVD product an excellent one, in my own opinion.
Paper Enclosures: None.
Menus: Non-animated. No music. There are no Sub-Menus at all. Each disc has a simple but efficient Main Menu which provides access to that disc's three or four episodes (plus a "Play All" option).
Here's a look at the 15 programs that fill up these four "Season 1/Volume 1" discs. I've also listed the aliases that Richard Kimble used for each episode; plus I've added the original TV air dates and a few selected comments of my own for some of the shows. .....
1. "Fear In A Desert City" (First Aired: September 17, 1963) .... Alias: "James Lincoln". .... "The Fugitive" burst onto American television screens with a great amount of style right off the bat, via this spectacular debut/pilot episode.
The brilliant series-opening program gives us our first look at David Janssen's perfectly-controlled portrayal of the falsely-accused doctor from Indiana who was sentenced to death after being convicted of murdering his wife, Helen. A train wreck freed Dr. Kimble on his way to the "death house". Thus, Kimble's four-year TV flight from the law begins with this first exciting episode.
From this very first show, we (the audience) can feel the tension that surrounds Richard Kimble. It's also quite easy for the viewing audience, right from this initial episode, to feel a great deal of empathy (and sympathy) for Dr. Kimble and his plight, by way of the fabulous writing that exists within this script (and virtually all those that followed it).
The first "Fuge" has Kimble tending bar at the "Branding Iron Saloon" in Tucson, Arizona, where he soon becomes embroiled in the lives of the saloon's lovely piano player (played by Vera Miles) and her abusive and hot-headed husband (Brian Keith).
Miles and Keith are both excellent in their "Desert City" roles -- particularly Keith, who is savagely brutal and menacing here, to the point of being downright scary. Keith plays "Ed Welles", who teems with a raging fury that practically burns through the TV screen. It's a fabulous performance.
"Fear In A Desert City", which was directed by Walter Grauman and written by Stanford Whitmore, also co-stars Barney Phillips, Harry Townes, and Dabbs Greer.
Just days prior to filming the pilot episode, David Janssen said this to director Walter Grauman:
"Wally, you're really going to have to help me. I've been used to doing 'Richard Diamond'; all this shallow shit. There's a lot of character here with Richard Kimble. I don't know whether I can act it."
Well....the rest, as they say, is Fugitive History. I'd say David's worries were unfounded. He did, indeed, "act it"....and did it very well too.
Another interesting piece of trivia concerning the pilot show -- David Janssen suffered three broken ribs during the fight scene with Brian Keith in Act IV of the first episode. It was the first of many physical injuries that David sustained during the making of the 120 episodes of this TV series.
Also worth noting is the fact that Janssen suffered his rib injuries on the very first day of filming the pilot episode in Tucson, Arizona. And it took 10 additional days to complete the filming of that premiere show (and filming was not stopped due to David's injury), which means that for ten days Janssen worked with a mighty sore ribcage.
More great tidbits about "The Fugitive" and its talented star, David Janssen, can be found at "The David Janssen Archive" (which I also hyperlinked earlier in this review). A couple of the internal webpages located within that Internet site that I found very intriguing and entertaining are linked below:
The David Janssen Archive
The David Janssen Archive
2. "The Witch" (September 24, 1963) .... Alias: "Jim Fowler".
3. "The Other Side Of The Mountain" (October 1, 1963) .... No alias used.
4. "Never Wave Goodbye"; Part 1 (October 8, 1963) .... Alias: "Jeff Cooper". .... The series would occasionally incorporate a "Two-Parter", with this being the first such example. The ingenuity and shrewdness of both Kimble and Lt. Gerard are fully evident in this top-notch 2-part program, with Kimble (naturally) slipping through Gerard's fingers yet again, via a rather clever scheme of faking his own death.
5. "Never Wave Goodbye"; Part 2 (October 15, 1963) .... Alias: "Jeff Cooper". .... I enjoy revisiting this two-part episode often. I've had it on VHS videotape for many years now, but that "Republic Entertainment" VHS copy can't hold a candle, quality-wise, to the prints of "Never Wave Goodbye" that are found on this Paramount DVD release.
My 1998 VHS version of "Goodbye" has warbly-sounding music at times and I think the two shows might be sped up a little bit, shortening the running times to about 49 minutes per episode, instead of the proper 51+ minutes which this DVD collection maintains.
God bless DVD! [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/8/8d/htf_images_smilies_smile.gif[/img] [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/d/d9/htf_images_smilies_biggrin.gif[/img]
6. "Decision In The Ring" (October 22, 1963) .... Alias: "Ray Miller".
7. "Smoke Screen" (October 29, 1963) .... Alias: "Joseph Walker".
8. "See Hollywood And Die" (November 5, 1963) .... Alias: "Al Fleming". .... It's yet another strong acting turn for Mr. Janssen, as he spends the bulk of this episode pretending to be a real bad guy in the company of two kidnappers who abduct guest star Brenda Vaccaro. It's actually kind of a "double" performance we find here, with Janssen portraying Richard Kimble, and Kimble playing a part of his own.
9. "Ticket To Alaska" (November 12, 1963) .... Alias: "Larry Talman".
10. "Fatso" (November 19, 1963) .... Alias: "Bill Carter". .... Some "Fatso" talk.
11. "Nightmare At Northoak" (November 26, 1963) .... Alias: "George Porter". .... Regarded by many as one of the top shows of the whole series, "Northoak" combines several different plot-developing elements that helped make this TV series such a great one for four consecutive seasons, e.g.:
The never-ending chase of Dr. Kimble by Lt. Gerard (and this time the detective actually catches up with the good doctor, only to lose him in the end); plus: Kimble's own heroism (he rescues several children from a burning school bus here); plus: Kimble's habit of continually--and inadvertently--running into law-enforcement officials during his travels (in "Northoak", he's nursed back to health by the local sheriff and his wife after being injured while saving the children on the bus).
"Northoak" is, indeed, a dandy episode, and a big reason for that (IMO) is because we get to watch Kimble and Gerard interact with each another during a terrific jail-cell scene, during which we get to see David Janssen really sink his teeth into his role of Dr. Richard Kimble (i.e., an embittered, tired, and completely-innocent fugitive from justice).
During that extraordinary jail scene, Kimble's anger and frustration come pouring out, as he confronts Gerard with one of the best lines from the series: "Your nightmare is when I'm dead, you'll find him."
"Act IV" of "Northoak" is worth replaying....again and again.
A "Northoak" addendum.
12. "Glass Tightrope" (December 3, 1963) .... Aliases: "Harry Carson" and "George Paxton".
13. "Terror At High Point" (December 17, 1963) .... Alias: "Paul Beaumont".
14. "The Girl From Little Egypt" (December 24, 1963) .... Aliases: "George Browning" and "George Norton". .... This excellent episode, for the first time in the series, lays out the backstory of Richard Kimble's plight. And getting to see a pre-fugitive "salt-&-pepper"-haired Dr. Kimble during a few scenes in "Little Egypt" is a rare treat indeed.
15. "Home Is The Hunted" (January 7, 1964) .... No alias used. .... This fifteen-show collection concludes with this dandy installment, which has Dr. Kimble travelling back home to Stafford, Indiana, for the first time in the series to touch base again with his father (played by Robert Keith), his sister Donna (Jacqueline Scott), and younger brother Ray (Andrew Prine).
Prine, IMO, is particularly impressive in his role as Ray Kimble, who has some doubts about his brother's innocence (until Act IV of this episode, that is).
"Home Is The Hunted" also includes Lt. Gerard bearing down on Kimble once again. (It's just a good thing that Gerard didn't catch a glimpse of that bottle of hair dye at the Kimble family home.) [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/8/8d/htf_images_smilies_smile.gif[/img]
Billy Mumy and Clint Howard (Ron's brother) also appear in this 15th show of the series, as Donna's two young sons.
FURTHER FUGE FUN:
If you'd like to see what my ultimate "Fugitive Fantasy DVD" would look like, you can check this webpage.
That page links to one of the several "Fugitive" VHS videotapes that have been released over the years. And that particular tape features two of the very finest Fuge installments, "Nemesis" and "World's End", both from Season #2 of the series.
If that "Dream DVD" of mine ever gets produced, it will be ample proof that miracles truly are possible. [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/d/d9/htf_images_smilies_biggrin.gif[/img] [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/8/8d/htf_images_smilies_smile.gif[/img]
David Janssen's portrayal of Dr. Richard Kimble ("an innocent victim of blind justice") is low-key and subtle and understated. Richard Kimble, though, through Janssen's patented "twitch" or a faint smile or just a silent look, can move a viewer emotionally. At least I think he can....and he does (often) throughout the four-year lifespan of one of the best television programs to ever appear in American living rooms -- "The Fugitive".
This 4-Disc DVD collection is the first of what will hopefully be eight such DVD sets of "The Fugitive" to be released by Paramount. Each of the four seasons of this series positively deserves the right to be digitally preserved for eternity onto the Digital Disc format. It's just too good a series to not be treated with such respect. And that includes even the final year of the series, which was the only season filmed in color.
That fourth season does contain a few lesser-quality episodes, IMO, but there are still many first-rate gems and pulse-pounding "Gerard Chasing Kimble" entries to be found among the thirty shows of Season 4, too.
But to begin your wonderful and wandering journey into the sometimes-frantic and always-interesting life of "The Fugitive", you'll want to pick up this DVD set with the first 15 episodes from Season 1.
If there was ever a "must have" TV-on-DVD set to own and collect, this would certainly rank as one such set, in my Fuge-favoring opinion. And I'd be willing to bet the one-armed man's remaining limb that almost everyone else who buys this DVD collection will agree with that "collectible" assessment as well. [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/a/a8/htf_images_smilies_smiley_wink.gif[/img]
David Von Pein
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