Directed by Sydney Pollack et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 771 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
MSRP: $ 42.99
Release Date: June 10, 2008
Review Date: May 26, 2008
The Fugitive is one of the iconic television series of the 20th century. The story of Dr. Richard Kimble, convicted murderer of his wife who after an amazing escape from police custody searches the country for the one-armed man he saw running away from the scene of the crime, has been the basis of two television series and one of the biggest film hits of the past century. But the original series version remains a wondrous creation, an absorbing drama with a charismatic, laconic leading man and stories that have him interact with every strata of society: some helpful, some lethal as he continues his seemingly unending quest for the man he believes actually committed the crime.
The second season of the show was the most popular of its four year run landing as the fifth highest ranking show in the ratings at the end of the season. This first of two volumes cataloging that season’s enormously successful presentation form the basis of this release. The fifteen episodes contained in this set might not have scored any Emmy nominations during the 1964-65 awards season (a reorganization of Emmy categories worked to the disadvantage of the show), but you won’t find more involving human drama than in the episodes contained in this set.
The underrated David Janssen played Kimble, and he gives from beginning to end one of the legendary continuous performances in TV history. His halting, tortured persona, that constant mix of hopefulness and yearning as he continues his quest in episode after episode, is a haunting portrayal never equaled by the other actors who have taken the role. His adversary, Lieutenant Philip Gerard played by the effectively stolid Barry Morse, was constantly one step behind and yet unrelenting in his search for the escaped Kimble.
The episodes follow a similar pattern: Kimble passes through town and gets involved with one or more persons there with their own conflicts. Sometimes the conflicts involve him directly (a former trial lawyer who wants to push for a new trial, a former girl friend who wants to flee with Kimble to Brazil) while in other episodes, he’s an unwitting participant in someone’s else’s struggles, involvements which often come close to exposing his identity and aiding the police in his capture.
As in many Quinn Martin television programs of the period, guest stars played a key role in bringing millions back to the show week after week. Among the award-winning stars guesting during this first half of season two are Ed Begley, Suzanne Pleshette, Lois Nettleton, Diana Hyland, Slim Pickins, Leslie Nielsen, Arthur O‘Connell, Tuesday Weld, Betty Garrett, Brett Somers, Ronny Howard, Warren Oates, and Janis Paige. And you’ll see surprisingly young versions of familiar actors like Dabney Coleman and Kurt Russell (playing the son of Lieutenant Gerard!) pop up in episodes occasionally as well.
Here is the list of episodes contained on the four discs in this set. As with all Quinn Martin productions, the episodes follow a set format: a prologue (in this season, a scene from the show about to air), main credits, four acts, and an epilog:
1 - Man in a Chariot
2 - World’s End
3 - Man on a String
4 - When the Bough Breaks
5 - Nemesis
6 - Tiger Left, Tiger Right
7 - Tug of War
8 - Dark Corner
9 - Escape into Black
10 - The Cage
11 - Cry Uncle
12 - Detour on a Road Going Nowhere
13 - The Iron Maiden (my favorite episode of the half-season)
14 - Devil’s Carnival
15 - Ballad for a Ghost
The series’ original 1.33:1 aspect ratio is replicated in these transfers. Despite being forty-four years old, the black and white transfers for the most part are of astonishing quality. Yes, there are occasional dirt specks and once in a while a scratch will briefly go by. But the sharpness, the terrific grayscale with darker than dark blacks and superb shadow detail will thrill you. Naturally, without anamorphic enhancement, the herringbone coats are going to flash, and you’ll see moiré patterns in clothing and some aliasing in tight line structures, but these go with the territory. Only on “Cry Uncle” do you see a truly wretched transfer, loaded with prominent scratches that cover almost the entire screen on more than one occasion. It’s the only episode in abominable shape, however. The rest look superb. Each episode is divided into 6 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is decoded by Dolby Prologic properly into the center channel. For audio technology over forty years old, these mono mixes sound really nice. There’s some nice bass during explosions, and the voices are all well recorded.
Apart from trailers advertising the John Wayne Collection, the CSI franchise, and Twin Peaks, there are no bonus features in this set at all.
There are a few truly great television shows available on DVD, and The Fugitive is one of them. Despite no extras at all, fans of the show will be delighted with the outstanding picture quality of these DVD transfers. The box features the usual disclaimer about some episodes being edited and music being changed from the original broadcasts. On "Ballad for a Ghost," obviously performance songs by Janis Paige have been dropped as the episode runs a few minutes shorter than the other episodes.