Have Gun – Will Travel: The Fifth Season, Volume One
Directed by Richard Donner et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Running Time: 482 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
MSRP: $ 42.99
Release Date: November 30, 2010
Review Date: November 28, 2010
Just about every aspect of the classic television western Have Gun – Will Travel is now iconic: the theme music and that haunting title song sung over the closing credits, the calling card with the show’s title followed by “Wire Paladin/San Francisco,” the main character’s all black outfit with its signature gun and holster, its easy transitions between comedy and drama depending on the story it’s telling. Viewing these episodes from the first half of its fifth season brings back vivid memories of Saturday nights spent in front of the television from long, long ago. The fifth season was the beginning of the end for the series, however. It fell from being the third most popular show on the air the previous season down to twenty-ninth position, and Richard Boone seemed to age and get a bit heavy around the middle as the season progressed. The craggy-faced, often taciturn actor remained picture perfect casting as the Lancelot of the Old West, riding in to save the victimized from those who wish to steal from or harm them, but some of the zip and zing seemed to be missing, and Boone’s stunt double was obviously doing more of the heavy lifting in these episodes. As was the case in previous seasons, Boone also directed several of the episodes this season (five in all for this half season) and usually quite well.
Among the jobs Paladin finds himself involved with in the first half of the fifth season include being the best man at a Jewish wedding while keeping prejudiced ranchers from spoiling the party, recovering a stolen piano for a virtuoso musician, helping a mama’s boy recover a mail order bride who deserted him for a livelier cowboy, and aiding a woman who wishes to be reunited with her husband before he’s hanged for robbery and murder. As has been the case in every season, there are a few lighter episodes: Paladin coming into contact with a man who believes he’s Don Quixote, and Paladin winning an illiterate child in a poker game come immediately to mind. They’re among the least interesting of this half season’s episodes though they admittedly do offer a change of pace. Kam Tong returns full-time this season as Hey Boy.
The guest stars who show up in these nineteen episodes represent some of the best character actors working in television at the time: Charles Bronson (two episodes as different characters), Hal Needham (three appearances as different characters), Harry Carey, Jr., Buddy Ebsen, George Kennedy (two episodes as different characters), Mary Fickett, Tom Conway, Russell Arms, Richard Ney, Virginia Capers, Ben Johnson, Rupert Crosse, Richard Reeves, Keith Andes, Antoinette Bower, Paul Hartman, Martin Gabel, Mike Kellin, Hans Conried, Hank Patterson, Eleanor Audley, Warren Stevens, Strother Martin, Dabbs Greer, and William Schallert.
Here are the nineteen episodes found on the three discs which make up this release:
1 – The Vigil
2 – Education of Sarah Jane
3 – The Revenger
4 – Odds for Big Red
5 – A Proof of Love
6 – The Gospel Singer
7 – The Race
8 – Hanging of Aaron Gibbs
9 – The Piano
10 – Ben Jalisco
11 – The Brothers
12 – A Drop of Blood
13 – A Knight to Remember
14 – Blind Circle
15 – The Kid
16 – Squatter’s Rights
17 – Lazarus
18 – Justice in Hell
19 – Mark of Cain
The programs have been framed at their original televised aspect ratio of 1.33:1. For most of the episodes, the grayscale renderings are superb with deep, rich black levels and sharpness which is exemplary, so sharp, in fact, that one can easily discern Richard Boone’s younger, slimmer stunt double who appears in almost all of the action scenes in long and medium shots. Though one can spot occasional dust specks, only two episodes really feature less than exemplary picture quality for programs of this age: “Odds for Big Red” and “Hanging of Aaron Gibbs,” both of which feature a milkier contrast level which robs the picture of detail and richness and may have been taken from less optimum sources than the other episodes in this collection. Each episode has been divided into 5 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound mix is decoded by Dolby Prologic properly into the center channel. The dialogue, music, and sound effects are smoothly placed together into this mono track with the dialogue never compromised by over-aggressive sound effects or music cues. There is occasional light hiss which can be heard in quieter scenes, but otherwise, the soundtrack stands up nicely for a program of this era.
There are no bonus features offered with this release.
There are promotional trailers for The Streets of San Francisco, The Untouchables, and The Wild Wild West.
3.5/5 (not an average)
The first half of season five for Have Gun – Will Travel features another entertaining nineteen episodes of the classic western series. The picture quality of these old films is really quite remarkable, and while there are no bonus features to add luster to the package, the transfers themselves are just about all one could hope for.