HTF REVIEW: Have Gun - Will Travel: The Complete First Season (Recommended)

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Scott Kimball, May 7, 2004.

  1. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    Have Gun - Will Travel: The Complete First Season



    Studio: Paramount

    Year: 1957

    Rated: NR

    Length: 16 hours, 15 minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

    Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 from a Mono source

    Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captioned

    Special Features:Text-based production notes and cast biographies



    Release Date: May 11, 2004




    “Have Gun - Will Travel” reads the card of a man
    A knight without armor in a savage land
    His fast gun for hire, heeds the calling wind
    A soldier of fortune is the man called Paladin


    A gun for hire, with a mysterious past...
    His business card reads, simply:
    Have Gun - Will Travel. Wire Paladin, San Francisco.

    And so this hired gun, Paladin (Richard Boone), takes on the tough jobs - the jobs that nobody else can get done - and he usually doesn’t take the money. It’s a soldier-of-fortune story repeated many times on television. In the 80’s, we had The Equalizer, and The A-Team. But as fun as those shows were, they were mere copies of Have Gun - Will Travel.

    The show premiered on CBS in 1957 and aired in the 9:30 time slot, right before another very popular western - Gunsmoke. In its six year run, Have Gun - Will Travel remained in the top ten in the television ratings.

    Not having much time to review this set, I was only able to screen 6 episodes. The premiere episode, Three Bells to Perdido, is an okay episode that does well introducing Paladin’s character as he tracks down outlaw Dave Enderly (Jack Lord) who has fled to Perdido, Mexico.

    The Outlaw is the second episode, which picks up the pace and quality of the show considerably, as Paladin is hired to capture convicted bank robber Manfred Holt (Charles Bronson) after a jailbreak.

    Episode 15, The Hanging Cross, penned by Gene Roddenberry (who wrote nearly two dozen episodes throughout the series’ run), is an interesting Christmas episode.

    Perhaps my favorite episode is #31, Hey Boy’s Revenge. In it, Paladin helps his trusted servant find his brother’s killer and bring him to justice.

    This, the first season, includes 39 half-hour episodes of this classic western on 6 discs. The discs are packaged in thinpacks, which are enclosed in a cardboard slipcase.

    Picture

    Have Gun - Will Travel is presented in glorious full-screen black and white. The image is variably sharp, usually quite adequate for the age of the source prints. Considering the age of this television product, I am quite pleased with the look. There are varying amounts of grain, but it is almost always mild in nature. Contrast is good, with good black levels and excellent shadow detail. Some brighter scenes have an occasional blown-out highlight. The episodes I watched were free of any serious scratches, though there are occasional specks of dust visible, from time to time - most often, it seems, during title sequences. There are occasional instances of moire visible in tight patterns on screen, but this effect will likely vary considerably from display to display.

    I have to say - compared to what I have occasionally seen in reruns of this show, these DVD’s really shine. I’m impressed.


    Sound

    There is a single available soundtrack on this set, a 2 channel Dolby Digital English track, from a mono source. In Pro-Logic mode, a properly set up surround system will produce sound from only the center channel. For the most part, the sound is okay. Some episodes seem slightly more limited in frequency response than others, but dialog is always intelligible. Some episodes suffer from a bit of background hiss, and music doesn’t impress much with the limitations of the soundtrack. Overall, this sounds as I would expect a television series of this vintage to sound, if not a bit better. The minor problems can be forgiven, chalked up to age and problems with source elements.


    Special Features

    There isn’t much here for special features, but I assume a show of this age, which has had so little replay over the years, must have little in the way of documentary footage available.

    Episodes contain text extras which offer up some trivia on each episode, and information on guest stars.

    There is a “Play All” feature on each disc, which will run you through six or seven episodes, back to back.

    Final Thoughts

    Have Gun -Will Travel is a show that hasn’t seen much replay over the years, which is a shame. It’s a great TV western in an unusual half-hour format, and the character Paladin set the stage for many TV programs to follow. Though the picture and sound on this set are less than perfect, I was surprised at the quality, given the age of the show. There are limited extras.

    Aggressively priced at less than a buck an episode ($35 or less for the set), this is a must buy for any fan of TV westerns.

    Recommended.
     
  2. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    Thanks for the review, Scott. I've been interested in this set since it was announced, and it's good to know things turned out well with it. I can't wait to give it a spin next week.

    Incidentally, I recently read a TV Land list of the 100 best television episodes of all time, and Hey Boy's Revenge was on it at number 83.

    http://members.aol.com/speaker606/jim/tv.html
     
  3. James Landau

    James Landau Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks very much for the review, Scott. Have Gun, Will Travel is my favorite western series (not counting The Wild Wild West which I personally classify as action/adventure instead of western) and this set is the first on my list of five must have TV sets being released this summer.

    Picture quality sounds like it should be pretty good. Small amounts of grain and dust specks don't bother me too much on things of this age. A nice sharp picture with good contrast is what I look for. If these are comparable to Image's Twilight Zone discs, I'll be very happy.

    Hadn't realized that Hey Boy's Revenge was a first season episode. It just happens to be the one and only episode I have on VHS tape.

    I like the fact that he's also just and won't hesitate to turn on his employer if he discovers they're the true lawbreaker in a situation.

    Let's hope these sell like hotcakes so that the remaining five seasons get released in short order.
     
  4. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    Just a heads-up: this was in the Action section of my local Best Buy, instead of TV. They have a Western section, but it didn't go there, either. [​IMG]

    I hope this is just an anomaly, and they just didn't realize it was a TV show or something. It would be ill-advised for them to migrate TV shows into the general categories. I know I have either made purchases or added titles to my wish list based on seeing the titles while browsing the TV shows section. I won't be likely to run across them spread out all over the store.
     
  5. Dave Scarpa

    Dave Scarpa Producer

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    Well I went there looking for it today and never looked in Westerns, Oh well I'll get it at Amazon.
     
  6. Bill Parisho

    Bill Parisho Stunt Coordinator

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    WOW! HERE'S A SHOW I DIDN'T EXPECT TO SEE ON DVD. WHO KNOWS WHAT'S NEXT? THE WILD WILD WEST,MAYBE?
    BILL
     
  7. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    Unfortunately, I don't think Wild Wild West is on Paramount's radar, at present.

    Given this month's Gunsmoke TV movie releases, I wouldn't be surprised to see an announcement concerning that series later this year.

    One has to believe that if HGWT and Gunsmoke were to sell well, Paramount would be looking to open up more of their classic Tv catalog.

    -Scott
     
  8. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    Not that it matters, but it was in Action, not Westerns. [​IMG] I was about to give up, but a blue shirt took me right to it.
     
  9. ScottDombrowski

    ScottDombrowski Second Unit

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    I've only seen a few episodes of HGWT when it was on the Hallmark Channel, but I love tv westerns and really liked it so I can't wait to get mine! It was only $34.99 at Deep Discount DVD, which is an awesome price. I, too, am hoping this opens the door for other western series. First on my want list is Gunsmoke--I really hope we do get an announcement on this one!
     
  10. Tom.W

    Tom.W Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks Scott, for this nice review. I'm looking forward to what will hopefully be the first of six season sets of Have Gun in "state of the art" form. At least to the extent that the source prints permit. Video and sound apparently similar to the Columbia House release on VHS.

    Speaking of CH, I see they've released Gunsmoke on DVD. Probably a replicate of their video release, eg. about 35 volumes consisting of mainly 30 minute and 60 minute color episodes, with randomly selected eps within season per volume. Anyone checked this out?
     
  11. ScottDombrowski

    ScottDombrowski Second Unit

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    I was getting the CH Gunsmoke DVDs but have only received five volumes and it's been months. They sent me an e-mail saying something about their not being able to get them anymore from their distributor or something, so I assume that's it. They actually started from episode 1 in the first season and were in order too! The prints were really not very good though. Some of the episodes had splices and all kinds of lines going down the screen like they came from an old 16 mm film. They still looked a lot better than the half-hour's I've seen on TV though and were uncut. I'm hoping that maybe if CH isn't getting them anymore that maybe the studio is going to put them out in season sets! I've got the first season of Wild Wild West through CH too and they looked a lot better, but still not up to the quality of most older shows I've bought in season sets. They released ten volumes, which came to the entire first season and the first three color episodes from season 2. It's been months on that one too, so I think ten volumes is all they're putting out.
     
  12. Tom.W

    Tom.W Stunt Coordinator

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    That's interesting. Gunsmoke on DVD was included on a brochure I received yesterday from CH. That's the first time I've seen them list it as DVD. Guess the ad dept. is running behind production or something. But I recall seeing elsewhere in this forum that CH pulled the plug on Have Gun when news of its release from Paramount surfaced.

    I don't recall seeing lines on my CH Gunsmoke tapes. I'll have to check some of the early vols. Thanks for the info. ScottD.
     
  13. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    It's probably a good rule of thumb that if CH is releasing them, we'll eventually see them directly from the studio. Unfortunately, it seems they usually use the same transfers. If they start on Gunsmoke, I hope the results are better than what Scott describes from the CH discs.
     
  14. ScottDombrowski

    ScottDombrowski Second Unit

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    The Gunsmoke episodes that looked the worst were ones that I read weren't released on video by CH, so they may just be in bad shape. I wonder if they'd use the same transfers though, because they really kind of looked like they just transferred the videos to DVD. Same with Wild Wild West. They look much better than tv prints, but no remastering at all. Although, I've gotten a few volumes of Rawhide from CH and those look really good so who knows? I just really wish these would all come out in season sets!
     
  15. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    I've seen the first two episodes so far, and I agree with the review. The premiere is okay, but it is really constrained by the short length. The second episode was really good, though, and didn't feel limited by being only 30 minutes long. I'm hoping once they become comfortable with the time limitation as the series progresses, it maintains the level of quality of The Outlaw.

    Part of it is my own expectations, of course. I'm just not used to a 30-minute drama. Still, I'm liking what I'm seeing so far, and the show has already gone in a direction quite unlike what I'm used to from TV westerns.
     
  16. Bert Greene

    Bert Greene Supporting Actor

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    Got my set the other day and have already breezed through the first dozen or so episodes. I'm relatively familiar with a lot of these 1st-season episodes, but seeing them in the dvd-format with all its advantages (crisp prints, no commercial interruptions), I'm all the more impressed by the series. My favorite episode so far has been "The Long Night," which beautifully demonstrates how effective a half-hour drama can be. Plus, always good to see William Schallert and James Best pop up in a show.
     
  17. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    Question: the first episode ends with the famous Johnny Western song over the credits, but none others have ended in that fashion thus far (I'm up through A Matter of Ethics). I pulled out my Johnny Western LP, and the liner notes (interesting trivia: they were written by Johnny Cash) tell the story of Johnny Western watching Have Gun on TV and getting the idea for the song. He pitched it to the studio and was given a contract. If true, this story would rule out the song originally appearing at the end of episode one. So, was that the syndicated version's credits?
     
  18. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    I'm still looking for the answer to the above, but I have discovered that Johnny Western appeared in two episodes included in this box set--episode 12: "No Visitors" and episode 36: "24 Hours at North Fork." So, he was working on the show fairly early.
     
  19. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

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    The story about Johnny Western is correct -- most, if not all, of the first season's episodes did not close with "The Ballad of Paladin" playing over the closing credits, although for those episodes the song was added to the closing credits when the show went into syndication.

    An interesting trivia bit about the song -- the biggest hit version of the song was an instrumental by guitarist Duane Eddy in 1962. Eddy had met Richard Boone while filming the movie "A Thunder of Drums." Eddy and Boone became close friends, and Eddy appears in two later episodes of "Have Gun - Will Travel." Eddy's first record album (released in 1958) is titled "Have Twangy Guitar, Will Travel" and obviously was inspired by the TV series, even though he and Boone would not meet for a couple of years.

    This show was unavailable for years because it was tied up in litigation.

    Columbia House has released every episode in the series on VHS, so let's hope that the DVD set sells well enough to encourage Paramound to released the entire series on DVD.
     
  20. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    Just out of curiosity, I looked in every conceivable place it could be shelved at Best Buy while I was there this weekend, and there were no copies left. Hopefully that's a good sign.

    Thanks for the info about the song. Do you know when it was originally added to the show as a regular thing? Start of second season?
     

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