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.