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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > TV > Have Gun - Will Travel: The Complete First Season (1957 - 1958/CBS DVD Set)

Have Gun – Will Travel: The Complete First Season


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Episodes: B



Though always remembered as a Western, Have Gun – Will Travel (1957 – 1963) helped establish the action series on TV, from Wild, Wild West to Danger Man (revived as Secret Agent soon after, both complete series of which are reviewed elsewhere on this site).  This centers on Paladin, who lives a life of luxury, but we see just how hard he works to retain it.


All a victim has to do is “wire” him and they can get him at a high cost.  Each show is only a half-hour, but they hold up remarkably well and set standards for decades of shows since.  There are influences, and the novels of the adventures of Simon Templar certain pre-date the 1960s Roger Moore series The Saint (the full color shows are reviewed elsewhere on this site), even if he did not stay in one place.  Shows as recent as Edward Woodward in The Equalizer are included in this influence and lineage.  The first season shows are as follows, over six DVDs, with key actors and crew noted:


1)     Three Bells To Perdido (guest stars Jack Lord)

2)     The Outlaw (guest stars Charles Bronson)

3)     The Great Mojave Desert (written by Gene Roddenberry/Lawrence Dobkin and Claude Akins guest star)

4)     Winchester Quarantine (Angie Dickinson & Strother Martin)

5)     A Matter Of Ethics

6)     The Bride (Marian Seldes & Mike Connors (Mannix))

7)     Strange Vendetta

8)     High Wire (John Dehner and Jack Albertson)

9)     Show Of Force

10)  The Long Night (William Schallert, James Best, Kent Smith & Louis Strome)

11)  The Colonel & The Lady (Denver Pyle & Robert F. Simon)

12)  No Visitors (June Lockhart & Grant Withers)

13)  The Englishman

14)  The Yuma Treasure (written by Gene Roddenberry/Warren Stevens & Henry Brandon guest star)

15)  The Hanging Cross (written by Gene Roddenberry/Abraham Soafer (“Cah-La-Te”) & Johnny Crawford guest star)

16)  Helen Of Abajinian (written by Gene Roddenberry/Vladimir Sokoloff (Nicky in Robert Aldrich’s 1955 classic Kiss Me Deadly stars)

17)  Ella West (written by Gene Roddenberry)

18)  The Reasonable Man (Barry Atwater)

19)  The High-Graders

20)  The Last Laugh (Murray Hamilton & Stuart Whitman)

21)  The Bostonian (Constance Ford)

22)  The Singer (written by Ken Kolb & Sam Peckinpah/Denver Pyle)

23)  Bitter Wine

24)  Girl From Piccadilly (grainer than usual, directed by Lewis Milestone/Charles Aidman & William Schallert guest star)

25)  The O’Hare Story

26)  Birds Of A Feather (grainer than usual)

27)  The Teacher (Jack Albertson & Lana Wood)

28)  Killer’s Widow (R.G. Armstrong)

29)  Gun Shy (Jeanette Nolan)

30)  The Prizefight Story

31)  Hey Boy’s Revenge (directed by Lewis Milestone/Pernell Roberts guest stars)

32)  The Five Books Of Owen Deaver (Lurene Tuttle)

33)  The Silver Queen

34)  Three Sons (Warren Oates)

35)  The Return Of Dr. Thackeray (June Lockhart, Grant Withers and Charles Aidman)

36)  24 Hours At North Fork

37)  Silver Convoy

38)  Deliver The Body (R.G. Armstrong & Madeline Rhue)

39)  The Statue Of San Sebastian (John Carradine & Simon Oakland, who would appear again together 15 years later in the Night Strangler telefilm)



This was also an alternate to most TV Westerns in how thought-provoking it was.  Richard Boone was also “on target” in every way as Paladin, tough when he needed to be, but with a serious moral core until reason was exhausted.  With that said the Gene Roddenberry teleplays are particularly strong by comparison and in some ways can be seen as a forerunner of his ideas for Star Trek.  All the shows took time to let the viewer think and that is what separated it from most TV shows of the late 1950s.


The full frame image varies from show to show, with the beginning of grainier prints noted above.  Some are unusually degraded on the later discs, but Video Black is consistent enough, and the stock and transfers are strikingly similar to CBS’s also half-hour The Twilight Zone that began its run a mere two years later.  This was shot on location as much as possible, another reason it broke the mold of TV and Westerns.


The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono also varies from show to show, with background hiss usually noticeable.  At the worst, as in the opening show, the sound is smaller than you might like, but the theme by Bernard Herrmann is great.  It is also the end-credits theme, but on some prints (with no pattern here) is replaced by a vocal “ballad” that does not quite cut it.  The extras include guest star sections on the first few DVDs before that is inexplicably stopped, “wire Paladin” summaries, and unmarked chapter stops for each show.  Why they stopped short on extras for such a nice boxed set is odd, as there must be interview footage, print ads, and promotional materials somewhere in the CBS vault.  Our listing of stars above differs with the early part of the set in interesting ways.


The show has been referenced all over the place, including a later Tom & Jerry cartoon short and spoofed on The Avengers, but the original is finally available and people may be very surprised how much Have Gun – Will Travel has endured nearly a half-century later.  Much talent was involved (especially before they were famous) and early on, so here’s an early TV classic that might just get the new audiences it really deserves.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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