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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Children > Adventure > Animals > Mystery > Murder > Detective > Crime > Action > Spy > The Adventures Of Champion The Wonder Horse (1955 - 1956/Film Chest DVDs)/Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries (1955 - 1957/Allied Artists)/Harry O: The Complete First Season + Complete Second Season (197

The Adventures Of Champion The Wonder Horse (1955 - 1956/Film Chest DVDs)/Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries (1955 - 1957/Allied Artists)/Harry O: The Complete First Season + Complete Second Season (1973 - 1975)/Probe (1972 TV Movie Pilot)/Search: The Complete Series (1972 - 1973/Warner Archive DVD Sets)

Picture: C/C+/C/C+/C+ Sound: C/C+/C+/C+/C Extras: D Main Programs: C+/C/C+/C+/C+

PLEASE NOTE: The Bill Elliott, Harry O, Search DVD sets and Probe TV Movie DVD are only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and all can be ordered from the link below.

Next up is a new set of DVDs that cover series, starting in the mid-1950s when B-movie series were being succeeded by TV series and some very interesting gems from the early 1970s worth your time despite their age and interesting flaws...

The Western was hot in the early days of television and while the genre was slowly getting played out, serials in the genre were soon supplanted by TV shows aimed at a young audience. One such series was The Adventures Of Champion The Wonder Horse (1955 - 1956), which was produced by the makers of Death Valley Days and Annie Oakley, an early attempt to land that audience and here lasting a single season of 26 episodes. Film Chest has issued a 23-episode, 3-DVD set of the somewhat formulaic adventures of the title animal and best human friend Ricky (Barry Curtis).

A young Lee Van Cleef shows up in the Crossroad Trail episodes, Western veteran Gregg Palmer shows up in a few shows (playing different characters) as does Frankenstein actor Glenn Strange, James Best (The Dukes Of Hazzard) shows up in the Andrew & The Deadly Double episode and Jim Bannon played the father-figure/uncle.

Each show remains child-friendly, is no heavy-handed and save phony stereotypes of Native Americans, remains watchable nearly 60 years later. If you have children who like westerns and want to be a cowboy, this set is for them.

After a long career in Westerns, actor Bill Elliott was give a chance by newly-formed Allied Artists to launch a series of B-movie crime dramas and five hour-long theatrical films were made between 1955 - 1957. Warner Archive has issued all three in a collection called Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries and right off the bat, they did not known what to do. Dial Red O (1955) has him a Detective Harry Flynn in a odd tale of a man who breaks out of a mental institute (which the script badly handles) when he finds his wife will divorce him. It is an odd beginning and a mixed film that is more a mixed drama than a mystery tale. By Sudden Danger released the same year, his name was Andy Doyle, reconsidering if a sports clothing executive was murdered and not the victim of suicide. Beverly Garland and Lyle Talbot show up in this one, but it is more of a drama again and any suspense is ruined by bad writing.

Calling Homicide (1956) has James Best (again in this review), Jeannie Cooper, Stanley Adams and Herb Vigran in a tale of a car bombing, mutilation murder and more, but it is only slightly better than its predecessors if a little more interesting. Chain Of Evidence (1957) has Timothy Carrey in a tale about an ex-con being released from prison and told not to get into trouble, which he does, but then he has amnesia! Finally later that year it all ended with Footsteps In The Night and has a murder over gambling plot. More like early police procedurals, the films seem to want to be an alternate Dragnet at times, but nothing much here is memorable, though the real highlight is that they are well shot for their budgets and look good if nothing else. Elliott retired after the series was over.

The original Fugitive was such a massive TV hit that it is not surprise that David Janssen would return to TV in another hour-long action show. With Universal and Quinn-Martin (sometimes with Warner Television) having brought a big cycle of hit TV detective shows, Janssen did a TV movie pilot in 1973 called Such Dust As Dreams Are Made Of where he plays Harry Orwell, a detective whose career was severely affected by a gunshot. He lived and could still walk, but his life was affected and the telefilm opens with his almost-killer (Martin Sheen) breaks into his house to confront him again.

An effective tale, the cast also included Margot Kidder, Sal Mineo, Will Geer and Cheryl Ladd, but it did not sell! Someone at ABC (a network in unusually creative form at the time) liked it enough that a second telefilm (Smile Jenny, You're Dead) was made and the result was the greenlight for Harry O. Oddly, that second telefilm is nowhere to be found on The Complete First Season or Complete Second Season (1973 - 1975) DVD sets, but the first telefilm is on the first set. The original set-up has Harry living on a boat and not having a car to drive, so he takes the bus to solve cases. Eventually, this gives way to him getting an older roadster (worth more now than then) and Anthony Zerbe joined the cast as a regular, a new police lieutenant (a role similar to that of Henry Darrow here) in a move to save the show.

Despite Warner TV's ambitions and the amazing amount of talent involved, ABC cancelled the show by 1975 in a year they cancelled a ton of shows they had, including the likes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker (which only got one season!) and of their new shows, only kept The Six Million Dollar Man. However, the show in very interesting, has some smart episodes, good humor, suspense and I particularly enjoyed how they kept retooling the show as it was in production including an unusual amount of redesigning of the credits. The name was also meant to be provocative at the time, referencing the widow of JFK, Jackie O.

Guest stars throughout the series included Leif Erickson, Ellen Weston, Charles Haid, Al Checco, Barry Sullivan, Linda Evans, Anne Archer, Katherine Woodville, Gordon Jump, Laurence Luckinbill, John Doucette, Barry Cahill, Kenneth Mars, David Dukes, Florence Stanley, Rosalind Cash, Margaret Avery, Hal Williams, Ty Henderson, Michael Strong, Juliette Mills, Stephanie Powers, Martin E. Brooks, Mike Farrell, Barbara Anderson, Joanna Pettet, Craig Stevens, Broderick Crawford, Paul Benedict, Lou Frizzell, Robert Reed, Linda Marsh, Jeanette Nolan, Clifford David, Whit Bissell, Bernie Kopell, Sharon Farrell, Fred Beir, Diana Hyland, Julius W. Harris, Brenda Sykes, Jim Backus, Cab Calloway, Gail Strictland, William Sylvester, James Wainwright, Jack Riley, Roberta Dean, Kurt Russell, Karen Lynn Gorney, Richard Schaal, Jamie Smith-Jackson, Sal Mineo, Olan Soule, Carmen Zapata, Margaret Avery, Maureen McCormick, Rene Auberjonois, James Hong, Larry Hagman, Robert Loggia, Ina Balin, Farrah Fawcett (a semi-regular) & Loni Anderson in the same episode (!!!, Lester Two), Linden Chiles, Louis Gossett Jr., Thayer David, Anjanette Comer, Katherine Helmond, Adam Arkin, Severn Darden, Kristina Holland, Barry Atwater, Sam Jaffe, Bruce Kirby, Margaret Blye, Linda Kelsey, Geoffrey Lewis, Jack Colvin, Barbara Leigh, Howard Hesseman, Robert Ito, Leslie Ann Warren, Joanna Pettet, Don Stroud, Jay Robinson, Andrew Robinson, Claudette Nevins, Ralph Meeker, John Colicos, J. Pat O'Malley, Barbara Rhodes, Susan Strasberg, Edie Adams, John Rubenstein, Bruce Glover, Colleen Camp, Tina Chen, Ramon Bieri, Benson Fong, Eugene Roche, Michael Lerner, Keye Luke & Les Lannom (in what was intended as a spin-off show), Anne Archer, Sorrell Booke, Dean Jagger, Roddy McDowall, Stuart Whitman, Ruth Roman and Norman Burton among others.

The show may be uneven and not add up between seasons, but I still enjoy it and it would (like Kolchak: The Night Stalker) become more of a hit when CBS picked it up in late night reruns for their so-called CBS Late Movie series. That really just featured two episodes of such dramas and were very well rated in their time. Janssen also gets to do more here and it is a show more popular and beloved than you might think. Nice to see it is finally on DVD officially, finally.

Warner TV was always trying to come up with the next hit and another such attempt started with another TV movie pilot. Russell Mayberry's Probe (1972) wanted to combine James Bond, then-new technological ideas and action with Hugh O'Brian as pre-cyberspy Hugh Lockwood. Looking for a big diamond lost during WWII, he is actually tracked and in constant contact with his boss (Burgess Meredith) who constantly watches him via satellite from a special headquarters and can talk to him via analog short wave radio. This may look and sound pat now, but this was a new concept at the time and the telefilm was impressive enough for NBC to order the show as a series. Writer/Producer Leslie Stevens created this and the supporting cast of this interesting romp includes Elke Sommer, Sir John Gieguld, Kent Smith, Angel Tompkins, Alfred Ryder, A Martinez and a then-rising Jaclyn Smith.

However, the makers found out someone else had the use of the title first, plus the makers decided to make a few more changes. O'Brian character would continue on his own adventures, but like The NBC Mystery Movie, you would get a different lead revolving every three weeks. Here we get Anthony Franciosa as Nick Bianco and Doug McClure as C.R. Grover. Trying to be the next Man From U.N.C.L.E (which had been cancelled), Mission: Impossible (in decline by this time) and like ITC/Lord Lew Grade U.K. Action shows like The Persuaders, the show was renamed and the result is our final DVD release here, Search: The Complete Series (1972 - 1973).

A mixed show, each episode was about an hour, so the stories were not as long as the first TV movie or the TV movies that made up The NBC Mystery Movie. The lead casting made sense, but the adventures were mixed and the show sadly did not have scripts that tried to push the genres any further despite the talent involved. The result is a show that is a mixed success on its own merits, but too costly to continue, so it was ended after a single season and oddly not seen hardly much since.

However, Meredith was the boos in each show, the lead actors give it there all and guest stars included Capucine, Maurice Evans, David White, Angel Tompkins, Richard Stahl, Stephanie Powers, Allen Garfield, Jacqueline Hyde, Larry Linville, Mary Ann Mobley, Jeff Corey, Jo Ann Pflug, Penny Santon, Louise Sorel, Edward Mulhare, James Gregory, Mary Frann, Abraham Sofaer, Ina Balin, Malachi Throne, Barbara Feldon, Logan Ramsey, Bill Bixby, JoAnna Cameron (TV's Isis), Mark Lenard, Diana Hyland, Cheryl Ladd, Luciana Paluzzi, Antoinette Bower, Wally Cox, William Smith, Michael Conrad, George Murdoch, Nehemiah Persoff, Annette O'Toole, Anitra Ford, Bert Convy, Ramon Bieri, Lou Adler, Joanna Miles, Whit Bissell, Peter Mark Richman, Anne Francis, Ed Nelson, Jack Ging, Howard Duff, Robert Webber, Craig Stevens, Don Gordon, Julie Adams, Rhonda Fleming, Ahna Capri, John Vernon, Anjanette Comer, Alfred Ryder, Cameron Mitchell, Tim O'Connor, Nancy Wilson, Don Pedro Colley, Ivor Francis, Patrick O'Neal, James B. Sikking, Sebastian Cabot, Jay Robinson, Diana Muldaur, Milt Kamen, Paul Mantee, Dabney Coleman, Mel Ferrer, Titos Vandis, Brioni Farrell and Michael Pataki.

Like Harry O, this is still fun to watch and all real TV fans and fans of the genres the shows cover should see these shows at least once. When they work its great and when they don't it is still fun to watch from a time when network TV was so ambitious, had great ideas, great energy and cared about the audience. Search is less known and especially deserves rediscovery. If you liked either show, see it again and if you never have, you'll really enjoy these sets.

All presentations here are in the 1.33 X 1 frame, save the black and white, anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 aspect ratios on the five Elliott films, which look as good as anything here, tied for first place with the nice color image on the Probe pilot and Search episodes. The 1.33 X 1 black and white prints for Champion are form 16mm archival prints that are not bad for their age, but they still show age and softness, especially since the show was allegedly shot on 35mm film. The color is decent on the Harry O prints, but there is more dirt and scratches than expected throughout unfortunately, especially on a show that was so well shot.

All the DVDs have lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono as their audio and all show their age as well, but Champion is a little rough and may be down a generation, while Search is clean, yet the volume is too low so be careful of loud levels and volume switching. There are amazingly no extras on any of these releases, but they deserved some.

You can order any of the Warner Archive DVDs here, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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