Search - TV Classic Westerns: Legends of the Old West on DVD

TV Classic Westerns: Legends of the Old West
TV Classic Westerns Legends of the Old West
Genres: Action & Adventure, Westerns, Television
NR     2005     18hr 12min


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Movie Details

Genres: Action & Adventure, Westerns, Television
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Westerns, Television
Studio: Platinum Disc
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 01/11/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 18hr 12min
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 4
SwapaDVD Credits: 4
Total Copies: 1
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Legends of the Old West
Steven Hellerstedt | 07/11/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Bought this four-disk set off the shelf of a national retailer at a deep, deep discount without having a clue what it contained. I discovered that they contained 40-some episodes of a mid-1950s television series named `Stories of the Century,' as well as three bonus episodes of another series I'll get to in a minute. Anyway, at a dime an episode I was pleased with this set.
`Stories of the Century' was a syndicated western that was filmed in 1954 and lasted, as far as I can tell, for about two seasons. It starred Jim Davis - later Jock Ewing of `Dallas' fame - as railroad detective Matt Clark. Mary Castle, a Rita Hayworth look-alike stars in a majority of the episodes as fellow detective Frankie Adams, Kristine Miller in some as Margaret `Jonesie" Jones. Each episode had the railroad detectives tracking down one of the many true-life bad guys of the wild west. Frank and Jesse James, Belle Starr, the Dalton Gang... you name `em, this series chased `em. And caught `em. (That the story featured criminals who were active from about 1865 to about 1905 begs the question of how Clark and Frankie and Jonesie managed to stay so young for so long. My guess is that it was all that clean living. Matt and Frankie and Jonesie don't seem to have an existence beyond their job, and hanky-panky of any sort isn't even hinted at.)
Their value as present day entertainment is going to depend a lot on what you're looking for. Each episode opens with a flat, Joe Friday-like voice over introduction by Davis announcing this week's criminal and their claim to infamy. After a short scene of the criminal(s) criming we learn why Matt and Frankie or Jonesie are chasing them. If they're like Belle Starr (Marie Windsor) and they rustle cattle rather than rob trains, they rustle cattle being transported by the railroad. Matt and Frankie or Jonesie investigate, get the goods on the bad guys, chase them, have a shoot-out, and, usually, leave the bad guy as a lifeless husk.
Although the series is sprinkled with interesting characters actors - Windsor (Belle Starr), Richard Jaeckel (Billy the Kid), Slim Pickens (The Smiling (later Sundance) Kid), Jack Elam (Black Jack Ketchum) - there's a dulling sameness about things. Billy the Kid comes off pretty much the same as Frank and Jesse James, the Younger Brothers, and all the rest of them. It's diversionary entertainment at best, especially intended for the undemanding.
Surprisingly - to me, at least - `Stories of the Century' won the Emmy in 1955 for Best Western or Adventure Series, beating out the `Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok' (Guy Madison & Andy Devine), `Annie Oakley' (Gail Davis), `Death Valley Days' (then hosted by Stanley Andrews), and `The Roy Rogers Show.'
Also included are three episodes of `Judge Roy Bean,' from 1956 and starring Edgar Buchanan in the title role. The `Judge Roy Bean' episodes are in color - `Stories of the Century' is in black and white - but the color is severely faded. Buchanan as always is interesting but the three stories were clearly directed at a young and easily satisfied audience.
LEGENDS OF THE OLD WEST is recommended with a lot of caveats for the emptor. Either way, if you can grab them out of the bargain bin you might be pleasantly surprised.

Best "Stories of the Century" Collection
Mark Savary | Seattle, WA | 01/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This 4-disc set is a really good deal for fans of old TV westerns. In this set are practically all of the installments of "Stories of the Century", a western that ran from 1954-55, along with a handful of the early color series "Judge Roy Bean".

"Stories of the Century" starred Jim Davis (who we all know and love as Jock Ewing from the "Dallas" TV series). Davis plays Matt Clark, Railroad Detective, who along with his female partner Frankie (Mary Castle, season 1), or Jonsey (Kristine Miller, season 2), somehow manage to involve themselves in just about every effort to capture all of the famous outlaws the Old West produced. Strangely enough, they never seem to age despite covering cases that range from 1850-1910.

The idea of the main character being a railroad investigator is pretty clever, as it makes sense for a railroad "cinder sleuth" to have a hand in stopping or investigating many of the outlaws' raids.

All of the bad guys are famous western outlaws (like Quantrell's Raiders, or Jesse James), and this lends an air of authenticity to the show. Most of the stories are fairly accurate as to the overall events surrounding the outlaws' criminal activities and eventual punishments. However, at times the presence of Clark and his partner seems just a tad bit contrived.

In any case, Davis owns the series. While his female partners can seem a bit overly-helpless at times, Davis' Clark character is both brains and brawn enough to tangle with any threat that comes along. With such a commanding presence, it really makes you wonder why Davis never became a major TV or movie star, and why he had to wait until the late '70s to find fame again on "Dallas" (even then, Davis was more or less a supporting player).

Famous character actors pop up throughout the series, such as Denver Pyle, Slim Pickens, James Best, Lee Van Cleef, Fess Parker, Glenn Strange, James Craven, Sheb Wooley, John Dehner, Jack Elam, and others, who will all be familiar to western fans.

The show was produced by Republic Pictures' television division. Bolstered by Republic's huge library of stock footage from the many westerns they made, there are plenty of stunts and chases seamlessly worked in around the new footage of Clark and his investigations."
Inexpensive Classic Western Entertainment
Edward Rasen Jr. | Maui | 08/11/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Source prints for these television series episodes range from poor to good. Some are very sharp with good density but have noticeable surface noise (SN). Also, you have to contend with a constantly reappearing Platinum Disc Corporation announcement in the screen lower right corner. Obviously, heavy compression is used to squeeze twenty episodes on a disc.

But, considering you can find this two-disc collection for $5.00, it is a worth buying. If you own a High Def screen, you are going to be disappointed by all the flaws. This is a classic example of "you get what you pay for." In case you don't know, Platinum Disc only exists in name. It was purchased by Echo Bridge Entertainment. HD screen owners should pass on this."