As a huge fan of vintage westerns, I have a goal. My goal is to view at least one episode of every TV western series ever made and to own at least one episode of each in my private collection. So I have some boxed sets of Gunsmoke, Wanted:Dead or Alive, and Big Valley DVDs in addition to some VHS episodes of Maverick and some DVD compilations with public domain episodes of stuff like Bonanza and the Rifleman. I grew up watching all the above mentioned shows, mostly when they were already cancelled and in syndication.
But I also knew that lots of other westerns had been produced in the 50s and 60s. Why weren't these syndicated and why had I never saw them? Now many of these can be seen on DVD sets collecting various episodes of these shows. One such set is Mill Creek Entertainment's 150 Ultimate TV Westerns. Now I know why this stuff wasn't being re-run during my youth. It just wasn't that good.
But in keeping with my goal of viewing and collecting every TV western in existence, my family and I are viewing and rating these shows and the results will be posted here. So the first reviews are published here:
Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. This character, a Canadian Mountie in the 1800s, began on radio in 1938 and then switched to TV in 1955 running for three seasons on CBS. A comic book series ran from 1952 to 1959 with the first four issues as a part of Dell's Four Color series. Once Sergeant Preston came to TV, photo covers from the series became the norm. The highlight of this show is the dog, Yukon King, Preston's lead sled dog with whom he shares a close relationship and who assists him in catching bad guys. The plots are mildly entertaining. Sound-stages and stock footage of sled dogs are common. Originally filmed in color its brilliance has unfortunately faded.
Northwest Passage. Fictionalized account of historic figure Major Robert Rogers, whose volunteers known as Roger's Rangers fought for the British during the French-Indian War. Rogers was located in what is now New York and endeavored to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean. The series was based on a novel, made into a movie in 1940. The series cast included Buddy Ebsen as one of the rangers. I've viewed one episode which guest starred Pernell Roberts of Bonanza fame. While the original color has faded in quality the plot was intelligent. The series lasted only one season (1958-59) due to the stiff competition of Maverick on another network.
Cisco Kid. I did grow up with this series since it has remained in syndication. That could be due to the fact that it was the first TV series filmed in color which has continued to hold up decently. The title character, originally a bad guy, was created for a short story by O. Henry entitled "The Caballero's Way" in 1907. The story became a movie in 1914.
The Kid is portrayed as a good guy in the 1928 film, In Old Arizona. A series of seven movies were released from 1939 to 1941, with Caesar Romero playing the Kid in later installments. A second movie series ran from 1945-1950 which starred Duncan Renaldo playing the lead in most, but Gilbert Roland as the Kid in six movies during 1946-47.
Renaldo would play the Kid on the syndicated TV series from 1950-1956. Joined by his comedic sidekick Pancho, the Kid brought law and order to the old west. The stories are about the caliber of the Lone Ranger, though somewhat inferior. The show was obviously intended to appeal to children.
A comic book series published by Dell ran for 41 issues from 1950 to 1958. The last five issues had photo covers. An earlier Cisco Kid Comics one-shot was released in 1944 by Bernard Bailey / Swappers Quarterly. A TV movie with Jimmy Smits in the lead role aired on TNT in 1994.