Butler County Times Gazette
by Garon Cockrell
Howdy, Kids! A Saturday Afternoon Western Roundup DVD Review
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April 1, 2013 5:25 p.m.

















Howdy Kids! A Saturday Afternoon Western Roundup is a collection of

television westerns from the 1950s. Fourteen different programs are represented

here, including The Lone Ranger, The Ranger Rider, The Roy Rogers Show and Sky

King
. I am too young to have caught these programs when they first aired,

but when I was growing up the UHF channels would mostly play re-runs of old

shows, including lots of old westerns on the weekends. I have to admit I

usually switched to the monster movies, the Creature Double Feature on Channel

56, and so didn’t catch a lot of these shows. But even though I missed these shows as a child, I enjoyed watching them as an adult.








Mostly, they’re what

you’d expect. That is to say, there are lots of stage coaches being held up,

lots of gun play and fist fights, lots of ex-crooks who have decided to go straight

after serving their time, and lots of honest people refusing to sell their land

or businesses. There is also plenty of great horse-riding and fantastic

landscapes. And, interestingly, lots of narration at the beginning of episodes.

But some of these shows were surprising. Most of the shows are in glorious

black and white, though a couple on the third disc (The Cisco Kid, Sergeant

Preston Of The Yukon
) are in color. Some of these shows are seriously good;

others are not so good. There are two episodes of most of the programs, though

a few have just one. Each episode is just under a half hour.








Here is a rundown of the

shows included in this three-disc set in the order in which they’re presented.








The Lone Ranger – This is

still probably the most well-known of the television westerns, with its famous

opening music and that shout of “Hi ho,

Silver
.” The program stars Clayton Moore as The Lone Ranger and Jay

Silverheels as Tonto. The opening narration description of the Lone Ranger

includes the line, “He was a fabulous

individual
” (which makes me smile). There are two episodes. The first, “The

Renegade,” has The Lone Ranger and Tonto splitting up after Tonto receives a

smoke signal. But the Lone Ranger learns that any Indian found off his reservation

will be arrested as a renegade, due to supply trains being raided. There is some

narration throughout, and a lot of explanation as dialogue at the end, which is

weak. But it’s still a fun show. The second episode, “Six Gun’s Legacy,” begins

with a raid on a stage coach. One of the bandits looks like the man they shot,

and he takes the dead man’s place in order to claim his legacy. However, the

man they shot, Bob Walker, still breathes, and the Lone Ranger and Tonto find

him. The Lone Ranger does some more explanatory dialogue at end.








The Range Rider  - This is one of my favorite programs in this

collection. It’s one of the most believable and enjoyable shows, and features

some good performances. Plus, it has that opening song, “Home On The Range.” It stars Jack Mahoney as The Ranger Rider and Dick

Jones as Dick West. You can overlook the silly voice over at the beginning

essentially selling you on the show – “The

Range Rider with his thrilling adventures of the great outdoors…And Dick West,

all-American boy
.” There are two episodes. The first, “Convict At Large,” begins

with three men robbing a stage coach. One of the robbers recognizes the driver

of the stage coach as a man he’d done time with (and who has since gone straight).

The people, eager to blame someone for the robberies, go after him, causing him

to run. The Range Rider and Dick West soon help him, and the sheriff thinks

they’re outlaws too. The second episode, “Bullets And Badmen,” features a group

of criminals, the leader in need of a doctor, having been shot. Meanwhile The Range

Rider and Dick ride into town, Dick in need of a dentist he’s reluctant to

visit (I totally understand). They run into a friend who’s been shot, so they

go looking for the doctor, and of course meet the criminals.








The Rifleman – This is

another excellent show, starring Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain and Johnny

Crawford as Mark McCain. Sadly, there is only one episode of this program

included. In “Day Of The Hunter,” a man named Cass Callicott (John Anderson) comes

to town to challenge Lucas, saying that he, not Lucas, is the best rifleman.

He’s a legend whose reputation is all he has left, so Lucas doesn’t want to

compete with him. But there’s actually a lot more going on in this episode; it

has a lot to say. Chuck Connors is good, and even the boy is really good in

this one.








The Adventures Of Rick O’Shay

– This show is possibly the worst in the collection, but fortunately there is just

one episode. It stars Steve Keyes as Rick, Bob Gilbert as Pawnee and Ewing

Brown as Gopher. In “Stagecoach To Danger” two women, including the governor’s

daughter, are traveling by stagecoach and want an escort. A villain intercepts

the message. The bad guys tell Gopher (who is acting as the escort) that they

got a message from the governor saying he wants them to pull a fake stage coach

robbery and kidnaping to give his daughter and niece a little excitement. In

addition to that ridiculously dumb plot point, there are awkwardly staged and

poorly shot scenes and some bad acting. There is lots of fighting, but who

cares?








Fury – This is a rather

silly show starring Peter Graves as Jim Newton and Robert Diamond as Joey.

There are two episodes of this program. The opening narration tells us “There was only one Fury. Fury, king of the

wild stallions
.” Fury obeys the voice of Joey, the boy who once saved his

life (this is also explained in the opening voice over). The voice over even

introduces Joey’s school teacher (who doesn’t actually appear in either

episode). Peter Graves is Jim, who seems to be Joey’s father, except that Joey

calls him “Mr. Jim” rather than “Dad.” (And of course I can’t help but think of

Airplane, especially as that boy was named Joey

too.) In the first episode, “Killer Stallion,” a wild stallion is raiding a

ranch, and those folks think it’s Fury. Fury leaps his fence at night to go

play with another horse. That white horse goes and frees Mr. Stevens’ horses.

Yes, this is more than a bit silly. But the footage of the horses is great, and

the two horses eventually fight. The second episode, “Scorched Earth,” has a

strong anti-forest fire message. Seriously, this is like a filmstrip they’d

show in school in the fifties. There is even an insert shot of a Smokey Bear

membership card. Joey is appointed a junior ranger, and after he reads some

rules, he exclaims, “Gosh, that makes you

feel good inside
.” And the ranger encourages Joey to share the information

with his friends at school. Joey becomes an instant zealot, even lecturing his

horse on how to put out a fire. The fire footage is actually pretty good,

though a station ranger has magic binoculars.








The Roy Rogers Show   This

is a totally enjoyable show starring Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and the horse

Trigger. The end credits song is “Happy Trails.” This set includes two

episodes. In the first, “Bad Neighbors,” Roy sees two men shoot at Granny, and

he fights them. Granny fell and rolled down the hill, and she tells Roy, “It was easier than walking, and I made

better time
.” Everyone thinks the men are after her furs, but they’re

actually after her property. In the second episode, “The Setup,” trouble is

brewing between the homesteaders and the ranchers. Roy, Dale and Pat find a

wounded man, Frank Stewart. A homesteader had his house burned down, so folks

are on edge. Apart from some silliness regarding wallpaper, it’s a really good

episode.








Annie Oakley – This is

another fun program, starring Gail Davis as Annie Oakley (she is beautiful),

Jimmy Hawkins as Tagg, and Brad Johnson as Lofty. There are two

episodes. In the first, “Sharpshooting Annie,” Annie is riding with some kind

of carnival. Their stagecoach is held up by a gunman on a white horse. The

money was to go to charity. Annie suspects someone connected to the show is involved.

In “Outlaw Brand,” Tagg and his friend are making money to go to the country

fair. John’s uncle Joe does some quick shooting to protect Tagg from a

rattlesnake, which surprises everyone, as they all thought he knew nothing

about guns. Johnny and Tagg clean out Joe’s attic to sell to an antique dealer

so they can go to the fair. Johnny finds guns and old newspaper articles, so

clearly Uncle Joe is hiding something. This is a really good episode.








The Adventures Of Kit Carson  - This show stars Bill Williams and Don

Diamond. In the first episode, “Thunder Over Inyo,” Kit is sent to check out a

gold strike. There is something that is really funny because of the edit. Kit

rids toward the camera, and we hear some sort of shout from off screen. But his

horse’s mouth moves exactly in time to the voices, making it seem like the

horse is shouting. I watched it four times. But generally I’m less interested

in this show than others. In the second episode, “The Desperate Sheriff,” Kit’s

friend is the new sheriff, and has caught a criminal he needs help holding onto.









The Adventures Of Champion  - This was a show I was completely unfamiliar

with, and totally love. It stars Barry Curtis as Ricky and Jim Bannon as Sandy,

and features Champion, the wonder horse. There are two episodes. In “Hangman’s

Noose” a man discovers oil on Holt’s property. Holt is not known as the

friendliest person, so the man has little trouble setting him up on a murder

charge in his efforts to secure the oil for himself. This has the most interesting

story, which is surprising considering that the show’s star is supposed to be a

horse. In “Bad Men Of The Valley” a couple has bought the Benson ranch, and will

be Ricky’s new neighbors. Meanwhile, some men shoot a marshal, and Champion

leads Ricky and Sandy to the body. The bad guys hide in a place on the old

Benson property, and meet that new couple, one of whom has a shady past. My

favorite line: “I tried going straight

two or three times myself once
.”








The Cisco Kid  - This is a really bad show, due in part to

the two leads (Duncan Renaldo as Cisco, and Leo Carrillo as Pancho), who are

pretty weak. Their interactions are goofy, but the show overall is just awful.

There are two episodes. In “Freight Line Feud,” a man’s gambling debts lead to

more trouble for Western Freighting Company. Cisco and Pancho arrive to help. In

the background of an action scene, you can see a random rider. In “Ghost Town,”

Cisco Kid and Pancho are chased by three men into some weird territory. The men

won’t follow them there. The Cisco Kid and Pancho run out of water, but find a

woman. She delivers some awful dialogue, then leads them to a ghost town. Geez,

she’s terrible.








Sergeant Preston Of The Yukon  -  This

show, based on a radio drama and starring Richard Simmons, is definitely a bit

different from the others, though it still has narration at the beginning (“with his wonder dog, Yukon King” - all

animals are “wonder” animals in westerns). The beginning also includes a simple

map for those who don’t know where the Yukon is. In the first episode, “Crime

At Wounded Moose,” masked criminals terrorize the area. After they rob a bank,

a town meeting is called, and Sergeant Yukon, a Mountie, is sent for to help. A

man with a criminal past is suspected to be the leader. The bad guys meet in a

cabin, and for some reason they still wear their hoods. Halfway through the

episode, the narrator explains what’s happening. In “Trapped,” a new couple,

with no experience in trapping, arrives in the area. There is also a thief

about. And there’s this bit of narration: “Being

a woman, Eileen, knew cotton stretches when wet. The greasiness of the stew

also helped release her
.”








Sky King – This is one of

the best and most enjoyable shows in this set. It stars Kirby Grant as Sky

King, Gloria Winters as Penny, James Dobson as Joe and Jacqueline Ravell as

Frances. There is only one episode of this show. Titled “Bullet Bait,” it opens

with two guys hijacking a truck. Meanwhile Joe is late for his own wedding,

having run out of gas. Joe comes upon the hijackers, and is forced to help

unload the truck. He escapes, so the two men stake out the wedding, waiting for

Joe to show up. Joe sends his bride a letter telling her her life is in danger.

She shows it to Sky, who flies to the lake where the letter was sent from. Sky

and Penny find Joe almost immediately. The bad guys find him too.








Red Ryder  – This show stars Jim Bannon as Red Ryder,

Jean Dean as Lindy, and Lyle Talbot as Martin. There is only one episode. Titled

“Whiplash,” it begins with Red Ryder finishing his part of a roundup. But the

other ranchers want Red to be in charge the rest of the way. And of course,

there’s trouble. This episode features a whip fight between two men. Check out

the school in the background of the last shot – clearly just a flat.








Buffalo Bill, Jr. – This

is one of the weaker shows in the collection. It stars Dick Jones as Buffalo

Bill, Jr.; Nancy Gilbert as Calamity, his little sister; and Harry Cheshire as

Judge Ben Wiley. There are two episodes. In the first, “Blazing Guns,” bandits

have been robbing folks regularly, and people are unsure how the bandits are

getting their information. In “Legacy Of Jesse James” some men are after a

treasure chest buried by Jesse James. This episode messy, with lots of

exposition and flashbacks. It seems like the second part of a two-part episode.








There are no special

features in this collection. Episodes are not divided into DVD chapters, but

rather each episode is a single chapter.  Howdy

Kids! A Saturday Afternoon Western Roundup
is scheduled to be released on

April 9, 2013 through Shout! Factory.






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