I had vaguely known about this show because I had seen replicas of the famous "Mare's Leg" McQueen used in the show, but I had never actually seen an episode (forgivable I hope since I was born in 1979.) On saw this here on Amazon one day, and on impulse I bought it to watch while I was on the treadmill exercising. I have always liked Steve McQueen as an actor, own a couple of his movies and see several others, so I figured this would fit the bill since I have been in an "Old West" kind of mood buying up classic western movies to watch. Boy was I surprised at what a gem this show turned out to be. I'll break this review up into sections about the show itself, and then the packaging format and reproduction quality.
The show itself:
So how does the show rate. Well, judging by my 5 star review you can guess how I feel. This show came early in Steve McQueens acting career, yet you probably would never have guessed. The seriousness and professionalism he brought to such great roles in movies like The Sand Pebbles and The Great Escape are equally evident in this show. The dialogue doesn't feel forced, McQueen acts, speaks and moves as if really Josh Randall, bounty hunter. The support cast can vary in some cases from well done, to stereotypical of the day (for example, in one episode McQueen captures an "Apache" and forces him to take him to water...the "Apache" has rather light colored eyes and the credits indicate a rather Germanic last name), but it is made up for with some classic greats like Alan Hale Jr. (the Skipper from Gilligan's Island) giving great performances. Now, I won't fool you into believing that the plot lines and acting are at the cinema level of such great movies as Sergio Leone's "Man with no name" trilogy, Unforgiven or Open Range. But how could a 24 minute long (not including credits), black and white TV series from the late 50's approach the level of a 3 hour Hollywood movie with multi-million dollar budgets? No, it isn't Oscar level, but the episodes still give you good plots and writing for the 24 minutes. Some can be formulaic (like when McQueen plays the humble good guy and gives over his bounty money to the down-and-out person of said given episode.) But for the most part you get hit with catchy situations that don't necessarily seem as if they came out of a Louis L'amour novel. As long as you can accept the limitations that such a short TV show from that time period had to work with then you will be quite satisfied all around with what this show offers you.
Packaging and video transfer reproduction:
There are 12 DVD's, each in it's own paper sleeve, and held inside a DVD case that is roughly the width of 2 1/2 or 3 regular sized DVD cases. Some would see this as a minor negative. Frankly it does not bother me since I have started converting my CD and DVD collection into jewel case/DVD case-less packaging. Now, as soon as I get a DVD or CD in I pull out the disc, all the papers/artwork that come with it, stick the disc in a Case Logic disc case and put the papers/artwork in a special box dedicated to it. This way I can pick up a case (usually divided into categories like "TV shows", "War movies", "Westerns", etc.) and have instant access to a whole collection. But if you still use CD DVD cases be aware the packaging is not quite as good as many other multi-disc DVD cases.
The reproduction to digital of the original show, for the most part is very good. You will get the occasional audio oddity, like low volume or the odd "click" or "pop". I have not watched all the episodes yet, but of those I have watched the video is just fine. So the only issue I have found so far have been audio only.
The moral of the story:
For under $20 you get 94 episodes, bonus material, a great actor just coming into his stride, respectable video/audio quality and overall a well made show. What more could you ask for!?