• Wanted: Dead Or Alive Season Two

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: 3/9/2010
    Director: Various
    Cast: Steve McQueen, Lee Van Cleef, DeForest Kelley, Warren Oates, Martin Landau, Lon Chaney Jr., Dyan Cannon, Brad Dexter

    Year: 1959-1960
    The Movie:

    Before Steve McQueen was a big time movie star appearing in films like Bullitt and The Getaway, he was cutting his teeth on this late fifties era television series, Wanted: Dead Or Alive. Like Clint Eastwood, another action icon who rose to prominence on the small screen before hitting it big in tinsel town, McQueen proved himself a very capable actor despite having to work within the confines of this sometimes formulaic but always entertaining show that originally aired on CBS.

    The show revolves around a bounty hunter named Josh Randall (McQueen) who serves the greater good by taking on various jobs and giving much of the reward money he earns to those who need it more than he. In some ways a veritable Robin Hood of the Wild West, Randall is the strong silent type, more likely to act than to speak, and he’s a man who is not afraid to get his hands dirty if that’s what it takes to get the job done. In short, he’s a tough guy and you don’t really want to mess with him if you don’t have to, because he’s fast on the trigger finger and a dead eye of a shot with that old Winchester sawed-off rifle he totes around.

    The series does stick to a bit of a formula – McQueen’s Randall having to track down and bring in a new bad guy time and time again – but it manages to branch out in different ways so that it’s not quite so noticeable and as such, a fair bit more interesting. Yes, we do get the standard shoot out scenes in pretty much every one of the thirty-two episodes contained in this set but there’s also some rich character development and solid drama which unfolds throughout the season. On top of that, there’s even some surprisingly effective and wholly appropriate comedy thrown into the mix as well.

    McQueen plays Randall as a loner, a drifter type who can’t ever really seem to stay in one place for all too long and as such someone who is prone to relationship issues, never getting too close to any one person for too long. This is the type of character he’d play well throughout his career, the kind who always seems perpetually cool and collected on the outside but who is capable of acts of great violence when he needs to be. That said, you can’t help but like the guy. McQueen’s every man persona is exploited really well here as too are his handsome good looks and charm. He’s a likeable enough character, if not the most social guy on the planet, and his tendency to do good when he can is endearing to both the people he helps and the audience alike.

    This second season of the series brings in some interesting guest starts - Lee Van Cleef, DeForest Kelley, Warren Oates, Martin Landau, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr., Dyan Cannon, and Magnificent Seven co-star Brad Dexter – but it is by and large McQueen’s show through and through. It’s as if the producers recognized his star power early on and wanted to capitalize on it while they could.

    The thirty-two episodes that make up the complete second season of Wanted: Dead Or Alive are presented in this set as follows:

    Disc One: Montana Kid / The Healing Woman / The Matchmaker / Breakout / Estralita / The Hostage / The Empty Cell / Bad Gun

    Disc Two: The Tyrant / Reckless / Desert Seed / Twelve Hours To Crazy Horse / No Trail Back / Man On Horseback / Chain Gang / Vanishing Act

    Disc Three: Mental Lapse / Angela / The Monster / Most Beautiful Women / Jason / The Partners / Tolliver Bender / A House Divided

    Disc Four: Triple Vise / Black Belt / The Pariah / Vendetta / Death Divided By Three / The Inheritance / Prison Trail / Pay-Off At Pinto

    Twilight Zone junkies may be interested to learn that Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont collaborated on the second episode in the collection (you can’t help but notice the odd, quirky bent to the story). Generally, however, the scripts are fairly standard western fare made interesting by some well written characters, a talented cast, and some very strong performances.

    Video/Audio/Extras:
    Wanted: Dead Or Alive is presented in its original 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio in glorious black and white. Aside from the fact that this material is all interlaced, the image is pretty good. There's some mild print damage but given the show's age that's forgivable and really, unless you're looking for it you're probably not even going to notice it. The contrast levels look good, detail is stronger than you'd probably expect, and while there's a little bit of shimmer, this is otherwise a surprisingly nice looking set.

    The English language Dolby Digital Mono track is obviously limited in range but the dialogue is easy to understand and the levels are properly balanced. There aren't any recurring problems with hiss to complain about even if there are occasional instances of audible distortion and as far as older TV shows go, this one sounds just fine.

    There aren’t any extras at all aside from static menus and episode selection.

    The Final Word:

    McQueen fans who missed out on this series when BCI released it a few years ago should definitely check it out now that Mill Creek has put it back in print, particularly because it’s available at such a great price. The set may be barebones but this is a really entertaining series that really lets a young McQueen strut his stuff. You can see the seeds of greatness being sewn here, and the wealth of interesting guest stars makes this a very easy series to recommend.