• Cheyenne Season Two: Parts One & Two


    Released by: Warner Archive
    Released on: 12/7/2010
    Director: Various
    Cast: Clint Walker, Dan Blocker, Dennis Hopper, James Garner
    Year: 1956 - 1957
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    The Series:

    The second season of the first hour long television western series in history finds new life on DVD thanks to the Warner Archive program that have released all twenty episodes that make up the complete season in two five disc collections on made to order DVD-R. In an age where TV westerns like Deadwood and Justified and movies like the recent True Grit make shows like Cheyenne seem tame by comparison, it’s important to remember that this show existed in a pre-Peckinpah/Leone world, where the western hadn’t become as nihilistic and violent as it would inevitably become once these two masters started to explore the death of the old west and in turn, how, it relates to the history of America. The series is also of some historical significance for being the first show made by a Hollywood Film studio that wasn’t based on existing characters from one of that studio’s movies. Warner Brothers produced the series on its studio lot under the guidance of series’ producer William Orr (off 77 Sunset Strip and F-Troop fame).

    The series revolves around a drifter named Cheyenne Brodie (Clint Walker) who essentially wanders from one small town to the next and finding his way in and out of trouble. He’ll inevitably wind up helping someone out in each episode, doing good when he can but not necessarily always on purpose or with any sort of pre-meditation. Making Brodie more interesting than your random run of the mill cowboy is his background. His parents were murdered by Cheyenne Indians during a raid though the tribe spared his life and raised him as one of their own. As such, Cheyenne respects his heritage and doesn’t hold the same distorted views of the natives as other cowboys of the time (many of whom would simply shoot on site).

    Moral conflicts sometimes come into play as the series starts to build, with Brodie having to make tough decisions not just in terms of how he should act in tense and dangerous situations but also as to who he should trust and why. He’ll periodically interact with the ladies, at which point we’re shown a slightly softer side of him, and the series does sometimes mix in some good humor alongside the more consistent dramatic themes and action/fight/shoot out set pieces.

    Walker is rock solid in the lead role, playing his part with a sense of nobility and justice that makes his Brodie quite a likeable sort indeed. Compared to the dirty, nasty and sometimes foul mouthed cowboys that would soon follow in his wake, Cheyenne is a hero in the fairest sense of the word and positively wholesome in hindsight even if he’s quick with a gun and not one to put up with any nonsense from the bad guys. Walker has the right look and right sort of screen presence to make the role his own, which is exactly what he did for eight seasons straight and it remains the role that he’s likely best remembered for.

    Playing off of that stoic persona are some interesting guest stars. Movie buffs will appreciate seeing early cameos from would be Hollywood stars such as a young Dennis Hopper as well as the beautiful Angie Dickinson. Future western star James Garner, who would make a name for himself with Maverick long before The Rockford Files, appears in an episode as does an instantly recognizable and always entertaining John Carradine, here still in good health and seemingly enjoying his work. Before Richard Creena become known for Rambo he appeared in this show, as did the likes of Diane Brewster (who would eventually appear four different times in the series as four different characters) and Dan Blocker of Bonanza fame.

    The episodes that make up the second season of Cheyenne are presented as follows:

    Season Two Part One:

    Disc One: The Dark Rider / The Long Winter
    Disc Two: Death Deals The Hand / The Bounty Killers
    Disc Three: The Law Man / Mustang Trail
    Disc Four: Lone Gun / The Trap
    Disc Five: The Iron Trail / Land Beyond The Law

    Season Two Part Two:

    Disc One: Test Of Courage / War Party
    Disc Two: Deadline / Big Ghost Basin
    Disc Three: Born Bad / The Brand
    Disc Four: Decisions At Gunsight / The Spanish Grant
    Disc Five: Hard Bargain / The Broken Pledge

    As the series would progress, Walker would start to feel burnt out in the part and it would show in later episodes, but here with the show still in its infancy, he’s got a good enthusiasm here and the show is all the better for it. The second season of Cheyenne is a strong one, with some great stories, better than average production values and camera work and an interesting array of guest stars. Walker would later revised this character alongside the mighty Kenny Rogers in 1991’s The Gambler Returns: The Luck Of The Draw, an odd TV movie which would feature a lot of famous TV stars reprising their roles (David Carradine also appears as Kung-Fu’s Caine!). Any excuse to mention Kenny Rogers is a good one, in this writer’s opinion.

    The Video:

    The black and white fullframe transfers on these discs look sharp and clean and show good contrast. Some print damage is noticeable now and then though black levels are more often than not fairly strong and deep. Some shimmering is also present during playback but it’s not a constant problem. There aren’t any edge enhancement or compression artifacts issues to complain about and while the series doesn’t appear to have been given a full blown restoration, it looks pretty decent on this DVD-R.

    The Audio:

    The English language Dolby Digital Mono sound mix on this set is completely adequate if not particularly exceptional. Dialogue is generally very easy to follow and understand and levels are properly balanced. The high end gets a little bit shrill now and again, and there are a few instances where you might pick up on some mild distortion, but otherwise things sound fine. No alternate language options or subtitles are provided.

    The Extras:

    The discs contain only static menus with chapter stops. Aside from that, this disc is completely barebones.

    Overall:

    An entertaining and legitimately classic TV western gets a good quality, if disappointingly barebones, release from the Warner Archive program.