August 26, 2010
A visit to the invaluable TVShowsonDVD website reveals some news about The Fugitive that is, shall we say, eyebrow-raising. Since I first reported, two years ago, on CBS’s craven decision to mutilate The Fugitive’s underscoring, the entirety of the series’ second and third seasons have been released on DVD. All of the subsequent releases have contained substantial music alterations, as well. In the meantime, there has been much speculation on whether CBS would choose to release The Fugitive’s fourth and final season with the music intact. That’s because, during year four, the producers of The Fugitive switched from the Capital Music library (which is thought to be the source of CBS’s legal risk-aversion) to a library of cues composed by Dominic Frontiere for The Outer Limits and Stoney Burke as their source of stock music.
The sole extra announced for the initial fourth-season DVD release is a featurette with a provocative title: “Season of Change: Composer Dominic Frontiere.” Is that a signal that the music on this release will finally, again, be the original music? Or a fuck-you to all of us who have been bitching and moaning about the failed second- and third-season DVDs? If CBS is going to the trouble of explaining Frontiere’s uncredited involvement in The Fugitive, is it possible the featurette will also offer an explanation and/or an apology for what happened to the middle two seasons? Either way, it’s an unpleasant irony that the only bonus feature to be produced for any DVD release of The Fugitive will be devoted to an individual whose name never appeared in the show’s credits. Maybe that’ll help to make up for the fact that MGM’s DVD releases of The Outer Limits (a sixties classic to which Frontiere’s contributions really were essential) also offered no special features. But: not really.
Just yesterday I was explaining to someone that his options for watching the 1959 private eye series Johnny Staccato were not pretty. One, there were the sixteen-millimeter transfers that have been floating around for decades; they’re uncut, but every copy I’ve ever seen is generations removed from the original and looks awful. Two, there are the versions that ran on the now-defunct Trio cable channel five or six years ago. Those looked gorgeous, having been remastered by Universal from thirty-five millimeter elements, but each episode was cut by three or four minutes.
Well, happily, all of that has changed in the last twenty-four hours, because Timeless Media Group has announced that it will be releasing the entire Johnny Staccato series in October.
Most of the shows Timeless has licensed from Universal have been westerns. Many of those are obscure; some of them are even good (The Virginian) or quite rare prior to their DVD release (Whispering Smith), but they don’t really represent the best of the Revue productions of the fifties and sixties. Neither does Johnny Staccato, for that matter: it’s a rip-off of the other “jazz detective shows,” Peter Gunn and Richard Diamond, Private Detective, and it’s not different enough from either of them to be that exciting. But its historical significance is undeniable. Cassavetes, perhaps the greatest of American film directors, did his first Hollywood work behind the camera on the series, writing and directing several episodes. Many actors who guest starred on Johnny Staccato were either veterans of Cassavetes’s first film Shadows (Tom Reese, Lelia Goldoni) or would play important roles in his later films (Gena Rowlands, John Marley, Val Avery, Paul Stewart, Jimmy Joyce, Mario Gallo).
TVShowsonDVD also has news that another of the companies that’s been dipping in the Universal well will be bringing us The Snoop Sisters, one of the NBC “mystery wheel” shows that tanked after half a season (meaning, four episodes). Fine and dandy, but let me start the chorus now: where’s Tenafly?