A Kettle of Precious Fish

June 12, 2012

By the time I managed to locate Bert Leonard, all that was left of him fit into a small unit in a self-storage facility in Los Angeles that was hemmed in by concertina wire and a row of spindly palm trees.

– Susan Orlean

All that was left of him was not a storage unit.  That wasn’t all that was left of his life.  He had all of his children around him, and he got to understand that he was leaving us behind.  He didn’t die alone.

– Gina Leonard

1. I Wouldn’t Start From Here

It started with a question: who owns Route 66 and Naked City?  I thought finding the answer would be simple.  It wasn’t.

The question comes up because, last month, Shout Factory released all four seasons of Route 66, the Herbert B. Leonard-produced, Stirling Silliphant-created, filmed-all-over-the-United States, one hundred and sixteen-hour road movie that stands as a unique event in American television history.  That made Route 66 the first of Leonard’s television series to be completed on home video.

That’s complete with an asterisk, though, because one episode in the set (“A Fury Slinging Flame,” a significant anti-nuke treatise) is definitely missing about five minutes of footage, another (“Blue Murder”) is probably missing a few minutes, and all of the first fifteen episodes are derived from some badly mauled sixteen-millimeter prints that should never have passed a professional QC.  The reasons for these mastering failures remain murky (“murky” is a concept that we’ll be returning to often in this piece).  Route 66’s DVD history was a bumpy road, a trial-and-error process that fixed some mistakes and let others stand (I covered this in its early stages here), an unfinished mess that Shout Factory inherited from other companies (Roxbury Entertainment, producer, and Infinity Entertainment, distributor) without much of a track record in the TV-on-DVD business.

Personally, I’m in the half-full camp on this: seven-eighths of the episodes are in better than adequate shape, and I can finally throw out my VHS tapes of the last season.  (Plus, they sent me a freebie.)  But Brian Ward, the producer of the new Route 66 set, implied months ago in a forum post that the new box set of Route 66 would fix the video problems that afflicted the earlier releases.  Ward has an internet history of “truthiness,” of drumming up fans’ enthusiasm when Shout is getting something right and then bailing any time the chips are down, and when you reread what he wrote, it doesn’t make any concrete promises.  So technically Ward is off the hook.  But many of the small but vocal crowd who actually read these things felt duped, and launched a “cancel your pre-orders” campaign; as of this writing, about two-thirds of the Amazon reviews of the set focus exclusively on the image quality issues, or on the obnoxious fact that Shout has not disclosed whether it will release Season 4 (the only one new to DVD) separately.

I always suspect that these don’t-buy-it-movements are like the southern boycott of Bonanza (because of its stars’ pro-civil rights stance) in the sixties: complain in public but watch it with the shades pulled down.  It’s not as if fans have a better way of seeing the botched first season episodes – except, actually, they do.  Route 66 ran on Nick at Nite in the late eighties, from new video masters that were (for their time) gorgeous; copies of those circulate among fans, and they look vastly better than the copies of the first fifteen used in this DVD box.

Why couldn’t, or wouldn’t, Shout Factory (or its predecessors) access those tapes?  That’s what I wanted to find out.  I also wanted to know why the DVD releases of Route 66’s sister show, Naked City, sputtered out in 2006, with 78 of the 138 episodes unreleased (including all of the 39 segments from the inferior but still essential half-hour edition of the show, which predated the longer-running hour-long reboot by two years).

A lot of people (including, long ago, myself) have assumed that Sony owns both shows.  There’s a logic to that inference – Sony is the corporate successor to Screen Gems, which originally partnered with Herbert Leonard’s production company to produce the shows and then distributed them in syndication; and Sony’s logo appears on the back of the Naked City DVDs – but it’s wrong.  The real story is much more complicated.

2. Torment Him Much and Hold Him Long

Herbert B. Leonard got seven shows on the air between 1954 and 1960.  The first, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, was a big hit, and it gave the brash Leonard enough leeway to produce whatever he wanted, even though the executives at Screen Gems – who were theoretically his bosses – hated him from the outset.  Rin Tin Tin made Leonard a rich man, a comer not only in the television industry but also someone who could be taken seriously as a movie producer, too.

But Leonard spent his last decade without a home of his own, dependent upon the financial support of family and friends.  He got throat cancer, lost his larynx and his voice in 2003, and died in 2006.  It was a long, sad story that started when Naked City and Route 66 were canceled in 1963 and 1964.  Leonard had no shows on the air, no guaranteed income, and all the executives he’d defied and taunted in interviews had their knives out for him.  He pitched many pilots, some of them ambitious endeavors as Route 66 and Naked City had been (1973’s Nightside, with John Cassavetes, was written by Pete Hamill and directed by Richard Donner; 1978’s Sparrow was written by Larry Cohen and directed by John Barry), others kitsch like 1967’s The Perils of Pauline.  None became series.  He had a modest hit with Popi, a movie he produced in 1969 for United Artists; he made a few bucks on a sepia-tinted, recut version of Rin Tin Tin (Rin Tint Tint?) that he syndicated in the seventies; he got a couple of short-lived shows on the air in the early eighties.  But most of the second half of Leonard’s life was wasted creatively, a waste that is quite measurable for anyone who has had the rare opportunity to see the single film that Leonard directed.

Going Home (1971), a forgotten almost-masterpiece, was a father-son drama that Robert Mitchum agreed to make for scale, and that reunited a lot of Leonard’s Naked City and Route 66 collaborators – writer Larry Marcus, director of photography Fred Jackman, casting director Marion Dougherty, stunt coordinator Max Kleven.  Leonard talked about getting Haskell Wexler (a hot property after Medium Cool) to direct, then decided to do it himself; he struggled at first, but Mitchum backed him, helped him learn the new craft.  Problem was, Leonard made the film at MGM, whose president at that time was the notorious James T. Aubrey.   Aubrey liked to carve up movies in the editing room: Robert Altman, Blake Edwards, Sam Peckinpah, Jack Smight, and Bruce Geller, among others, all told the press that Aubrey trashed films they made for MGM during the early seventies, or sabotaged their distribution if their directors didn’t bend to his will.  Aubrey was also Bert Leonard’s old nemesis, the head of CBS during the Route 66 years, and when he chopped thirty minutes out of Going Home, and then barely released it, it may have been just out of spite.  What remains of the film is the creative bright spot in a forty-year twilight.  But after MGM dumped it, Leonard’s promising directing career was over.

Herbert B. Leonard in 1987 (at a Museum of Broadcasting event, a recording of which is an essential extra on Shout Factory’s Route 66 box set)

Bert Leonard could not live modestly.  He was, after all, a cigar-chomping mogul of the Hollywood variety.  He gambled, he womanized, he borrowed money to finance unmade films and drawn-out lawsuits.  There were four wives and six daughters.  The last of the wives, Betty Kennedy, was an ingenue in Ladies’ Man, a Leonard-produced workplace sitcom that ran on CBS for one shortened season in 1980-81.  “That was a real heartbreaker for Bert,” one of his friends told me.  Betty was thirty-some years younger than Leonard, and it was a volatile, on-again, off-again relationship; no one would go on the record about the specifics (and I could not reach Kennedy, now living in Reno, for comment), but I suspect that Leonard’s quasi-biographer, Susan Orlean, is being deliberately coy when she writes that Leonard “later described his relationship to her as an addiction.”

Until the end, Leonard kept trying to get properties he owned made or remade.  He became obsessed with River of Gold, a big-budget feature Rin Tin Tin story that Disney optioned briefly.  There were still people who wanted to work with Leonard, but he refused to compromise on any professional point in which he believed strongly, no matter what the consequences; he drove away potential collaborators and backers, even the ones who liked him personally.  Stanley Moger, who underwrote those tinted Rin Tin Tin intros to the tune of $800,000 and pulled the plug when Leonard ran over budget, called it a “habit for self-destructing.”

Leonard’s friends supported him.  The director Irvin Kershner, who was involved with River of Gold, loaned him $100,000 in living expenses.  The stuntman Max Kleven (he was Paul Burke’s double on Naked City) gave him $350,000 over the years, and put Leonard up at his ranch for a time.  James P. Tierney, who was Leonard’s lawyer for a while (put another asterisk on that; we’ll come back to it), fronted him “ten to twenty thousand a month for three or four years.”

Eventually, Leonard’s only assets were his TV shows.  He’d been shrewd enough to retain the copyrights – certainly not a given during the early days of television – but he couldn’t hold on to them.

3. Like This, It Means Father … Like This, Bitter … Like This, Tiger

On the website of the U.S. Copyright Office, you can pull up records documenting the path by which Naked City, Route 66, and the other Leonard shows changed hands over the last fifteen years.  The registrations are plentiful and complex.  I showed them to an intellectual property lawyer, who told me that to truly untangle the mess, you’d have to go down to D.C. and sift through the complete documents.

Most of those records point to, and were likely filed by, James Tierney, the attorney (with an asterisk) who represented some of Bert Leonard’s affairs toward the end.  According to Tierney, Leonard used the shows to settle his debts with Tierney, which eventually totaled $1.5 million.

“It’s a long story,” Tierney explained last month.  “He owned me money, and we came to an amicable accommodation about settling with me.  I always liked the show” – meaning Naked City, but including most or all of the others –  “and he wanted to sell it, and I bought it from him.”

Tierney was guarded when we first spoke, maybe because he didn’t know whether I knew about the paintings (and in fact I didn’t, yet).  The paintings were a Monet and a Picasso, among others, and according to Susan Orlean, Tierney conspired in 1992 to steal them from a client as part of an insurance scam.  He did time, and lost his law license.  (Tierney disputes this version of events, but refused to go into detail and quickly ended our conversation after I brought up Orlean’s book.  The California State Bar confirms that Tierney tendered his resignation with charges pending in 1999.)

You can understand how those allegations might color one’s assessment of a source, and yet I have to concede that Tierney sounded genuine in his affection for Leonard.  “He worked until the end,” Tierney said.  “He was always working on ideas.  He was an optimist.  He always thought that the next deal was right around the corner.”  Tierney also believed – and this is the only way that Bert Leonard could have hung in for so long, and borrowed so much dough from so many people – that Leonard was “a charming, talented guy, just a real nice guy.”

4. How Much a Pound Is Albatross

Tierney may have liked the shows, but like his old friend he parceled them off over time.  Route 66 went to Financo, a Dutch investment company, which sold it to Kirk Hallam, the would-be producer who wanted to remake the series as a feature film.  After the original DVD releases petered out, Hallam struck a deal with Shout Factory that gave the home video label “worldwide home entertainment and digital rights, and North American broadcast rights.”  (Route 66, Naked City, and Rin Tin Tin have all been in the lineups of these new nostalgia-oriented cable channels that have cropped up – MeTV, Antenna TV, I can’t keep track – so reruns are, after a long dry spell, once again a revenue source.)

As far as I can tell, Sony still controls two of Leonard’s lesser-known shows, Rescue 8 (Los Angeles firefighters) and Tallahassee 7000 (Walter Matthau as a Florida lawman); Leonard signed the rights over to Columbia Pictures Television in the late eighties.  I’ve never seen them but I’ve heard that both series have some of the same on-location verisimilitude as Route 66 and Naked City.  (There’s also a rumor that they were stymied in syndication because some of the prints could not be found.)  Financo appears to be stuck with Circus Boy, the one with Micky Dolenz and an elephant (anybody want to take that off their hands?).  And The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin . . . well, that one is too complicated to even get into here.

Naked City was the one show that Tierney held on to.  At the time Tierney acquired the copyright, Sony – then the show’s distributor, evidently subject to an earlier deal made by Leonard – was already releasing the series on DVD through Image Entertainment.  “Then Sony sold their rights to me,” Tierney says, “and I didn’t renew the agreement.”  Tierney claims that the Naked City DVDs were profitable – that even though Image spent “thousands of dollars” creating the gorgeous new video masters, the DVDs took in $600,000 of gross revenue and made an 80% profit.  Tierney ended the relationship with Image over a financial dispute, and because (like me) he was annoyed that Image cherry-picked the episodes with the most famous guest stars and refused to switch to a season-by-season release pattern.

But there’s a lede that I’ve buried here: In April of this year, Tierney sold Naked City to Image Entertainment, following the “amicable” resolution of a lawsuit he filed against the DVD distributor in 2011.  Although Tierney retains remake and sequel rights, Image “effectively owns the original programming,” in Tierney’s words, including all home video and digital rights.

But don’t get excited yet.  Last week, a rep for Image told me that the company (which was recently purchased by Robert L. Johnson, the founder of BET) has no immediate plans to release the series on disc.  That’s a real shame.  Although Image is not a major player in the classic TV realm, it has licensed a few key properties and turned them into elaborately-produced, well-reviewed disc releases.  The mind reels at the possibility of a complete Naked City box set, with audio commentaries and other extras, similar to the Thriller set Image released in 2010.  Or, better yet, a series of season-by-season Blu-rays, along the lines of Image’s most recent Twilight Zone upgrades.

5. The Man Who Bit a Diamond in Half

There are still things about the above that I don’t fully understand.  One is the extent of Sony’s interest in Naked City and Route 66.  Did Leonard always own the copyright to his shows outright, or did Screen Gems keep a piece of them?  Orlean writes that, by the eighties, Leonard owed Sony “a fortune” – but for what, exactly?  Last year Sony’s Vice President of Media Production told me that “both of those titles expired several years ago from the Sony Pictures Television copyright and have moved on to new copyright holders” (emphasis added) – meaning, in other words, that perhaps Sony did consider itself a rightsholder until recently? If so, what persuaded them to sell their piece to, frankly, non-entities? Corporate ownership is no guarantee of careful stewardship but, in this case, it seems a shame that Sony failed (or simply didn’t seek) to leverage partial or disputed ownership to consolidate the rights and elements under its umbrella.

Then there’s the question of Max Kleven.  According to Orlean, the former stuntman gained certain rights to Rin Tin Tin in a court-ordered settlement against Leonard, who couldn’t pay off his debts to Kleven any other way.  But Kleven told me that he owns more.  “All that stuff has been to court twice, and as far as the court is concerned I own control of Rin Tin Tin, Route 66, and the Bert Leonard portion of Naked City,” Kleven said in May.  Indeed, the Copyright Office has a 2005 purchase and assignment agreement in the name of TRG Management, LLC & Max Kleven that lists not only Rin Tin Tin but also all the Route 66 and Naked City episodes.  James Tierney points out that his own foreclosure on Naked City and Route 66, in 2000, predated any of Kleven’s claims against Leonard, and that the attorneys for Financo and Image checked the titles on the shows before closing the deals with him.  Kleven describes Tierney as a friend and a legal advisor.  Tierney politely disputes Kleven’s claims to ownership of any of the shows.

Did Bert Leonard give away the same shows twice?

6. Suppose I Said I Was the Queen of Spain

Finally, there’s the question of the film and video elements.  Did Bert Leonard keep any of them?  A copyright isn’t much good if it doesn’t come with a usable copy of what’s copyrighted.  In that storage shed, Susan Orlean found prints and tapes of Rin Tin Tin and some of Leonard’s other shows.  But Leonard’s daughter Gina, who was caring for her father when he died and ended up with the keys to the shed, says that no one has sourced any film or video elements from his estate.  Tierney told me that, for Naked City, Sony “was holding” all the elements, and “now they’re turning them over” – to Image, presumably.

But what about Route 66?  The question of elements was central to the bungled early DVDs of that show.  The first round derived from ragged sixteen-millimeters.  After the resulting outcry, the subsequent Infinity/Roxbury releases appeared to source thirty-five millimeter elements, albeit with aspect ratio and audio flaws that suggested the mastering was being done inexpertly.  Where did these transfers come from?  Kirk Hallam addressed the issue in an interview in which he stated that, following the inferior original release (some of which was sourced from “videotape”), the “fine-grain masters” were rounded up from “vaults all up and down the East Coast.”  (Whose vaults?)  The “original film stock” for the episodes resided in a Sony vault in Burbank, but “the archivists begged me not to use that original film.”

As I’ve written before, aspects of that explanation strike me as obfuscatory (or perhaps just confused about what the technical terms actually mean).  My own guess – and this is pure speculation, and I invite anyone with knowledge of the situation to set the record straight – has always been as follows: that Hallam acquired the copyright of Route 66 but no usable film elements; that Sony sought more than Roxbury or Infinity wanted to pay for access to either film prints or the old video masters that ran on Nick at Nite; that Roxbury used either collectors’ prints or some other unknown, second-rate source to create the first Route 66 DVD release; and that for the subsequent volumes Roxbury capitulated and forked over the money to use Sony’s elements.

A big question is why Shout Factory opted not to redo the first fifteen episodes.  Was it merely a matter of dollars and cents, or was there another reason why better elements were unavailable?  I can understand how new transfers of fifteen hours of film could bust the budget, but what about those Nick at Nite tapes, which were inarguably better than the first DVDs?  Were they tossed, or was Shout too cheap even to pay for access to them?

(Last week Shout Factory’s PR rep stopped responding to my requests for an interview with the producer of the Route 66 DVDs after I declined to submit questions in advance.)

7. The One Marked Hot Gives Cold

I never would’ve guessed that I’d get scooped digging around amid the depressing late-career business dealings of a down-and-out television producer.  But that’s essentially what happened last year when Susan Orlean – yes, the New Yorker essayist who was portrayed in the film Adaptation by Meryl Streep – published a book called Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend.  Orlean was a big Rinty fan as a kid, and turned the unlikely subject into a book about the line of movie dogs and their eccentric owners and trainers.  Inevitably, when she came to Rinty’s TV years, Bert Leonard became a central protagonist in Orlean’s book; his epic rise and fall, his excesses and con-man’s charm, were irresistible.

But Orlean’s book also has a bit of a truthiness problem.  Leonard Maltin has compiled a long list of its rudimentary errors in the area of film history.  There are mistakes regarding Herbert Leonard, too.  For instance, Leonard had two daughters with each of his last three wives; Orlean credits four to his third wife and two to Betty Kennedy, the last (and technically Leonard’s fourth and fifth wife, since they divorced, remarried, and divorced again).  That might sound trivial, except Orlean suggests that Leonard’s second marriage, to Willetta Leonard (who is credited as a producer on Route 66 and Naked City), ended due to the death of his only son, Steven, in a swimming pool accident in 1955.  But Bert and Willetta went on to produce two more children before splitting up, a fact which confounds that bit of convenient armchair psychology.  Reading Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, I got the queasy sense that Orlean was arranging the facts to fit a narrative, instead of the other way around, and that her narrative required Bert Leonard to end up as pathetic and unfulfilled as possible.  Gina Leonard, one of Bert’s daughters, insists that Orlean has exaggerated the extent of Leonard’s destitution and unhappiness during his final years.  She told me last week that her siblings, mother, and other family members – many of whom had cooperated with and encouraged Orlean’s book – are united in their belief that it does not do justice to Herbert Leonard.

(I should add that while I have used Orlean’s research as a guide for parts of this piece, I have made extensive efforts to fact-check everything sourced from her book with the parties involved – most of whom were clearly reluctant to revisit the topic.)

8. A Horse Has a Big Head – Let Him Worry!

I first saw Route 66 when I was in college.  One of my instructors, Katie Mills, was doing a dissertation on road movies and gave me tapes of a dozen or so episodes.  I confess: I didn’t get it.  The copies were so murky that I couldn’t appreciate the vintage location footage, and so I responded more to the flaws.  The guest stars were good, but the lead actors were either stiff or goofy (this was a problem with Naked City, too).  And why were there so many fistfights?

Well, now I know better.  Now I’m convinced, in fact, that Route 66 and Naked City may be the most important American television project of the sixties.  Maybe not the all-time, scene-for-scene, best television shows of that era, but definitely the ones I come back to most often when I want to know what people felt then, and how their lives actually looked.

The significance of the Bert Leonard-Stirling Silliphant shows makes the state of preservation and research on them all the more alarming.  The elements themselves are in uncertain hands.  (Who has the negatives?  I can only hope they’re stored safely in Sony’s vaults.)  James Rosin has published mostly unsatisfactory books on each, and I know of at least one writer each who has abandoned a book project on Route 66 and Naked City.  I’ve written around the shows myself – Naked City bit players; Route 66 locations – and I’ve skimmed Leonard’s and Silliphant’s papers at UCLA, but I haven’t done anything in depth.  Sam Manners, the production manager on both shows (how did he manage that?!) and probably the last prominent crew member from either, died while I was researching this piece, and before I could interview him.

Route 66 ended on a weak note, a stillborn, two-part farce.  (Silliphant, like Rod Serling, was not much of a comedy writer.)  But there’s a satisfying final scene: Tod (Martin Milner) and Linc (Glenn Corbett) go their separate ways, the former settling down to marriage, the latter ostensibly headed “home” but, perhaps, continuing to wander alone. I like to think he’s still driving around out there someplace.  The title of the episode is

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

Correction (6/13/12): The original version of this piece described the plot of Route 66‘s final episode inaccurately.  Update (5/6/13): Since I published this, Shout Factory has issued a separate release of Route 66‘s fourth season, and Madacy (a subsidiary of Image Entertainment) has released two volumes of Naked City DVDs.  Most of the episodes are recycled from the earlier sets, but there are ten new-to-home video episodes.  And a belated update (4/26/15): Image did in fact release the complete Naked City in late 2013 and, as I sort-of predicted above, the new-to-DVD episodes (including all of the first season) were represented in video transfers of markedly poorer quality than the 60 that had been remastered for the original round of DVDs.  Better than nothing, I suppose. (Lightly revised 9/27/2022.)

64 Responses to “A Kettle of Precious Fish”

  1. Sixties vision Says:

    I just discovered Naked City recently through airings on the Me-Tv network and I agree that it is a time capsule to some degree as to what life was like in the late 1950s – early 1960s; particularly with all the on location filming in the streets of New York.

    So what are the film sources for the Me-Tv broadcasts of both Route 66 and Naked City?

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      Good question. I was told the Route 66s are the same masters used for the DVD. I’m not clear on who provided the Naked Citys.

  2. Griff Says:

    After reading Susan Orlean’s book, I found myself wondering when — and how — you might respond to the author’s colorful and often fancifully inaccurate portrayal of Herbert B. Leonard. This extremely impressive, lengthy post does not disappoint; indeed, Stephen, it seems you’re only getting started here. I’m guessing you’re going to have resign yourself to the thankless task of somehow writing a book about Leonard’s two great shows. I will be glad to purchase a copy.

    A small note, though, regarding your comment on Leonard’s experience at MGM making GOING HOME: “[James] Aubrey liked to carve up movies in the editing room; Robert Altman, Blake Edwards, Jack Smight, and Bruce Geller, among others, all told the press that Aubrey trashed films they made for MGM during the early seventies. Aubrey was also Bert Leonard’s old nemesis, the head of CBS during the Route 66 years, and when he chopped thirty minutes out of GOING HOME, and then barely released it, it may have been just out of spite.”

    Aubrey, of course, did literally enjoy recutting Metro films during much of his tenure as studio head. Edwards’ WILD ROVERS was severely cut, his THE CAREY TREATMENT was badly damaged by “reorganization” — the director considered it unrecognizable — and Geller’s production of CORKY, directed by Leonard Horn, was drastically trimmed. But this is the first I’ve heard that Aubrey interfered editorially with either Altman’s BREWSTER McCLOUD or Jack Smight’s THE TRAVELING EXECUTIONER. Robert Altman was not necessarily happy with the way MGM promoted and distributed his 1970 picture, but there’s nothing on record I know of suggesting that the film as released differed from the cut he delivered to the studio. Similarly, I don’t recall Smight publicly discussing battles with MGM over the final version of EXECUTIONER, though I believe he did wish the film had received better — and certainly higher profile — distribution. Smight did actually sue Warners over editorial changes to his previous film, RABBIT, RUN.

    I did see GOING HOME when it opened in the Autumn of 1971. I sensed there might be a problem with the film while looking at the poster — there was a homemade “GP” snipe over the printed “R” rating. The picture had some gripping moments, but it seemed incomplete. There was a Variety article back then about the film’s last minute changes and re-rating; it seemed like Aubrey was recutting nearly every picture the studio was releasing (this hadn’t been quite so true a year earlier). I’ve always been curious about the missing material.

    I would also point out that GOING HOME actually received what used to be called a “general release.” Nothing too fancy or exclusive; neighborhood theatres and drive-ins, get the movie out there with prominent newspaper print ads in support. The film did rack up a lot of playdates across the country, but it wasn’t extensively promoted.

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      Indeed, I think Altman’s complaints regarding Brewster McCloud were about distribution, although he was perhaps (in his inimitable fashion) the most vocal of the filmmakers affected. I may have conflated the two issues above.

      Jack Smight, regarding The Traveling Executioner (Los Angeles Times, December 26, 1971): “I got my two cuts, the second was approved by Herb Solow, and then Aubrey went to work. I was stunned. He recut it with a lawnmower.”

      Other films mentioned in that piece as victims of Aubrey’s recutting include Paul Magwood’s Chandler (producer: Michael Laughlin), Blake Edwards’s The Wild Rovers and The Carey Treatment, Leonard Horn’s Corky (producer: Bruce Geller), Richard Fleischer’s The Last Run, Ken Russell’s The Boy Friend, Elliot Silverstein’s Deadly Honeymoon (writer: S. Lee Pogostin), and Stuart Hagmann’s Believe in Me. Certainly a remarkable group of films.

      Gordon Parks’s Shaft is named as one of the few films released according to its makers’ intentions — but, ironically, last year I went to a screening of another film Parks made for MGM, The Super Cops, at which David Selby recalled that Parks stormed into Aubrey’s office and threatened violence over matters of editing. (I wish I could remember the details; it was a funny story.)

      • Griff Says:

        I realize this is a post — and an important one — principally about Herbert Leonard, and I don’t wish to sidetrack it, But it almost goes without saying that what Aubrey wrought at MGM is still amazing to consider.

        The anti-drug drama BELIEVE IN ME, which was begun and I believe completed to preview print as the downbeat SPEED IS OF THE ESSENCE, is my favorite example. Metro ended up hiring an uncredited John Avildsen to helm extensive reshooting that lightened the film and accentuated the Michael Sarrazin – Jacqueline Bisset love story. After all that, this one was indeed barely released.

        I do thank you for the LA Times article date with the Smight quote; I’ll look for it.

      • Toby Says:

        Sam Peckinpah’s PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID was another victim of MGM’s Aubrey period.

        Incidentally, I love both SHAFT and THE SUPER COPS, and I’d love to hear that story!

        Warner Archive has released Edwards’ cut of THE WILD ROVERS. Looking forward to seeing it.

  3. Lee Says:

    Terrific piece–informatively detailed, but also more broadly enlightening. I have a question, though, regarding the Naked City discoveries. If the DVD releases were as profitable as Tierney claims, why wouldn’t Image continue them when they gained sole ownership? Wouldn’t it be an even more attractive prospect when they got to keep all the money? Or was there a diminishing return progression Tierney did not mention? That is, were the releases profitable in the aggregate, but less and less so as they progressed? Or did Image run out of guest stars they recognized? (Or is this just one more case of corporate behavior that is impossible to fathom?)

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      All good questions. I will add that the response I got from Image felt like more of a blow-off than anything else, so who knows — maybe they will get around to doing something with it.

      • Lee Says:

        I hope so. Maybe we can find a glimmer of hope in the transfer of the films from Sony to Image.

        And incidentally, add me to the list of future book customers…

      • Jonah Says:

        The bottom has dropped out of the DVD market in the years since those Naked City collections were released. I imagine sales expectations for any future volumes would have to be much diminished. I could them working via MOD, but Image doesn’t have the same economy of scale that makes that system a possibility for the major studios.

      • Stephen Bowie Says:

        And yet, Shout Factory has been on an acquisitions binge. They’re clearly positioning themselves as the last player in the classic TV niche market (apart from CBS, which has slowed to a trickle and is itself about to switch over to MOD, I’m told). Shout seems to be able to wring the necessary coin out of some properties it licenses (e.g. Kojak), but most of the best shows it takes a chance on fail after one or two releases (Police Story, Peyton Place, Room 222). DVD sales stats are not an encouraging referendum on popular taste.

    • Mark Speck Says:

      Image is releasing another Naked City package, promising 20 star-filled episodes (again, with the cherry-picking!)…unfortunately, only nine of the twenty are new to DVD. At least the price is reasonable.

  4. Mike Doran Says:

    Quite a story here … with enough holes to drive a Humvee through.

    I get the feeling that down the line, there’s going to be some considerale revision.

    At home I’ve got an old TV GUIDE from 1963, featuring a roundtable of TV producers including Paul Henning, John Houseman, Roy Huggins, Leslie Stevens … and Bert Leonard, all smoking stogies and comparing war stories about their recent and current series. When I get home tonight I’ll dig it out and see waht if anything I can add to this.

  5. Steve Z. Says:


    Rescue 8 was aired on Nostalgia television. It ran briefly in the 1992-1993 season in the late afternoon. One of the episodes had Jay North from Dennis the Menace in it.

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      And so did Tallahassee 7000, apparently. Now that I’ve made myself curious about these, I’m making inquiries about viewing them in a private library.

  6. Red Oak Kid Says:

    Great article. It pretty much answers all my questions about the R66 dvd mess.

    Just a note, Tod does not give Linc his Corvette. Linc goes home to Texas(by bus?) and Tod and Barbara Eden drive the Vette to Houston. In your screen capture that is Linc walking away from the Vette after putting Tod and Eden’s luggage in the front seat.


    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      That’s odd; why did I rewrite that in my memory? Clearly I should’ve watched the ending again. I actually like my version better … but I’ll fix it in a sec. Thanks.

  7. Stephen Bowie Says:

    Toby, that’s an important point about MGM. The article I cited only covered what was in the can by the end of 1971. Aubrey’s reign of terror lasted for another two years and I’m afraid to look up what he might have lawnmowed during that time.

    What’s most interesting, though, are how offbeat (and uncommercial, even on paper) these projects were, and how impressive the talent was. It’s only a notch below the legendary New Hollywood studio slates — BBS at Columbia, Robert Evans at Paramount, Ned Tanen at Universal. If Aubrey was greenlighting them, then that certainly doesn’t fit with the same personality who tried to cut them into something commercial in the editing room.

    • Toby Says:

      Some say the disappointment over PAT AND BILLY sent Peckinpah’s self-destructive-ness into high gear.

      So maybe Aubrey didn’t just kill movies.

    • Jonah Says:

      I don’t think there’s necessarily a contradiction there. Francis Ford Coppola in his Zoetrope salad days was famous for hiring various “auteurs,” promising them absolute creative freedom, and then meddling with every aspect of production (or simply rejecting every idea they proposed). There’s a certain kind of creative megalomania than manifests itself in beneficent and not-so-beneficent ways.

      Aubrey was also the guy who got rid of much of M-G-M’s material holdings at auction–something that Kirk Kerkorkian usually gets the blame for (although he was no doubt complicit).

      Anyway, I neglected to say how much I enjoyed this article. I did! It’d be nice if more people so assiduously clarified the legal issues surrounding much :ahem: intellectual property. But there’s a sense among many that the very act of letting some light in will jeopardize future plans for release, which is why so many distributors are almost pathologically coy about behind-the-scenes wrangling. Masters of Cinema and Twilight Time are welcome exceptions.

  8. Mike from Jersey Says:

    You have outdone yourself with your Route 66 piece. This is why you are the only blogger I have ever, and continue to, flog to all my friends.
    You mentioned the pro Civil Rights cast of Bonanza, about 2 years ago the Walter Scott’s Personality Parade column in Parade slandered them, the producers and the entire production as bigots, taking a Pernell Roberts quote out of context as proof, a great injustice. As for the Pat Garret and Billy the Kid movie being butchered, a restored version is now out there and is light years better than the crap version.

    • Toby Says:

      The newer edition of Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid is a lot better, but they say it’s still not quite what Sam had in mind. Guess we’ll never know.

      Many of the scenes and ideas in PG&BTK originated in some form or another in Peckinpah’s script for One-Eyed Jacks (based on the novel The Authentic Death Of Hendry Jones). He was fired from that picture and much of his work ditched. So with the butchering of the 1973 film, Sam saw his take on Billy The Kid screwed over a second time!

      To me, Peckinpah seems to have been heavily influenced by Arthur Penn’s The Left-Handed Gun (1958).

      Sorry to shanghai your excellent post, Stephen, for more of my Western stuff!

      • Stephen Bowie Says:

        Another thing to consider … The Wild Rovers and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid were restored (somewhat) because somebody cared to do it. But if the cut footage for those is still there, what about the others? Could Bert Leonard’s workprint of Going Home be moldering on a vault shelf in Burbank?

      • Toby Says:

        Sure it could. Weirder things have turned up. A workprint was all they had on the Peckinpah picture.

  9. Larry Granberry Says:

    Until Criterion starts putting out classic TV series, Image is probably the best we have. “The Twilight Zone” was pristine (I’ve only viewed the DVD’s, not ready yet to splurge for the blu-ray set – at least until employment comes around again).
    I understand “The Dick Van Dyke Show” set they did was also terrific (I have a copy of “Thriller,” just haven’t delved into it too much yet).
    Wasn’t the packaging they did for “Combat” though fairly heavily criticized?
    Regardless, would love to see them release “Naked City.” Can only hope they would get the rights to “The Fugitive,” but I fear that is now a lost cause.

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      I’m still hearing that CBS is going to reissue The Fugitive box set this year. We’ll see.

      With Combat, they got crummy masters from Disney for all but the final (lousy) season, which looks great. That’s another crucial series that got badly hosed on DVD and will probably never be fixed.

  10. Larry Granberry Says:

    Just my opinion, but I’ve felt for some time that Disney treated it’s own classic films in a really shabby manner; e.g. not showing them in the correct aspect ratio, snipping “offensive” scenes out (check “Fantasia”), even digitally removing the cigarettes Pecos Bill smoked. Don’t even get me started on their steadfast refusal to release “Song of the South” on home video (possibly antiquated in some of its attitudes, but an important film nevertheless).

    • Neville Ross Says:

      I’m sorry, Larry, but until people can take the time to explain Song Of The South properly, or at least try to set it up in a way that would not make it supportive of the racism that existed at the time, I don’t think that it should ever be released. Any re-release of this movie is sure to play into the Tea Party racism permeating the country, as well as make Disney a big target for cries of racism, and I don’t think that Disney wants any controversy over its films (they already get enough blasting on and offline by feminist commentators over the Disney Princesses and gender inequalities in Pixar movies.)

  11. Nick Simon Says:

    I can’t thank you enough for this article, Stephen. As far as I’m aware, no-one else working in the field displays anywhere near the intellectual rigor or the willingness to do the research required to get to the truth – which is invariably much more complex than we ever thought. I salute you.

    Judging by the veritable flood of comments and responses, there are, it seems, many of us who have not yet given up hope of seeing Route 66 released in all its glory, and who are hungry for information about the whys and wherefores of Shout!’s apparently inexplicable decision to re-release Infinity’s first 3 seasons with season 4 tacked on, rather than spending a bit more (possibly a lot more) to give us the Complete Series Box Set we all wanted – and indeed expected.

    I’m especially interested in your comment that “Last week Shout Factory’s PR rep stopped responding to my requests for an interview with the producer of the Route 66 DVDs after I declined to submit questions in advance.”

    Is there any chance you could back down on this one, and submit questions in advance? After all, we all know what you want to ask! Wouldn’t they want the interview to be conducted by email anyway?

    However I suspect that Shout!’s much-maligned Brian Ward may not be the person best placed to answer the question of why the known-to-exist better masters or source elements were not used for the first half of the first season. There would have been an overall budget, and someone fairly high up probably made the executive decision to spend most of the budget on the packaging.

    If you don’t ever get to speak to Brian Ward, perhaps his following comments, visible on Shout!’s own website’s “community” forums, gives us some idea of how he might respond. For in comments relating to other shows, Brian Ward has stated:

    “We’ve transferred a great deal from film. In fact, cleaning and transferring masters is what got us into the deepest of troubles with The Bill Cosby Show. When I say we lost money on that, we LOST MONEY on that. Do we make transfers of most television series? No. But usually, because it’s not only cost prohibitive, but the film elements often no longer exist. At least no where near where we can get to them. Places like Universal keep their original elements in storage in Kansas and Tennessee. So we can’t even get access to the prints, if they even still exist.”

    (The above is from:
    …and dates back to Oct 2009, but there it is.)

    Shout!, being based in LA, are not likely to have been too impressed by the prospect of chasing masters located in “vaults all up and down the East Coast.” On the other hand, how far away is that Sony vault in Burbank? (Assuming we believe Kirk Hallam’s story that original film elements are located there.)

    In the same thread, Brian Ward defends the sometimes-unpalatable decisions he has made as a DVD-release series producer:

    “I own up to the fact that there are decisions I’ve made that have made purists unhappy. Being a purist myself, I totally get their complaints. But I also know that there are thousands of people out there right now enjoying their favorite shows on DVD, totally unaware or without care that there are two minutes out of 24 missing. And they wouldn’t otherwise be enjoying those shows, had I not made those decisions. So I’m okay with that.”

    Again, these comments were not made regarding Shout!’s Route 66 release, but I believe they inform the debate.

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      Well, it was partly ego — if, say, Bill Cosby wants questions in advance, I’ll think about it; but a DVD company? Sorry, no. But, really, my instinct with Shout was that a written inquiry would invite them to craft a packaged answer that just rephrased their original press release and didn’t really answer anything. So I held out for an actual interview. Who knows, maybe a bad call.

      I was also hoping, frankly, that an outlet with better contacts at Shout or, especially, Image would pick up on what I’ve reported here and shake loose some more answers.

  12. Stephen Bowie Says:

    Also of interest: TV writer and historian Larry Brody records his own encounter with Bert Leonard here:


  13. Larry Granberry Says:


    In your opinion, for those faithful among us who follow your blog, which DVD/Blu-Ray sets of TV series would you recommend? I find so many review sites to not have the knowledge to adequately review releases of films, much less TV series. Your expert knowledge is greatly appreciated for those of us who enjoy collecting old shows. It would be nice to know what to avoid.

  14. Todd Pence Says:

    After posters to the Shout Factory Route 66 forum made clear their concerns about syndicated prints being used for “A Fury Slinging Flame”, and even detailed the edits to help him out, Brian Ward’s last communication on the Shout Factory Route 66 forum was an assurance that “We are doing everything we can to make sure we have the complete episodes.” Then the dirty little yellow coward vanished from the discussion.
    Brian Ward could have come clean and posted to the forum “Hey, we’re having trouble getting quality prints because of (x) and (x) reasons. He could have solicited advice from the forum as to how to best proceed. He could have at least been honest and up front about things. Instead, he chose to duck and run.
    And now, Mr. Ward is refusing all interviews in which the questions are not pre-screened. Who the fuck does this asshole think he is, the Pope?

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      That’s making it a bit personal, though, isn’t it, Todd? I agree with you in substance but the name-calling seems a bit much. After all, in the end, they’re just TV shows.

      (I do like to imagine Chevy Chase in the role of Brian Ward, though, if they ever make a movie of this post.)

  15. Stephen:

    WOW! Again, as in your brilliant EAST SIDE / WEST SIDE Behind the Scenes, I am traveling back to 1963 and learning so much beyond my own recollections of my experience during what was probably the most fruitful and important three months of my career. As you know, I met Herbert Leonard on January 21, 1963, when I was interviewed by him to direct an episode of ROUTE 66. Although I was a very inexperienced film director, having directed a mere six episodes of television, he hired me and sent me to Texas to direct my first ROUTE 66. That was meeting #1. I remember an all-night session in the editing room with him, when he moved from moviola to moviola, working with three different film editors, editing my second NAKED CITY. And I remember being with Leonard and Stirling Silliphant discussing the unfinished script which I was set to direct for the second of the two films that introduced Glenn Corbett as Linc on ROUTE 66. There were a couple of phone calls from him to me on locations. But that scant association was my total contact with Herbert Leonard. And yet I consider him to be the most dynamic, creative, exasperating producer I have ever worked with, and NAKED CITY, followed closely by ROUTE 66, to be possibly the most important television series ever produced. There is a raw intensity in those films that transcends the primitive conditions under which they were filmed. I have spoken on my website of the Shakespeare professor at the Pasadena Playhouse who said, “Great art is a sublimation of limitations.” I think NAKED CITY and ROUTE 66 are proof of his statement.

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      Ralph, a very thoughtful comment as always. Gina Leonard corrected my assumption that, in general, Bert handled the casting and post-production and let Silliphant / Rodman handle the writing. You’ve supplied a bit of evidence to confirm that Leonard influenced the stories as well.

      • Indeed he did, and very creatively. As I relate on my website, the first ROUTE 66 was IN THE CLOSING OF A TRUNK and I left for the Texas location with just 23 pages of script. Because of inclement weather the first day of filming, we lost a day of filming and since the bad weather was forecast to continue, we found we had nothing to shoot the second day. The script was finished, but it was in Los Angeles. That evening a secretary in LA over the telephone read three scenes which a secretary in Texas then transcribed. Leonard called me then to tell me the rest of the plot and where those scenes went. Those three scenes were what we filmed the second day, by which time the final script had arrived. Bert called me again. There was a long scene between Martin Milner and Ed Begley surf fishing. Bert asked that I put the men away from the shore in water up to their waist. I did as he requested and the deeper water with the high waves added an incredible excitement to a very talky scene. The final scene of TRUNK had Don Dubbins’ character of Mattie delivering a long speech to Begley explaining his reasons for leaving with his ill mother. I called Bert and presented a version of the scene which eliminated the long speech and was totally visual. He gave me the okay to film what I described.,There were phone calls to the location on NARCISSUS ON AN OLD RED FIRE ENGINE. Since it was Glenn Corbett’s introduction into the series, there was concern over how his performance developed. A scene on a miniature golf course was reshot (and here I disagreed with that decision, but complied). On COLOR SCHEMES LIKE NEVER BEFORE, again I was filming (this time a NAKED CITY) without a script and Bert phoned to stress that the three men involved in the crime be treated as three ordinary guys, not three criminals. And finally I must add that the all night session in the editing room was a revelation. I was still very new to film and I thought Bert was a master in his editing. Yes, he was involved, but not in an obstructive, controlling manner.

  16. Larry Granberry Says:

    My gut feel on all of this is another example of a cheap-ass company (see CBS and the way they botched “The Fugitive” among others; Image with “Combat,” ad infinitum). Bottom line – they don’t care about old TV. Hell, they barely release old films with any care or concern.

  17. tragon11 Says:


    Glad to see someone taking the time and effort to dig into the mystery of why perhaps the finest series in TV history has suffered such an ignominious fate at the hands of the Philistines.
    CBS, Sony, Infinity, Shoutfactory and, sad to say, Bert Leonard himself, all seem complicit in what happened. In the end it all comes down to money. In his desperate struggle for survival Leonard was forced to sell off his legacy. In the hands of a Dutch investement company and a shyster lawyer who did time for art theft!!!??? It boggles the mind. All the subsequent owners are just trying to make dough on their investment. Can’t really blame them for that.

    I’m taking the glass half full attitude toward ShoutFactory’s DVD Box set. It’s not perfect but at least it’s got all the shows together in a compact package. The transfers, by and large, seem to be done with greater care than the Infinity discs. The majority are pretty good transfers. The first dozen or so are spotty at best. But for now it’s as good as it’s going to get.

    In light of your very interesting blog, I thought, I’d pass on these links to articles about the show and about Stirling Silliphant that I did for the Washinton Post and Outre magazine some time ago. They might be useful in further research, and of interest to the fans, as well. They’ve been posted with my permission on the Ohio66.com web site, which is another good source of info on the series.




    John M. Whalen


    • Nick Simon Says:

      Thanks for those links, John. Very interesting indeed, especially the perspective on Stirling Silliphant. It certainly would take “more than two nights” to mount a retrospective that would do justice to his creative genius. I guess Shout!’s box set is the nearest we’ll get to that, which makes it all the more disappointing that they failed to locate (or weren’t prepared to pay for) the original elements of the first dozen or so episodes.

      Silliphant’s words are intact whatever the quality of the image and sound, of course, but Route 66, having been shot on location all over the country also offers a unique window into the USA circa 1960 … and as such, the images are far more important than say, those of a studio-based sitcom.

      From that perspective, I’m taking a glass half empty view of Shout!’s release. It’s a crime that syndicated (i.e. shortened) bootleg-quality material has been included as part of a supposedly definitive “complete series box set” while the original film and soundtrack elements are sitting untouched somewhere in a vault (or multiple vaults).

      I’m not ignorant of the commercial realities of DVD production and distribution, but I figure if we don’t keep making noise about it, this type of shoddy treatment of iconic TV series will only happen again.

      It’s been reported elsewhere that the Season 4 transfers had *already* been done by Roxbury (who went bust before they could release them), and so Shout! didn’t even have to arrange transfers … so all they really did in terms of “remastering” was (according to Brian Ward) apply a “variable bit rate” to the episodes in order to fit 5 episodes on a disk, to keep the overall number of disks down to a reasonable amount without compromising image quality. I don’t have a problem with that, except that it betrays the fact that a primary consideration in releasing the series was to keep costs down to an absolute minimum. On the one hand this is an understandable position for an indie DVD company to take, on the other hand it screams “cheap!” Either way, it really doesn’t make me any less angry about the whole thing. At the end of the day they have tarnished the legacy of a great TV series.

      Thanks to Stephen’s investigations and the murkiness he has uncovered along the trail of Route 66’s ownership, now I don’t really know who to blame! But I’m sure that Shout! are now wishing they *had* made more of an effort, because all the negative publicity *must* be having an impact on the number of units they are actually selling.

      • Lee O'Connell Says:

        The problem is that if negative publicity surrounding ROUTE 66 does have a negative impact on Shout Factory’s sales, their reaction isn’t going to be what we’re hoping: “We goofed and need to make sure we work harder next time a series with these problems comes along to ensure that everything is done right.” Their reaction is going to be, “Well, that wasn’t worth the trouble. Next time a series with these problems comes along, we’ll stay away from it.”

      • Nick Simon Says:

        Perhaps, but in theory “a series with these problems” describes just about every series Shout! is likely to ever consider releasing.

        In my earlier comment (of June 13, 2012 at 9:43 am) I quoted Shout!’s Brian Ward who said, in 2009:
        “Do we make transfers of most television series? No. But usually, because it’s not only cost prohibitive, but the film elements often no longer exist. At least no where near where we can get to them.”

        So, Shout! had already decided, before acquiring the rights to Route 66, that “ensuring everything is done right” is just too darn expensive or too much trouble.

        A public outcry against bootleg-quality versions of episodes being released in a “complete box set” is nothing more than market forces at work. So is the refusal of all those who already have Seasons 1-3 to shell out for the complete series just to get Season 4.

        Bottom line: If Shout! had spent more, they’d be shipping a lot more units. Translation: You have to spend money to make money.

        Maybe this experience will point them back in the other direction, away from “let’s do this as cheaply as possible” and towards “OK, if we want this to sell, we’d better make sure we get the quality right.”

  18. tragon11 Says:

    Hi Nick,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the articles. They were fun to do. Seeing just a portion of the 65 boxes in the Silliphant collection at UCLA was a monumentally awe-inspiring experience.

    I know a lot of people are upset and disappointed with ShoutFactory’s final product. I look at it as another case of parataxic distortion. There’s the box set that everybody saw in his mind before it was released and there’s the box set that was actually released. And there’s the box set that Brian Ward described and the box set that the New York Times wrote about. And there’s the box set that we all imagine that Sony could produce if they wanted to. Already there are an infinite number of box sets. And that’s only the beginning.


    • Nick Simon Says:

      I dig. But only one of those box sets is currently available for purchase. And since it isn’t the one I wanted, I’m voting with my wallet, and won’t be buying it.

  19. Lou Sessa Says:

    I remember “Route 66” and “Naked City” as a kid and rediscovered both shows last fall on Retro TV (which we in the D.C. market are going to lose as of July 1). I’m one of those who is happy to have the Shout Factory “Route 66” box set and I’m hoping to see a complete series DVD box set for “Naked City” in the not-too-distant future.

  20. Michael Powers Says:

    I watched “Route 66” again back in the ’80s when it was apparently syndicated on some channel, and had almost the same awe at how good they were that I do when looking at the first two seasons of Roy Huggins’ original “Maverick.” And that episode title, “A Fury Slinging Flame,” just knocks me out.

  21. demoncat4 Says:

    geez and i thought the mess to get the batman tv show were nuts but then to read naked city and route sixty six were just as nuts trying to come to dvd. plus shout winding up having to do damage control because they used the bad prints for the first season when they could have tried and maybe looked for better tapes. though one should at least be happy that route sixty six finaly good or bad prints made dvd after so long stuck in dvd rights hell

  22. sessal Says:

    Image Entertainment has announced that a 10-DVD “Best of Naked City” (containing 40 previously released episodes) will be released on 11/23/12. http://www.watchimage.com/product/best-of-naked-city-10-pk/76a998ca-6be2-e111-b19b-020045490004

    • Mark Speck Says:

      Image isn’t releasing this set…Madacy (Canada-based company) is doing this one. It’s pretty inexpensive for a nice set, for those who don’t already have the Image issues and don’t want to pay the sometime exorbitant prices charged by Amazon. Image is releasing another set of Naked City, to be released shortly after the Madacy box set, with 11 previously released episodes and nine new ones.

  23. Chris Says:

    Too bad CBS didn’t own the rights to Route 66, Every vintage TV show they have released on DVD has been incredibly sharp and well preserved. Actually, The Sony releases are quite nice as well.

  24. sessal Says:

    5-DVD set “Naked City – Fan Favorites” is scheduled for February ’13 release. Ten of twenty episodes in this set will duplicate episodes contained in the ‘Best Of’ set (which has been delayed to January 2013), but ‘Favorites’ will contain two of the old 30-minute episodes.


    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      Yes, I noticed that myself today, actually. Looks like a few of the hour-long episodes are also “new” — “The Pedigree Sheet,” “To Walk in Silence,” “Down the Long Night,” etc. Which is great, I guess, although it’s sort of infuriating that they’re not revisiting the series with any rhyme or reason. It deserves better.

      • Mark Speck Says:

        Image is at least making an effort…if this sells well, I hope they will consider issuing more–hopefully, with episodes not yet available on DVD.

  25. James Elliot Says:

    A very comprehensive piece. Props to you. I’ve been re-watching Route 66 and Naked City on RTV Ch 19 WEYW for the past year and half. I love both shows even though I find Mr. Silliphant’s dialogue much too theatrical. I was always disappointed that the Vette received very little attention in the shows. They could have been driving a Plymouth Fury for all it mattered or rode a Greyhound. It was just a way for our heroes to get from town to town. America’s car culture was never explored. The location shooting was superb. That alone made the show what it was. The fistfights were ridiculous but that was TV in the 50s and 60s. Guns have replaced fists in today’s TV.

    Glenn Corbett was a good, handsome actor who brought his own edge as Milner’s new companion but for me the show ended after Maharis left. Corbett’s first episode suggested he suffered from PTSD after Viet Nam but the story collapsed when Milner kicked his ass. He’s a hand-to-hand combat expert fresh from a Viet Cong prison camp so it’s ridiculous that Tod can whip him in a standard punch-fest. In future episodes, his fighting style is more typical John Wayne slug ’em than karate jungle fighter. And nothing prepared me for the terrible two-part conclusion that dumped 4 years of tragedy and drama out the window instead of presenting a truly memorable finale that loyal audiences deserved. I still find myself annoyed by it. It just aired this past week.

    I was going to pick up the DVD set from SF but the reviews turned me off even though I am not a technical purist like other collectors. Most boxed sets disappoint me–it was too difficult for CBS/Paramount to get Robert Conrad involved in the first three season releases of The Wild Wild West? At least this deficiency was finally corrected in the 4th and last release.

    • Mike from Jersey Says:

      Hi James,
      Corbett’s 1st episode was Fifty Miles From Home,and like you the 1st time I viewed it I hated both the Tod/Linc fight scene and the initial one with the kids, but that was because I forgot that often you have to view the unedited Route 66’s more than once to “get it”.
      Tod beating Linc – who opted not to use his army training – wasn’t the point of the scene anyway.
      Silliphant understood the in the wrong Tod was wrong to fight Linc in the 1st place, that he
      was using him to illustrate how misunderstandings and moral
      righteousness, without deep reflection, can cause good people
      (or countries, ie US in Vietnam)such as Tod to start conflicts. I think the bit below
      illustrates this, and I think Corbett
      acts out one of the best scenes in the series. Robbie was the basketball star whose career is now over because he led a gang attacking Linc:
      Robbie – “So go ahead. Ease your conscience.Tell me how sorry you are”.

      Out of habit Robbie reaches up with his now crippled hand to accept the cigarette Linc offers him,
      but has to use his good left hand instead.

      Robbie – “I might as well get used to it, wouldn’t you say?”
      Linc – ” I could have killed ya, would have been easier than throwing
      you over my hip.”
      Linc glances around the room.

      Linc – “I hate hospitals. Men shouldn’t die on sheets.They should soak into the
      ground like rain. Let the sun dry his grave. You think Death’s so bad?
      Only when it makes no sense. That’s the tough part. Finding something
      worth spending it on. When you find it, it’s not bad. Not bad at all.
      You did a damn fool thing today, messing with a stranger. You mess
      with a man be sure he’s your enemy.
      If he is, know him. Know all about him. Know him better than you
      know yourself. Then if you still got it in mind he’s an enemy, you can
      mess with him.
      No kid I’m not sorry about your hand. I’m not sorry about your father’s
      disappointment. What I am sorry about is that it had no meaning. It
      didn’t have to happen. About that I could cry. I could stand here and

  26. James Elliot Says:

    Thanks Mike

    The next time the episode is on, I’ll copy it and re-watch it.

  27. pedroVirgilio Says:

    Great article. As a kid in Uruguay in 1962 I was obsessed with Route66 because it was like watching real life in far away and unreachable “america” and that big A Herbert B. Leonard Production at the end of each episode always made me wonder about who that man was and I am sorry to hear about his sad end.

    I saw George Maharis performing in Teatro Solis in 1965 (he was a singer remember?) when he was touring South America on the strength of his fame from Route66 -not for his singing abilities :}

    One little detail in your article that I am surprised noone has pointed out yet: in the last paragraph you say “But there’s a satisfying final scene: Buz (Martin Milner) and Linc (Glenn Corbett) go their separate ways, ”
    Martin Milner’s character was Todd not Buz.

  28. CTVfan Says:

    “Naked City: Complete Series” box set is now available for preorder on Amazon.

    Link: http://www.amazon.com/Naked-City-Complete-Paul-Burke/dp/B00CPR3RB0/

  29. Steve Z. Says:


    Stuntman Max Kleven is involved in a lawsuit about Rin-Tin-Tin. Here is a link http://oldarchives.courthousenews.com/2015/02/11/plot-thickens-in-rin-tin-tin-case.htm

  30. corryclewlow Says:

    Great Article

  31. Andy Jaysnovitch Says:

    I’m always (really) late to the party so I’ve just discovered your wonderful website. I haven’t read through all your Naked City entries yet, but I wanted to comment on something before I got distracted and forgot about it. Your Naked City Part 4 mentions a low budget treatment for the DVD release. I assume you’re talking about the lack of extras which is of course unforgivable for a series like this.

    Regarding the film transfers though, they were certainly from 35mm elements which Columbia (Screen Gems) did have on this show. I believe that the last NYC airings in rerun (on WPIX, I believe) were from 35mm. You can’t possibly get the level of quality that the Naked City DVDs have from 16mm. In the mid 70s I “acquired” 16mm prints of the entire series but I only transferred the half hours to tape once the videotape era began. At the time I was thinking of attempting a book and was going to send tape copies to the cast and crew but thankfully I came to my senses and I survived that idea. I was able to get great quality inexpensive transfers but when the opportunity presented itself to get a nosebleed priced state of the art transfer for free, I jumped at it. It was noticeably better but not up to the quality of the 2013 full series DVD release. You can only get that level of quality from 35mm. Although there’s no market for it and no need for it, you could get an even sharper picture if it was mastered for 4K. 35mm has the resolution for it but the clarity would probably kill the film look. Of course if you had a full wall screen, it would probably be just like being there. Hmmm ….

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      Hi, Andy. The 60 hour-long episodes that carried over from the original Image DVD sets were mastered from Sony’s 35mm elements and do indeed look gorgeous, by SD standards. I can only guess what the remaining episodes that debuted in the 2013 complete series set were digitized from, but they’re noticeably inferior in image quality to the “original” 60.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: