Rawhide - First Season DVDs

Sunday, 21 November 2010 12:31

Rawhide is a television legend, even though some may feel they know little about it. As a starting point, here’s a brief quiz round for you: (1) Name any regular character on Rawhide, except Rowdy Yates. (2) Name any actor who appeared in the series, other than Clint Eastwood. (3) Sing the theme tune. Hopefully many of you will already be off to a flying start!

If you're unfamiliar with Rawhide you could be forgiven for thinking it was merely a star vehicle for Clint Eastwood, where he honed his talents to later portray the Man with No Name (interestingly, research indicates the part was originally offered to Eric Fleming).  The series was, in truth, very much an ensemble piece, with Eastwood's youthful and inexperienced ramrod Rowdy Yates a sidekick to trail boss Gil Favor, played by the aforementioned Eric Fleming.

Fleming was the real star, with Favor the main focus in almost all of the episodes, whether dispensing sage advice or reaching for his pistol; often both.  Other recurring characters, all credited in each show, took larger or smaller parts as the various plots dictated. Some, such as Paul Brinegar, who played Wishbone the cook, were already well-known and established actors (after Rawhide ended, Brinegar would become a regular on another, less-enduring western series called Lancer).

Even the cattle were an integral part of the show, and not just a plot device.  Plenty of the action revolves around the herd and it's this that gives the show more than a hint of authenticity.  The actors didn't always stay that clean and almost everything appeared to reside beneath a fine coat of trail dust.

Series One, episode one jumps straight into the action. When the story begins, the cattle drive is already underway and the men encounter a mobile jail.  The “Incident of the Tumbleweed” is typical of the series as a whole, and sets the overall tone quite well: Favour as a ‘good’ man who wants to do the right thing, even when it’s against his own best interests (and that of the drive itself) and Yates as his enthusiastic help. 

I found it amusing that Eastwood’s first real action scene is wrestling with the female convict Dallas (Terry Moore).  As with other episodes the stories unwind to a satisfying, if not always logical conclusion, often with a gunfight, sometimes peacefully. 

Each story is an “Incident” along the drive, and all have interesting and varied plots; from revenge and drought, to stampede and an outbreak of an epidemic among the herd.  The “Incident in No Man’s Land”, guest starring Brian Keith, is a typical multi-stranded storyline and my personal favourite.  Most episodes commence with a scene-setting voice-over from Favour, and end with the immortal words “Get 'em up! Move 'em out!”

Rawhide avoided many of the western clichés and looked to have definite designs on being more than a formulaic television series.  Though the acting may not always have been of the highest quality, the many and varied guest stars put in good performances, sometimes acting against their perceived Hollywood persona.

Being presented in black and white doesn’t detract from the joy of the series, and once immersed in an episode you hardly notice the monochrome; the only sour note being the theme tune, which did become a little grating with constant repetition.

On the whole it's a good transfer to DVD, though there are occasional minor sound glitches and also a few ‘jumps’ in the film, which lead me to wonder whether they were related to original breaks in the programme to allow for adverts. 

Various episode guides indicate that the final episode on disc six, “Incident of a Burst of Evil”, was not in fact the final episode broadcast.  This is cited as “Incident of the Roman Candles” (which is actually presented as an extra).  However, given Rawhide’s episodic nature, it makes little difference to the story. Rawhide clocked up an impressive total of 217 episodes over its complete eight series run, from January 1959 until January 1966. So, for your delight, here are the first 22 (or 23)!  Sit back and enjoy.

As mentioned above extras include a 'bonus' episode, as well as brief synopses of each episode. However, as these are presented on disc six, the latter is somewhat superfluous as you will already have seen all the episodes!

Finally, a sad fact for the completists amongst you.  After Rawhide ended, Eric Fleming moved into films.  He was to star in the adventure movie “High Jungle”, being shot on location in Peru. Tragically during filming on the Huallaga River, Fleming's dugout canoe overturned and he was swept away and drowned.  He was only 41 when he died.

Rawhide – The Complete First Series is out now from Revelation Films Ltd as a six disc set, a ‘PG’ certificate, and a RRP of £34.99, or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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