'Bonanza: The Official First Season, Vol 1 & 2'
(Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker, Michael Landon, James Coburn, et al / 8-Disc DVD / NR / 2009 / CBS - Paramount)
Overview: It's time for a hoedown -- one of the longest running and most popular television westerns marks its 50th anniversary, as the first season of BONANZA officially rides onto DVD. A definitive collection, each volume is chock-full of bonus materials including a rare alternate pilot ending where the Cartrights sing the "Bonanza" theme song, a series of recollections from creator David Dortort and a photo gallery for many episodes.
DVD Verdict: To be completely honest, I already had the German DVDs of seasons 1-6, but I figure you just can't have too much Bonanza. I'm sorry it took so long but it's still worth the wait. The color is crystal, the picture gorgeous, the sound perfect, and the special features are terrific. I watched six episodes today and two yesterday and I bet I'll get another dozen knocked out before the weekend is over -- Bonanza never gets old.
And having it on DVD with the original music, with special features, and in a format that means you don't have to plug up the region free player or watch some fuzzy public domain piece is just so special!
And sure the packaging for the first season is nothing to get excited about, but within each DVD are some really nice extras, such as photo galleries, the pilot with alternate endings and original bumpers used to signify commercial breaks. The quality of the audio and video transfers is also excellent.
Considering the age of the material, video transfers are clean and colors quite beautiful. As good as the video is, I was probably equally, if not more impressed with sound. The process of cleaning up sound can be quite difficult with such old material. To really appreciate what a job Paramount did, look and listen carefully when the commercial bumpers come up.
The bumper and Loren Greene's closing lines on the pilot show were left original and there is an order of magnitude difference in the quality between original material and the DVD transfer. Paramount deserves kudos for their effort on this one.
I grew up during Bonanza's first run -- we are the same age. I was born in July '59; the series debuted in September of that year. I still remember sitting on the floor of our little apartment in Chicago eagerly watching and learning my moral code from Bonanza and shows like it. There are worse ways to grow up. This was a great show and though I have watched it many times since, it's either been in syndication with chunks cut for more commercials, or on fuzzy public domain DVDs with hollow sound and weird music.
When I bought the German DVDs, even then I found an occasional odd piece cut. And figuring out the German menus and bringing up the English soundtrack is something I could figure out, but it is wonderful not to have to! I'm loving this boxed set and eagerly awaiting season 2. [MH] This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Archival Interviews with Creator/Producer David Dortort
Galleries of Extensive Episodic and Rare Behind-The-Scenes Photographs
Original NBC Network Peacock logo, bumpers and Lorne Greene RCA promo on 'A Rose For Lotta'
Original NBC Network Peacock logo, bumpers and Lorne Greene RCA promo on 'The Avengers'
1953 Fireside Theater episode: 'Man of the Comstock' - David Dortort's "Genesis of BONANZA"
Original Episodic on selected episodes
Credit Drawings: Joseph Messeli's Early Concepts