Friday, August 07, 2015

Lawman: The Complete First Season: A Warner Archive TV Series Review

LAWMAN is one of the best of the many good Warner Bros. TV Westerns of the late '50s. LAWMAN: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON was just released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

John Russell plays Dan Troop, the Marshal of Laramie, Wyoming. The steely-eyed Troop is a man of honor and courage, as the bad guys learn to their chagrin. Marshal Troop's deputy is young Johnny McKay (Peter Brown). Johnny is originally turned down for the job as too young and inexperienced, but when he backs the Marshal at a critical moment in the pilot episode ("The Deputy"), Troop decides to give him the job after all. Johnny has a lot to learn, but he's going to be taught by the best in the business.

Western fans know they're in for a treat from the very first episode. Marshal Troop has just arrived to take his job in Laramie, a town greatly in need of taming, and his very first confrontation is with Jack Elam and Lee Van Cleef!

The way Marshal Troop handles a murderer (John Doucette) in a barroom shooting in the second episode is eye-opening, to say the least. When the fearful townspeople and judge won't back Troop, preferring to chalk the shooting up to self-defense and let the accused go, Marshal Troop lets him go, all right...he then follows the man straight back into the saloon and goads him to draw, just as the man had treated his victim. Needless to say, the man is no match for Marshal Troop. The unorthodox frontier justice Troop doles out certainly makes a viewer sit up and take notice.

Part of the fun of the show is you never know who will turn up in Laramie next. I've avoided looking ahead at IMDb and instead enjoy being surprised in every episode. An example of a typically strong show is "The Outcast," which guest stars Martin Landau as Bob Ford, the man who shot Jesse James. The episode is notable for its moody guitar scoring, with a ballad about Jesse James also being part of the soundtrack. Former singing cowboy Dick Foran costars -- although, as it happens, the singing in the episode is handled not by Foran but by Tony Romano.

Although the series was shot on the familiar Western streets of the Warner Bros. backlot, there are some attempts to convince viewers of the Wyoming setting, such as Troop and McKay wearing heavy coats and gloves at times.

Warner Bros. Westerns such as LAWMAN and MAVERICK were also blessed with strong theme music. I've always been partial to the evocative Livingston-David theme song for LAWMAN: "The lawman came with the sun, there was a job to be done..."

I haven't yet completed watching all 39 episodes in this five-disc collection -- that will take something like 16 hours altogether! -- but to date I've watched a significant number of them, and I consider LAWMAN: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON a winner in every regard. It's a most enjoyable show, and the Warner Archive DVD prints are outstanding.

Although the Warner Archive website didn't indicate the initial copies sold would be pressed, my set did indeed consist of silver-backed pressed discs.

More great news: Season 2 of LAWMAN is coming in a matter of weeks! I'm especially happy about that news as Peggie Castle joins the series as Lily in the second season. Castle would remain with the series for the duration, with the Marshal and Lily's subtly played adult relationship being one of the intriguing undercurrents in the series. (Update: Here is my review of Season 2 of LAWMAN.)

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger Terence Towles Canote said...

Encore Western aired Lawman for some time, so I was able to watch the entire run. It is definitely one of the best Westerns of the Fifties. It is just surprising to me that it didn't persist in reruns the way that Maverick did or that it isn't better known.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

I fully agree with Laura's assertion that 'LAWMAN' was one of WB's finest TV western series, and therefore one of the best overall. Russell and Brown play really well off each other and when Peggie Castle arrives in Season 2 she positively lights up the screen.
This should be more widely known today and I thoroughly endorse the recommendation.

11:30 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Terry and Jerry,

Thank you both so much for adding your endorsements to my review of LAWMAN. As a big John Russell fan -- and, looking ahead to Season 2, a big Peggie Castle fan -- it's my hope that this Warner Archive release will win the series new fans.

I had never watched the episodes in chronological order before, and there were many I'd never seen, so this season set has been such a treat!

Best wishes,

2:25 PM  

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