Monday, November 8, 2010

ROUTE 66: SEASON THREE, VOLUME ONE (1962-1963)

ROUTE 66: SEASON THREE, VOLUME ONE (1962-1963)
Directors: (Various)
Infinity Entertainment

From 1960 to 1964, two young swingin’ bachelors by the names of Tod Stiles (Martin Milner) and Buz Murdock (George Maharis) roamed the greater part of the United States in their pristine Corvette. Traveling from one city to another, ROUTE 66 was the only show at the time to ever move its cast and crew around with its story. Our heroes encountered just about every social and moral dilemma possible throughout their journeys -- probably more than THE FUGITIVE’s Dr. Richard Kimble -- but they always came out on top (plus, they weren't on the run). Some problems had to be resolved with fists -- others, brains. Often, a poor misguided soul needed to find their way -- and sometimes, Tod and Buz had took a break from the drama and indulged in a little carefree comedy.


And hence, the reason we’re here. Yes, I know that it isn’t your usual DVD Drive-In fare, but Infinity Entertainment’s new set of ROUTE 66: SEASON THREE, VOLUME ONE is one for any true fan of classic horror. Why? Because it contains “Lizard’s Leg And Owlet’s Wing,” the famous Halloween episode wherein legendary horror icons Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney, Jr. guest star as themselves and don some of their famous monster faces in the process.

The storyline for this particular episode has Tod and Buz back at the O’Hare Inn in Chicago, hired on as guest liaisons. Buz winds up with the enviable task of serving a convention of young, single, and beautiful secretaries (led by THE LAST WOMAN ON EARTH’s Betsy Jones-Moreland). Tod, on the other hand, gets to wait on a mysterious gentleman who refers to himself as “Mr. Retep” -- who is really Peter Lorre. As it turns out, Lorre is in town to meet with his fellow horror stars, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr., to discuss which direction they should take the horror industry.

Boris has decided the old monsters just won’t do the trick anymore. Peter and Lon disagree. But when Buz refuses to let Tod in on his 40-women-to-1-man setup he’s worked out for himself, Tod arranges to have Lon and Peter scare the living daylights out of the ladies. Meanwhile, the ever-gentile Boris decides to help out young secretary Molly (the beautiful Jeannine Riley, who would co-star in PETTICOAT JUNCTION the following year), who is so in love with her employer that she’s too depressed to focus on anything else. The episode also features Conrad Nagel and Martita Hunt.

There’s nothing better than seeing Karloff, Lorre and Chaney together, especially when they play themselves. Karloff is shown as the “cerebral” one of the lot, while Lorre and Chaney are the more rapscallion figures. Not only do we get to see Boris wear his ever-famous Frankenstein Monster’s make-up, but Lon gets to become both The Mummy and The Wolf Man (look closely, people: anyone else think he looks like SOAP’s Richard Mulligan there?). Lorre definitely steals the show in this one, with Chaney hamming it up like there’s no tomorrow.

Of course, that’s just one installment from a 16-episode set. And, while the other entries aren’t as big of an interest to horror fans as the aforementioned one, any fan of vintage television will love it. Additional guest stars in this half-season include Joe E. Brown and Buster Keaton (as a pair of brothers with inherently bad luck), John Astin, Leslie Nielsen, Julie Newmar, Rod Steiger, Nina Foch, Ron Howard, and even Dr. Richard Kimble himself, David Janssen.

ROUTE 66: SEASON THREE, VOLUME ONE is housed on 4 discs. The episodes have been restored and digitally transferred from the original masters and look very beautiful as a result. There are a few specks here and there (as to be expected) and some episodes are a little worse off than others, but, for the most part, these episodes are gems. A very robust English mono stereo soundtrack is included with the episodes, and comes through admirably. No subtitles or Closed Captioning is available here.

Sadly, no special features are included with this release (even an insert saying which episodes were on which discs would’ve been nice), but I’m not complaining -- after all, this is the last time Karloff wore his Frankenstein Monster make-up, it’s technically the last time Chaney would don his Mummy and Wolf Man make-up (FACE OF THE SCREAMING WEREWOLF may have been released in 1964, but the footage of Lon was filmed for LA CASA DEL TERROR in 1960), and it’s the only time Lon, Peter, and Boris got to play themselves, together. And damn, is it fun! (Adam Becvar)

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