Tuesday, February 15th, 2011: The day a classic was completed (on DVD). That was the date when CBS/Paramount released "THE FUGITIVE: THE FOURTH AND FINAL SEASON: VOLUME TWO" in a 4-Disc DVD set, which means that all 120 episodes of that 1963-1967 television series are now available to own.
In this final batch of 15 color episodes, fugitive Richard Kimble is kept busy, as he continues to elude the law as well as trying to catch up to the one-armed man.
The original 1967 music seems to be totally intact and in place for these last fifteen "Fugitive" shows. And that news deserves a big "hooray".
Some of my favorite episodes in this collection include "The Ivy Maze", "Concrete Evidence", "The Breaking Of The Habit", and "The One That Got Away".
Of course, the top highlight of this DVD set is the famous two-part final episode, "The Judgment". Part 2 of the series finale became the highest-rated and most-watched single television program in the history of the medium when it first aired in the United States on Tuesday, August 29, 1967.
In other countries, however, the finale didn't air until September or October. And even in some parts of the USA, the last episode wasn't shown until September 5, 1967. Hence, a different version of William Conrad's closing narration can be found on some prints of "The Judgment Part 2". This DVD set includes the "September 5th" version of Conrad's narration.
Part 2 of the finale was seen by an amazing 72% of the viewing audience in the United States, with ABC estimating that 26 million U.S. homes tuned in to watch the last episode. Those figures are still, to this day, some of the highest ratings ever garnered for a television broadcast. The record was not to be broken for another 13 years, when the "Who Shot J.R.?" episode of "Dallas" eclipsed "The Fugitive's" record in 1980. And then the final episode of "M*A*S*H" surpassed "Dallas" in 1983.
In "The Judgment", Richard Kimble teams up with Police Lieutenant Philip Gerard to try and capture the real killer of Kimble's wife. Although very dubious about the results, Gerard agrees to delay Kimble's official arrest for 24 hours, so that Dr. Kimble can follow up some leads regarding the whereabouts of the elusive "one-armed man" (played by the hardened-looking Bill Raisch), whom Kimble is certain murdered his wife several years earlier.
While I feel this "teaming" of these two long-time adversaries weakened the last show of the series to a degree, "The Judgment" is still a pretty good concluding episode.
The final scene with Kimble and Gerard shaking hands after Kimble's release from custody is truly a great moment in television history. And this scene is carried out without a word of dialogue being spoken, which provides even a more powerful impact -- rather than having a gushy, overly sentimental final act. The simple, understated handshake said it all.
"The Judgment" features a large guest cast, including Jacqueline Scott, Diane Brewster, Richard Anderson, Michael Constantine, Diane Baker, J.D. Cannon, Louise Latham, and Joseph Campanella. Plus, of course, Barry Morse and Bill Raisch in their recurring parts as Lt. Gerard and the one-armed man ("Fred Johnson").
Jacqueline Scott plays Richard Kimble's sister, Donna. Scott had a recurring role as Donna throughout the four years of the series, appearing in a total of five episodes. She did an excellent job in the role, too.
Diane Brewster appears uncredited in the final episode, as murder victim Helen Kimble, via flashback sequences. You might better remember Brewster in another classic television series, "Leave It To Beaver", as Beaver Cleaver's schoolteacher.
Some "Judgment" facts & trivia:
According to "Daily Variety", Part 1 of "The Judgment" received a 37.2 rating and a 56.7 share of the U.S. television market in the USA, while Part 2 garnered a 50.7 rating and a 73.2 share.*
The final two-parter takes place in three different cities -- Tucson, Los Angeles, and Kimble's hometown of Stafford, Indiana. Kimble's last alias he will ever need is that of "Frank Davis". "The Judgment" was co-written by George Eckstein and Michael Zagor, with both parts being directed by Don Medford.
The following memo written by Executive Producer Quinn Martin appeared on the last page of "The Judgment's" teleplay:
To all QM staff, crew, actors, all guest actors, all ABC personnel, all advertising personnel:
This script marks the end of a very exciting and successful enterprise, and I would appreciate it if everyone would keep the contents a secret, and not discuss it with any members of the press or newscasters, except to acknowledge that it does prove Richard Kimble innocent.
To any members of the press or any newscasters:
If the above does not work, and by chance you find out the contents of the script, please honor the industry code of not giving the ending away, except to say Richard Kimble will be proved innocent. Thank you.
Quinn Martin *
"In the final scene of the series...the original plan was to have the two adversaries [Dr. Kimble and Lt. Gerard] exchange a few parting words before going their separate ways. "In the first version of that final episode, our writers had gone a little overboard," recalled Barry Morse. "They wrote a scene...in which David [Janssen] and I said sentimental things to each other. At one point, I remember I suggested to David that, in order to mock this overly sentimental dialogue, we should throw ourselves into each other's arms and kiss each other firmly on the mouth! Well, we threatened that, but we never had to carry it out. By that time, we were all on such good terms with each other that everybody realized the absurdity, and it was agreed that we would make some changes in the dialogue. And I think somebody said, 'Well, what would be the best thing to say?' And I said, 'I think it would be best if we say nothing!' As is often...the case on the screen, what you do and what you look is much more eloquent than what you say.""*
* = Source: Ed Robertson's 1993 book "The Fugitive Recaptured", pages 178-180.
The Other Side Of The Coin
The One That Got Away
The Breaking Of The Habit
There Goes The Ball Game
The Ivy Maze
Goodbye My Love
Passage To Helena
The Savage Street
Death Of A Very Small Killer
Dossier On A Diplomat
The Walls Of Night
The Shattered Silence
The Judgment, Part 1
The Judgment, Part 2
>> Video is Full-Frame (1.33:1), and in color, as originally aired in 1967. The image quality is quite good. The colors look proper and natural. And there's every reason to believe that these episodes are presented complete and uncut here (time-wise), with the shows running for 51+ minutes each. The "in color" bumpers and opening teasers are included.
>> Audio is 2.0 Dolby Digital Mono. Sounds good too.
>> Bonus Feature -- There is one bonus featurette (on Disc 4), entitled "Composer Dominic Frontiere: The Color Of Music". Frontiere talks briefly about his career as a music composer.
This bonus program, which is presented in an anamorphic widescreen format, runs for 11-and-a-half minutes and is a continuation of a conversation with Mr. Frontiere that began with the "Season Of Change" featurette that is included in the fourth season's first DVD volume.
The last 3+ minutes of this bonus supplement include scenes from the final "Fugitive" episode, highlighting Frontiere's music from that show.
>> Menus are static and silent.
>> A "Play All" button is included on each disc.
>> English subtitles are included.
>> Chapter stops -- 7 per episode.
>> Packaging -- Amaray type of keep case, with two swinging "pages" that each holds two DVDs. Episode information is visible through the plastic on the left and right panels of the case. [Side Note -- There's a glaring error in the description for Part 2 of "The Judgment", with the description saying that Gerard and Kimble are headed for "Illinois". Of course, that should say "Indiana" instead. Somebody at CBS/Paramount should have checked out their facts a little better before writing up that episode blurb.]
ADDITIONAL "FUGITIVE" MISCELLANY:
A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF DAVID JANSSEN ("DR. RICHARD KIMBLE"):
Born David Harold Meyer on March 27, 1931, in Naponee, Nebraska. He died of a heart attack at the age of only 48, on February 13, 1980.
Janssen was nominated for an Emmy Award three times (out of four years) for his work on "The Fugitive".
David's roster of acting appearances totalled a little more than 100 television and movie roles, beginning (as a 14-year-old boy) in the 1945 film "It's A Pleasure". Janssen's other big TV role, after "The Fugitive", was when he played private detective Harry Orwell in the series "Harry O" (1974-1976).
A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF BARRY MORSE ("LT. PHILIP GERARD"):
Born Herbert Morse on June 10, 1918, in London, England. Died at the age of 89 on February 2, 2008.
Barry moved to Canada in the 1950s, where he has worked extensively in live theater, radio, and CBC television.
Morse made appearances in more than 130 motion pictures and television programs, starting with a 1942 appearance in the film "The Goose Steps Out".
Many people probably remember Morse best from his role as Professor Victor Bergman in the TV series "Space: 1999", which was on the air from 1975 to 1977.
Morse also was a writer and director within the TV industry, including one episode as director of "The Fugitive" in 1967 during the last season of the series. Morse directed Episode #118, "The Shattered Silence".
In addition to his memorable portayal of Lt. Philip Gerard in "The Fugitive", the long list of TV shows in which Barry Morse appeared includes these programs: "The Untouchables", "The Defenders", "Judd, For The Defense", "The F.B.I.", "Wagon Train", "The Outer Limits", "Naked City", "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour", "The Twilight Zone", and "The United States Steel Hour".
THAT'S A WRAP:
It took 44 years, but all 120 episodes of the never-to-be-forgotten television masterpiece "The Fugitive" have now been made available on the home video market on DVD by CBS/Paramount.
And despite the unpleasant debacle with the background music that fans of this series had to endure beginning in 2008 (which, to Paramount's credit, was corrected--for the most part--in subsequent DVD releases), these 120 TV episodes are programs that deserve to be on the shelf of everyone who enjoys really good television shows.
In its four seasons on the air, "The Fugitive" created a compelling and realistic "running man" atmosphere that I don't think has ever been duplicated on either television or the big screen since Dr. Kimble stopped running in 1967.
And the main spark that created that atmosphere, of course, was the star of the series--David Janssen. And when you throw in the great Barry Morse as the running man's tireless pursuer--how can you lose?
120 episodes on DVD, and 0 to go.
That last sentence is nice to see, isn't it?
I think so, too.
David Von Pein