Mister Ed is a horse. He is possibly the most famous horse in the world, due to his show's six-season run that has been constantly replayed in syndication for over half a century. But what do we really know about Mister Ed?
He is impetuous. He's single-minded in purpose. He's a tad lazy, loving to both sleep and eat. He doesn't like heavy riders. He's a Palomino who claims to be eight years old. He's a hypochondriac. He reads the newspaper, comic books and a select number of magazines. He loves watching the late movie show on his portable 60's era television. He has a real eye for the fillies. He loves carrots. He remains actively engaged with the ASPCA. And, oh yes, he can talk.
But, he only talks to Wilbur. Actually, that's not quite true, even though Mister Ed constantly repeats that claim to Wilbur ("You know I only talk to YOU!"). Mister Ed shows little to no hesitation in using the telephone to phone-order some dalliance, contact the ASPCA with a complaint, or eavesdrop on the telephone party line to catch the local gossip. (Mister Ed loves to eavesdrop on gossip, so we should add that to the above list.) All this means that, indeed, Mister Ed actually DOES talk to quite a number of people, but only when he can do so without revealing his equine identity (the exception is that he will, on occasion, talk to kids, because, in Ed's own words, "Who'll believe a kid, anyway?"). But with Wilbur Post, Mister Ed's owner, he's as garrulous a horse as you'll ever find.
And speaking of talking, did you perhaps notice the very thing that is so obvious that you might never think about it: Mister Ed's very first word to us, in every single episode, is "Hello!" "Hello! I'm Mister Ed." The first word of each show, then, breaks Ed's own rule, because he speaks to each of us while we look at him, standing in his stable. (Cool piece of subterfuge, huh?)
Like many people in the United States, I grew up watching Mister Ed. (His name is always presented as "Mister Ed," without abbreviated spelling, never as "Mr. Ed.") As a child, the show enchanted me and made me feel like I was part of a special, magical universe. When my wife and I recently started watching the episodes on DVD, I hadn't seen the show for decades, and I wondered if I could enjoy it as much as my memories would lead me to believe. But it was easy to see right from the start that the magic was still there. I admit to being caught off guard by this: the thought of a grown man my age watching a show that ostensibly was aimed at children seemed to be an exercise that would end in boredom and a perhaps create a little dent on my childhood reminiscences.
But the magic is still there. There is absolutely something special about this most special of shows. It's engaging. It's funny. It's even sometimes thought provoking. And much like the original Andy Griffith Show, there's even an occasional lesson about life woven into the story.
The horse Mister Ed is simply gorgeous, even by horse standards. His face is the envy of horses everywhere, and the director and filing crew found a way to bring out Ed's beauty in most every scene. As a Palomino, Mister Ed is a golden chestnut brown, but for reasons that I can't fully explicate, he is best portrayed on the "silver" screen. It's also apparent from watching these shows afresh as an adult, that Wilbur (Alan Young) was genuinely fond of Mister Ed, and Mister Ed fond of him. That very real affection clearly shows in many episodes: it's not something that can be "acted" over such a long period of time. Mister Ed (real name, Bamboo Harvester), too, was an exceptionally intelligent animal who was able to do tricks and tasks that likely would have been much more difficult, or sometimes, impossible, for other horses to learn, and these skills are put to great use in the show, often with few filming cuts, or other camera trickery.
So, what is it about this show that makes it so special, and that has kept it in constant play around the world for now over half a century? We'll, it's in part the magic of the concept. Mister Ed as the prankster who is always getting Wilbur into trouble because he has called on the phone to order new furniture for his stable, or to call the ASPCA because he's not getting enough carrots. Or by sabotaging Wilbur's guests at the house because Mister Ed is missing out on the daily attention he insists upon. Or stealing Addison's delicious homegrown apples from the backyard using a variety of increasingly sophisticated techniques but nearly always found out.
Perhaps also it is watching Mister Ed carry out and execute tasks that make you wonder how it could have been done. He was a truly talented horse, and some of these actions are mesmerizing, even for horse aficionados that know all about horses from first-hand contact.
And, undeniably, Mister Ed's gorgeous face is enough to steal every single scene--and I mean every single one in which he appears--regardless of who else is present. Maybe this, too, is one of the reasons for the enduring nature of the show. Mister Ed is so gorgeous that it is hard to understand why he ultimately has so much trouble with the fillies. But it is hilarious to watch Ed with his passing love interests, sometimes resulting in Ed demanding height-increasing horseshoes (because the filly he likes is taller than he), and other times prompting him to change his diet to shed a few pounds so he'll be able to complete with the other suitors aiming for the same filly.
As a kid, the show entranced me with it's magic of a talking horse, and as an adult, I still find that impact, but I now as an adult note that one of the things that makes the show laugh-out-loud funny at points is the biting sarcasm and the great one-liners that Mister Ed constantly uses. The writing for Mister Ed's dialogue is simply excellent. How can an adult sit there and laugh at this? But you will. Mister Ed comes up with some truly hilarious lines, often delivered with defiance and irony. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons the show works so well: the deep and droll delivery of Mister Ed's lines (voiced by the un-credited Allan "Rocky" Lane) works so well and is so engaging that its difficult not to be hanging on every word.
As far as the technical quality of these DVD's, they are clear as anything, with only an occasional episode with less video quality (perhaps the master for those few episodes were lost). If you are watching these with an up-sampling DVD player and a flat screen TV, you're likely to be as amazed as I with the film clarity of the show. The sound track is general good, as well, with only an occasional imperfection on a couple of episodes. But for the vast majority of episodes, the video and audio are excellent. Mister Ed never looked so good.
Mister Ed is simply a delightful show. Don't worry about how they got his lips to move at just the right moments in extended conversations with nearly no camera cuts, or how Ed can call the house from the barn if the two phones are on the same line, or how Ed can type on the typewriter with a nose that would have simultaneously hit seven keys with each tap. Just accept it. It's magical. And it's not just for the kids. They will love it, but so will you.