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- Published on Amazon.com
This set serves as a nice introduction to the Roy Rogers canon at a very reasonable price. There are three DVDs in the box; each disc has four films from a different stage in Rogers' career, plus an episode from his TV series as a bonus.
The first disc, entitled "King of the Cowboys" includes films from the second stage of Rogers' career - his films were no longer set in the Old West, but in modern times when cowboys and their trusty steeds shared the town streets with Chevys and Fords. Films on this disc are Silver Spurs (1943); South of Santa Fe (1942); Sunset Serenade (1942), and King of the Cowboys (1943). The TV episode on this disc is Desert Fugitive, from the show's first season.
The second disc, "Cowboy Troubadour" features films from Rogers' "Oklahoma" career phase - according to legend, Republic Studios president Herbert Yates saw the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical on the Broadway stage and ordered Roy's films to be stuffed with lavish production numbers. These films are also important because they are among the first to pair Roy with his soon-to-be wife Dale Evans. Featured are Lights of Old Santa Fe (1944); San Fernando Valley (1944), The Yellow Rose of Texas (1944) and Song of Nevada (1944). The TV episode is Haunted Mine of Paradise Valley, also from the show's first season.
The third disc, "Cowboy Trails" features four films from Rogers' "Witney" period. When famed serial director William Witney returned from serving in World War II, Republic assigned him to direct all of Roy's films. Music was deemphasized and replaced with hard-hitting, hard-riding action. Films included on this disc are Bells of San Angelo (1947), On the Old Spanish Trail (1947), Springtime in the Sierras (1947) and Grand Canyon Trail (1948). Range War, from the fifth season of Rogers' TV series, is the episode included on this disc.
Most of these films have been restored, or at least taken from a quality print, and many are hard to find on other budget sets. Of the 12 movies, only Sunset Serenade is rather dark and muddy; but in defense of the distributor, all other prints I've seen of the film are equally mediocre. The Trucolor print used for Bells of San Angelo is the best I've seen - the bright desert scenery is particularly vivid. This set's other Witney-era films were originally filmed in color, however the distributor used (excellent) black and white prints.
I would have rated this set as five stars if not for one significant caveat - half the films (Silver Spurs, Sunset Serenade, San Fernando Valley, The Yellow Rose of Texas, Song of Nevada and Springtime in the Sierras) are from prints edited down to 54 minutes for television -- four to 22 minutes of footage having been eliminated.
Silver Spurs (1943) [originally 68 minutes, this version is 54 minutes] featuring Smiley Burnette, Phyllis Brooks and John Carradine
South of Santa Fe (1942) [54 minutes - full length] featuring Gabby Hayes, Linda Hayes and Paul Fix
Sunset Serenade (1942) [originally 58 minutes, edited to 54 minutes] featuring Gabby Hayes, Helen Parrish, Onslow Stevens and the Sons of the Pioneers
King of the Cowboys (1943) [67 minutes - full length] featuring Smiley Burnette, Peggy Moran, Dorthea Kent and Gerald Mohr
Lights of Old Santa Fe (1944) [78 minutes - full length] featuring Dale Evans Gabby Hayes and Tom Keene
San Fernando Valley (1944) [originally 74 minutes, edited to 54 minutes] featuring Dale Evans
The Yellow Rose of Texas (1944) [originally 69 minutes, edited to 54 minutes] featuring Dale Evans and Grant Withers
Song of Nevada (1944) [originally 75 minutes, edited to 54 minutes] featuring Dale Evans, Mary Lee and Thurston Hall
Bells of San Angelo (1947) [78 minutes - full length] featuring Dale Evans, Andy Devine and David Sharpe
On the Old Spanish Trail (1947) [75 minutes - full length] featuring Jane Frazee, Estelita Rodriguez and Andy Devine
Springtime in the Sierras (1947) [originally 75 minutes, edited to 54 minutes] featuring Jane Frazee, Andy Devine and Stephanie Batchelor
Grand Canyon Trail (1948) [67 minutes - full length] featuring Jane Frazee, Andy Devine and Robert Livingston
TV episodes: Desert Fugitive (1.8), Haunted Mine of Pleasant Valley (1.19) and Ranch War (5.2).