Top positive review
52 people found this helpful
on September 17, 2004
I was really sorry to see that one of the best Lassie episodes ever, the 5-parter known as "The Journey," was not included here. This is not to be confused with an episode of the same title from the "Jeff Miller" (Tommy Rettig) years.
This was the one where "Timmy Martin" (Jon Provost) and Lassie end up stranded in the Canadian wilderness courtesy of a hot air balloon gone astray. Along the way Timmy becomes ill, as I recall, and was cared for by an Eskimo or Indian. The cinematography was beautiful, and as a kid I have wonderful memories of the balloon sequences. The series' associate producer, Bonita Granville Wrather, had done special voiceover intros, and special color title and credit sequences were also done for this special episode, I believe. This episode was re-cut for theatrical release as "Lassie's Great Adventure," but was still missing some footage from the TV showing.
Another multi-part episode missing is the 3-part one in which The Martins (Ruth, Paul & Timmy) leave the farm for Australia, and Lassie in the care of their elderly farmer friend, "Cully Wilson" (portrayed by the terrific Andy Clyde, who was also "Hopalong Cassidy"'s original sidekick, as well as "George McMichael," the foil to Walter Brennan's "Grandpa McCoy" on TV's "The Real McCoys"). Cully eventually becomes too ill to care for the collie and so Lassie winds up with her new master, forest ranger Corey Stuart. This transition episode would have been a nice addition to this golden anniversary edition as well.
Another missing element, of which I've never seen any episodes but which I've heard positive things is "The New Lassie," which featured a young Will Estes aka "Will Nipper" (now on NBC's "American Dreams" as a Vietnam soldier) as Lassie's boy master, as well as the re-appearance of Jon Provost as his "Uncle Steve" (in the show it is revealed that was his birth name before The Martins adopted him as "Timmy") for a few episodes. This series also re-introduced Tommy Rettig as "Jeff" and June Lockhart, as a remarried "Ruth" after Paul Martin's death, in single episodes. It's never been re-aired in the U.S. since its syndicated run, to my knowledge, and no episodes on home video have ever been released.
There was also a Lassie tribute special shown back in the 1990s, which would make a nice bonus in a set of this type. That documentary included comments from the then-still-alive Clayton and Rettig, as well as Lockhart and Provost, among other players in the "Lassie" series.
I agree with some others' comments here that a release by a major home video company should have state-of-the-art technology in re-mastered prints of episodes, and in this digital age there is just no good excuse for not having the best audio/video possible.
Maybe what's really needed is a Lassie DVD box set, which would include the material on this 50th anniversary DVD set in enhanced format, and could also include the aforementioned omissions, and then some? Still, this golden anniversary DVD, along with the others already released on SonyWonder, is a good start for anyone looking to build a "Lassie" TV collection. In the absence of anything, something is always better than nothing.