This is the last of three articles revisiting our list of classic shows that deserved a DVD release and giving updates on any progress made there. First up is the superhero category, which offers great releases.
The most wanted unreleased DVD property six years ago, the 1960s Batman TV series, at last became available as Fox and Warner Brothers worked out their differences and so now everyone can enjoy the series in all its goofy wonder. The series was so popular, two animated continuations of the 1960s series were made prior to West’s death. This was coupled with the release of the 1960s Batman Cartoon series which often aired opposite episodes of Superman.
In addition, the syndicated Superboy TV series has had all four series made available on DVD. The same can’t be said for Superboy’s animated adventures from the 1960s.
Marvel classic superhero cartoons from the 1960s-90s have not enjoyed any new releases. Cartoons ranging from the 1960s Classic Fantastic Four series to the 1970s Spider-woman series or the 1980s Hulk or 1990s Spider-man Animated all remain unavailable on DVD. The Spider-man animated series has become available for purchase, but only as a streaming download from Amazon.
Classic radio comedy characters saw a few releases. The Fibber McGee and Molly and Great Gildersleeve movies each were given releases by Warner Archives. The quality of the movies have varied. On the positive side, there was the wonderful comedy team up of, “Here We Go Again,” and the first “Great Gildersleeve” movie which captured the feel and heart of the radio series. On the other side, there was the bizarre, “Heavenly Days” film and the padded and offensive “Gildersleeve’s Ghost.” Still, at least fans now have the option to see the movies and evaluate them for themselves.
Less fortunate shows include Lum ‘n Abner, whose copyrighted films have not been released. Radio hits the Life of Riley and Our Miss Brooks have also not had an official release of their TV episodes, nor has the Life of Riley film been released. Likewise, we lack any official release of Burns and Allen episodes on to DVD. I am thankful for the public domain episodes we do have.
Last time, my final article on unreleased material that ought to be released was intended as a hodgepodge but looking back on it, it was three medical dramas and something I should have included in a prior article.
Medical dramas fared pretty well. Warner Archives delivered in a huge way with Doctor Kildare. Last time, the only Kildare that was available was one that had fallen into the public domain. Now all nine Doctor Kildare films have been released, along with all six Doctor Gillsespie films starring Lionel Barrymore (after Lew Ayers was forced out for being a conscientious objector) as well as the entire Doctor Kildare TV series with Richard Chamberlain.
In addition, the entirety of the 1988-91 series China Beach has been released. The classic medical drama Ben Casey hasn’t seen an official release, nor has the New Dragnet, which is far better than many would think.
Overall, progress has been made in getting DVD releases for many movies and TV shows but there’s much more to do. Warner Archives has been fabulous. Fans of classic films and TV owe them a debt of gratitude for how many great once-forgotten series and movies they’ve brought to us. Other companies, such as Sony, haven’t done nearly as much. Future releases of forgotten classics will mostly rely on Warner Archives and companies like Shout Factory, which acquire the rights to classic TV shows and movies.
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