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Richard Long….Jarrod Barkley
Peter Breck….Nick Barkley
Lee Majors….Heath Barkley
Linda Evans….Audra Barkley
Barbara Stanwyck….Victoria Barkley
Fox Home Video presents The Big Valley – Season 2, Volume 1. Running time: 771 minutes. 15 episodes on 3 flipper DVDs. Originally Broadcasted on ABC from Sept. 12, to Dec. 26, 1966 DVD released Feb. 13, 2007.
While most western shows dealt with cattle ranchers, the Barkleys of The Big Valley were farmers that produced peaches, sugar beets and olives. But don’t let their fruit- and vegetable-loving ways make you think that they’re the kind of quaint folks that shop at Whole Foods on a Sunday afternoon. They were the toughest family in central California’s San Joaquin Valley. Their cash crop was bruises. The testosterone that flowed freely through the Barkley brothers wasn’t merely from their departed dad. Their mother, Victoria, proved to be as tough as any bull in the barnyard. She was the precursor of Maude. Each week an outsider showed up to mess with the farm only to be beaten into the topsoil. There was a dash of sweetness on the farm from Audra, the baby sister. But the three brothers kept this from being a hippie commune experience.
While they only harvested four seasons of The Big Valley, the casting helped keep the series popular in reruns. In the 70s, Lee Majors struck it big as The Six Million Dollar Man and Linda Evans became an ’80s icon with Dynasty.
While the first season was released as a single boxset, this time we’re only given the first 15 of the 30 episodes that made up the second season. The episodes include “Lost Treasure,” “Legend of a General” (a two-parter), “Caesar’s Wife.” “Pursuit,” “The Martyr,” “Target,” “The Velvet Trap,” “The Man from Nowhere,” The Great Safe Robbery, “The Iron Box,” “Last Stage to Salt Flats,” “A Day of Terror,” “Hide The Children” and “Day of the Comet.”
The major change for the second season is Eugene, the youngest son, vanishing without a trace. Nobody talks about him. He doesn’t even get the Chip Cunningham treatment.
“Lost Treasure” starts the new season off with a bang and star power. A bearded Buddy Hackett claims to be the real daddy of Heath, the bastard Barkley. Who can’t imagine that Lee Majors is filled with Buddy Hackett genes? This episode goes up a notch with Bruce Dern riding into the father and son reunion. If that twosome isn’t enough, we also get Dub Taylor as a bartender! Who is Dub Taylor? He’s a tubby, balding guy who wore long johns in every TV western plus an episode of The Monkees. The episode has a strong script and the best performance of the series. Director Arthur Nadel would go on to make the immortal Clambake with Elvis Presley.
In “Target,” James Whitmore is a candidate for governor planting lies about the Barkley’s land. Strange to see the spokesman for Miracle Gro spreading manure. His psychopathic henchman is played by Strother Martin (Wild Bunch and Cool Hand Luke). The brothers get upset at the rumors that their father stole their land. The only person tough enough to keep the boys from beating the crap out of Whitmore is mom. Barbara Stanwyck is perfect in the role. She has a sweet matronly smile, but she’s a fierce foe when tugging on black leather gloves. There’s probably an older woman fetish based on her. “Day of Terror” shows us what happens when Victoria goes up against a truly wicked mother (Colleen Dewhurst) and her brood of outlaw sons. It’s a cat fight involving two cougars.
The show was far from huffing fumes normally associated with a sophomore slump. The loss of Eugene streamlined the family dynamic. The Barkleys let us know that even if you grow sugar beets, you could be a tough hombre in the face of cattlemen. They were scrappy enough to slug it out with Bruce Dern which is tough enough to survive in the rugged world of TV westerns.
The picture is 1.33:1. The picture transfer looks like it was taken from a tape source instead of a a film negative. It lacks the extra sharpness.
The soundtrack is Dolby Digital mono in English and Spanish. The sounds is clear and solid levels. The subtitles are in English and Spanish.