Route 66: Season One, Volume Two – DVD Review


route66
Available at Amazon.com
The Beats were always exploited by the media as jiving freaks with berets and bongos. Rarely did they get portrayed as the characters found in the pages of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Route 66 came close to bringing the driving exploits of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty to Americans that didn’t want to read the book. The series avoided the image of hipsters speeding across the highways pumped up on amphetamines, talking Buddhism and hooking up with artsy women. For broadcast TV, America was given two clean cut guys in a Corvette that picked up odd jobs as the roamed the highways of America. They’re responsible citizens.

The premise of the series is that Yale grad Tod Stiles (Martin Milner) finds himself broke when his father dies. The only thing he’s left is a Corvette. He hooks up with street educated Buz Murdock (George Maharis). The duo hit the road in search of experiences, adventures, America and their souls. They end up helping people during their various odd jobs. But they can’t put down roots. It’s kind of like The Fugitive except neither man is destined for the execution chamber.

The second half of the first season launches Tod and Buz into the air. “Fly Away Home” has them working for a crop dusting outfit. Things however have gotten tough in the business. The only way the company can survive is to dust sulfur on the plants. This is extremely dangerous. The former owner had a fatal accident while applying it. Michael Rennie (The Lost World) is now the new top pilot. He doesn’t like Tod getting into the cockpit. Trouble comes on land as Buz swoons for a lounge singer. “An Absence of Tears” features a blind widow constantly listening for her husband’s killers. There’s more murder action discovered in “Effigy in Snow.” A psycho killer is roaming Squaw Valley. Buz and Tod have to protect the slopes. “Eleven the Hardway” lets Walter Mathau gamble a town’s budget in Reno. That’s a great way to raise city funds without taxing the citizens.

“Like a Motherless Child” touches upon Buz’s past. They pick up a hitchhiking boy that’s run away from an orphanage. Tod demands they take the kid back. Buz opposes this move because of his experience with orphans. It seems as if this might be the end of the road for the duo. Although there’s more episodes on the boxset so don’t get too nervous. An orphan girl inherits her parent’s San Diego resort in “Don’t Count the Stars.” The problem is her only living relative is a drunk. He’s turned the place into a flop house for his degenerate, gambling friends. She enlists Tod and Buz to sober up and straighten out her uncle so the bank doesn’t take control of her hotel empire. Has Paris Hilton seen this episode?

What truly makes Route 66 special is that it wasn’t completely shot on the backlots and soundstages of Hollywood. There’s plenty of location work. They really went to Squaw Valley to chase the killer around the Olympic village. As Buz and Tod cruise down the highways, it’s not always a rear projection of the road behind their heads; they were really discovering America. While the show is far from Jack Kerouac’s exploits, Route 66 remind us of the beauty of a convertible Corvette and the pursuit of kicks.

The Episodes:
“Fly Away Home,” (Two-parter) “Sleep on Four Pillows,” “An Absence of Tears,” “Like a Motherless Child,” “Effigy in Snow,” “Eleven, the Hard Way,” “Most Vanquished, Most Victorious,” “Don’t Count Stars,” “The Newborn,” “A Skill for Hunting,” “Trap at Cordova,” “The Opponent,” “Welcome to Amity” and “Incident on a Bridge.”

The DVD:

The four DVDs are stored in an inlay case that has two levels on each side. This is stored inside a sleeve. There’s a map of Route 66 on a flap in case you’re interested in hitting the road to find Buz and Tod.

The picture is 1.78:1 anamorphic. This is not the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The alteration is highly controversial amongst fans. The folks controlling the show decided when they made the HD transfer from a 35mm source to crop for 16:9. While it’s extremely annoying to have the black bars cropping the image on a standard TV; it looks great on a widescreen HD set. For the most part the action isn’t destroyed by the ratio. There are a few close ups that were mis-framed so that the top of the head and bottom of the chin is cropped. Never crop the jaw. If you’re extremely anal about aspect ratios, this is going to drive you nuts. If you can roll with the adjustment and own a widescreen HDTV, you’ll enjoy cinematic scope of the locations used on Route 66. The quality of the image is a major step up from Season One, Volume One that was transferred off 16mm prints.

The soundtrack is Dolby Digital mono. The levels and quality varies during an episode because of the extensive location work.

Classic Original TV Commercials (19:58) features the Chevy ads that ran during the series. It’s amazing to see how kids didn’t have to wear seat belts on TV. They lived dangerously back in the ‘60s. The ads explore various highway attractions on Route 66. There are also some amazing claims on the aspirin ads.

Filmographies of Stars and Special Guests is a guide to famous faces that appeared on the road.

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Infinity Entertainment Group presents Route 66: Season One, Volume Two. Created by: Stirling Silliphant. Starring: Martin Milner, George Maharis, George Sherman. Written by: Stirling Silliphant, Leonard Freeman. Running time: 780 minutes on 4 discs. Rating: Not Rated. Released on DVD: February 5, 2008. Available at Amazon.com