Often a movie star comes to TV to revive their career. The move allows the actor to connect with fans that no longer have the time to make it down to the cinema. Donna Reed recaptured America’s heart with her family sitcom. Barbara Stanwyck came to the small screen, but didn’t want to get locked into the role of a suburban housewife. The Barbara Stanwyck Show was a dramatic anthology that allowed her to play a different woman each week. The high production level makes the episodes appear like a series comprised of short films. The cinematic feel is assisted by five titles being directed by Jacques Tourneur (I Walked With a Zombie) and plenty matinee actors in guest appearances. The Barbara Stanwyck Show: Volume 2 gives us 13 more episodes from its single season.
“The Golden Acres” lets Stanwyck get nasty. She’s ready to cheat a family friend as a bit of revenge on a lawyer that once loved her. She’s wicked while making her brothers go along with her plan. She doesn’t care who she has to destroy for her bit of fun. “Adventures on Happiness Street” zips across to Hong Kong. Stanwyck runs an import/export business. She sets up a charity doctor to help the locals only to see her effort backfire. Robert Culp (I Spy) pops up in the confusion. It appears this was a backdoor pilot since the unaired bonus episode has Stanwyck playing the same character. “High Tension” thrills with electricity. She’s on a bus in a storm. A power line snaps and ends up trapping people inside. Will they survive or become zapped into bacon? “Sign of the Zodiac” puts her in touch with a dead husband through a medium. “The Choice” makes her have to decided which guy is an escaped psycho killer. One of her picks is James Best (The Dukes of Hazzard). “Frightened Doll” makes her an aging woman looking for a severe lifestyle change. She finds it thanks to a gangster.
“Yanqui Go Home” flies her South of the Border. She’s the wife of an oil man (Dana Andrews). They’re supposed to be splitting the country as a revolution rages around them. They end up getting taken hostage when they drive toward the border. “Little Big Mouth” is the true story of Nellie Bly’s reporting from an Oklahoma Indian reservation. She covers a doctor and his daughter. “Assassin” has an embezzling secretary discover what could be worse than an employer that prosecutes. The guy has hired a hitman to take her out. Peter Falk (Columbo) and Lawrence Tierney take part in the action. “The Hitch-Hiker” makes her a female attorney involved in a custody battle. Joseph Cotten (Citizen Kane) plays her husband. “Big Jake” is all about all about Andy Devine as fat cop with a heart. He gets in more trouble than he can get out of. “A Man’s Game” lets Stanwyck shine as the tough dame character. She runs a bar in a lawless Western town. She accepts the sheriff’s bar to keep her customers from getting gunned down.
The Barbara Stanwyck Show: Volume 2 gives the middle episodes of the series. She brings all the emotions and attitude that made her a star on the big screen to this smaller project. She doesn’t restrict herself to the confines of a sitcom or a single character. It truly is a treasure chest full of short films starring her. If you like her big, you’ll appreciate her small.
“The Golden Acres,” “Adventure on Happiness Street,” “High Tension,” “Sign of the Zodiac,” “The Choice,” “Frightened Doll,” “Yanqui Go Home,” “Little Big Mouth,” “Assassin,” “The Hitch-Hiker,” “Big Jake,” “A Man’s Game” and “Hong Kong and Little Joe”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers show a little wear and scratches, but nothing too destructive as to ruin the image. The audio is mono. The levels are good enough to hear when she isn’t going to take any lip from a man. The episodes are subtitled.
Hong Kong and Little Joe (26:01) is an episode that didn’t air as during the show’s only season. This episode brings back the Hong Kong import/export agent found in “Adventures on Happiness Street.” She shows off her gambling nature.
The Barbara Stanwyck Show: Volume 2 gives us 13 short films starring the cinema great. The dramatic anthology doesn’t let her get bogged down in domestic roles. The best is when she takes complete charge of the situation like in “A Man’s Game.” The boxset claims there’s supposed to be Stanwyck’s speech from her Emmy win, but I can’t find it. That’s the only disappointment.
E1 Entertainment presents The Barbara Stanwyck Show: Volume 2. Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Dana Andrews, James Best, Joan Blondell, Joseph Cotten, Robert Culp, Buddy Ebsen, Peter Falk and Lawrence Tierney. Boxset Contents 13 episodes on 2 DVDs. Released on DVD: June 1, 2010.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.