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The Adventures of Spin & Marty DVD Review

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The Adventures of Spin and Marty
Show & DVD Details

Director: William Beaudine

Cast: David Stollery (Marty Markham), Tim Considine (Spin Evans), Roy Barcroft (Mr. J.P. Logan), Lennie Geer (Ollie), J. Pat O'Malley (Perkins), Harry Carey, Jr. (Bill Burnett), Joe (Sammy Ogg), B.G. Norman (Ambitious), Roger Broaddus (Freddie), Brand Stirling (Al), Dee Aaker (Russell), George Eldredge (Dr. Spaulding), Sammee Tong (Sam), Tim Hartnagel (Speckle), Bill Waters (Spike)

25 Episodes: The Triple-R, The Misfit, The White Stallion, A Froggy Day, The Battle, A Surprise Decision, Homesick, Logan's Lesson, The Chase, Ride-'em-Cowboy, The Snipe Hunt, The Secret Ride, Tragedy!, Perkins' Decision, Tossing the Calf, Rope Artist, Nothing Happens On Sunday, Perkins and the Bear, Runaway!, Haunted Valley, The Live Ghost, The Big Rodeo, Off on the Wrong Foot, Skyrocket's Trick, The Last Campfire

Video and Audio; Bonus Materials: "The Mickey Mouse Club" Episode #25, Tim Considine's Screen Test, Galleries, "Return to The Triple-R", Back in the Saddle with Harry Carey Jr.; Closing Thoughts

Running Time: 346 Minutes (5 hours, 46 minutes) / Rating: Not Rated
Disc Two: 185 minutes (166 - episodes, 2 - introduction, 17 - extras)
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Aspect Ratio), Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned / DVD Release Date: December 6, 2005
Originally Aired November 7 - December 9, 1955
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $32.99

REVIEW CONTENTS
Page 1: Set Overview, Packaging, and Episode Synopses
Page 2: Episode Synopses continued, Video & Audio, Bonus Features, Closing Thoughts

DISC 2 (continued)

Ollie is glad to help Perkins try his hand at horse-riding. And you thought "Nothing Happens on Sunday"! Why are Russell and Speckle up in a tree? Because there's a 'bar' below. Where's Davy Crockett when you need him? All that anticipation for a pack trip, and what do they get? This guy, with his hammer and song.

16. "Rope Artist" (11:05) (Originally aired November 28, 1955)
Ollie and Al help Marty hone his roping skills. Watching on as the boys play baseball, Marty receives some good news.

17. "Nothing Happens On Sunday" (11:06) (Originally aired November 29, 1955)
Contrary to the title, plenty happens on this Sunday. Marty shows Bill some of the tricks he and Skyrocket have mastered, Ollie and Spin are entertained by Perkins' equestrian debut (on a rowdy mule named Daisy), and two boys' hiking trip brings them close to a growling bear.

18. "Perkins and the Bear" (11:05) (Originally aired November 30, 1955)
Two continued threads meet, as Perkins' tumultuous riding of Daisy takes him to where the bear has chased Russell and Speckle up a tree. Then, it's time to set up upcoming episodes; while Spin demonstrates the usefulness of the "diamond hitch", Marty worries that he might not get to go on the pack trip to Haunted Valley.

19. "Runaway!" (11:06) (Originally aired December 1, 1955)
Once Dr. Spaulding shows up and gives his OK, Marty joins the others on the pack trip. When Freddie's horse runs wild, it gives Marty a chance to be heroic.

20. "Haunted Valley" (11:07) (Originally aired December 2, 1955)
At the much-awaited pack trip, Perkins provides entertainment via a musical ghost tale of a miner named Jags.

Hear a ghost story, see a ghost. That's generally how things work out. The Triple-R Ranch celebrates a rodeo event victory...prematurely, it turns out. The all-important bucket relay will determine a winner in the rodeo.

21. "The Live Ghost" (11:05) (Originally aired December 5, 1955)
Marty and Ambitious act out their plot to frighten those boys brave enough to sleep in Jags' haunt.

22. "The Big Rodeo" (11:06) (Originally aired December 6, 1955)
Spin is bummed to learn that his assigned horse, Sailor, has become injured. Still, it's time for the long-awaited rodeo, which brings out the entire Triple-R gang and an interested crowd of spectators.

23. "Off on the Wrong Foot" (11:06) (Originally aired December 7, 1955)
The Triple-R Ranch squares off against Northfork in the Junior Championship Rodeo. Northfork takes an early lead, but the Triple R Ranchers look to come back in the calf-roping contest.

24. "Skyrocket's Trick" (11:05) (Originally aired December 8, 1955)
Marty wants Spin to fill in for him to boost his chances for the top-scorer prize, but when that doesn't happen, Marty excels in the horse-bridling event. That leaves the rodeo in a tie, with one final event -- the relay race -- to decide which team will win.

25. "The Last Campfire" (11:07) (Originally aired December 9, 1955)
The Rodeo concludes with the second half of the bucket relay. As one final campfire sees the gang bidding farewell to one another, Logan offers Spin and Marty a chance to extend their stay and participate in a roundup.

Marty saves the day with his wicked horse-riding skills. Everyone at the Triple-R loves a campfire.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Naturally, Spin and Marty is presented in 1.33:1 "fullscreen", the aspect ratio in which it was originally broadcast. When you're dealing with content that is over 50 years old and was filmed for daily broadcasts, you need to lower your quality expectations a lot. Some television shows half as old as this can look pretty beat in syndication and on DVD. On the other hand, 2004's release of the first week of "Mickey Mouse Club" episodes proved that proper restoration in the Treasures tradition could bring a 50-year-old program as close to new-looking as it ever had. Spin and Marty falls a little short of that quality, but its video is still quite better than decent considering its origins.
The biggest drawback is the presence of white specks, which travel in small numbers but are regularly present. These artifacts do not appear to be a result of the DVD, but rather worn source material that hasn't been given the full digital overhaul. Next to a late-'90s Vault Disney airing or the problematic standalone compilation The Best of The Mickey Mouse Club or a public domain disc of a similarly-aged title, Spin and Marty looks fantastic. But at the same time, it does leave room for improvement and the imperfections do take a tiny bit away from the proceedings.

In the sound department, there is a Dolby 2.0 Mono track, which is par for the course. For a fifty-year-old soundtrack, it's pretty much what you would expect, but slightly better. Dialogue remains intelligible most of the time. When not, a reliable subtitle track is offered. Mild distortion might be noted at times, but it's certainly mild enough to not create any barriers between the viewer and show. Dynamics are consistent (though a little low) and the basic sound mix seems pretty capably presented. A warning that the repeated deliveries of that "Yippi-i, Yippi-a, Yippi-o" song near the end of the season may drive you a little mad.

Marty and Spin introduce their serial as part of the full-length "Mickey Mouse Club" episode which is designated a bonus feature. Tim Considine as Marty? Take a glimpse at the almost-casting in the actor's screen test. This album, depicted in the Merchandise gallery, offered songs from "Spin and Marty" as well as other MMC serials. You'd think it'd go for more than $10.50 on eBay!

BONUS FEATURES

The lavish look and special nature of the Treasures leads one to believe that they all come with swell newly-produced supplements, which our other reviews will tell you is definitely not always the case.
Fortunately, Spin and Marty does deliver some pretty impressive extras that explore most potential avenues. As is custom, host Leonard Maltin shows up not long after Disc 1 gets past those pesky FBI warnings. His introduction (3:22) fills you in on practically anything you might wonder about, addressing the serial's history and popularity, its simplicity and context, the careers of the two young leads, and the DVD's contents.

Though labeled a bonus feature, Episode #25 of "The Mickey Mouse Club" (44:22) is truly a highlight of the set. This episode aired on November 4, 1955, the Friday before the Monday that Spin and Marty debuted. As would become the norm, the serial is set up in an extended preview hosted by Marty (with Spin showing up near the end) and comprised chiefly of clips. The Spin and Marty portion, which comes a little after the halfway point, only sheds some light on the serial itself, since it's basically a drawn-out, narrated tease that merely introduces characters. But it speaks volumes about where Spin and Marty entered and how it would always be seen.

Chances are, if you're a fan of Spin, you also appreciate the variety show it was a part of, in which case you're sure to enjoy this complete "Talent Round-Up Day" episode. Among the treats found within: the full opening animation featuring a host of Disney cartoon characters (including the first appearance of Scrooge McDuck) and a world news roundup featuring small town human interest stories (such as some Minnesota young'uns who made a log cabin church, and a lynx being raised by a housecat). Then, in the tradition of the day, a couple of kids are made Honorary Mouseketeers: one regular cast member fences with his brother and a boy named Jean Robinson plays the piano. Mickey in Arabia (1932) is the Mousekartoon. The show ends with a preview for True-Life Adventure film The African Lion. And there's also a hands-in-pockets, camera-approaching talk from Jimmie Dodd. As an added plus, the episode has been terrifically restored and exhibits first-rate picture quality.

Also on Disc 1, "Tim Considine's Screen Test" (2:30) offers exactly what it promises, as the young actor is seen auditioning for the part of Marty in two scenes (coping with his polo lie and meeting Skyrocket). Curiously, there is a mildly distracting timecode on the screen, unlike the footage which is briefly excerpted in the introduction. Rounding out the platter are two galleries. The first, Merchandise, holds 14 images depicting the covers of albums, sheet music, and 10-cent comic books tied to the serial. The second, Behind the Scenes, provides 52 photos from the sets, mostly in black and white and a few featuring Walt.

Spin and Marty reunite at their old hangout in "Return to The Triple-R." "Back in the Saddle with Harry Carey Jr." finds the actor aged but alert. Disc 1's Main Menu finds a swell caricature of the two boys plus a cowboy hat cursor.

Disc 2 begins with another Maltin intro, this one discussing the careers of three contributors to the series, B-movie director William Beaudine ("Lassie"), veteran villain-portrayer Roy Barcroft (Logan), and Harry Carey Jr. (who is not to be confused with the longtime Cubs announcer).

"Return to The Triple-R" (9:50) is a really fun new retrospective in which the actors who portrayed Spin and Marty -- Tim Considine and David Stollery, respectively -- reunite in a visit to the Golden Oak Ranch, which housed the production of their serial. Their reflections on the summers spent filming are both insightful and amusing, making this an enjoyable trip down memory lane, one which is marred only by the strange greenish tint which the show clips take on. Among the topics discussed: the unique nature of "The Mickey Mouse Club", a Trivial Pursuit fumble, the come-and-go nature of Walt on the set, and the value of real estate.

"Back in the Saddle with Harry Carey Jr." (7:29) is more of a standard interview, as Leonard Maltin fires question at "Dobe", the man who portrayed Triple-R counselor Bill Burnett. Now in his mid-80s, veteran Western actor Carey recalls the recognition the series gave him, Walt Disney, the workmanlike set-up-and-shoot-quick style of director Beaudine, and the fact that the campfire scenes were not really shot at night (a revelation which blows Maltin's mind, but seems pretty obvious from the look of them). Though up there in years, Carey seems to hold both good retention and a fondness for Spin, which benefits this piece.

True to the series, the menus are a series of stills accompanied by old-time-sounding instrumentals and assorted promotional Spin and Marty imagery. While the cowboy hat and cacti cursors seem appropriate enough, a number of the episode titles are perplexingly a bit off from what the on-screen text reads.

Spin and Marty have serious moments... ...as well as laughter in "The Adventures of Spin and Marty."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Adventures of Spin and Marty may not rank among the very best sets the Walt Disney Treasures line has offered, but it should win over anyone with a fondness for '50s television and definitely delight anyone who enjoys this simple but fun "Mickey Mouse Club" serial. Considering how few of Disney's 1950s live action movies and television programs have come to DVD and how many fewer with any pomp, the treatment bestowed upon Spin and Marty is both rare and very satisfying. The picture and sound are very good for their age and the bonus features are about as much as one could hope for. The few improvements that could have been made -- including more relevant vintage video and an option to play all episodes without the brief interruption posed by the opening title cards -- hardly qualify as shortcomings.

You'd be more apt to find fault in the series itself and those accustomed to modern television may be underwhelmed by the featured program. Still, even these folks should see enough nostalgia value here to sustain the old-fashioned fun. The format of regularly open-ended, 11-minute episodes also proves to be a challenge, but one which doesn't overcome the Triple-R Ranch's appeal. Replay value is somewhat questionable, since strung together like this, the full season plays out a little bit like a 4-hour mini-series. Nevertheless, watching a few episodes here and there is not a problem and it's closer to the series' original design.

With all things considered, if phrases like "black and white", "live action", "Mickey Mouse Club", and "campfire sing-alongs" don't scare you off, then Spin and Marty might well be a Treasures set you'd enjoy. At least a single viewing is recommended for most Disney fans and a purchase is probably your only hope for seeing the final two seasons on DVD anytime soon.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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REVIEW CONTENTS
Page 1: Set Overview, Packaging, and Episode Synopses
Page 2: Episode Synopses continued, Video & Audio, Bonus Features, Closing Thoughts

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Review posted September 27, 2006.