Rawhide, a Western TV show that started airing in 1959, might be best known for its iconic theme song — made famous by The Blues Brothers (and so many other films) and, of course, the show itself. The song even has its own Wikipedia article. That’s pretty fair because it is a certified banger as the kids say these days. (They do still say this, right?) But although cultural osmosis has led us to likely know the iconic theme, fewer people are aware of the show’s premise or how to watch it. Thanks to Via Vision, in the first worldwide release, you can see Rawhide’s complete first season on region-free Blu-ray.
I’ve also somewhat buried the lede here. Rawhide was also well-known because its secondary lead was a fellow by the name of Clint Eastwood. The idea of a Western TV series starring Eastwood and featuring a banger theme should be a pretty easy sell. But despite his prominent solo visage on the package, Eastwood’s character isn’t actually the lead on Rawhide. That would be Gil Favor (Eric Fleming), a cattle-driving trail boss. Eastwood is Rowdy Yates, his second-in-command, and it is very weird to see Eastwood play a second-fiddle young gun.
The stories are far from fluff, with fairly mature, substantial storylines involving racism, the aftermath of the American Civil War and even a slight veer into the supernatural side of things. It also deals with more naturalistic issues cattle drivers face (such as lack of water), and there is a plethora of guest stars.
In terms of minutes, it’s massive — each episode a whopping 50 minutes long, with 23 episodes to the season. (Later seasons would bump up to around 30 episodes each, often with a grueling production schedule.) Rawhide ran in an era where films often ran about 90 minutes, and while its drama feels small-scale in terms of production, its content feels quite similar to contemporary Western films. To wit: If you like classic Westerns, Rawhide gives you a solid 23 of them in its first season. Here’s hoping Via Vision decides on Blu-ray releases of further seasons in the future.
The nice, clean Blu-ray transfer is pretty astounding for a TV series approaching its 65th anniversary. The only quibble is a lack of subtitles, which may frustrate hearing-impaired viewers or those who need to watch at reduced volume. However, it’s a lot of dialogue to transcribe for what’s ultimately a niche release that’s also sparse on extras. But fans will be happy to have the show on Blu-ray at all and likely not mind. Via Vision has done a fine job bringing this TV classic to Blu-ray in a manner sure to be appreciated by those who ride ’em in and cut ’em out around the world.