Warner Home Video presents
F Troop: The Complete Second Season (1966-67)
O'Rourke: In a situation like this, have you ever known me to be wrong?
Agarn: Yes.- Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch
Stars: Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch, Ken Berry, Melody Patterson, Frank De Kova
Other Stars: James Hampton, Don Diamond, Bob Steele, Joe Brooks, Ivan Bell, Paul Lynde, Harvey Korman, Charles Lane, Milton Berle, Julie Newmar, Patty Regan, Leticia Roman, Jay Novello, Sterling Holloway, Henry Bibson, I. Stanford Jolley, Mako, Phil Harris, Vincent Price, Mary Wickes, James Gregory, Cliff Arquette
Director: David Alexander, Seymour Robbie, Phil Rawlins, Gary Nelson, Hollingsworth Morse, Hal March
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (politically incorrect treatment of Native Americans, slapstick violence)
Run Time: 13h:07m:02s
Release Date: 2007-05-29
DVD ReviewWhile the first season of F Troop was full of classic television comedy, the 31 episodes of the second season live up to the standard with the addition of full color (though for some reason the theme song was replaced with an instrumental version for this second and final outing).
The scenario should be familiar since it has been a syndication staple for decades: clumsy and naive Captain Wilton Parmenter (Ken Berry) is sent off to Fort Courage in the West of the 1870s, where he leads the most incompetent troop of soldiers ever to serve in the military, including the nearsighted Vanderbilt (Joe Brooks), 'Alamo veteran' Duffy (Bob Steele) and talent-free bugler Dobbs (James Hampton). The stories generally center on the schemes of greedy Sgt. Morgan O'Rourke (Forrest Tucker) and his sidekick Corporal Randolph Agarn (Larry Storch), and their half-baked schemes to make money, often with the aid of the local natives, the Hekawi tribe under Wild Eagle (Frank De Kova) and Crazy Cat (Don Diamond), partners in bootlegging and souvenir hawking. Parmenter is also the object of the affections of Wrangler Jane Thrift (Melody Patterson), a buckskin-clad tomboy who can't quite get where she wants to be with the captain.
The second season has for the most part moved on from the rather formulaic plots of the first season, which centered on the efforts of Agarn and O'Rourke to prevent Parmenter from being reassigned elsewhere and adversely affecting the fortunes of O'Rourke Enterprises. To some extent, this is accomplished with using the situation of the cavalry and the wild West as a springboard. A good example of this is Reach for the Sky Pardner, which features a train robbery and fairly elaborate action sequence that wouldn't have been out of place in a proper Western movie of the period. The plot of The Searchers is used as the basis of Yellow Bird, featuring Julie Newmar as a blonde woman who was taken in by Apaches as a youngster, and O'Rourke's efforts to turn a profit from her identity.
But more than anything, the series uses character for humor to good effect. Particularly notable are the portrayals of the Hekawi, played for the most part by Jewish comics. They use Native American stereotypes to do the unexpected, making for plenty of laughs. While the notion seems as if it might be offensive, the portrayals of all of the characters are so cartoonish that it's difficult to take these stereotypes seriously. One of the best episodes showing Wild Eagle off as a character is Our Brave in F Troop, in which he joins the Army surreptitiously to see the dentist, and ends up being promoted to Major.
The skills of Larry Storch are on display again, as he takes on dual roles, including his own French Canadian cousin and a Russian soldier, as well as readily becoming a Prussian aide-de-camp to guest starring Harvey Korman. But other principals also get into the act, with Tucker playing O'Rourke's father in Did Your Father Come from Ireland?, and Berry as Parmenter's evil twin, robber Kid Vicious in Wilton the Kid. Once again, Berry's dancing talents are put to good use with physical comedy that on occasion is reminiscent of Buster Keaton's work, such as a lengthy sequence of Parmenter walking as he reads a letter, getting into one fix after another, and wandering back out again without anything ever registering in his consciousness.
One notable aspect of the second season is the vast array of guest stars. Paul Lynde makes an appearance outside of the center square as a singing Mountie, while Milton Berle is a huckster traveling medicine man in The Great Troop Robbery. Newmar is marvelous in her episode, getting a rare chance to show off her comic timing as well as her legs. Henry Gibson returns as Wrongo Starr in a sequel to a first season episode, Phil Harris guests as a 147-year-old Indian determined to get the Hekawi to kill all the palefaces, and Vincent Price even makes an appearance as a visiting Transylvanian who just might be a vampire. Eurocult fans will note the appearance of Leticia Roman, who starred in Mario Bava's The Girl Who Knew Too Much; how she ended up here I can't imagine. But that's part of what makes the series so memorable: even though it feels comfortable and familiar, it always manages to pull something out that is surprising and often verging into surrealism.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The original full frame picture generally looks pretty good. There's minor speckling at commercial breaks. The Return of Wrongo Starr has a nasty tear in the film near the beginning, but otherwise the condition is more than acceptable. Color is bright and vivid, though white tends to veer a bit into the greenish tone on some episodes. Detail is reasonably crisp, since the series was shot on film. Black levels are excellent.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The mono sound is surprisingly clean for its age. The laugh track and foley effects feel mixed a bit loud, especially at reference levels. The range on the music is pretty wide, though obviously there's no seriously low bass to be heard. The trombones and trumpets on the theme song have a nice bite to them.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 186 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English (closed captioning only) with remote access
Packaging: Box Set
Extras Review: The only extra feature is Fall In with F Troop (28m:34s), which is a somewhat unusual appreciation of the series, with emphasis on the positive affection lauded on it by members of the military. Some of the writers are present, and there's a short snippet with the aged Ken Berry and also a brief bit with Joe Brooks, but it's a little disappointing for content. But it's certainly better than the nothing that was provided on the first season set. Once again, there are handy 'play all' buttons as well as individual episode selections. Each episode features six chapter stops.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsThe second and last season is just as classic as the first, packed with laughs and loaded with guest stars. Recommended.
Mark Zimmer 2007-05-29