“Back to the days of the Gold Rush, as Sergeant Preston with his wonder dog, Yukon King, meets the challenges of the Yukon … A land inflamed with gold. Men who came quickly learned the heroism of sacrifice and the treachery of greed.”
These words first reached across the radio airwaves in 1947. Children and adults alike would gather around the warm glow of their large radios to hear the exploits of Canadian Mounties Sergeant Preston and his trusty companions Rex, his horse, and Yukon King, his Alaskan Malamute. When the early days of television arrived, it was no surprise that the more successful radio dramas would become some of the first television shows. Sergeant Preston was part of that transition wave of the new medium of television. Although filmed in color, the series ran in black and white, which was the only format available to the homeowner in those days. Now through the release of the series on DVD, we get to see the series for the first time in color.
Sergeant Preston was played by Richard Simmons, and no, he wasn’t an exercise guru. The character represented the long arm of the law in a frontier part of the Northwest in 1898. The series combined elements of the western with parts of the police drama and even rescue show. The wide open format allowed for a pretty diverse appeal. Preston’s natural good looks and charm brought in the ladies, who weren’t going to come for the shootouts and action. Attractive Malamute Yukon King was all the show needed to bring in the kids. This might well have been one of the first truly family television series to come around. It had an almost Disney-like character to it. The series often emphasized polite society ethics and culture in an untamed land. Preston spoke respectfully to the ladies and insisted on good manners from the prospectors he encountered.
Each episode is presented in its original television full frame format. These transfers are definitely a step up from the black and white broadcasts the shows originally enjoyed. The addition of color, and impressive color at that, makes the show look younger than it actually is. It’s full of bright crisp color and fine definition for a show half its age. Still, there’s a lot of print damage and the scratches and specks are all over the place.
The Dolby Digital Mono track might not be quite as strong as the image. There is some distortion evident, and we’re not talking anything dynamic in quality. You can hear the dialog. Be happy for that.
The series really does show its age. I’m not talking about the condition of the prints or the cinematography here. It’s the very old fashioned values that were a vital part of entertainment at one time. You have to remember that this series started before there even was television. Audiences weren’t yet exposed to just about anything someone could dream up. It was all still a time of technological magic and larger than life characters. The final frontier wasn’t space, but the untamed wilderness, and Preston and his faithful companions brought more than justice to the frontier. I suspect that the market for these kinds of things might be small today. But you can’t blame a guy for hoping there’s still a place for simple adventure today. There’s more Preston on the way. “You boys better reload your guns.”