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Come ride the little train that is rolling down the tracks to the junction...

Along with THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES and GREEN ACRES, PETTICOAT JUNCTION is among the most favorite sitcoms of my boob tube addicted youth.  Although I hadnít seen PETTICOAT JUNCTION in decades, and honestly canít remember ever seeing the black and white episodes from season one; the opportunity to sit down and watch this show again (for the first time) has been an absolute delight.  PETTICOAT JUNCTION is a television series from a more innocent era, and as such, it is full of the kind of homespun charm that puts this show head and shoulders above the majority of the contemporary sitcoms.  OK, so PETTICOAT JUNCTION never had me rolling on the floor with laughter, but the show produces genuine laughs on a regular basis and gives one a warm, fuzzy and comforting feeling while watching it.

Created by Paul Henning, PETTICOAT JUNCTION was the producerís follow up to his enormously successful sitcom THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES.  Set in the fictional community of Hooterville that resides in the state of Anywhere USA, PETTICOAT JUNCTION tells the story of a little hotel called the Shady Rest (in the junction).  The Shady Rest is run by Kate Bradley (Bea Benaderet) and her three lovely daughters Billie Jo (Jeannine Riley), Bobbie Jo (Pat Woodell) and Betty Jo (Linda Kaye aka Linda Henning), as well as Uncle Joe Carson (Edgar Buchanan), who isnít quite as much help as one might want in the hotel business. Much of season one is concerned with keeping the Shady Rest afloat, especially after the Cannonball Express, the antique locomotive that is the only means of accessing the hotel is threatened with extinction. The cast of PETTICOAT JUNCTION also features Frank Cady, Smiley Burnette and Rufe Davis. Look for character actor Charles Lane in a reoccurring part during season one.

PETTICOAT JUNCTION ULTIMATE COLLECTION ($30) comes to DVD is a three-disc set that features twenty of the episodes that were broadcast during the showís freshman year: Spur Line To Shady Rest, Quick, Hide The Railroad, The President Who Came To Dinner, Is There A Doctor In The Roundhouse?, The Courtship Of Floyd Smoot, Please Buy My Violets, The Ringer, Kate's Recipe For Hot Rhubarb, The Little Train Robbery, Bedloe Strikes Again, Uncle Joe's Replacement, Honeymoon Hotel, A Night At The Hooterville Hilton, Herbie Gets Drafted, Bobbie Jo And The Beatnik, My Daughter The Doctor, Hooterville Vs. Hollywood, Visit From A Big Star, Last Chance Farm and The Very Old Antique.

MPI Home Video has made all of the episodes that comprise PETTICOAT JUNCTION ULTIMATE COLLECTION available on DVD in their proper full screen aspect ratios.  These black and white episodes really look quite nice on DVD and are certain to please any PETTICOAT JUNCTION fan.  Authorized by the estate of series creator Paul Henning, the episodes in this collection have been given fine transfers from good quality film elements. Sure, there are occasional scratches and mild blemishes, but they are not terribly bothersome. Image sharpness and detail is pretty darn good for a black and white series during the early to mid 1960s. The blacks are deep, the whites are crisp and the picture boasts more than respectable grayscale and contrast. There is some film grain, but it never appears excessive. Digital compression artifacts are generally well concealed.

All of the episodes that constitute the PETTICOAT JUNCTION ULTIMATE COLLECTION feature Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks. For the most part, the episodes sound quite good, but there is a bit of flutter that crops up briefly in a couple of the episodes that can be a tad distracting. Still, most instances of background hiss and surface noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, leaving a generally smooth sonic quality. Dialogue is clean and always easy to understand. Fidelity exhibits all the expected limitations, but nothing ever sounds harsh or indistinct. No other language tracks have been included on the DVD, but English subtitles are provided.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard episode selection and set up features, as well as an excellent array of supplemental materials. My favorite supplements are the introductions to each episode provided by Linda Henning, who played Betty Jo and is the daughter of series creator Paul Henning. Each of these entertaining, trivia packed introductions runs a couple of minutes and provides fans with plenty of insight into the episode they are about to see, as well as the talent behind the scenes. Another delightful supplement is the forty-five minute documentary The History Of Hooterville, which features interviews with surviving cast members, who reminisce fondly over the series and the fictional community that allowed the characters of PETTICOAT JUNCTION to mix with those of GREEN ACRES and even THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES. A series Original Sponsor Commercials with various cast members, Original Network Promo and a Vintage TV Interview with Bea Benaderet close out the supplements.

Catching up with the denizens of the Shady Rest again on DVD after all these years has proven to be an absolute delight. And while not a complete season set, the PETTICOAT JUNCTION ULTIMATE COLLECTION is one of the best TV on DVD releases to come down the pike in quite some time, thanks to solid presentations and the inclusion of thoughtful supplements that are certain to tickle fans. Letís hope the same amount of care goes into packaging the rest of the series for DVD. Highly recommended.



Petticoat Junction - Ultimate Collection



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2005 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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