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'Route 66' on Road to Retail

6 Oct, 2007 By: Brett Sporich

Route 66: Season One Vol. One

The iconic 1960-64 series “Route 66” helped define the wanderlust of the open road and established the Corvette as an American icon.The show tells the story of Yale graduate Tod Stiles (Martin Milner), a privileged and sheltered intellectual, and his friend Buz Murdock (George Maharis), a tough young man struggling through life.

When his wealthy father dies, Tod finds himself unexpectedly penniless with just one possession, a powder-blue Chevrolet Corvette. On a quest to find adventure — and themselves — Tod and Buz hit the open road in the ultimate American journey.

In traversing the famed Route 66, which stretches from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif., the pair encountered such guest stars as Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Walter Matthau, Martin Sheen, James Caan, Burt Reynolds, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Ron Howard, Suzanne Pleshette, Ed Asner, Julie Newmar, Cloris Leachman and Leslie Nielsen.

Infinity Entertainment Oct. 23 releases Route 66: Season One Vol. One ($29.98), a four-disc set with the first 15 episodes.

Maharis described the filming of the series as “like living on a wagon train.”

“Almost every day we were in a different town, meeting unique individuals, many of whom we enlisted as extras and even some speaking roles,” he said. “All the towns and people in them were so uniquely different then. It's not like that today, with all the cable TV, Internet and video games. Today, you can go 3,000 miles across the country, and everybody is the same.”

The show was created by Oscar-winning writer Stirling Silliphant (“In the Heat of The Night”) and producer Herbert Leonard (“Rin Tin Tin”), and offered TV viewers a unique anthology series with groundbreaking production values and meaningful dramatic themes.

“Irving Lippman, the cameraman, used to do some amazing things to get just the right shot, “Maharis said. “I remember him digging ditches so that he could get the camera down low enough to shoot up at the actors.

“And back then there were no radio microphones. So, when we would be walking and talking, the sound crew had to follow us with a cord connected to our hidden mics. There was no dubbing in the sound back at the studio. We did everything right then and there. It was as close to live as it gets.”

The show has been remastered for DVD by Roxbury Entertainment.

“‘Route 66' was one of the first television series to be shot on 35mm film, giving it a clear and sharp feel,” said producer Kirk Hallam, owner and operator of Roxbury. “[For the remaster] we used a duplicate copy of the original film stock that had been kept in a special climate-controlled vault in Burbank.”

The DVD includes classic original TV commercials, filmographies of the stars and special guests, and a vintage Corvette photo gallery.

“I know this series will appeal to the 50-and-older crowd,” Hallam said. “But I also believe that this will appeal to the 20-to-30 crowd, as well. It's a coming-of-age film and the very first modern road trip experience.”

Hallam said the next 15 episodes will likely be released before Christmas. A future collector's set is possible if sales are good, he said, and a film adaptation is in the works.

“All I can say now is that we have some top-shelf talent already attached to the project,” Hallam said.

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