A single colorized episode of 'Wanted: Dead or Alive' cost nearly $20... in 1986

It may not have been the best quality, but for $20, you could see the blue eyes of one Steve McQueen in color!

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Wanted: Dead or Alive is still viewed as one of the great Westerns during television's golden age. The three-season black and white series ran from 1958 to 1961 and starred Steve McQueen as soft-hearted bounty hunter Josh Randall. 

The series catapulted McQueen into stardom and proved he, one of the "cool" Hollywood actors, could play any role well. 

If a show was shot and originally aired in black and white, fans feel that is generally the best way to watch it, even today. 

Often times, when a show or movie is brought into color with technology from today, it's done very well and the quality level might even be better than the original. That wasn't always the case. 

For years, all television lovers knew was black and white programs. That slowly began to change in the late Fifties and into the Sixties. By the Seventies, just about everything was in color.

Sometimes, fans wanted a new version of something from the black and white era. What would it be like, for example, to see Josh Randall in color? In the mid Eighties, VidAmerica, a bygone VHS and home video distributor, began selling colorized versions of Wanted: Dead or Alive.

According to a 1986 article in The Buffalo News, the first two volumes of the Western were hitting the shelves at VidAmerican in colorized fashion, and it was going to cost a pretty penny. The colorized episodes were released in two volumes, each containing a Wanted episode. 

Episodes "Reunion for Revenge," the 21st episode of season one, and "The Medicine Man," the 10th episode of season three were available for nearly $20, per episode! 

"At $19.95 for each 22-minute episode, that's nearly a dollar a minute - decidedly not a good consumer value," The Buffalo News article stated. Today, entire seasons of television shows could cost less than that price. The hike was due to the colorization process, but at the time it wasn't an exact science and results varied. 

The author of the article in the newspaper said the "colorization of the shows is the same smeared quality I've seen elsewhere. If you've ever made a copy of someone else's copy, you have an idea of the quality I'm talking about."

But, paying $20 for a single episode, even at that time, did have at least one benefit according to this critic. You'd see that McQueen's eyes "are a lovely, if unrealistic, shade of blue." 

Would you have paid $20 in 1986, worth roughly $50 today, for a single colorized episode of Wanted: Dead or Alive

Watch Wanted Dead or Alive on MeTV!

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Runeshaper 18 months ago
Some entire series of shows today are less than $19.95! lol I love this show, but I wouldn't pay that much for 1 episode in color.
Jeffrey 19 months ago
NO, I would not pay $20.00, or $50.00 in todays money for that.
MikefromJersey 19 months ago
Every year sometime after Thanksgiving CBS runs 2 newly colorized Dick Van Dyke Shows.
Beautiful job, you'd never suspect they were once presented in black and white.
Long term I think the colorization process will save classic black and white TV series
that are ignored because many if not most younger people refuse to watch black and
white series. Route 66, with some of the finest writing in TV history, would benefit
especially as it was all filmed on location around America.
This wouldn't work for the great Naked City as it was filmed in the film noir
tradition, in fact it would be a crime to colorize it.
Route 66 is currently on MeTV Plus.
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Pacificsun MikefromJersey 19 months ago
Paraphrasing, will classic TV turn into reruns of Survivor?
You have such interesting comments. And should do so more often. I don’t dispute anything you’ve been told. Or your neighbor’s report. And a few points to add to the conversation:

It’s not about the year people were born. Or that we won’t be watching classic TV in 10 years. Because we’ll be dead. And I think no one needs to review the antics of Richard Hatch, repeatedly. As we watch an endless cycle of Perry Mason and TAGs. Also, how video-game buffs can’t relate to reality, is their loss.

Yes, I would easily propose that the CGI special effects introduced by Stars Wars was a turning point, because it exponentially raised the level of the viewer’s entertainment expectations (beginning with group experience inside theaters). A very powerful incentive and adrenaline rush!!

The movie traded visuals and instantaneous pleasure (exotic impressions) for character based relationships and shallow plots. Favorite characters “developed” along the way, mainly because of their marketable identity and faux fandom. (Cult heroes). But was it only a convenience. The genre turned into imaginative adventurous novelty. Kind of like how video games hit the market place. Meaning, they were popular as an experience in the moment. No worries. To each their own.

This issue is related to what people “need” in entertainment. Would they rather read a short book with the promise of short-term reward (entertainment value). Or invest time into a classic that gives them more to think about long-term (which is why we like anthologies. We don't forget those TZ episodes!). That’s the value of an analogy.

But television offers something above and beyond “message.” Meaning it's about visual intimacy regarding characters. The fact the medium comes into a person’s home (they used to say, because it's invited into their living room) personalizes that experience. And viewers draw from the opportunity, at will. Why do we watch ST:TOS a million times even though we know the dialogue word-for-word. Because the characters have turned into virtual friends, predictable and reliable.

The point to be made is this. How are people learning about the medium and for what reasons? If they don’t know, or don’t understand the "what and why" of it, then the subject (topic) can’t be appreciated. And perhaps I would question that instructor’s (absence of?) relatability. Did she know how to make Citizen Kane relevant, or were the students not in the first place (like some students hate history) we’ll never know. Maybe the attitude of her audience wasn't appropriate.

We happen to be classic TV enthusiasts, because we (now) have the perspective to appreciate a lot of differences between the golden age and now. But color or black & white (BW) is just part of it. You’ve eloquently pointed the difference between Naked City (in BW) and DVD in BW (like who cares). But that’s because the visual of Naked City is part of the experience, as is in some cases rather than others! BW drives home the nitty-gritty reality (experience) of a Naked City drama. Whereas other shows just make us laugh. It depends on what we want in in Show. And what we discover is unique about that Show.

I offer that Route 66 would loose it’s noir appeal, because color might turn it into more of a travelogue. But I’d rather not loose focus on how the plots (purpose) of that episode develop those relationships. Meaning, ultimately what do those characters learn, just as we do while watching. But how a storyline is written for that purpose, is quite an art. In a way the Fugitive has some of that perspective too. And BW supports the experience more so than does color. Because the purpose of BW is to make us focus on dialogue and dramatization.

Transfer the effect of color into how do the characters and adventures of Comic Books, translate. Would they be as effective if Superman was in BW. Interesting thought. But it depends on how well the reader can transfer the through-point (purpose) of Superman into a plot and resolution. Are the characters strong enough (yes) and the imagination (yes) to carry the story alone (and yes). Because it’s Superman!! That’s a personal reaction, and does depend on age.

So lets not forget how effective Radio Shows were too. Nobody had to be “taught” how to enjoy them. Imagination and characterizations were strong enough to work nicely. And I offer that they were, because of what the skills (motivation) that listeners brought with them.

Perhaps the teacher in your experience should've been teaching "skills" rather than content. Just a thought ....

MikefromJersey Pacificsun 18 months ago
Outstanding, Pacificsun, I copied it and sent it on to a number of my friends.
As for the teacher, I suspected the same as a truly good one can inspire
students and open up whole new worlds to them.
And a bad teacher can do a lot of harm, my 5th grade teacher took an instant
dislike to me and put me in the "dumb" reading group with kids who were
struggling with Dick & Jane.
I had already knocked off the Lord of the Rings, Pilgrim's Progress, Huck Finn,
not to mention my faves The Hardy Boys and 3 Investigators.
But she had me reading "run Spot run".
Sorry, went off on a tangent here, but teachers just there for a paycheck are really
cheating the kids.
Pacific, I said it before, but MeTV could put on a Classic TV game show
with contestants such as you and others from here and I think it would work,
they are low cost and would help give the network an identity.
I am not kissing tookus, but you are by far the best poster of all the "regulars" here.
I always suspected you were either a teacher or writer or podcast maven.
"Sit tight, live right and keep the lamp in the window"...Kookie
Pacificsun MikefromJersey 18 months ago
No illusions here, long Posts are an acquired taste. So for the reason of your patience and indulgence, thank you. If it was meant to be shared, the comment would be polished beforehand. Honest truth, they're written very late at night just to relax, from a creative project that's being edited via a software application.

The MeTV forum is thoughtful, diverse, fun, and provides lots of virtual company! The Regulars like yourself and other friends inspire good 𝒄𝒐𝒏𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒔𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 which is worthy of exchange! This particular combination of Regulars is compatible for the reason of respecting opinions, and iteresting contributions and trivia!

True enough, a teacher (at a Montessori) point in life can make or break a special interest and motivation. It’s said that we do best what we most love to do. But I 𝒄𝒂𝒏 say that it certainly turns into an addiction and a pleasure!

Sad to hear that you weren’t appreciated in the moment for the reason of reading those very adventurous and imaginative stories! Takes a lot of patience, but am guessing they were compelling enough to make time go by quickly! That’s the mark of a good writer!! Think of the ways in which you might’ve been purposefully pointed in the right direction, until you were able to recover from your disappointment. And then to make your own achievements!

My father was a born writer and interviewer and conversationalist. So the interest (motivation) came to me from exposure and the industry. There was 𝒔𝒖𝒄𝒉 availability during those decades through education and observation and association.

In terms of the influence of teachers, mine in second grade complimented my ability in phonetics (pretty obscure skill). In eighth grade, it was my skill in diagraming sentences (a strange one, not exactly useful on a resume). In twelfth grade, a teacher gave me an A+ on a report that my father completely rewrote. But College offered fascinating classes, including Creative Arts and Communications. I only had one instructor who warned me I would not be good teacher. And am grateful that he unintentionally pushed me into an alternative strategy, no worries.

𝐵𝑒𝒸𝒶𝓊𝓈𝑒 𝐼 𝒷𝑒𝓁𝒾𝑒𝓋𝑒 𝓉𝒽𝒶𝓉 𝓌𝑒 𝒾𝓃𝓈𝓉𝒾𝓃𝒸𝓉𝒾𝓋𝑒𝓁𝓎 𝒻𝒾𝓃𝒹 𝓌𝒽𝒶𝓉 𝓌𝑒'𝓇𝑒 𝓂𝑒𝒶𝓃𝓉 𝓉𝑜 𝒹𝑜!
MikefromJersey Pacificsun 18 months ago
Thanks Pacific, well said.
BrittReid 19 months ago
JJZ 109
Jeffrey BrittReid 19 months ago
What is JJZ 109? Somebody's License plate?
Andybandit 19 months ago
I liked WDOA. It is my Western show. I wish it was in Color and had longer seasons.
justjeff 19 months ago
Until the recent technology that matches true colors and hues of a particular era, I wouldn't give two cents for colorized *anything*... The white of eyes were always beige... nearly everyone had brown eyes, and other colors were flat and boring.

On the other hand, I own the colorized versions of select Three Stooges episodes issued by Sony... and their tech team researched the colors of the 1930s and 1940s in order to give the episodes a realistic look. The end result was an "old technicolor" style that's pleasing - and somewhat uncanny... see for yourself...
LoveMETV22 justjeff 19 months ago
The colors in the pics you shared are easy on the eye and pleasing to look at. There are some colorized versions of black and white shows that are just obviously over done and makes one wonder " why did they bother." On the top pic, I always enjoy when Curly swaps out larger items like cigars, pencils, ( there might be a few others, just can't think of any@ the moment) when Moe takes them from him. LOL
Michael justjeff 19 months ago
The colorized version of A Miracle on 34th Street always seemed bad, but I'm use to it in B&W. There's outdoor scenes where the crowd turns black and white the further away they are.
justjeff Michael 19 months ago
It just goes to show how far technology has come. I've seen Miracle on 34th Street and a few others, and it's more like [if you remember these] the photo services where someone would colorize a black and white photo for you using a special watercolor wash...
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