Other Media Movies
Videos and DVDs
Notes on Lassie Come-Home short story versus book: Many people have never read the original short story because many book collections of dog stories include a chapter or chapters from the book rather than the short story itself. It is interesting to see what Knight expanded and changed, although the changes are not major. In the short story, only two pages are devoted to Lassie's travels, although the story does identify the location where Dan and Dally (the old couple who help Lassie after she swims the Tweed River) live: they are in Durham. The bulk of the story is about how Lassie's presence and absence affect the people around her. The main difference is in two names. In the short story, Joe Carraclough is named after his father and called "Young Joe"; in the book the father's name is changed to Sam. Also, Priscilla is named Philippa in early versions of the short story; however, some versions do have her as Priscilla. She is old enough in the short story to drive her grandfather's car. The Duke is also married in the short story, while in the book he appears to be a widower.
Marty Shelton sent me this interesting bit of trivia: Tom Guiry appears in the WWII action film U-571, which also features Will Estes, a.k.a. Will Nipper, Will McCullough in The New Lassie.
The Radio Series in Brief
The Lassie radio series was broadcast for three years, from 1947 to 1950, first on the ABC radio network, then on NBC. The series was a 15-minute weekly anthology, with Lassie playing a different dog in different situations each week (interestingly enough, the stories occasionally did not have a happy ending; in one episode, Lassie's character dies after her young master is carelesssee synopsis below). Earl Keen, animal imitator, provided whines and other dog noises while Lassie himself provided barks and growled at Rudd Weatherwax's prompts. The announcer was Charles Lyon and the writer was Hobe Donovan; the producers were Frank Terrin and Harry Stewart, and Stewart also directed. Marvin Miller and Betty Arnold had regular roles. The sponsor was Red Heart dog food and the theme song was "Coming Through the Rye."
Two episodes of the series were later released on an LP from Radiola, with the flip side being an audio version of the TV episode "The Lion."
Listen to five Lassie radio shows (.MP3 format)
Summaries of the Two Lassie Radio Shows on the LP
Lassie plays "Jumpy," a dog accused of attacking Mrs. Evans' baby when the culprit is really a one-eyed cat which has been terrorizing a warehouse and a neighborhood. When Jumpy is picked up by the pound, Freddy, his young owner, goes to retrieve him and is able to explain to the supervisor at the pound that the dog did not attack the child. However, Jumpy has no license and Freddy has to work to earn the $2 to finance it. He earns $2 and goes to pick up Jumpy, only to find himself short a dime. The kindly supervisor, touched by Freddy's resolve, puts in the extra dime and says Freddy may owe him the ten cents. On the way home, Freddy and Jumpy see the cat attacking the baby again. Freddy manages to catch the cat in his overcoat after Jumpy corners it, and the baby's mother finally understands that it was the one-eyed cat, not the dog, that attacked her child. When he takes the captive cat to the pound, Freddy finds he'll also receive a reward of $25 offered by the warehouse owner, a sum that will be a boon to his widowed mother!
A couple, Fred and Margaret, consults a doctor about Tommy, their disobedient son. He lies, goofs off at school, and is disrespectful. They tell the doctor that spankings don't seem to help, so the doctor thinks they should stop corporal punishment and use a system of rewards and penalties. They start their new resolve by locking up his skis (he wanted to go skiing after school), and Tommy retaliates by skipping school and going to the movies. The parents think Dr. Willard's scheme isn't working, but keep on with it. The following night Tommy tells his parents he is going ice skating, but they forbid it because the ice is thin. Tommy pretends to acquiese, but sneaks out with his dog, "Pete," to the pond. When his parents find out they are furious. At the pond, Tommy is starting to skate on thin ice and Pete barks, warning him, but Tommy keeps skating and falls through the ice. Pete is holding the boy out of the water when his parents arrive. Tommy's father pulls him from the ice, then tells his mother to get him in the car while he rescues Pete. When Tommy finally comes to, he discovers Pete has drowned rescuing him. The repentant boy, having learned a hard lesson, resolves never to lie or disobey again, and his father tells him that if Pete has given him this new lease on life, then at least he has not died in vain.
The Comic Book
From the late 1940s through 1970, Dell Comics published a bimonthly Lassie comic to continue the adventures of MGM's canine star. Since MGM's series of Lassie movies had no running storyline (save for the second being a sequel to the first), Dell invented one for her. For a good deal of the comic's run, she lived in the Brazilian jungle, the "Matto Grosso," with her human companions Gerry and Rocky, an American couple who owned a ranch, but whose main occupation was writing about and photographing South American scenic and historic locations. Rocky, of course, was your typical stalwart American guy, blond haired and square jawed; Gerry gorgeous and dark-haired.
Untypically for the time, Gerry wasn't much of a screamer. She also wore pants a lot (a '40s rarity) and followed Rockyand Lassie, of courseinto whatever adventure they were in at the time. Also novel for a comic of the time, the story featured a native boy as a companion for Lassie and her humans, Timbu of the Taquari Indian tribe. (Was Timbu adopted or their ward? None of the comics I have tells me...) Thankfully, no attempt was made to make a Tarzan-like character out of the boy; although his English was occasionally imperfect or stilted as in someone who had grown up with it as a second language, he did not talk in "pidgen" or have funny little "native quirks." The native tribes were also treated with a respect rare in those days, which make Lassie's Brazilian saga easier to read today.
Lassie's adventures weren't confined to the Matto Grosso. Rocky and Gerry traveled all over South America for their photos, so that Lassie and Timbu had adventures in Peru, Venuzuela, and Argentina as well. On one memorable occasion the four of them flew to New York City, where Timbu discovered that the urban jungle was much more challenging that facing jaguars and alligators! All of them featured bits of knowledge for the unsuspecting reader to learn: the habits and habitats of native animals, plant life of the jungle, historical locations in South America, etc., interspersing a travelogue within Lassie's adventures.
The Brazilian years also featured exciting oil-painted covers calculated to draw a comic reader's interest: Lassie was most often shown in some dangerous situation such as standing in a bow of a boat headed for the rapids, fighting her way through a jungle storm, or leaping some large chasm in an effort to rescue her human companions.
For a few issues in midseries, Lassie teamed up with Matt, another South American adventurer, but her family continued to be in South America even after 1954, when the television series began. In 1956, however, Dell decided to make Lassie's comic adventures concurrent with her televison ones, and she abruptly developed a debilitating, life-threatening allergy to a certain grass found only in the Matto Grosso. Rather than see her die, Rocky and Gerry tearfully shipped their beloved dog to "our friends the Millers who have a farm in Calverton," therefore giving the comic Lassie a different origin than the television collie.
From then on Lassie's adventures were of a tamer sort, although upon her arrival in Calverton was beset by trouble when she leaped onto the wrong pickup truck and became involved with thieves. Very often the Jeff series of comics were just a retelling of a television story, such as "Lassie's Vanity." Thus it was that the arrival of Timmy was also retold from the television storywith a twist: since Jeff was always drawn with blond hair in the comics, the artists, to keep people from confusing the two boys, portrayed Timmy with black, curly hair. It was only after Jeff left the storypresumably in the same way as his television tenure had endedthat Timmy was able to have proper blond hair.
Due to the location shift to the Calverton area, the emphasis in the stories veered away from learning about wildlife and history, and the tales became small morality plays with the boys learning a lesson about safety or friendship. The covers changed as well, from paintings to photos featuring at first Lassie alone, and then Lassie and whatever companion she had.
(Apparently the farm wasn't exciting enough for comics readers because in five issues Lassie and the Martins went to Africa and had adventures in the jungle!)
The comic progressed to Corey Stuart when the television changeover came until the end of the comics series itself.
The Lassie comics, like all comics of their time, featured a related tale or two within an issue. In the early issues, there would be three stories, along with a short strip about a jungle animal. By the time the farm stories were instituted, the related story would be a four-page series about a horse named Blaze and a one-page two-column short story having to do with a dog. There was usually also a black-and-white outline strip on either or both inside covers having to do with things like "Fun on the Farm." The ranger comics featured interesting tidbits about wildlife, the work of the National Park Service, or "Lassie facts" about nature, but the main stories had been cut down to two.
A gallery of all 70 Lassie comic covers
The View Master Sets
It was first Sawyer who put a new spin on the old family favorite, the stereopticon viewer (see the Jeff episode "The Gift"), and gave it new life as a children's toy. But instead of sepia or black and white cards on a wooden holder, the new version consisted of 7 pairs of color slides in a circular mount which fitted a plastic viewer with a pull-down handle which advanced the disk to its next position. Thus the "Viewmaster" was born and several generations of children grew up being able to see three dimensional slides of everything from Bible stories to their favorite TV or movies to places they might never get to travel to, from Disneyland to the Grand Canyon.
A set of three slide cards wouldn't be all you received: your favorite came in a packet with a color cover and a description of the disks on the opposite side. Inside with the disks was a 16 page booklet that followed the disks frame by frame with a recreation of the story.
Three ViewMaster packets were devoted to Lassie between 1957 and 1967, two of them notable in that you were seeing color photos of Lassie and her companions back when the series was still done in black and white.
"Lassie and Timmy" is in fact three short "stories," one to a disk, two based loosely on charascters from the 1957 episodes "The Burro" and "The Crow." The third, about a careless hunter who almost shoots Timmy and his friends, is unfamiliar as an episode.
"Lassie Look Homeward" is from the 1964 three-part Corey Stuart story (in the only year the ranger episodes were done in black and white).
The third packet is "Lassie Rides the Log Flume," from the 1967 episode "Ride the Mountain." The spectacular scenery of the Columbia Gorge log flume was shown to great advantage on the stereo slides.
A look at a View Master booklet
Synopsis of To Lassie With Love:
"Once upon a time, there was a beautiful collie named Lassie who found her way into the hearts of millions of people all over the world."
The program opens with a dedication to "Lassie's loyalty and love" narrated by Bonita Granville Wrather. The attention then shifts to Lassie Come Home as the stepping-off point for the Lassie legend. Scenes shown are Edmund Gwenn as Rowlie Palmer saying goodbye to Lassie, one of Lassie swimming the stormy river, and finally the "come home" scene outside the school with Roddy McDowall as young Joe Carraclough.
The narration continues with Roddy McDowall on the MGM backlot, telling how much he enjoyed making the film and of the extraordinary "aura" the dog possessed. He then goes on to say that "during the hectic postwar years," Lassie was absent from the screen. (Oddly, none of the other movies are mentioned and the statement is unusual, since five of the seven MGM Lassie films were made during those "hectic postwar years.")
"In 1954," McDowall's narration finishes, "she returned." We then cut to the opening credits of the Jeff episodes and clips from the story "The Lion" (Jeff trying to tell Ellen about the lion and then the animal rampaging through the house). We next see Jan Clayton walking through the dismantled farm kitchen set, reminiscing (voiceovers from the show are played during this scene) and recollecting how much the cast enjoyed doing the show.
"But," Clayton adds, "just like your family and mine, our children change before our eyes. Little girls become women, little boys grow into men. And so the time came when another little boy needed the companionship and love of Lassie," and the narration segues into the scene of Jeff telling Lassie to stay with Timmy, melding into the opening credits of the Timmy episodes.
The first clip shown is the scene of Timmy using a lure to send meat to "Mrs. Eagle." It then dissolves into the scene from "The Journey" where Lassie leaps to join Timmy in the balloon basket. We see the balloon land in the trees.
The longest sequence of clips is from "The Odyssey." We see Lassie locked in the van, freed, and on her way home to Timmy. The entire scene with Timmy telling Ruth why he is cleaning out his closet and then Timmy starting to bury her toys and Lassie's return is then shown.
This dissolves to a short commentary by Jon Provost, who, at that time, was doing graduate work at college, and then back to Bonita Granville Wrather talking about the momentous decision to cast an adult as Lassie's co-star. This segues into the scene from "The Disappearance" where Lassie is caught at the edge of the avelanche and then must dig Corey Stuart and his partner out of the snow.
Next follows clips from the Corey Stuart episodes, including "Ride the Mountain" (the flume boat scene), "Rim of Disaster" (the sequence where the airplane "hooks" Lassie), "Lassie's Time of Peril" (Lassie jumping in the river despite Corey telling her to stay back), finally ending with "Lassie the Voyager." Part of the "Lassie the Voyager" ballad is played as we watch how Lassie was lost in the hurricane, and we see her finally, wearily trot into New Orleans, to be reunited with Corey at the wishing well.
There is no commentary from Robert Bray, but we see Lassie and Bray visiting hospitals, then a scene with Lassie feeding forest animals (perhaps from "Have You Any Wool?") and the scene of Lassie helping the injured owl in "The Protectors."
There is no mention of Bray leaving the series, the transition to Bob and Scott, or the season where she is on her own. The narration simply includes a scene from "The Sky is Falling" (a Neeka episode) with Lassie rescuing the chick on the railroad tracks, then goes directly into the scene from "Fury Falls" when Lassie is trying to save the coyote pup and must be rescued by Ron and Dale.
Ron, Dale, and Lassie are shown arriving by bus and Ron saying "Lassie, you're home." Larry Wilcox takes up the narration here, saying he watched the series as a child and how happy he was to be part of the show. A clip is shown with Pamelyn Ferdin and Ron Hayes talking about love from the story "A Time for Courage," and finally clips from "A Joyous Sound," with Lucy Baker mentioning all the wonderful things she would like to hear. A clip of Lassie fighting with a bobcat is also included and what looks like a scene from "Lightning" with Lassie rescuing Keith from the fire.
Roddy McDowall continues the narration briefly, talking about considering Lassie as a person, and of all the positive values of the series. He also comments that in 1973 Lassie herself received one million Christmas cards.
This leads into a sequence about college student Bren Paul, who did her master's thesis on the Lassie phenomenon. She says she was teased by classmates, but she found the concept of the character fascinating. We watch as Paul oversees the performance of a stunt: a kitten is stranded in a rowboat in the middle of a small pond and must be rescued by Lassie. The rowboat is put "to sea" with the kitten in it and Rudd Weatherwax goes out in a boat along with the camera crew. His assistant Sam holds Lassie. When they are ready, Rudd calls Lassie. The collie runs lakeside, jumps in, swims to the rowboat, and at Rudd's direction, picks up the rope dangling from the front of the rowboat. Bob Weatherwax then calls him in and the scene is successfully finished.
Paul says "Lassie is everything each of us would like to be. Through Lassie, over the years, people have reaffirmed good qualities in themselves. We love Lassie for the things we may lack. That look in Lassie's eye is a most convincing expression of truth, a communication of love. Lassie has a presence I dare anyone to try and ignore. She reaches out, for to her, no one remains a stranger."
The subsequent scene shows a real-life event, the Lassie crew bringing aid to needy people in a Navajo tribe, and then intercuts with a television scene, from "The Offering," Lassie giving her puppy to the little boy whose dog died. This segues into yet another real-life event, where Lassie appears at the annual Blessing of the Animals at Mission San Luis Rey, and finally, we see a crowd of children running calling "Lassie! Lassie!"
A scene from Lassie trotting about Williamsburg, Virginia, while the ballad of "Lassie the Voyager" plays, is next, then the program concludes with Bonita Granville Wrather's narration: "Once upon a time, there was a beautiful collie named Lassie, and, with Lassie, once upon a time is forever."
Videos and DVDs (Region 1)
Episodes: "Inheritance," "The Lion," "Lassie's Pups," "The Journey" (Jeff episode, not to be confused with the five-parter Timmy episode), "The Runaway," "Transition," "The Camera," "Peace Patrol," "The New Refrigerator," "Space Invader" [sic] ("The Space Traveller"), "Lassie's Protégé," "The Odyssey" (three parts), "Lassie and the Eagle," "Lassie and the Tiger," "The Treasure" (two parts), "The Holocaust" (two parts), "For The Love of Lassie" (two parts), "Run To Nowhere" (two parts)
Extras: Lassie: GE "Imagination At Work" TV commercial, This is Your Life: Lassie episode clip hosted by Bob Hope, Dinah's Place interview with Lassie, Donna Reed Show clip guest starring, Lassie, 1982 Emmy Awards Show segment featuring Lassie as presenter, and a commemorative introduction booklet by Ace Collins, author of the quintessential Lassie biography, Lassie: A Dog's Life
Released April 3, 2006 (reminder: Region 2 only)
Lassie - Vol. 1 - Lassie's Great Adventure / "The Wayfarers"
Lassie - Vol. 2 - "The Disappearance" / "Lassie Look Homeward"
Lassie - Vol. 3 - "Flight Of The Cougar" (episodes "Cry of the Wild," "The Guardian," and "Starfire") / "Hanford's Point"
Lassie - Vol. 4 - The Magic Of Lassie
Released May 1, 2006 (reminder: Region 2 only)
Lassie - Vol. 5 - "Lassie the Voyager" / "Countdown" (episodes "The Lonely One," "The Searchers," and "Countdown")
Lassie - Vol. 6 - "Neeka" (episodes "Last Frontier," "Eagle's Dynasty," "Day of the Wolf," and "Glacier Canyon") / "The Adventures Of Neeka" (episodes "Price of Wisdom," "Night of the Ghost," and "Time of Crisis")
Lassie - Vol. 7 - "The Road Back" / "The Miracle"
Lassie - Vol. 8 - "Well Of Love" / "Peace Is Our Profession"
Lassie - Vol. 9 - "A Joyous Sound" / Lassie: The New Beginning
Don't Be Fooled!: Someone on e-Bay is selling a DVD called Lassie's Christmas Adventure or Lassie's Christmas Story. There is no photo of this DVD packaging or labeling ever shown. Due to the running time the seller attributes to the DVD, it sounds as if he/she is selling The Painted Hills under an alternate title (there is a Christmas scene in The Painted Hills)! Someone has recently confirmed to me that this is The Painted Hills.
Cinar's Lassie Series on DVD
The first season of the Lassie revival series with Corey Sevier as Timmy Cabot was available on DVD from Canada in Region 1 format, but is no longer being sold. You can perhaps find it on auction sites.
The Lassie Collection: There are ten tapes of two episodes each (except for the tape with "Lassie's Odyssey"), the first two tapes featuring Jeff, the third Jeff with Timmy, and the remainder with Timmy, with the following stories on each:
Note: Several people complained to me about the quality of this Lassie video set. There are dropouts, gaps, and other problems. My own copy of "Lassie's Pups" had a background hum so loud that the episode was unwatchable. I had complaints that other episodes have this hum. Also, the first episode on each tape does not have the credits at the end of it. The tapes are also recorded at EP (SLP), which is very poor practice for professional tapes. If you have no Lassie episodes on tape or want to see them unbutchered by excessive commercial cuts, it's still a good buy, but caveat emptor on the possible quality.
Apparently the first ten episodes on this set are also available on DVD.
Second Lassie Video Set: This is a set of seven tapes, and has been seen online on e-Bay and other auction sites. Two tapes contain the compilation movie Lassie's Great Adventure; one a two-part Corey Stuart story ("Lassie and the Fugitive," which also features "Spike," a.k.a. Old Yeller); one containing two Timmy episodes, "Lassie to the Rescue" and "Lassie at the Grand Canyon"; one the theatrical film The Painted Hills; and the final two tapes contain the four-part Scott Turner story "The Road Back."
Movies: As far as I know, all the Lassie MGM movies (the first seven on the movie list) were once available on video. Lassie's Great Adventure and Lassie [Best Friends are Forever] are also available. The Magic of Lassie was once in video release, but I don't know if it is still available. The video status of Lassie: A New Beginning is unknown, although one source does say it was at one time available. All of the out-of-print films have been seen on e-Bay.
Animated: Episodes of Lassie's Rescue Rangers were once available on video but are no longer "in print." Copies can be found on e-Bay. A Region 2 DVD of five episodes is available on Amazon.co.uk.
Salutes: The Story of Lassie can be found on video at various auction sites.
Once Available (all seen on various auction/overstock sites):
There are other compilation movies, for instance, Lassie: Look Homeward (original broadcast title "Look Homeward, Lassie"), The Wayfarers, The Disappearance*, Countdown (comprising the episodes "The Lonely One," "The Searchers," and "Countdown"), and Neeka (comprising the episodes "Last Frontier," "Eagle's Dynasty," "Day of the Wolf," and "Glacier Canyon") which have been shown on Animal Planet and Nickelodeon, but I do not know if they have made the transition to video.
*"The Disappearance," as done as a movie, is actually odd since there were two versions shown on Nickelodeon. The two-hour version, also broadcast on Animal Planet, snips scenes from each part, but mostly parts 2 and 5, to wedge the story into a two-hour timeslot. There was also a 90-minute version shown at least once, which had some of the part 5 snow survival scenes restored (but part 3 was then gone entirely). The recently released Region 2 DVD of "The Disappearance" appears to contain the entire story.
Nickelodeon Tapes: When Nickelodeon was showing the Timmy and Lassie episodes, several compilation tapes were offered for sale. Two of them, I understand, are still in release:
These four episodes have also been combined in a video package I believe is called "A Lassie Christmas."
Others in the series (not known if they are still available, but they have been for auction on e-Bay):
UK and Australian Lassie fans: Sharon Turner has made a video and DVD list expressly for you. There is also information on other collectibles.
DVDs from Other Than the United States/England/Australia:
If you understand German, French, or Japanese, or don't mind reading English subtitles, Lassie DVDs are available in these three countries and advertised on Amazon.com. I tried to link the URL result of the search I did on each site under the DVD tab, but unfortunately the links do not work. You can get the full list of each of these by doing so yourself.
France: Amazon.fr has several sets; they seem to be all Corey Stuart episodes.
Germany: Amazon.de has several sets; some are Corey Stuart episodes, but there are also two recent sets that are fifth and sixth season Timmy episodes.
Japan: Amazon.co.jp has Japanese versions of the American-release moves, but also sells a rarity, the anime "Meikin Rasshi," a.k.a. "Famous Dog Lassie," a 26-part serialized version of Lassie Come Home following Lassie's adventures from puppyhood with her young master (John instead of Joe in this version).
What's a region free DVD player?
DVDs in different parts of the world have different regions. The United States and Canada are Region 1, the United Kingdom and Germany are Region 2, Australia is Region 4, and so forth. You cannot play a Region 1 DVD on a Region 2 player sold in the UK and the same for others. This is to keep movie studios from losing revenue to DVD sales; for instance if a highly-touted film from the US appears on DVD before it appears in theatres in the UK, the studio and movie theatres will lose profits because possible attendees may buy the DVD and not see the film in a movie theatre. However, there are region-free DVD players sold online and in many countries so you can play DVDs from other countries which will not be produced in your own country (for instance, there is little chance that the old British comedy television series Doctor in the House will be released for US audiences, so a fan of the series might want to purchase the Region 2 version).
What is a region hackable DVD player?
Most manufacturers only make one type of DVD player, then set it to play a particular region when it is sold in that region's country. You can search online using the search string +"region hack" +DVD and find out if you can switch your particular DVD player to region free or another region. Some of these hacks require some electronic knowledge, but many hacks involve simply pressing a few buttons on the remote control in the proper order. A search will let you know which is possible for your machine.