HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Monday, February 2, 2009


THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES has been one of my all-time favorite TV shows since its premiere back in the olden days. Since I'm cheap, I've bought some of those crappy PD bargain bin DVDs that look awful and can't even use the original theme song. That's why watching CBS' official third season set is such a treat--it contains a whopping 34 episodes on five discs, with picture and sound quality that are about as good as the original elements allow, and you get that classic theme song.

Which, as everyone should know by now, gives us a nutshell recap of how Jed Clampett struck oil while "shootin' at some food" and then hauled his backwoods family to Beverly Hills to live in an elegant mansion--the ultimate fish-out-of-water tale. Jed (Buddy Ebsen), his feisty mother-in-law Granny (Irene Ryan), his gorgeous, tomboy daughter Elly May (Donna Douglas, one of the most beautiful women ever to appear on any screen), and his big-lummox nephew Jethro (Max Baer, Jr.), are so incredibly backward that everything they encounter in their new environment--telephones, doorbells, swimming pools, billiard tables, etc.--becomes fodder for a neverending series of hilarious running gags and mind-warping miscommunications.

Rounding out the regular cast of characters are uber-greedy banker Milburn Drysdale (Raymond Bailey), who fawns over the Clampetts because he's passionately in love with their millions, and his intelligent-but-homely secretary Jane Hathaway (Nancy Kulp), who often serves as a sympathetic buffer between the Hillbillies and civilization. In this set we also get to see Larry Pennell as movie star Dash Riprock and Sharon Tate in a recurring role as a bank secretary, along with other guest stars such as Don Rickles, Hedda Hopper, and Flatt and Scruggs.

The third season episodes, which are still in glorious black-and-white (and still #1 in the ratings at the time), have less of the bizarre, "Green Acres"-style hijinks that would come later as the show became more farcical and cartoonish, but they're still pretty way-out. Some of the series' funniest and most fondly-remembered storylines are here:

Jethro the double-naught spy--After watching some James Bond movies, Jethro gets bitten by the spy bug and outfits the old truck with a bulletproof washtub, rear-firing shotguns, oil slick spewer, and pot-bellied smoke screen maker, while outfitting himself with a secret radio taped to his boot heel and a solid iron hat that knocks him out whenever he puts it on too fast.

Jed the movie mogul--Jed becomes the owner of a declining movie studio and the Clampetts help out by making their own silent movie. They also mistake a backlot Western set for a real town and set up a general store, which guest star Hedda Hopper eventually levels with a bulldozer.

The Beatniks--Cool cat Sheldon Epps (Alan Reed, Jr.) and his hipster pals meet the Clampetts in a colossal culture clash. Granny tries to teach the beatniks the joys of working for a living and accidentally invents a new dance craze called "Diggin' Taters."

These are only a few of the many storylines in this set, which represents what may be the show's prime (although characters Aunt Pearl and Jethrine are sorely missed). I used to like the even wackier color episodes the best, but lately I've begun to enjoy the ones from this period even more. The comedy scripting is sharp and often screamingly funny, the direction is imaginative, and the principal cast is composed of expert comic actors giving top-notch performances. It's a joy to watch them milk each script for all it's worth.

Extras consist of a photo gallery and a documentary called "The Legend of the Beverly Hillbillies", which originally aired on CBS in 1993 shortly before the release of that awful Penelope Spheeris movie. It's a pretty sappy affair with smarmy host Mac Davis and some pointless appearances by the likes of Reba McIntyre, Ray Charles, Hoyt Axton, and G. Gordon Liddy (?) but it also features Buddy Ebsen, Max Baer, Donna Douglas, Louis Nye, and Larry Pennell playing their original characters in mock "where are they now?" interview segments with lots of funny clips from the show. Earl Scruggs and original theme song vocalist Jerry Scoggins appear at the end to reprise their famous tune as the surviving Clampetts do the old wave.

As an added bonus, you have the choice of hearing the theme song at the top of each show with or without the added sponsor-of-the-week verses. The DVD, of course, contains a disclaimer so modern viewers won't think CBS is still hawking Kellogg's cereals or, heaven forbid, Winston cigarettes. You can also see the Clampett clan stuffing themselves with corn flakes at the end of several episodes, but, unlike the Flintstones, they refrain from lighting up to get their sponsor-approved nicotine fix.

For fans, THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES: THE OFFICIAL THIRD SEASON is a must-have set that will provide hours of hilarity and nostalgia. And if you're new to the show, then sit a spell, take your shoes off, and check it out.


Anonymous said...

I refuse.

porfle said...

Well, doggies!