Walt Disney Treasures: Elfego Baca/Swamp Fox

Walt Disney Treasures: Elfego Baca/Swamp Fox (2005)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Robert Loggia and Leslie Nielsen
Extras: Featurettes, Trailers, Photo Gallery, Interview

I don't remember seeing Walt Disney wearing two six-guns and cowboy boots on "Walt Disney Presents" as a kid. Now I don't have to remember. Just pick up Disney's brand-new special, limited edition, 2-disc DVD "Walt Disney Treasures: Elfego Baca/The Swamp Fox: Legendary Heroes."

I'm showing my age, but these action TV-shows were an exciting part of my early years in the 1950's. You get three episodes from the 1958 10-show run of "The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca" and three out of eight "Swamp Fox" episodes. Elfego Baca is an outlaw in the Old West who changes his ways to become a sheriff, and then a lawyer. Elfego bravely battles rampaging cowboys and drunken banditos. Walt Disney himself chose New York's Italian-American Robert Loggia to play the Mexican-American maverick with ambitions of becoming an attorney. Elfego Baca was a real-life figure whose exploits are faithfully recorded here, especially the first episode, which depicts him fending off an angry lynch mob of 80. After 30 hours, Baca emerges from a mud-hut without a scratch.

This program was one of the first to celebrate ethnicity on TV. The hero is a Mexican. Loggia is excellent. Virile and agile; he performs nearly every stunt himself. It was the beginning of a long Hollywood, character-actor career.

"The Swamp Fox" stars Lelie Nielsen as Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion. This patriot fought the British using unusual methods. Marion led a ragtag group of irregulars in daring commando raids, then disappeared into the swamps as quickly as they struck, taking refuge on Snow Island in the Pee Dee River in the northeastern part of South Carolina. Marion matches wits with the Tories as well, providing rather constant action and adventure. The real guerilla fighter Francis Marion was, for a while, nearly as celebrated as George Washington, fighting far to the North. The Swamp Fox was given his nickname by the enemy, British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton. Marion rose from captain to general, promoted by order of John Hancock of the Continental Congress.

The Disney series veers pretty close to history. "The Birth of the Swamp Fox", "Brother Against Brother", and "Tory Vengeance" first aired during the 1959-1960 season. The Elfego Baca program boasted more character development, but you can't beat The Swamp Fox for his catchy theme song.

Disney's generous extras on this release include a Leonard Maltin introduction, an interview with Robert Loggia, trailers for "Zorro", "Texas John Slaughter", "Sleeping Beauty", Donald Duck, and 1958 ABC Television promos.

You also get "Tales of Courage and Adventure", a featurette exploring the real historical figures, and the fascinating story of their lives, an art gallery, black-and-white publicity shots, movie stills, behind-the-scenes shots, a merchandise gallery, full-color photos of comic books and record covers, and a Parker Brothers "Swamp Fox" game board and cover.

"The Swamp Fox" and "Elfego Baca" were filmed in color and despite a slight graininess, colors are sound, with deep greens and solid reds. Disney's famous lead-ins to the shows are in both color and black-and-white. There's flicker on the black-and-white from imperfections in the film stock. I noticed some minor pixelation at the end of episode one of "Elfego Baca", and episode two of "Swamp Fox" has visible DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) spreckles, but it's not distracting.

This is another very high quality Disney DVD. As for the audio, there is nothing spectacular here, just the original Dolby Digital English 1.0 Mono with a slight hiss.

The first two Elfego Baca episodes have bandit dialogue dubbed-in by master voice-over artist Paul Frees. Today, you can hear Frees as the voice of a pirate in Disneyland's "Pirates of the Caribbean", and as a ghost in the "Haunted Mansion". Some Disney employees never retire.