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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Mister Ed: The Complete Series
Mister Ed: The Complete Series
Shout Factory // Unrated // December 9, 2014
List Price: $139.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted November 25, 2014 | E-mail the Author

It's just goofy enough to work, no matter if you're seven or 70, and that's the reason why Mister Ed has endured for more than five decades. Based on a series of short stories by Walter R. Brooks (and owing a great deal of respect to Francis the Talking Mule), Mister Ed fizzled on its first launch as an un-aired pilot from the late 1950s. After extensive recasting, 1960's second attempt would run for six seasons before its eventual cancellation, with the series galloping onward as a staple of syndicated classic TV for decades to come. A failed relaunch of Mister Ed was attempted by Fox in 2004 (featuring Sherman Hemsley in the title role), though he wasn't the only one to audition.

Our story revolves around Wilbur Post (Alan Young) and his wife Carol (Connie Hines), who have just settled into a peaceful ranch house in southern California. Wilbur, an architect by trade, eyes up a barn on the property as a potential workspace, only to discover a horse abandoned by the previous owners. Next-door neighbors Roger and Kay Addison (Larry Keating and Edna Skinner), who sold them the property, were unable to keep him, so Wilbur and Carol adopt their new pet. Soon enough, "Mister Ed" begins talking to Wilbur and only Wilbur, leaving the befuddled architect to entertain Ed without spilling the beans---not that anyone would believe him, of course---and keep his wife happy. Essentially, the show revolves around their shared secret, but Ed occasionally takes a backseat to human drama; a revolving door of guest stars also livens things up on occasion. Slight changes were made during the six-season run---Larry Keating's death in 1963 led to the casting of new neighbors Col. Gordon Kirkwood (Leon Ames) and his wife Winnie (Florence MacMichael), for example---but the bulk of Mister Ed stayed comfortably on the straight and narrow.

Mister Ed caught on quickly and stayed popular despite its baffling, left-field premise for two reasons. The first---of course, of course---was the performance of Ed himself, a palomino named Bamboo Harvester (1949-1970) trained by Les Hilton. Bamboo's acting was aided by a clever, almost seamless combination of string work, camera trickery, and off-screen commands, with vocal work performed by popular 1940s Western actor Allan "Rocky" Lane. The end result was a central character credited only "as himself" during the show's original run and left unexplained for decades. The other reason for Mister Ed's success is the performance of Alan Young, whose innocent charm provides a perfect counter-balance to Ed's blunt observations about humans, horses, and everything in between. We're never given a reason why Ed only speaks to Wilbur, not that we need one: their terrific exchanges are just fun to watch, and they provided a strong enough backbone for the series to have a longer life than anyone ever expected.

The show's long journey to DVD began in 2003 with two out-of-print Best of Mister Ed collections from MGM, each containing 20 or so episodes from the series' lengthy run (they must not have sold well enough, because fans of the show endured a six-year dry spell after that). Not surprisingly, the perennial pop culture saviors over at Shout Factory picked up the ball and ran with it, releasing stand-alone season sets that even arrived with a few supplements here and there. Our prolific Paul Mavis already reviewed the first five seasons of Mister Ed (and did a fantastic job, I might add)...but I'd imagine that anyone halfway curious about this series-spanning, 22-disc collection has either (a) read those reviews at least once already, and (b) picked up a season or three during the last few years.

Unfortunately, it might have paid to wait, because Mister Ed: The Complete Series includes some material you can't find anywhere else...at least for now. No, there's not a brand-new bonus disc or deluxe barn packaging, but Shout Factory has included all eight full-length season one episodes ("Busy Wife", "Kiddy Park", "Stable for Three", "Ed the Lover", "The Pageant Show", "The Aunt", "Little Boy", and "The Contest") that quietly appeared in syndicated form the first time around. There's also the fact that the sixth and final half-season hasn't been released separately yet, and remains exclusive to this boxed set until we hear otherwise. I'm positive that Shout Factory will make it available soon enough, since they've done it before...but as for those shortened season one episodes---which ran for 22 minutes, instead of the standard 25 as they appear here---I've no idea if any disc replacement program will be offered, or if future pressings of the season one collection will include corrected DVDs. My money's on the latter, though.

In the meantime, it's hard to be disappointed with almost 60 hours of classic TV for less than $100, but this set is definitely targeted towards new fans or those just looking for an easy gift idea for the holidays. I'll admit that Shout could've tightened up this 22-disc collection in a few specific areas: interlaced video is still present on a sizable chunk of episodes, the menu interfaces are either clunky or dull, and the bonus features dry up before the end of season four. But the main draw here is the show itself, which remained fairly consistent during the majority of its 143-episode run, thanks to winning performances and visual trickery that almost made us believe a horse could talk.

Complete List of Episodes

Season One*
(Discs #1-4)

"The First Meeting", "The Ventriloquist", "Busy Wife", "Kiddy Park", "Stable for Three", "Sorority House", "Ed the Lover", "Pageant Show", "The Aunt", "The Missing Statue", "Ed the Witness", "Ed's Mother", "Ed the Tout", "Ed the Songwriter", "Ed the Stoolpigeon", "Psychoanalyst Show", "A Man for Velma", "Ed's New Shoes", "Little Boy", "Ed Agrees to Talk", "The Mustache", "The Other Woman", "Ed Cries Wolf", "The Contest", "Pine Lake Lodge", "Wilbur Sells Ed"

Season Two*
(Discs #5-8)

"My Son, My Son", "The Horsetronaut", "Ed's Ancestors", "Ed the Redecorator", "My Horse, the Jumper", "Ed the Voter", "Hunting Show", "Mister Ed's Blues", "Ed the Hero", "Ed, the Salesman", "Ed and the Elephant", "The Wrestler", "Ed's Bed", "Ed the Beneficiary", "Zsa Zsa", "Horse Wash", "Ed the Horse Doctor", "George Burns Meets Mister Ed", "Ed's Word of Honor", "No Horses Allowed", "Bald Horse", "Ed's New Neighbors", "Ed the Beachcomber", "Lie Detector", "Clint Eastwood Meets Mister Ed", "Ed the Matchmaker"

Season Three*
(Discs #9-12)

"Ed Gets Amnesia", "Wilbur, the Good Saitan", "Wilbur and Ed in Showbiz", "The Bashful Clipper", "Ed and the Allergy", "Horse Sense", "Wilbur in the Lion's Den", "Horse Party", "Ed the Pilgrim", "Disappearing Horse", "Ed and Paul Revere", "Wilbur the Masher", "Horse of a Different Color", "Ed and the Bicycle", "Ol' Rockin' Chair", "Big Pine Lodge", "Unemployment Show", "Horse Talk", "Ed and the Secret Service", "Working Wives", "Wilbur's Father", "The Price of Apples", "Ed the Zebra", "Ed the Emancipator", "Doctor Ed", "The Blessed Event"

* - Includes bonus features (listed below)


Episode Descriptions (via Wikipedia.org)

Season Four*
(Discs #13-16)

"Leo Durocher Meets Mister Ed", "Wilbur Post, Honorary Horse", "Ed Discovers America", "Patter of Little Hooves", "Be Kind to Humans", "Don't Laugh at Horses", "Getting Ed's Goat", "Oh, Those Hats!", "Taller Than She", "Home Sweet Trailer", "Love Thy New Neighbor", "Ed's Christmas Story", "Ed Gets the Mumps", "Ed's Dentist", "Ed the Shish Kebab", "Ed in the Peace Corps", "Ed the Desert Rat", "Ed the Donkey", "Ed Visits a Gypsy", "Ol' Swayback", "Mae West Meets Mister Ed", "Ed the Chauffeur", "Ed the Musician", "The Prowler", "Saddles and Gowns", "Moko"

Season Five
(Discs #17-20)

"Hi-Fi Horse", "Ed the Pool Player", "Ed Writes Dear Abby", "Ed's Tunnel to Freedom", "The Heavy Rider", "Ed the Pilot", "Animal Jury", "What Kind of Foal Am I?", "Ed the Race Horse", "Ed's Juice Stand", "Like Father, Like Horse", "Ed the Stowaway", "Never Ride Horses", "Ed the Sentry", "Ed's Diction Teacher", "Ed the Godfather", "Ed's Contact Lenses", "The Dragon Horse", "Ed's Cold Tail", "The Bank Robbery", "My Horse, the Mailman", "Whiskers and Tails", "Robin Hood Ed", "Ed the Artist", "Jon Provost Meets Mister Ed", "My Horse, the Ranger"

Season Six
(Discs #21-22)

"Ed the Counterspy", "Ed-a-Go-Go", "Ed Sniffs Out a Cold Clue", "Spies Strike Back", "Love and the Single Horse", "Anybody Got a Zebra?", "TV or Not TV", "The Horse and the Pussycat", "Don't Skin That Bear", "Ed the Bridegroom", "Ed and the Motorcycle", "Cherokee Ed", "Ed Goes to College"

* - Includes bonus features (listed below)


Episode Descriptions (via Wikipedia.org)

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

Mister Ed looks pretty good, all things considered, and I can't imagine much room for improvement within format limitations. These episodes are presented in their original 1.37:1 aspect ratio and display solid image detail, good contrast, steady black levels, consistent shadow detail, and no apparent digital problems like compression artifacts, excessive noise reduction or edge enhancement. Interlacing is still a problem with select episodes (including the sixth season), which creates noticeable ghosting during scenes of fast movement and shot transitions. There are also a few specks of dirt here and there, as well as occasional moire patterns on fabrics and background elements...but target market or not, I can't imagine anyone taking much issue with the show's appearance on DVD at this point. Even so, it's a shame that a Blu-ray option wasn't attempted, as I suspect it would've yielded fantastic results.


DISCLAIMER: The screen captures featured in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent DVD's native 480p image resolution.

Presented in Dolby Digital 1.0, the flat mono mix is right on par with what you'd expect from a sitcom from this era: dialogue is relatively clear, the laugh track isn't overpowering, music is bright and a little harsh at times, and background effects don't convey much depth. But no one's going to complain, because it's always sounded this way. As with the stand-alone sets, Closed Captioning is only included during the first four seasons, with is disappointing.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

The interfaces look the same as before, and I still don't like the bloated "one episode per screen" selection menu of the early seasons. Luckily, the others are smooth and simple, although the looping sound-alike music is mind-numbing after 20 seconds. Unlike the stand-alone releases, however, all six seasons arrive in clear hinged keepcases that minimize this collection's footprint. No booklets are included, but episode listings are printed on the interior artwork. The slipcase (which favors black-and-white stills, unlike the colorized season covers) is attractive but a little flimsy.

Bonus Features

Everything from the stand-alone sets. Season One serves up an Audio Commentary and Interview featuring stars Alan Young and Connie Hines as they reminisce about on-set experiences, tricks of the trade, and other personal memories, There's also a vintage Commercial for one of the show's sponsors, Studebaker. Season Two follows suit with several more new-for-1961 Commercials shilling more Studebakers, as well as a lengthy Audio Interview featuring Alan Young and Connie Hines from a 2008 Internet radio show. Season Three follows up with another lengthy Audio Interview (this time it's just Alan Young, as Hines passed away in 2009) from the same online radio show. By Season Four, the only supplement is a vintage 20-minute U.S. Savings Bonds PSA featuring Alan Young in character as Wilbur.

That's where the well ran dry, apparently, as neither Season Five nor the new-to-DVD Season Six include any extras. This ends the party a little early...but on the other hand, it was nice to see some effort during those first few seasons. Unfortunately, though, optional subtitles or Closed Captions are not available during the bonus features.

Final Thoughts

You've got to be a pretty big fan of Mister Ed to consider owning the entire six-season series...but its winning charm, reliable performances, and anything-goes mentality make this an easy production to ride along with. It's also held up well over the years: aside from the dated gender dynamics and pop culture references---which includes the guest stars, more often than not---Mister Ed remains perfectly accessible family entertainment more than 50 years later. Shout Factory's Complete Series box offers new buyers an easier, cheaper alternative to the separate sets, but faithful customers aren't going to like waiting for the inevitable stand-alone release of the sixth and final season (not to mention the "corrected" first season episodes). Aside from that and the packaging, it looks like a toss-up: both options yield the same picture, sound, and extras, so grab Mister Ed any way you can. Firmly Recommended.


Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.
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