Colt .45 – The Complete Series

by Glenn Erickson Apr 16, 2024

Swing back with us to 1958, when all three TV networks were crammed with westerns, each of which needed a gimmick. Wayde Preston IS Chris Colt, a secret agent who takes on various bad guys every week, pretending to be an ordinary traveling gun salesman. The three seasons are jammed with favorite actors and actresses — wanna see Charles Bronson and Lee Van Cleef handling workaday villain chores?  With its emphasis on gunplay, the show now looks like a template for Tarantino’s Rick Dalton — you know, before Rick duked it out with Sexy Sadie and Tex Watson. The WAC’s restoration work couldn’t be bettered.

Colt .45 The Complete Series

Warner Archive Collection
1957-1960 / B&W / 1:37 Academy / Season 1 638 minutes, Season 2 320 minutes, Season 3 692 minutes. / Available at MovieZyng / Street Date March 12, 2024 / 79.95
Starring: Wayde Preston, Donald May, Kenneth MacDonald.
Notable Guest Stars: Adam West, Paul Picerni, Don ‘Red’ Barry, Charles Fredericks, Arthur Space, James Anderson, Robert Anderson, Vaughn Taylor, Elaine Edwards, Lurene Tuttle, Lee Van Cleef, Peter Brown, Frank Ferguson, Harry Lauter, Tol Avery, Myron Healey, Gary Conway, Dick Foran, Lisa Montell, Angie Dickinson, Wayne Morris, Tina Carver, Joanna Barnes, Kathleen Crowley, Karl Swenson, Edd Byrnes, Joan Weldon, Lisa Gaye, Troy Donahue, Marcia Henderson, Dorothy Provine, John Doucette, Brad Dexter, Faith Domergue, Ray Danton, Linda Lawson, Claudia Barrett, Charles Bronson, Virginia Gregg, Dan Blocker, Andrew Duggan, Jean Willes, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Conrad, Myrna Fahey, Lance Fuller, John Archer, Steve Brodie, William Phipps, Robert J. Wilke, Emile Meyer, Van Williams, Don Gordon, Valentin de Vargas, Jack Lambert, Gregory Walcott, Percy Helton, Wally Cassell, Murvyn Vye, Laurie Mitchell, Sandy Koufax, many more.
Composers, themes and song: Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter, Jerry Livingston, Mack David, Hal Hopper
Written by (reviewer favorites) Jack Emanuel, Mack David, James Barnett, John Tucker Battle, Leo Gordon, Clair Huffaker, Roy Huggins, Maurice Zimm
Executive producer William T. Orr
Directed by (reviewer favorites)
Herbert L. Strock, Lee Sholem, Leslie H. Martinson, William J. Hole Jr., Edward Bernds, Arthur Ripley, Paul Landres

Five minutes into the first episode of Colt .45, we’re convinced that it is one of the core 1950s Warners- produced TV westerns that provided the template for the fictitious ‘Bounty Law’ show billboarded in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. In fact, we wonder if Tarantino’s movie is what motivated The Warner Archive to produce this deluxe box, The Complete Series.

Mom, Apple Pie, and Shoot-outs on Main Street.

Colt .45 was adapted from Warners’ earlier feature of the same name starring Randolph Scott. The weekly ABC show (67 half-hours in all) joined the WB western corral — Maverick,  Cheyenne etc. — becoming part of the glut of westerns that dominated prime-time TV schedules in 1958. At age 5, I remember what seemed to be dozens of shows, each of which opened with its own theme song and a guns-blazing title scene. The ‘western street sets’ on Hollywood backlots must have been fully booked, with film companies practically getting in each other’s way.

Although most of the western shows got good ratings, this one wasn’t a standout. Its theme song isn’t as memorable as that for Yancey Derringer or Branded. But it can boast an ENORMOUS volume of guest players, a few of whom became household names. The endless cast logs for Colt .45 make 1957 Hollywood look like a boom time for actors. So many speaking roles were available, almost anybody with a some experience or a good agent had a chance at catching the brass ring.

The Warner westerns TV outfit was run by William T. Orr, who by a mysterious coincidence happened to be Jack Warner’s son-in-law. Colt .45 stars a promising unknown, Wayde Preston. As this was before the industry-changing Screen Actors Guild contract update of 1960, it’s very possible that most of the actors on these TV shows didn’t get residuals from their work. That applied to name stars without special deals, and especially to a newcomer like this show’s Wayde Preston.

1957 was a big year for Preston, a Korean War vet who worked as both a pilot and had previously been a Park Ranger. He had just gotten married to the promising actress Carol Ohmart. An episode of Cheyenne was Wayde’s entry into the Warner TV group, and suddenly he was a TV cowboy starring in his own show. He certainly looks good. He fronts a strong, true-blue screen personality, if not one as distinctive as that of James Garner or Clint Walker.

It’s practically a commercial for personal defense firearms.

The first few episodes resemble the original Randolph Scott picture. Army intelligence agent Christopher Colt (Preston) keeps his identity a secret by posing as a traveling firearms salesman, hawking the new Colt .45 pistol that fires manufactured cartridges. In the opening show he demonstrates the gun, is challenged by a bully and questioned by a pacifist missionary. The show presumes that America is a place where good and bad can be easily distinguished, where good men need to be armed. Chris uses the exact words ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people.’  The first episode ends in a Matt Dillon- like standoff. ‘Irreconcilable differences’ are routinely settled with guns, almost always Clean Kills.

No legal complications seem to arise from these confrontations. Chris just walks away. Is there a civic rubbish crew that disposes of corpses left in the street?  That’s what American TV suggested in the summer of ’58.

Chris Colt meets with his Army bosses in darkened back rooms. Sometimes he runs up against problems having nothing to do with enemies of the government. He also finds time to encounter quite a few notables, like Doc Holliday (Adam West), Judge Roy Bean (Frank Ferguson), Buffalo Bill Cody (Britt Lomond), Calamity Jane (Dodie Heath), Billy the Kid (Robert Conrad), Edwin Booth (Robert McQueeney), Pat Garrett (Wayne Heffley), Gov. Lew Wallace (Willis Bouchey), and Ned Buntline (C. Lindsay Workman). Chris’s character never gets more complicated. He is clean shaven at the beginning of the series but at some point picks up a thin mustache.

What’s the appeal?  The shows are as ritualized as a Japanese play — Chris responds to each stituation with the same combination of good judgment and moral clarity. The West has more than its share of brothers wanting revenge, young girls wanting to leave home, criminals that want to go straight and boys that want to prove their manhood. The dance hall girls can be shady but there are plenty of good women around to appreciate Chris Colt’s better qualities.

With few recurring characters, the show gives more opportunities to ambitious actors. Following along with the IMDB yields benefits — who is getting lot of work, and which actors seem to be one-shots?  Adam West appears three times in the series, as three different characters. Lee Van Cleef comes back twice and Charles Bronson just once. Around this time Bronson seemed to be taking everything offered, even when he had his own series in the works. In his Colt .45 appearance, his generic bad guy gets blasted down just like everybody else.

We can appreciate the parade of starlets that cruised through these shows, as schoolmarms and girlfriends of bad men, or innocent farm girls being tempted by crooked city slickers. We checked out Leonard Nimoy’s episode; he’s pretty loathsome as a black-hatted seducer who wraps a gullible ranch girl around his finger. This shortened list of guest actresses will appeal to fans that may recognize them from one or two genre feature appearances. Here they at least get to show what they can do in conventional scenes: Kasey Rogers, Andra Martin, Ruta Lee, Pamela Duncan, Lisa Montell, Mary Beth Hughes, Tina Carver    , Joanna Barnes, Kathleen Crowley    , Joan Weldon, Randy Stuart, Venetia Stevenson, Lisa Gaye, Dorothy Provine, Faith Domergue, Linda Lawson, Claudia Barrett, Jean Willes, Joan Taylor, Mary Webster, Aline Towne, Angie Dickinson. 

We’re told that Warners and producer Orr signed their new western stars under some pretty stiff contracts, with terms favoring the studio. Actors were obligated to do extra publicity travel and personal appearances. The public assumed that an actor with his own show was rich, but someone like Wayde Preston might not be earning all that much for long days of work and little time off — and few of the perks that studio contractees enjoyed in earlier decades. The Warner organization was not one to sweeten deals. Even James Garner, the biggest name in the WB westerns, was apparently clobbered by his contract and had to fight hard for everything. Other TV stars would later rebel, like George Maharis of the show Route 66.


Wayde Preston apparently did some rebelling of his own. We’re told that the show had intermittent sponsorship issues, partly explaining why the second season is really only a half-season. Preston’s Christopher Colt was eventually replaced for 13 episodes by his ‘cousin’ Sam Colt Jr., played by actor Donald May, an even more generic good-guy type without a strong cowboy personality. May’s attempt at western stardom went nowhere, but it didn’t get in the way of his future success. His claim to fame would come in the long-running TV soap The Edge of Night — 2700 episodes!

Warners gave these series high production values. Each episode of Colt .45 slams on with a Warner Bros. shield ID. The hero ‘spells out’ the title with gunshots. Each show also delivers interesting character confrontations, so the way to watch may be to chase down episodes featuring favorite actors. We went straight for Charles Bronson, Adam West, Angie Dickinson and Leonard Nimoy. Chris Colt sometimes ends with a ‘personal’ aside about next week’s show… although I didn’t seem him hawking cigarettes, like Rick Dalton in the Tarantino movie.


The Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray set of Colt .45 The Complete Series is quite an achievement . . . it’s nice to know that Hollywood vaults can keep so much material stored so securely, for so many years.

These are promoted as new 4K scans. We watched eight full episodes and scanned several others; the quality is consistent throughout. It’s safe to say that they have never been seen looking this good. Back in 1958 our family TV was a 14″ tube with rounded corners, but things sure have changed. This is a quality presentation, unlike some TV series that arrive on disc in low resolution, sometimes time-compresssed or without subtitles.

We count ten discs in three keep cases, each of which has an easy-to-follow listing of episodes. IMDB or Wikipedia does the rest, in terms of tracking down fave actors. The free-standing shows do not build continuous plot lines, so unless you want to duplicate the literal 1958 experience, watching them in order is not necessary.

With the vast Warners film library as a resource, we noted that Colt .45 re-uses action scenes from older movies to cut costs — Indian attacks, stagecoach crashes, establishing shots of ranches, etc.. The older film material is well integrated, and the quality doesn’t even jump very much. The WB editorial crews clearly had things well in hand.

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Colt .45 The Complete Series
Blu-ray rates:
Shows: Good
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: none.
Deaf and Hearing-impaired Friendly? YES; Subtitles: English (feature only)

Packaging: Ten Blu-rays in three keep cases
April 11, 2024
(7111colt )CINESAVANT

Final product for this review was provided free by The Warner Archive Collection.

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About Glenn Erickson

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Glenn Erickson left a small town for UCLA film school, where his spooky student movie about a haunted window landed him a job on the CLOSE ENCOUNTERS effects crew. He’s a writer and a film editor experienced in features, TV commercials, Cannon movie trailers, special montages and disc docus. But he’s most proud of finding the lost ending for a famous film noir, that few people knew was missing. Glenn is grateful for Trailers From Hell’s generous offer of a guest reviewing haven for CineSavant.

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Chas Speed

I would love to see this once the price goes down.


Thanks, this looks like a find. By the way, your age re-reveal in THE HUNTERS review confirms that you are just old enough to be President, but are disqualified for being born overseas

Michael Sheely

Great but where is Hotel de Paree?


It starred the Earl of Holliman…

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