I don’t yet have the first DVD box set of the first half-season of the “Route 66″ television show. It’s not going to be released until late October, and review copies haven’t yet been mailed.
However, the folks at Roxbury Entertainment sent a promotional DVD of one episode from 1960 — “The Swan Bed,” shot on location in New Orleans. Tod and Buz’s adventure with an ill-tempered woman, a nervous young girl, sinister smugglers and an epidemic was the third episode of the series.
I watched “The Swan Bed” on my laptop. Even while viewing it with a small screen and dinky speakers, it was apparent that Roxbury Entertainment transferred the original film footage to DVD. The picture was so sharp, you could see co-star Martin Milner’s freckles in several scenes. The sound was clear and didn’t have the muddiness of other TV shows from that era. If nothing else, putting these “Route 66″ episodes on DVD is a form of preservation.
And about halfway through “The Swan Bed,” I started to understand one big part of the show’s appeal. Film director Werner Herzog calls it the “voodoo of location,” and “Route 66″ had it in spades. I recognized several real-life places in New Orleans, including the Mississippi River, the riverfront, the city’s above-ground graveyards, a French Quarter neighborhood and a lightly disguised Cafe Du Monde coffee shop. “Route 66″ wasn’t just on a set; it was in the middle of real places and real people. It may have been fiction, but a dose of reality was always there.