Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: The Cisco Kid

Warning: Nostalgia is about to be wallowed in.


I have a soft spot in my heart for the Cisco Kid TV series, for one specific reason. An episode of it was the first thing I ever watched on a color TV that belonged to my family when I was a kid. When I was growing up, we probably had more TV sets than most households in the early Sixties, because my father was a TV repairman and we always had several portables around in addition to the big console in the living room. But they were all black-and-white sets. There weren't enough shows being broadcast in color to make buying a color set worthwhile, according to my dad. But some relatives of ours had one, and I always wanted to go visit them so that I could sit in front of the set and stare in rapt fascination at BONANZA or THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY in color. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.


Eventually I made a big enough pest of myself that my dad agreed to get a color TV. The day he was supposed to pick it up, I raced up the street from where the school bus dropped us off, but he wasn't there, and neither was the new TV. I had to wait another couple of hours before he finally got home with it, lugged it in (those old TVs were big and heavy), and set it up. But then it was ready, and when we turned it on, there were Cisco and Pancho, riding the range and chasing bad guys. It was a truly thrilling moment. Later in the evening we watched an episode of DANIEL BOONE, which was new at the time (the Cisco Kid was an old rerun even then), but Cisco was first.


All of which is my long-winded way of saying that I picked up a cheap DVD that has six episodes of THE CISCO KID on it, and recently I watched one of them, the first time I've seen an episode of this series in years, if not decades. Judging by this one, it was money well-spent. The plot was fairly complex, Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo Jr. were very good as Cisco and Pancho, and the color photography, much of it shot on the familiar locations where so many TV and movie westerns were filmed, was quite good for the time period. The accents and some of the jokes were a little heavy-handed and might almost be considered racist today, but I didn't find them mean-spirited at all. Leo Carrillo Jr. was just plain funny as Pancho, but he was also a competent sidekick for Cisco, not buffoonish in his actions. I've always liked sidekicks who can handle themselves in a fistfight or shootout, and you get the sense that Pancho is really a pretty tough guy.


I'm looking forward to watching the other episodes on this DVD, to see if they hold up as well as the first one.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

This rang a bell as my father was definitely a member of the "wait until it's perfected to buy a color TV" crowd.

I loved Cisco & Pancho but I don't think I ever saw an episode in color.

Jeff M.

Walker Martin said...

Anyone else remember the scam that guaranteed to turn your black and white TV into a color set?

You would send away for this adapter and receive a transparent piece which would fit over your TV screen. It had three colors, first green, then red, then blue. The result was you had color TV! The Cisco Kid's head would be green, his chest red, and his legs blue...

Tom Roberts said...

It must have been money well spent, Walker, since you remember how well it worked.

Do you still have yours?

Tom Roberts
Black Dog Books

pattinase (abbott) said...

I loved these as a kid. We had no color set until the seventies.

Mike Doran said...

For those of you who watched the video and wondered who the heck Walter Schwimmer was:

Schwimmer was a TV producer based in Chicago who bought the distribution rights to Cisco Kid in the '60s from Ziv, the original producer.
Schwimmer was the first to distribute Cisco in color, so he felt justified in scrapping the Ziv logo for his own. Any Ziv prints that are still around will be in black-and-white.
I've got a bunch of B/W Ciscos with original commercials for Butternut Bread (or Weber Bread as it was known in other markets) done by Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo. History, man ...

By the way - did you know that when he was filming Cisco, Leo Carrillo was already in his seventies? Look it up. It'll make you love the show even more.

Richard R. said...

The first thing I saw in color, on the set my parents bought in the late 1950s, was Mary Martin as Tinkerbell in PETER PAN. She slid down a wire at one point. The producers of the Sipderman thing on Braodway could use the lesson.

There wasn't that much on, the NBC peacock was brand new. Disney embraced color, there were some travel shows ("The Happy Wanderer" was one). I sure don't remember any of these old westerns or kids shows being in color.

I liked Cisco Kid a lot, even (excuse this) named a pair of cats I had years later Cisco and Poncho. I'm going to have to look for this DVD.

Cap'n Bob said...

No wonder you didn't like the color screen, Walker, you had it upside down. The blue was supposed to be at the top (sky), and the green at the bottom (grass). The red tint in the center was to assure that everyone had a rosy glow, even non-whites.

I think I was in my upper twenties before I had a color TV. It even had a remote control, the kind that makes each channel switch sound like prison cell doors being slammed.

James Reasoner said...

I remember those conversion screens, too. I don't think we ever had one. My dad would have thought they were stupid.

I knew that Leo Carillo was pretty old when the series was filmed. He sure doesn't look or act like he's in his seventies. I hope I'm that spry by then.

Yvette said...

I loved this show when I was a kid. Thanks for the memories!

I had totally forgotten about Cisco and Pancho. Shame on me!

Walker Martin said...

Tom Roberts asks if I still have the conversion screen that turns a black and white TV into a color set. Yes, I still have it and it works really crazy on my color TV, especially after a few drinks.

As a kid, I loved the way the Cisco Kid show would end with the two pals grinning at each other and saying, "Hey Cisco" and "Hey Pancho!".

Cap'n Bob said...

The last six months or so at my job I was able to watch reruns of this how most mornings. Consistency of plotting was not a strong suit, but the characters made up for any other shortcomings. I recall some episodes where three different horses were employed as Diablo, Cisco's mount.
"Ohhh, Cisco!"
"Ohhhh, Pancho!"

stan said...

I have nothing against the tv Cisco but there is a dvd floating around on amazon n ebay that has no less than Six of the Gilbert Roland Cisco Kid movies that were made back in the forties. You can pick it up usually for about a buck plus shipping and its a great product with really cool old films. I recommend it HIGHLY for all Cisco fans.

stan said...

there is an awesome dvd of no less than six of the old Gilbert Roland Cisco Kid films from the forties. There is always a copy on ebay or amazon for about a buck plus shipping. An incredible deal. I have nothing against the tv version but Roland really elevates the action and it is sometimes very funny as well.

Cap'n Bob said...

The Gilbert Roland Ciscos I have seen were tepid. Roland posed and smiled at the senoritas a lot, but the action was minimal. I was also disenchanted by his having a sidekick called Baby instead of Pancho. Perhaps the onces I didn't see were better.

Anonymous said...

I started re-watching the reruns on COZI TV until they stopped showing them. There are a lot of them on YOUTUBE and the ones that aren't on YOUTUBE can be found on HULU online. So, I've been trying to re-watch all of them -- GREAT FUN! I've especially enjoyed looking up all the actors who appeared along with Renaldo and Carrillo -- most of them were in at least 3 episodes that were filmed at the same time and then spaced throughout the year. Another fun thing was to find the episodes made while Renaldo was recuperating after his injury when a prop rock hit him on the head -- that made for a lot of masked Cisco episodes and provided good storylines that might otherwise not have been written. I've posted all the episodes I've watched on the FACEBOOK fan page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/64439729135/