ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Continuing to bolster its lineup of classic programming for its Action and Westerns channels, Starz Encore Group has licensed 176 episodes of "Gunsmoke," 152 episodes of "Combat," and 136 restored Republic Western feature films from Paramount Pictures.
"We're pleased to add these evergreen classics to two of our most popular theme channels," says Stephan Shelanski, senior vice president of program acquisitions, planning and scheduling. "We are also particularly excited to further strengthen our already movie-rich subscription-on-demand service by adding two fondly remembered landmark television series with built-in appeal."
"Gunsmoke," one of the most popular television series of all-time, will premiere on Westerns beginning September 2002 with 176 black and white episodes originally broadcast from 1961 through 1966. The series premiered on CBS in September 1955 and completed its network run September 1975. "Gunsmoke" is the longest running dramatic series in the history of American television. The series was one of the earliest "adult Westerns," centering on the exploits of Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) and his cohorts (including Burt Reynolds, Dennis Weaver, Amanda Blake, and Milburn Stone) in the frontier town of Dodge City. Special guests included John Wayne, who originally was offered the part of Marshal Dillon, and Charles Bronson. Directors included Sam Peckinpah ("The Wild Bunch") and Mark Rydell ("The Cowboys"). Oscar(R) winning composers Bernard Herrmann ("Psycho"), Elmer Bernstein ("The Magnificent Seven"), and Jerry Goldsmith ("The Omen") composed original music for the series.
Due to popular demand, "Combat" returns to the Action channel in October 2003 after a three-year hiatus with the entire 152 episodes that originally ran on ABC from 1962 to 1967. The series depicts the exploits of a U.S. Army platoon fighting its way across Europe during World War II following D-Day. Realism is the keynote of this series, starring Vic Morrow (Sgt. Chip Saunders) and Rick Jason (Lt. Gil Hanley). Original World War II battle footage is included in some episodes, with stories ranging from straight combat adventure to human interest and sometimes humorous themes. The series features a variety of renowned actors in guest starring roles including James Coburn, Lee Marvin and James Caan. Directors such as Robert Altman ("Nashville") and Richard Donner (The "Lethal Weapon" film series), before cutting their film teeth, directed a number of "Combat" television episodes. Altman directed ten episodes of the series and is credited with establishing the look and feel of the show.
Starz Encore has also licensed 136 Westerns from the Republic Pictures library including "Johnny Guitar," "Angel and the Badman" and "Three Faces West," plus films starring Westerns legends such as John Wayne, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Randolph Scott, Rex Allen, Slim Pickens, Gabby Hayes, Joel McCrea, Allan "Rocky" Lane, Sunset Carson, Bob Steele, and Monte Hale. These films were recently restored and remastered with funding partially provided by Starz Encore. The films will start airing in 2003.