Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on January 14th, 2008
Gunsmoke is the longest running scripted live action television show in history. The series ran from 1955 to 1975. At first it was a half hour black and white show that evolved into a color hour by 1967. It actually started before the days of television, premiering on radio in 1952. Then it was William Conrad as the tough as nails Marshall Matt Dillon. When television came into its own, Gunsmoke made the jump to the bright living room box and made history. Westerns would ride across our small square screens for the next 3 decades, making it the most successful genre of that time, and it was Gunsmoke that started it all. The television version of Gunsmoke was originally conceived as a vehicle for John Wayne, who opted to remain in movies. Yet, it was Wayne himself who suggested James Arness, and it turned out to be a career for the once “carrot” monster from The Thing. Gunsmoke started before all of the big westerns and was around when most of them had departed.
The setting for Gunsmoke was the by now famous
This is the first collection of episodes from the second season of Gunsmoke. They are in black & white and run about 26 minutes each. Gunsmoke was not yet the hit it would become at this point, but by the end of the season it would finally break the top ten. This is not the Gunsmoke you likely saw in syndication. When the show was finally offered for syndication it was split into two entities. These half hour episodes were rerun under the title Marshall Dillon, and that’s likely what you have seen them as. The one hour versions retained the Gunsmoke title. There was an error on this set you should know about. Our good friends over at TVonDVD.com have discovered that the episode To Cure A Friend, while listed in the index correctly, is not the episode you get on the disc. Instead you get the 4th season episode To Kill a Friend. You can view their story Here
Each episode of Gunsmoke is presented in its original broadcast full frame format. The series was shot in black and white. The transfer is not a great one, but you just can’t expect a heck of a lot from a master that is over 50 years old. The detail is actually pretty nice, and the prints are pretty solid, again allowing for age. The real problem is the amount of grain present throughout. The problem is likely the original film stock and can in no way be considered a flaw with the transfer. Black levels fluctuate quite a bit but are usually fair.
The Dolby Digital Mono track delivers exactly what you are looking for and nothing more. The dialog is clear, and that’s all you’re going to get out of this minimalist presentation.
Original Sponsor Spots: This is a short collection of clips of James Arness pushing a product. In the case of this collection, all but one spot are for L&M cigarettes.
You just can’t downplay the impact that Gunsmoke had on the early days of television. Whatever 50’s or 60’s western you might have loved, it was Gunsmoke that paved the way and outlived all of them. Dick Wolf has said he hopes that his Law & Order series will remain on the air long enough to break the Gunsmoke record. He’s pretty close, but it still won’t be the same thing. Marshall Dillon as played by James Arness stayed with the show the entire 20 year run. Not a single remaining actor or character from the first season of Law & Order remains on that particular show unbroken since its first episode. The Simpsons are also just about at that mark, although they were not a standalone series until 1989. Still, we’re talking animated and not live action. It’s likely with today’s ratings pressure that only one group of actors and characters will hold the true record, “and we even know who they are”.