Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 19th, 2012
Three-time widower Ben Cartwright (Greene) runs his famous Ponderosa Ranch with the aid of his three grown sons from three different mothers. There’s Little Joe (Landon), Adam (Roberts) and Hoss (Blocker). Set some time in the mid 1800’s, this long-running series followed the family’s many exploits. In the late 1950’s westerns accounted for six of the top ten programs on TV. Only Gunsmoke had a longer run than Bonanza. From 1959 to 1973, Ben Cartwright and his boys rode across the small screen. Years later in syndication the series re-emerged as Ponderosa, and a handful of TV movies continued the tale into the 90’s.We never have grown tired of the genre that gave us such heroes as John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.
Unlike many of the 1960′s Western television shows, Bonanza was all about the characters. You rarely saw a gunfight. There was often a bit of fisticuffs, but usually it ended with a lesson that violence never pays. The show prided itself on using the Western genre to deliver a family kind of show, and it’s no surprise that series star Michael Landon would use many of the same kinds of stories and lessons on his own Little House On The Prairie. The Cartwrights are always helping widows, the wrongly accused, and the local Indian population. That help often lands them in hot water.
The show would see a lot of characters come and go over the years, but the third season saw the original cast pretty much intact. There were some classic episodes and moments to be found. The season starts out with Hoss killing a bully who was harassing a widow. It’s a blurry line between right and wrong in The Smiler. That line gets worse when the widow changes her story and Hoss might end up strung up. Ben puts together an elaborate con to help a widow who was swindled by a con artist in The Burma Rarity. This has become one of my favorite episodes of the series. Joe is framed as a swindler in a rather light episode called The Many Faces Of Gideon Finch. A woman that Ben rejected attempts to bring ruin to the finances of Ponderosa in The Countess. In The Tin Badge Joe attempts to prove himself by signing on as a small-town sheriff. But they’re setting him up, and now he’s in over his head. In The Land Grab, an old Army friend of Ben’s is ripping off people by selling them fake deeds to part of the Ponderosa. The family is accused of robbing a bank while they are on a cattle drive in The Gamble.
Guest stars this season include: John Carradine, DeForest Kelley, Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue, Robert Culp, Vic Morrow, Jacqueline Scott, James Doohan, William Schallert, Lee Marvin, James Coburn, Warren Oates and Ed Nelson.
The two sets are sold separately, but you can find deals on the full season. Together you get 34 episodes on 9 discs. Join the Cartwright family for yet another trip into the golden age of television Westerns. “Mr. Cartwright, you sure raise some fine ones!”