Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on October 24th, 2012
The setting for Gunsmoke was the by-now-famous Dodge City, circa 1870’s. Phrases like “get out of Dodge” would enter the popular lexicon as a result of this resilient series. Marshall Dillon (Arness) was charged with keeping the peace in Dodge City. The only other character to see the entire 20-year run was kindly Doc Adams (Stone). Star Trek’s own Doc, Leonard McCoy, took many of his traits from Doc Adams. He was the humanitarian of the city, always looking to help someone. Like McCoy, he had a taste for bourbon and a soft heart underneath a rather gruff exterior and was always ready with free advice. Dillon’s love interest throughout most of the series was Miss Kitty Russell (Blake). While there were certainly a few romantic undercurrents, the romance never came to fruition. Miss Kitty was a prostitute on the radio and was likely one here as well, but CBS chose to underplay that aspect of her character as a “saloon girl”. Finally Dillon’s faithful sidekick deputy was Chester (Weaver). Chester often found himself in trouble and was the naïve son figure to Dillon.
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 three 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 one-time “carrot” monster from The Thing. Gunsmoke started before all of the big westerns and was around when most of them had departed.
You get 19 more episodes on three discs. It’s another half season of classic television western adventure. The release begins with the episode Love Thy Neighbor. Young Pete is suspected of stealing a sack of potatoes, so he’s being chased. The chase ends with Pete caught on a barbed-wire fence and dying of blood poisoning. The tragic accident leads to a bloody feud. In Kitty Shot, you guessed it. Kitty gets shot, and Matt’s going after the guy who did it. Poor harmless Chester gets taken hostage in the episode called About Chester. He was looking for the MIA Doc. No good deed goes unpunished for Chester. And if you think good ol’ Chester is getting off easy here, then think again. In Potshot Chester gets shot while a fireworks display covers the gunfire. It’s a mystery for Matt to solve. In case you haven’t got enough of Tebow coverage, check out the episode called Stolen Horses. Matt and Chester go on the hunt for a killer named…you guessed it…Tebow. Doc’s in trouble when a new woman in town falls for the medicine man. It’s all harps and happy until another stranger shows up claiming to be her husband and gunning for Doc in Minnie. In Long Hours Short Pay Matt is captured by Indians while after a gunrunner. What’s worse? The Indians keep Matt and let the gunrunner go free.
Guest stars in this collection include: Cloris Leachman, Gary Walberg, Glenn Strange, Vic Perrin, Alan Hale, George Kennedy, James Drury and Warren Oates.
With a 20 year series there’s still a long way to go before you’re going to have the entire show in your collection. Your patience is about to pay off, however. CBS is decreasing the gap between releases. Even so, “I figure we’ve got ourselves a long spell to wait before it’s over.”