Paramount // 1962 // 962 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // June 5th, 2013
"I'm through being one of the boys." -- Kitty Russell
If you've ever found yourself wondering why in heck Marshall Dillon (James Arness) and Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake) never seemed to get beyond a friendly nod, you're not alone.
For my money, the crowning jewel of Gunsmoke: The Eighth Season, Volume 1 is an episode fittingly titled "The Way It Is," wherein that fiery red headed proprietress of the Long Branch saloon vows she's had enough of waiting, wishing and hoping: The bar and its owner are both officially back on the market.
Ironically, as Kitty ponders putting Dodge City behind her, a couple of future long-time residents are just making their first appearances in town.
Enter Oscar nominee and bona-fide box office superstar Burt Reynolds (Boogie Nights) as Quint Asper, a half-breed Indian who witnesses the murder of his father by a pair of hateful, racist white men, and decides that his mission in life will be to kill as many white men in revenge as he can. What Quint didn't reckon on was running into Matt Dillon, a white man without a racist bone in his body -- not to mention being just about the hardest man to injure, let alone kill, in all the wild west!
It's a rocky start for a friendship, to be sure, but good ol' Marshall Dillon manages to win Quint over in the end, convincing him to put his aggression (and impressively muscled physique) to better use as the town's blacksmith.
In "Us Haggens," Matt makes the acquaintance of a squinty, flinty mountain man by the name of Festus (Ken Curtis, The Searchers), who raises the Marshall's suspicions by offering to help guide him through the badlands of Wyoming in pursuit of his latest quarry; a cold-blooded murdering con man called "Black Jack" Haggen (Denver Pyle, The Dukes Of Hazzard), who just happens to be Festus' uncle.
The end of this tale doesn't necessarily lead one to conclude that Festus will be a regular presence around these parts, but as any real Gunsmoke fan knows, there won't be too many Tumbleweeds blowing by before he's deputized as Matt's right hand man, in place of Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver).
Speaking of Chester, he's become a rare sight of late, appearing in only seven of the nineteen episodes of this five disc set.
Despite his absence, I'm happy to report that the show season is off to a strong start in year eight, apparently having worked out the kinks of its somewhat shaky seventh season, in which the format went from a half hour to a full one per episode.
More good news: Paramount continues to deliver exceptional quality transfers with the latest batch of these black and white beauties. There's no fudging the fact that the "bonus features" (episode promos and a few brief sponsor ads from back in the day) are awfully skint this time around, but as I've said before, when you've got prints as clear as these of a classic series as old as this, who needs extras, anyway?
Still and all, if that Chester ain't heard from soon, I'm a-gonna go and see the Marshall about getting a search party together. I happen to know there's an excellent tracker in the area -- flinty and squinty though he may be.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 962 Minutes
Release Year: 1962
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
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