Paramount // 1963 // 910 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // August 8th, 2013
"Last month, we had to pay out $46 to have a table and seven chairs replaced. And...the month before that, we had to have a banister on the stairs repaired. And...the month before that, we had to have the flooring replaced. It was all full of bullet holes, and wall plaster that was sprayed with buckshot. Yeah, it's been too quiet this month. All we've done is sell whiskey." -- Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake), proprietress of the Long Branch saloon.
The whole gang's down there now: Marshall Matt Dillon (James Arness), Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver), Doc Adams (Milburn Stone), Sam the bartender (Glenn Strange), town blacksmith Quint Asper, (Burt Reynolds), and loveable town drunk Louie Pheeters (James Nusser). They're all celebrating the eighteen episodes corralled in Gunsmoke: The Ninth Year, Volume 1
* "Kate Heller" -- Oh yes, Kate (Mabel Anderson, Bewitched) is wise, but it's wisdom borne of pain.
* "Lover Boy" -- Moral of the story: A broken heart can be the world's deadliest weapon.
* "Legends Don't Sleep" -- Notorious outlaw Race Fallon (William Talman, Perry Mason) wants to leave his troubled past behind. "I'm tired, Matt," he says. "But nobody will let me sleep."
* "Tobe" -- Hard luck case Tobe Hostader (Harry Townes) figures he's finally caught a break when he takes up with the pretty new saloon girl (Mary LaRoche), but she's got a killer on her tail.
* "Easy Come" -- Andrew Prine (The Town That Dreaded Sundown) shines as Elmo Sippy, a baby-faced greenhorn who decides to give up manual labor, reasoning that robbery and murder will make him richer quicker.
* "My Sister's Keeper" -- Young widower Pete Sievers (James Broderick, Dog Day Afternoon) seems intent on drinking himself to death. When that doesn't work, he takes a job, working the farm for a pair of sisters, each of whom fixates on him, for entirely different reasons.
* "Quint's Trail" -- Illinois greenhorn Cyrus Neff (Everett Sloane, Sirocco) pays a man named Clardy three thousand dollars to take him and his family to the Oregon Trail. When Clardy high-tails it with the loot, Quint offers to take over the job.
* "Carter Caper" -- When Billy Hargis (Jeremy Slate, Summer Of Fear) beats up Joe Stark (William Phipps, 5ive) fair and square, the sore loser swears revenge. His strange plan involves making Billy into a living legend.
* "Ex-Con" -- Once again a free man, Leo Phipps (John Kellogg, Twelve O'clock High) marries a saloon girl (Jeanne Cooper, Black Zoo) and promises to build her a dream house -- right after he kills Matt Dillon.
* "Extradition (Parts I & 2)" -- Fugitive Charlie Hacker (Gene Evans, The Giant Behemoth figures he's shaken U.S. Marshal Dillon once he slips over the border into Mexico. Big mistake.
* "The Magician" -- The title character, Jeremiah Dark (Lloyd Corrigan, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World) introduces himself to the townspeople of Dodge as "a mere mountebank...but a mountebank of peace and laughter." Let the games commence.
* "Pa Hack's Brood" -- Hillbilly schemer Pa Hack (Milton Selzer, Marnie) has his eye set on getting squatter's rights to another man's estate by whatever means necessary, including violence, kidnapping, and the pimping of his own daughter (Lynn Loring, Search For Tomorrow).
* "The Glory And The Mud" -- A starry-eyed farm boy (James Best, The Dukes Of Hazzard) yearns to make his reputation as a fast gun by challenging a legendary (retired) Marshal (Kent Smith, Cat People). Look for James Arness' daughter Jenny Lee Arness in a cameo role.
* "Dry Well" -- Quint is having a bad day, to say the least. First, he happens upon a murder scene, and then he is dropped into a dry well to keep him from telling what he knows.
* "Prairie Wolfer" -- Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis) returns. The expert tracker is hired by the Cattleman's association to hunt down and eliminate wolves suspected of killing cattle. Soon, however, Festus finds himself being accused of killing the cattle for his own personal gain. The always-magnificent Noah Beery, Jr.(The Rockford Files) guest stars.
* "Friend" -- A man who once saved Matt's life suddenly turns up dead and buried, but nobody around seems to know why. Look for Butch Patrick, one year prior to becoming Eddie Munster.
* "Once A Haggen" -- Good-natured Festus makes a little joke after losing his last dollar in a poker game, and suddenly his best friend Bucko (Slim Pickens, Stagecoach) is up on murder charges. I've heard that the real key to comedy is tragedy plus time...
These are grim times in Dodge, and the living is hard. In fact, it seems like most of the characters highlighted in this passel of stories end up passing away rather than through -- their...last...words...gasped and...sputtered as the...bullet in...the belly does...its...work.
It's a sad truth that bad times often make for good Westerns, which happens to be the case here. Not to put too fine a point on it, but these episodes are sharper than a brand new set of silver spurs, and doggone if this ain't the best gol-dang collection of hour long Gunsmoke installments I've seen yet!
The regular cast is solid as ever, and a parade of top-notch guest stars has plenty to do with keeping things lively. One in particular is Ken Curtis, who shows up in three episodes -- reprising his role as twitchy, half-bearded Festus Haggen in two of them.
First, however, Curtis plays an entirely different sort as "Loverboy" Kyle Kelly, a silver-tongued devil; to call him a "Ladykiller" is to be half right. If you've only ever known Curtis as the scraggly, squeaky-throated Festus, prepare to be shocked, not only by his look, but also his sound, as the nasal twang he employed in his most famous role was actually quite different from his real voice -- a honeyed baritone more suitable for the big band vocalist Curtis was, prior to establishing himself in Westerns.
Water cooler conversation starter: Ken Curtis was band leader Tommy Dorsey's first choice to replace Frank Sinatra when the Chairman decided to go solo. Though Dick Haymes actually got the gig, Curtis wound up in another famous band of the era: Shep Lewis and his Rippling Rhythm Orchestra. Check out their 1942 hit "Breathless," with Curtis singing lead -- you can thank me later.
Happily, these vintage black and white episodes are the latest in a set of lovingly restored transfers from the fine folks at Paramount/CBS DVD, who wouldn't be out of line adopting "Looks Great, Sounds Great" as their tagline for vintage TV packages. No extras offered, but English SDH captioning seems to be a standard feature for this show, and that's nothing but all good.
So, why not just strap ol' Paint to the hitching post and cool your heels for a spell? There's always room for one more down at the Long Branch.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 910 Minutes
Release Year: 1963
MPAA Rating: Not Rated