Paramount // 1964 // 910 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // August 25th, 2013
"Well, here's another goodbye to another good friend." -- Keith Richards, "Before They Make Me Run"
Sooner or later, every feller's got to choose whether to mosey in or mosey on. The eighteen episodes in Gunsmoke: The Ninth Season, Volume 2 bring heavy changes to the ever-expanding city of Dodge:
* "No Hands"
* "The Bassops"
* "The Kite"
* "Comanches Is Soft"
* "Father Love"
* "Now That April's There"
* "Owney Tupper Had A Daughter"
* "The Promoter"
* "Trip West"
* "Scott Free"
* "The Warden"
* "The Other Half"
* "Journey For Three"
That skinny stalk of Kansas wheat grass going by the name of Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver) does a little amateur sleuthing in a delightfully off-beat story called "Bentley."
His boss, hero, and mentor, Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) holds with the opinion that "A dying man doesn't usually lie. Not even the worst of them. Seems like dying kind of scares the truth out of them."
Still and all, Chester can't bring himself to believe Ned Wright's (Bill Erwin, Seinfeld) deathbed confession about killing the title character. And so, (to the bemusement of just about everyone else), Matt's stiff-legged sidekick takes it upon himself to set the record straight, in what represents not just his sole appearance this set, but Chester Goode's final Gunsmoke appearance altogether.
Now if this were a contemporary series, Chester's exit no doubt would have occasioned a great deal of hype -- perhaps even a countdown to his much ballyhooed "farewell," if not a multi-segment story arc, leading up to his departure. Why, he might even go out in a dynamically fatal blaze of glory, as part of a large-scale, season-ending massacre that leaves its breathless audience to wonder all summer long: Who will and who won't survive? Alas, in olden times -- before color broadcasting was routine -- characters on their way out usually tended to sneak off without any explanation, much less leaving a forwarding address. I'm not ashamed to say that I've gotten pretty emotionally invested in the citizens of Dodge City over these past several seasons, and it's going to take me some time to grieve this great loss. Then again, there's no crying in old-school westerns, so let's accentuate the positive, shall we?
There's plenty of gold to be mined from the seventeen remaining chapters. I mentioned in this season's first volume review that year nine seemed to be the series' best so far, and the quality of this second volume has only strengthened that conviction. The fact of the matter is that Chester's sudden and permanent absence might have proven unbearable if Quint (Burt Reynolds) and Festus (Ken Curtis) weren't on hand to provide Matt with all the backup he needs. What's more, the pair make a great team in the rollicking "Comanches Is Soft," which finds them heading out on a hilarious adventure -- and a perfect change of pace from the malevolence that imbues most of the other tales in this roundup.
While I'm still trying to decide whether my personal pick of the litter is "No Hands," or "Owney Tupper Had A Daughter," allow me to take a moment to point out a distinct trend in some of this set's most memorable villains: feminine wiles.
Now ladies, no sense getting het up and hollerin' about misogynism -- Just take a moment and think about this from an actor's point of view -- Virtue has its place, but wearing Gingham, pulling hot pie tins out of the oven, and searching for new and inventive ways of reacting to the comings and going of menfolk...what fun is that?! While it's become politically correct for feminists to object to the idea of women being portrayed as wily, manipulative and cunning, I've got a strong hunch that special guest stars Jacqueline Scott (The Outer Limits), Patricia Owens (Island In The Sun), and Phyllis Coates (The Adventures Of Superman) felt empowered by their respective opportunities to run their co-stars ragged.
You can judge for yourself, thanks to another brilliant set of black and white, full screen transfers from Paramount's stellar television division. I'm not saying you won't find an occasional speck of sand -- remember, this is Kansas, and prairie winds come with the territory -- but when you look and sound this good after fifty years, the occasional sign of weathering is generally regarded as "character," not a flaw, n'est-ce pas? English SDH subtitles are also at your service.
If anyone's looking for me, I'll be down at the Long Branch saloon, raising a toast to absent friends.
Everything's up to snuff in this Kansas city.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 910 Minutes
Release Year: 1964
MPAA Rating: Not Rated