Judge P.S. Colbert was once thrown out of an Arizona saloon for ordering Sarsaparilla in a clean glass.
Our reviews of The Best Of Bonanza: Volume One (published October 22nd, 2003), Bonanza: The Official Second Season, Volume 2 (published November 6th, 2011), Bonanza: The Official Fifth Season (published April 20th, 2013), Bonanza: The Official First Season (published October 7th, 2009), and Bonanza: The Official Third Season (published September 16th, 2012) are also available.
"The Cartwrights are back in rare form."
Bonanza: The Official Fourth Season comes in two volumes, available together or separately.
Bonanza: The Official Fourth Season, Volume 1
• "The First Born"—A newly-hired ranch hand claims to be Little Joe's (Michael Landon) half-brother.
• "The Quest"—Tired of being "little" Joe, the youngest Cartwright sets out to make it big on his own in the timber business.
• "The Artist"—Ben (Lorne Greene) makes a new friend; a once talented and prolific painter stricken blind.
• "A Hot Day For A Hanging"—Hoss (Dan Blocker) is a stranger in Dutchman's Flats, where the bank has just been robbed, and the locals are hungry for a lynching.
• "The Deserter"—Claude Akin (The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo) guests as an embittered army officer hunting his former second-in-command, who deserted his post during an extremely murderous Indian raid.
• "The Way Station"—Adam (Pernell Roberts) is part of a group held hostage in a way station by a raging storm and a psychotic gunslinger (Robert Vaughn, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.).
• "The War Comes To Washoe"—It's North vs. South, and brother against brother when Adam and Little Joe clash over matters of love and war.
• "Knight Errant"—Hoss gallantly offers to give the future bride of a bed-ridden friend a ride into town, but things take a turn for the worst when she falls in love with her escort.
• "The Beginning"—The Cartwrights have a fight on their hands when a stranger claims deed to one-third of the Ponderosa; apparently, with some legal merit.
• "The Deadly Ones"—Mexican revolutionaries lay siege to the Ponderosa, taking Ben hostage and shooting Little Joe in the back.
• "Gallagher's Sons"—The "sons," Will and Charlie, are a pair of pre-teen girls, who've just lost their father, and give Hoss plenty of trouble as he attempts to deliver them safely to their kinfolk. (This episode features an optional audio commentary track by guest star Larrian Gillespie and executive producer Andrew J. Klyde).
• "The Decision"—When Hoss is badly injured on a cattle drive, Ben desperately tries to get medical help, but the only doctor within fifty miles (played by DeForest Kelley, Star Trek: The Original Series) is scheduled to hang for murder within hours.
• "The Good Samaritan"—Hoss tries to rehabilitate a heartbroken buddy who's turned to the bottle, by fixing him up with a mail-order bride from Illinois-and her young daughter.
• "The Jury"—"Reasonable doubt" stands in the way between Hoss and the rest of a jury eager to convict an accused murderer.
• "The Colonel"—Ben reunites by chance with Frank Medford (John Larkin, in one of the season's standout performances), "the bravest, finest man" he's ever known. Both come to understand the high price of having to maintain such a legend.
• "Song In The Dark"—Adam's friend Danny Morgan (Gregory Walcott) is known far and wide for the mournful tune he sings, but his fame turns to infamy when the widow Baker is found strangled to death, and witnesses claim to have heard the song floating through the area at the time of the murder. (This episode features an optional audio commentary track by guest star Gregory Walcott).
• "Elegy For A Hangman"—A New York newspaper man (Keir Dullea, 2001: A Space Odyssey) arrives, apparently to harass the judge who sentenced his father to death (and who also just happens to be a guest at the Ponderosa). Virtually the entire town is ready to run the reporter out on a rail, but Adam begins to suspect there may be some truth to his story. (This episode features an optional audio commentary track by guest star Keir Dullea.)
• "Half A Rogue"—Slim Pickens (Blazing Saddles) guests as a mountain man who tries to steal Hoss' horse, and ends up making a reluctant guardian angel out of the giant Cartwright son.
Bonanza: The Official Fourth Season, Volume 2
• "The Last Haircut"—For want of a haircut, Duke Miller (Perry Lopez, Chinatown) kills the man in the chair ahead of him, and then avoids justice on a technicality. Little Joe witnessed everything, and gives serious consideration to going "above the law" to bring justice to Miller himself.
• "Marie, My Love"—Seeing Little Joe take a tumble from his horse puts Ben in mind of Joe's mother (Felicia Farr, Kiss Me, Stupid), who died after falling from a horse on the Ponderosa.
• "The Hayburner"—Adam and Little Joe go into the horse racing business. Hoss sticks to losing at poker. (This episode features an optional audio commentary track from executive producer Andrew J. Klyde).
• "The Actress"—Little Joe falls head over heels for a high-falutin' lady thesp (Patricia Crowley, Dynasty) with more pretensions than talent. (This episode features an optional audio commentary track by guest star Patricia Crowley).
• "A Stranger Passed This Way"—An attack on Hoss leaves the gentle giant with amnesia.
• "The Way Of Aaron"—Adam falls for a Jewish woman (Aneta Corsaut, The Andy Griffith Show) in a then-controversial episode that went on to win a 1963 Interfaith Award for "outstanding and eminent work in the field of human relations" from B'nai B'rith.
• "A Woman Lost"—Ben's old friend Rita Marlowe (Ruta Lee, Witness For The Prosecution) has become a fallen woman, now laboring as a saloon singer with a drinking problem. Once she hits Virginia City, Rita gives up the bottle for a punch-drunk ex-prizefighter (Don Megowan, The Creature Walks Among Us) who hasn't sense enough to stay out of the ring.
• "Any Friend Of Walter's"—Riding out to see a girlfriend, Hoss is beset upon by a trio of gun-toting highwaymen. He finds refuge in a mine shack with a grizzled old prospector (Arthur Hunnicut) and his dog, Walter, who apparently does most of the thinking for both of them.
• "Mirror Of A Man"—The ballad of a good man and his evil twin (Ron Hayes, in a dual role), who relies on their resemblance for cover.
• "My Brother's Keeper"—On the hunt for a predatory wolf, Adam accidentally shoots Little Joe, a mistake that leads the eldest Cartwright to question whether he's really cut out for life on the Ponderosa.
• "Five Into The Wind"—It's an uphill battle of survival for Little Joe and four other passengers when their stagecoach crashes at high speed, leaving them stranded in a patch of badlands.
• "Saga Of Whizzer McGee"—A wonderful tale of extremes, pitting the title character (marvelously played by George Brenlin), who suffers from a severe case of "little man syndrome" against Hoss, who points out that "It's just as bad being too big. Who ain't got a problem?"
• "Thunder Man"—Guest Star Simon Oakland (Baa Baa Black Sheep) gives a marrow-chilling performance as Mr. Poole, a genial, self-deprecating explosives expert, who's keeping a dark little secret—he raped and murdered Little Joe's girlfriend on his way into town.
• "Rich Man, Poor Man"—If it wasn't for bad luck, Claude Miller (John Fiedler, The Bob Newhart Show) wouldn't have any at all. Now that's all about to change…or is it?
• "The Boss"—"I do what I have to do," says Tom "Boss" Slayden (Carroll O'Connor, All In The Family). Slayden's just about met his goal—to control all commerce coming into and going out of Virginia City, and if what he has to do is put a bullet into a son of his longtime friend Ben Cartwright, then so be it. A sobering look at a business community without Union protections.
• "Little Man…Ten Feet Tall"—Italian immigrant Nick Biancci (Ross Martin, The Wild, Wild West) crosses Oceans and continents in order to bring his son Mario (Michael Davis), a classical guitar prodigy opportunities to flourish in his craft, but Mario would rather be a rootin' tootin' cowboy—kids these days, am I right?!
Bonanza's fourth season gets off to an intriguing start, with the arrival of itinerant ranch hand Clay Stafford. Handsome, cocksure, and native to New Orleans, Stafford drops a bombshell on the Cartwright clan: he's Little Joe's half-brother. The family's reaction to this news—particularly Ben's—might surprise you, but if you're already familiar with this pioneering Western series, precious little about the following thirty three episodes will, as Season Four represents yet another mixed bag of gun play, guffaws and girls to turn a man's head, be he good, bad, or middling by nature.
I guess I'd gotten used to the state of contemporary hour-long network television dramas, where the desperation to hold onto to ever-dwindling audiences has led to such gimmicky practices as big-name cameo appearances, multi-episode story arcs and cliff-hanger season-enders. Contrast that with the fall of 1962, when the key to amassing a large and devoted following was consistency, something this set has in spades. To be sure, some episodes are merely makeweight, as opposed to must-see, but which are which? Bonanza: The Official Fourth Season contains an embarrassment of riches, and I'll be durned if I could find a plug nickel anywhere!
A tip of the hat to Paramount for delivering a sparkling set of restored full frame transfers with clear and dynamic mono sound. Bonanza: Official Season DVD collectors have come to expect a bundle of bonus features, and they're here: Vintage Chevrolet commercials (highlighting the brand new 1963 line), a guest appearance by Greene and Blocker on "Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall," and enough behind the scenes photos to make you feel like you were there—so there.
Time to douse that campfire and grab a stone pillow; it'll be sun-up soon and Season Five will be here before we know it. Happy trails, pardners!
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