Judge P.S. Colbert never made trail boss—it was a Union thing.
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 Fourth Season (published December 16th, 2012) are also available.
"I didn't inherit the Ponderosa. I worked to build it."—Ben Cartwright
"From the first Chevrolet in 1911 to the newest marks a half century of Chevrolet quality, and Chevrolet celebrates its golden anniversary by saying: Thank you, America, for 50 years of confidence. Now, Chevrolet presents…"
A white-hot branding iron comes down, emblazoning the Chevrolet symbol onto the map of the Ponderosa, and we're right into Bonanza: The Official Third Season!
• "The Smiler"
There's big doings in Virginia City, Nevada, particularly out at the Ponderosa ranch; home to everybody's favorite TV widower, Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene, Battlestar Galactica), and his three sons: Adam (Pernell Roberts, Trapper John, M.D.), Hoss (Dan Blocker, Lady in Cement), and Little Joe (Michael Landon, Little House on the Prairie). Count 'em: thirty four rip snortin', Bronc-bustin', Dad-burned, episodic adventures, and each one presented "in living color," still very much a rarity in the fall of 1961.
Season premiere "The Smiler" boasts a bravura performance from guest star Herschel Bernardi (Peter Gunn), as the brother of a man Hoss kills during a street scuffle. The biggest-hearted Cartwright experiences an eerily unique form of passive-aggressive punishment, administered by a man armed only with songs, proverbs, and talk of forgiveness. I saw this episode many moons ago as an impressionable child, and it's haunted me ever since. Nice to see the story hasn't lost any of its power.
The equally haunting and musical "Broken Ballad" finds legendary gunslinger Ed Payson (Robert Culp, The Greatest American Hero) returning to the region after years on the road, coming home to claim and rehab his late father's weather-worn farmhouse. Payson no longer wears a gun, now preferring six strings and singing to six-shooters and showdowns. But that does nothing to mollify the vengeful townsfolk, who've neither forgotten nor forgiven Payson for killing the son of a local shopkeeper before leaving town in the first place.
"The Many Faces Of Gideon Flinch" marks the eighth and final Bonanza episode directed by big screen legend Robert Altman (The Player), who goes out with a blaze of glory, helming a deliberately light-hearted tale of mistaken identities, ulterior motives, and cross-purposes. It's a feat of comedic strength, and among the many extras included in this set is an (optional) commentary track by guest star Sue Ann Langdon (Hold On!), who sounds like she had as much fun making this episode as I had watching it.
Presented in standard definition 1.33:1 full frame, there's some residual grit and grain that pops up during the course of these episodes, but the colors are sharp and vivid. The Dolby 2.0 Mono mix is serviceable, and English SDH captioning is available.
Bonus features include four additional episodes feature commentary tracks; an excerpt from "Henry Fonda and the Family," featuring Blocker; a witty clip from "The Scene Stealers," a 1962 March of Dimes promo pitting Blocker and Greene (as Hoss and Ben) against screen icons Buster Keaton and Ed Wynn; vintage Chevrolet commercials, and production photos, photos, and even more photos. A "Bonanza" indeed!
Have you been to see the Blacksmith? Have you laid on supplies? Saddle up and sharpen your spurs, we ride out come sun up!
Cut 'em down, I'm no longer in a hanging mood.
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