Judge P.S. Colbert finds himself limping around like Chester Goode, a problem he never had watching episodes with Festus.
Our reviews of The Gunsmoke Movie Collection (published December 8th, 2004), Gunsmoke: The Eighth Season, Volume 1 (published June 5th, 2013), Gunsmoke: The Eighth Season, Volume 2 (published June 5th, 2013), Gunsmoke: The Fifth Season, Volume 1 (published October 20th, 2011), Gunsmoke: The First Season (published July 18th, 2007), Gunsmoke: The Fourth Season, Volume 2 (published December 22nd, 2010), Gunsmoke: The Ninth Season, Volume 1 (published August 8th, 2013), Gunsmoke: The Ninth Season, Volume 2 (published August 25th, 2013), Gunsmoke: The Second Season, Volume 1 (published January 28th, 2008), Gunsmoke: The Seventh Season, Volume 1 (published December 26th, 2012), Gunsmoke: The Seventh Season, Volume 2 (published March 31st, 2013), Gunsmoke: The Sixth Season, Volume 1 (published August 31st, 2012), and Gunsmoke: The Sixth Season, Volume 2 (published December 16th, 2012) are also available.
Saddle up, pardners…This season ain't half over yet!
Before we ride out, lemme introduce you to the crew:
Matt Dillon, U.S. Marshall (James Arness, Big Jim McClain). Fearless, stalwart, and steadfast, Matt is a man as big as a mountain, but dedicated to defending the little guy.
Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver, Duel), Dillon's sidekick and Man Friday. Though not officially a deputy, Chester can't bend his right leg, but he can bend your ear for hours with his twangy tenor, singing prairie songs. His loping gait and dawdling drawl cause many to mistake him for being for slow-witted, Chester is surprisingly resourceful. Unqualified as he may seem, he gets the job done.
Miss Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake, A Star Is Born), hostess and proprietor of the Long Branch saloon. A big-hearted and captivating beauty, Miss Kitty is no pushover, and her fiery mane of red hair hints at the temper that flares when her rough-hewn customers get out of hand.
Doc Adams (Milburn Stone, Pickup On South Street), the town's crusty old sawbones. Always happy to belly up to the bar (especially if you're buying) and forever taking the Mickey out of poor Chester. Don't count ol' Doc out, his hands are rock steady and more than once he's risked his own life to save someone else's.
The nineteen episodes making up the balance of Season Five are spread out over three discs:
• "Doc Judge"—An ex-con with a murderous appetite for revenge mistakes Doc for the judge who sent him up river, and refuses to believe he's got the wrong man.
• "Moo Moo Raid"—Don't let the cutesy title fool you; this one concerns the potentially deadly ambitions of a pair of cattle drivers, competing to get their herds to market.
• "Kitty's Killing"—Abraham Sofaer (Elephant Walk) delivers a chilling performance as a heartbroken father, looking to exact revenge on his son in law for the death of his daughter, who died during childbirth.
• "Jailbait Janet"—A twisty tale that effectively muddies the waters between right and wrong, legality and justice.
• "Unwanted Deputy"—A meandering and anti-climactic episode, rescued largely by the steely focus of guest star Charles Aidman (The Wild, Wild West) as a man determined to get Matt to draw on him first.
• "Where'd They Go"—From inauspicious beginnings (an armed robbery and oncoming blizzard), this one veers off into subtle, sly comedy, highlighted by the work of veteran Western villain Jack Elam (Once Upon A Time In The West) who's superbly cast against type.
• "The Exurbanites"—Highwaymen put a bullet into Doc and leave him for dead out on the lone prairie, with only Chester on hand to save his life. Weaver's outstanding performance speaks to the actor's dedication not to set upon his laurels after winning an Emmy for his work in the previous season.
• "I Thee Wed"—Domestic abuse in Dodge City. Years before this became a "hot button issue," this episode deals with the problem so succinctly I'd put it up against anything Law and Order, Oprah, and Dr. Phil has ever offered up.
• "The Lady Killer"—A cold-blooded essay on the ways of a professional femme fatale.
• "Gentleman's Disagreement"—Daytime Emmy winner Val Dufour (Search For Tomorrow) plays a notorious gunman in town to settle a grudge with the local blacksmith who hasn't handled a gun in two years.
• "Belle's Back"—Belle Ainsley (Nita Talbot, Serial) returns to Dodge 'three years older and ten years harder,' looking to live down her bad reputation. Unless that's just a cover story for a gal bent on getting up to her old tricks.
• "The Bobsy Twins"—A creepy entry centering on a pair of ancient brothers so simple-minded they're positively sinister. Featuring Richard Chamberlain Shogun in one of his very first television appearances. Very The Twilight Zone-esque.
• "Old Flame"—Matt's high school sweetheart, Dolly Winters (Marilyn Maxwell, The Lemon Drop Kid), begs him for protection from an abusive husband, but Kitty bets him a barrel of whiskey that Dolly's story is phony.
• "The Deserter"—Tracking a wounded soldier who's robbed the army payroll, Matt and Chester are taken prisoner by the soldier's father who puts a bullet into the Marshall's sidekick.
• "Cherry Red"—Joanna Moore returns to play yet another bewitching temptress…or is she? The fun of this episode is trying to figure out which side she's really on.
Matt would probably love nothing more than spending his days whittling away on the front porch stoop, but Dodge City ain't Mayberry. Fortunately for us, Gunsmoke: The Fifth Season, Volume 2 features the lawman resting little and sleeping less, as he copes with a wild bunch of wrong-doers constantly encroaching on his jurisdiction.
This iconic series has been available to me in reruns my whole life—in fact, I'd wager it's not left the air since its 1955 debut—but I'd almost always found watching it pretty rough going; the hour long episodes seeming to stretch out interminably. However, these black and white 25 minute episodes pop like bubble wrap, and prove just as addictive. Some are brilliant, some less so, but every one is a winner.
Presented in their original 1.33:1 standard definition full frame format, these transfers were obviously handled with loving care, because the shows look great. Even the Dolby 1.0 mono tracks have stood the test of time. English subtitles are provided for the hearing impaired.
In his review of The Fifth Season, Volume 1, Judge James A. Stewart lamented the lack of extras, save for a two minute memoriam for actor James Arness. That's two minutes more than this set received. Will you please pass this message along? I haven't the heart to tell him myself.
Keep those horses watered, friends. We still have fifteen more seasons of Gunsmoke to go!
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