The buzzards have been circling Judge P.S. Colbert for quite some time now.
Our reviews of The Gunsmoke Movie Collection (published December 8th, 2004), Gunsmoke: The Fifth Season, Volume 1 (published October 20th, 2011), Gunsmoke: The Fifth Season, Volume 2 (published December 17th, 2011), Gunsmoke: The First Season (published July 18th, 2007), Gunsmoke: The Fourth Season, Volume 2 (published December 22nd, 2010), 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), and Gunsmoke: The Sixth Season, Volume 2 (published December 16th, 2012) are also available.
"If I was worried about dying, I'd have quit this job a long time ago."—Matt Dillon..
U.S. Marshall Dillon (James Arness) has certainly come to death's doorstep many times over the course of his career, and several of those instances are recounted in the nineteen episode collection going by the name of Gunsmoke: The Sixth Season, Volume 1.
• "Friends Payoff"—Matt's long lost buddy Ab Butler (Mike Road) turns up with a bullet in his back, talking about an ambush. A stranger soon follows looking for him, calling Butler a bank robber, and vowing revenge.
• "The Blacksmith"—The town's kindly new blacksmith (George Kennedy, …tick…tick…tick…) comes from Germany, and some of the locals don't cotton to foreigners in Dodge.
• "Small Water"—Matt's determination to bring a murder suspect back to town for trial gets him pinned down on the prairie, with the suspect's four sharp-shooting sons keeping him in their sights.
• "Say Uncle"—Hamlet as a horse opera. Young Lee Nagle (Richard Rust) is convinced his father's death was not accidental, but planned by Lee's uncle Hutch (Gene Nelson, The Cool Ones), who has designs on his brother's widow.
• "Shooting Stopover"—A stagecoach to Wichita takes a detour through Hell, after being descended upon by gold thieves.
• "The Peace Officer"—Outlaws, what Outlaws? Criminals have nothing on the sheriff of Tascosa.
• "Don Mattaeo"—"A job with no pleasure" is how Matt describes his duties, after discovering yet another old friend has become an outlaw, and must be brought to justice.
• "The Worm"—A hard-drinking, quick-tempered Buffalo hunter (Kenneth Tobey, The Thing From Another World) drops into Dodge for a spell, during which the bodies start piling up.
• "The Badge"—A pair of bank robbers on the lam are frustrated when one of their horses goes lame. What they need to do is wait for a lone rider to come down the trail, ambush him, and take his horse. Here comes somebody now; mighty big feller, too!
• "Distant Drummer"—Remember that miserable mule-skinner, the one who was last seen taunting that poor, shell-shocked ex-Civil War drummer? Well, he just turned up dead. Why, you don't suppose…?
• "Ben Tolliver's Stud"—A mistreated ranch hand quits his abusive boss (who's been holding back wages for three months) and takes the horse he's been breaking in along with him. He feels he's got a right, but there's also them that would call what he done just plain unlawful.
• "No Chip"—Matt finds himself in the thankless position of standing between two cattle ranchers with a murderous rivalry. Dean's less famous but equally talented older brother Guy Stockwell makes the first of two appearances in this collection.
• "The Wake"—A stranger arrives in Dodge with a casket, bearing the body of his best friend. After a quick burial, the stranger insists on inviting the town to join him in a wake. Something about this bugs Matt, but he doesn't know what, and there the investigation begins. Quirky fun with a terrific performance by guest star Denver Pyle, who'd go on to immortality playing Uncle Jessie on The Dukes Of Hazzard.
• "The Cook"—Delmonico's hires the best cook Dodge City ever saw, but he's temperamental. One customer complains about his eggs and winds up dead.
• "Old Fool"—This one deals with crimes of the heart: An attractive widow threatens to come between a long and happily married couple. Buddy Ebsen (Barnaby Jones) guest stars.
• "Brother Love"—Just before dying, a murdered shopkeeper manages to tell Matt the last name of his killer, which means it could be either one of two brothers.
• "Bad Sheriff"—Matt unexpectedly comes upon a sheriff and deputy who claim they're taking an apprehended bank robber and murderer back to Blue Springs for sentencing. But when the prisoner in question swears they're actually looking to make off with the bankroll themselves, the U.S. Marshall decides to take the whole party back to Dodge and get to the bottom of things.
• "Unloaded Gun"—Matt's laid up with fever and holding off a pair of vengeful killers, unaware that the gun he's holding has no bullets in it.
• "Tall Trapper"—The title character kindly shares his camp with a road-weary married couple for one night, and his generosity is repaid by the abusive husband, who accuses the trapper of beating his wife to death.
Those who call Dodge City, Kansas "home" don't much take to people putting on airs. So, in tribute to those friendly folks, I'll keep it short and sweet, like these episodes, which go down as quickly and easily as frosted mugs of Sarsaparilla after a week out on the trail in August.
Fortunately, Paramount has managed to keep all but trace elements of dust and grit (prairie or otherwise) out of these wonderful standard definition 1.33:1 full screen black and white transfers. The Dolby 2.0 Mono mix does a bang-up job, but if some of the sixty two year old soundtrack provides a challenge, you have the helpful option of English SDH captioning. Unfortunately, there are no extras in these saddle bags.
If you're looking to wet your whistle with something a bit more spirited than Sarsaparilla, mosey on over to the Long Branch saloon, run by the lovely, flame-haired Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake). Mind you, keep your head about over-indulging, or you'll find yourself waking to the punishing aroma of Chicory coffee brewed up special by Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver) over at the jailhouse. Hangover or no, you'll want to go easy with Chester's java, or you'll be needing to see ol' Doc Adams (Milburn Stone) for what ails you. Doc can usually be found cooling his heels at the Long Branch, which is kind of funny, ain't it?
Not Guilty! Now saddle up and head over to Volume 2.
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