Appellate Judge James A. Stewart once took thirty weeks to drive from San Antonio to Abilene.
Our reviews of Rawhide: The Complete First Season (published February 14th, 2007), Rawhide: The Fifth Season (published September 30th, 2012), Rawhide: The Fourth Season, Volume 1 (published June 23rd, 2011), Rawhide: The Second Season, Volume 1 (published August 29th, 2007), and Rawhide: The Second Season, Volume 2 (published January 4th, 2008) are also available.
"Head 'em up. Move 'em out."
Rawhide: The Fourth Season, Volume 2 continues a cattle drive in which trail boss Gil Favor (Eric Fleming, Queen of Outer Space) is taking his own beeves to market in Abilene, hoping to make enough to fund his own ranch and reunite him full-time with his two daughters. It also sees the departure of scout Pete Nolan (Sheb Wooley, the guy who sang "Purple People Eater"). Clay Forrester (Charles Gray, The Unknown Terror) takes Pete's place, making for a bumpier ride for Favor's outfit.
Facts of the Case
The second half of Season Four consists of fifteen episodes on four discs…
• "The Boss's Daughters"—Gil's sister-in-law and daughters turn up unexpectedly, sharing a stagecoach with the rancher whose permission the drovers need to move their cattle down the Chisholm Trail. That looks like good news—for a while.
• "The Deserters' Patrol"—Pete comes up with a brilliant peace plan for the Pawnee. Somehow, it leaves Gil and a handful of Army deserters staring down a Pawnee attack. Stuntman Hal Needham acts here.
• "The Greedy Town"—A criminal's will leaves the town that convicted him of bank robbery a fortune, but the conditions include a posthumous retrial and revenge on the sheriff.
• "The Pitchwagon"—A medicine man (Buddy Ebsen, The Beverly Hillbillies) wants to help the family of a deceased drover—by talking his estranged wife into posing as famed singer Jenny Lind for a concert. Clint Eastwood does some singing here.
• "Hostage Child"—A Native American boy claims the wife of a colonel (James Coburn, In Like Flint) is his sister.
• "The Immigrants"—An anthrax quarantine leads to trouble with a maniacal German landowner for Clay, Quince (Steve Raines, Border Fence), and Wishbone (Paul Brinegar, Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone).
• "A Woman's Place"—Louise Amadon's place is in her surgery, and the drovers have to fight off a hostile town to keep her there long enough to save the life of a drover who was crushed under a collapsed chuckwagon. Eric Fleming co-wrote the script.
• "Gold Fever"—A prospector (Victor Jory, Gone with the Wind) doesn't see any gold, but tries to stake a claim on Rowdy and Clay as prospective grooms for his daughters. Marion Ross guests.
• "The Devil and the Deep Blue"—After Gil reluctantly takes charge of another drive after its trail boss meets a mysterious end, two beeves with "Texas tic" are found in his herd.
• "Abilene"—It's the end of the road for the drovers, but a smallpox quarantine means they must share each other's company just a little bit longer. This one's actually from Season Five, but it's included because it wraps up the story arc.
In Rawhide: The Fourth Season, Volume One, Gil's decision to control his own herd made for some powerful episodes. Here, only three episodes—"The Boss's Daughters" and the last two episodes in the set—deal with that ongoing theme. Eric Fleming as Gil Favor gets some moments that test his character, but the story kind of peters out in the resolution. That leaves the drovers to get back to their usual business of bickering, ignoring Gil's orders, and generally getting into trouble.
Charles Gray's Clay Forrester brings a different tone to the series. Forrester's not as honest and hard-working as the rest of the drovers. He's willing to go along with the terms of the will in "The Greedy Town," at least until the revenge part kicks in, and it's his lust for gold that propels the events in "Gold Fever." He's also more bickersome, particularly with Rowdy, whose job he covets. Still, it's a TV Western in the olden days, so you know he'll come to the rescue of his fellow drovers if need be. What this boils down to is that when the focus is on Forrester, the stories seem a little more like Maverick—which, I'm guessing, was the intent of the writers.
The more serious storyline in this half-season—about a possible Pawnee uprising—was driven by the departing Pete Nolan, played with resoluteness by Sheb Wooley. Pete, who once traveled with Native Americans, isn't a big fan of the Army, but joins up in hopes of brokering peace—a peace that seems unlikely with all the hard-headed Army brass types he's dealing with.
I'll also note that John Hart, who once played the Lone Ranger, can be seen in the pack of drovers.
The black-and-white picture has the occasional flecks or lines, but is otherwise sharp. Sponsor spots—including those dreaded cigarette ads—are the only real extra, although "Abilene," the episode from the following season that wraps up the arc, is called one on the DVD case.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The high stakes of this season's cattle drive—Gil now owns the herd for the first time—make CBS' policy of splitting the seasons in half for DVD an annoyance. CBS should have made an exception and released the whole season in one set, but at least they paid enough attention to include the wrap-up episode from Season Five.
Season Four of Rawhide wasn't perfect, but the writers made the effort to give the stories more depth, and it shows. Combined with interesting characters, that makes Rawhide worth a look for anyone interested in TV Westerns.
Seeing Rawhide: The Fourth Season, Volume One first isn't a necessity, but since the storyline that started there wraps up here, fans will want to consider both. While this season's two volumes are stronger than past Rawhide collections I've screened, interested newcomers might want to round up a previous season instead.
Not guilty. Head 'em up. Move 'em out.
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