Appellate Judge James A. Stewart mysteriously disappeared from the Gil Favor drive after Season Five.
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 Fourth Season, Volume Two (published November 9th, 2011), Rawhide: The Second Season, Volume 1 (published August 29th, 2007), Rawhide: The Second Season, Volume 2 (published January 4th, 2008), Rawhide: The Seventh Season, Volume 1 (published March 13th, 2014), Rawhide: The Seventh Season, Volume 2 (published March 21st, 2014), and Rawhide: The Sixth Season, Volume 2 (published July 15th, 2013) are also available.
"Can you tell me what in the world I would have to worry about?"—Gil Favor
Season Six begins, regular viewers will notice the disappearance of Clayton Forrester and a nifty new intro with shadowy profiles of the three leads. Kind of Alfred Hitchcock logo style. You'll also notice Clint Eastwood, who plays ramrod Rowdy Yates, seems to drive more stories than Eric Fleming, even if the actor playing trail boss Gil Favor is still nominally the lead. There's an episode in which Favor considers getting off the trail, although Fleming hasn't quit the series yet. Rounding out the principal cast is Paul Brinegar as cook/doctor Wishbone.
Facts of the Case
Rawhide: The Sixth Season, Volume 1 features fifteen episodes on four discs.
• "Incident at El Crucero"—Gil kind of likes the woman (Elizabeth Montgomery, Bewitched) whose family is blocking the pass. He considers sticking around and starting his own ranch. Joi Lansing has a cameo.
• "Incident of the Travellin' Man"—The man (Simon Oakland, Kolchak: The Night Stalker) who Hey Soos finds in the river has a leg iron, but Gil lets him ride along anyway.
• "Incident at Farragut Pass"—Gil reluctantly takes on an arrogant youth (Frankie Avalon, Back to the Beach) who has already had a fight with Rowdy. Otherwise, the young man's grandmother won't let the herd through the pass.
• "Incident at Two Graves"—Rowdy wins $50 in a boxing match, but the townspeople who bet against him think it's a fixed fight. His rival was more concerned with a personal mission—one that involves a hand-carved tombstone.
• "Incident of the Rawhiders"—An encounter with rawhiders, who steal and strip the hides from cattle, finds Rowdy in a shotgun wedding and leading them to the herd. James Best and Denver Pyle (The Dukes of Hazzard) guest.
• "Incident at Confidence Creek"—An escape artist (Dick York, Inherit the Wind) steals the drive's papers and poses as Gil to sell the herd. His assistant (Barbara Eden, I Dream of Jeannie) helps Rowdy conjure him up when he takes off.
• "Incident of the Death Dancer"—Assistant cook Mushy (James Murdock, The Godfather: Part II) goes out hunting when there's a lion on the loose, and he brings back a hunter (Forrest Tucker, F Troop) who rides along to protect the herd.
• "Incident of the Wild Deuces"—A reverend setting up a new church doesn't want Mushy's last dollar, but a saloon owner running a poker game does. Unfortunately for her, Mushy's blessed at poker—and she soon has a new business partner who prefers sarsparilla.
• "Incident at Ten Trees"—The drovers aren't sure how to deal with a strange woman babbling about an owl, but the Cheyenne want to burn her at the stake to drive out an evil spirit.
• "Incident of the Rusty Shotgun"—When Wishbone goes into town for supplies after a stampede, the brothers of a shopkeeper (Marie Windsor, Cat-Women of the Moon) want him to honor a marriage proposal he never made. Claude Akins (The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo) guests.
The season opens with a sad scene of life on the trail: a beeve has to be put down for exhaustion as the drive forges ahead without water. Soon, Gil finds the map is wrong, and water is further away than the drovers thought. As usual, these moments of real-life concerns ground Rawhide, making for interesting drama.
The other thing that viewers picking up Rawhide: The Sixth Season, Volume 1 will notice is a good range of guest stars. Perhaps most interesting for pop-culture buffs: two Dukes of Hazzard stars in one episode, and a team-up between Dick York from Bewitched and Barbara Eden from I Dream of Jeannie (with Eden even appearing briefly as "the forbidden beauty of the Orient" in an outfit resembling her future Jeannie work clothes). Also, Frankie Avalon fails to make it to the end of an episode.
Fans of Clint Eastwood will find him front and center in most of the episodes here, most notably "Incident of the Red Wind," which finds him considering looking for a drive to lead, and "Incident of the Rawhiders," which finds him in a shotgun wedding. The latter gives the ensemble a chance to show off their softer sides, as they actually like the woman he's being ramrodded into marriage with.
There's an occasional tendency toward the strange in Rawhide, with two episodes this season getting eerie to great effect: "Incident of the Prophecy" gives Warren Oates a good guest turn as a drover with a past who finds a curse catching up with him; "Incident of the Death Dancer" finds the drovers becoming scared as they realize that a lion has been hunting a hunter for years.
There's also a hint of a religious bent in "Incident of the Wild Deuces," which finds Mushy re-enacting the biblical story of the talents. At the same time, preachers who spout brimstone don't fare well with the drovers.
There are some not-so-convincing weather effects along the trail in this set, including a superimposed tornado and an earthquake assembled from shaky camera work and stock footage. Some of the dialogue as Gil talks to Native American tribe leaders is awkward, to say the least.
Presented in standard def 1.33:1 full frame, lines and grain seem a little worse than previous seasons I've reviewed. The Dolby 2.0 Mono track doesn't impress much either. The only bonus feature is an episode promo.
If you're new to the series, earlier seasons of Rawhide might appeal more. Season Four, with Gil and his team making an investment in their own future as an ongoing storyline, is the best I've reviewed so far and the purchase I'd recommend to start with. If you just want to sample a few episodes, Rawhide is being shown Saturday mornings on AMC. Still, Rowdy Yates never met up with any zombies.
While we're at it, let's nod our heads in remembrance of Clayton Forrester, who gave his name to Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Psych characters. Even if he wasn't a major character, it seems a shame that he could be forgotten so easily.
Rawhide: The Sixth Season, Volume 1 foreshadows Clint Eastwood's rising star, his role as Rowdy Yates growing. It also provides plenty of good guest star turns. It's not the series' absolute high point, but it's still a strong Western, thanks to a good cast.
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