Appellate Judge James A. Stewart wonders if Clint Eastwood regrets not ending up as a country singer.
Our reviews of Rawhide: The Complete First Season (published February 14th, 2007), 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 Sixth Season, Volume 1 (published July 15th, 2013), and Rawhide: The Sixth Season, Volume 2 (published July 15th, 2013) are also available.
"You've got to have a stubborn streak to run this outfit."—Rowdy Yates
Season Four of Rawhide stirred things up a bit: Gil Favor actually decided to move his own cattle, giving the drive a little more tension and importance, while the arrival of Charles Gray as Clay Forrester put a trickster a la Bret Maverick in the drovers' ranks.
Rawhide: Season Five brings the show back to its basic formula of cattle drovers working and getting into trouble, albeit with more of Clint Eastwood than in previous seasons.
Facts of the Case
Rawhide: Season Five comes in two volumes, available together or separately:
Rawhide: Season Five, Volume One
• "Incident of the Hunter"—Clay Forrester is worried when he recognizes a new drover as a bounty hunter, but it's Gil that the man is looking for.
• "Incident of the Portrait"—A blind woman whose father was killed rides with the herd, unaware that the murderer (John Ireland, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral) is one of the drovers.
• "Incident at Cactus Wells"—The drover (Keenan Wynn, Stagecoach) who carries a newspaper clipping to prove he was acquitted in his wife's death wants to track down the man who drove the woman to suicide.
• "Incident of the Prodigal Son"—A rich kid joins the drive after the drovers find him dehydrated on the range. One of the drovers takes him under his wing.
• "Incident of the Four Horsemen"—Gil and Clay will get a drover (Claude Akins, Rio Bravo) for their trek through disputed lands if they witness a wedding. They'll also get a lot of trouble, including burying a man alive because of his "trance."
• "Incident of the Lost Woman"—Gil finds a mother and baby in the brush. Soon, her late husband's family attempts to take her back—and she doesn't want to go.
• "Incident of the Dogfaces"—The drovers see three soldiers skirmishing with Comanches and decide to help the Army men out, getting them involved in fighting over a treaty the United States broke. James Whitmore (The Shawshank Redemption) guests.
• "Incident of the Wolvers"—A wolver (Dan Duryea, The Flight of the Phoenix) who strikes a hard bargain with Rowdy has a pretty daughter (Patty McCormack, The Bad Seed). Rowdy teaches her to read, which causes friction.
• "Incident at Sugar Creek"—After they're drugged by a barkeep, Rowdy and a saloon owner's mistress (Ruta Lee, Witness for the Prosecution) wake up to the fact that they're married.
• "Incident of the Querencias"—Gil's hard-luck friend joins to outfit with some troublesome "pasture cattle," but the friend turns out to be more of a problem.
• "Incident at Quivira"—A rambing prospector gets cook's louse Mushy to join his quest for a lost mine. They'll get in trouble with an Army veteran (Claude Akins), who's also hunting gold.
• "Incident of Decision"—Rowdy tries to discourage a would-be drover with a bad leg. Soon, the young man meets a bandit, who also dispenses life advice.
• "Incident of the Buryin' Man"—The drovers win big money from an undertaker at poker, but it turns out he's also a counterfeiter.
• "Incident of the Trail's End"—Gil hires an old friend who wants one last drive before he loses his sight, but an old enemy could present problems.
Rawhide: Season Five, Volume Two
• "Incident of the Mountain Man"—Rowdy wants a man to get a fair trial instead of a frontier hanging, but the man just wants to get away from both fates.
• "Incident at Crooked Seat"—A drover (James Gregory, The Manchurian Candidate) turns out to be a legendary fast gun—and he shoots down the wrong challenger.
• "Incident of Judgment Day"—The dancing at Rowdy's birthday hoedown might not be that good, but it's a better present than the mock trial with a real death sentence. Claude Rains (The Invisible Man) and John Dehner (The Boys from Brazil) guest.
• "Incident of the Gallows Tree"—The man Quince had a drunken argument with is dead. If Gil and Rowdy can't figure out who really did it, Quince soon will be, too. Beverly Garland plays a saloonkeeper.
• "Incident of the Married Widow"—The drovers find a town where the drinks are served in a "salon" (it's classier than a "saloon"). A portrait above the bar (it's not that much classier) shows the widow saloon owner's late husband: Gil Favor.
• "Incident of the Pale Rider"—Rowdy kills a man who tries to rob him, but finds he hasn't seen the last of the man he buried.
• "Incident of the Comanchero"—Nuns and the man (Robert Loggia, Independence Day) that they rescued from a torture rack join the drive.
• "Incident of the Clown"—A linguist (Eddie Bracken, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek) doesn't get much respect as he tries to document Comanche words and stop a war with the Comanches. Of course, as a former circus clown, he didn't expect much respect.
• "Incident of the Black Ace"—After gypsies spar with Wishbone over the egg-laying chicken they served up for dinner, they decide to trick him into leaving the drive.
• "Incident of the Hostages"—Three youngsters raised by Apaches are riding with the drovers, but they'd rather stay with the Apaches.
• "Incident of White Eyes"—The death of a stagecoach driver strands his passengers and puts Gil in the midst of a standoff. Nehemiah Persoff (Fate is the Hunter) and Nita Talbot (Who's Got the Action?) guest.
• "Incident at Rio Doloroso"—The prospect of going to the dentist makes Rio Doloroso a "River of Pain" for Wishbone. A cantina fight that leads to a skirmish on the range makes it even worse for Rowdy and Gil.
• "Incident at Alkali Sink"—The drivers witness a wedding—or will, if they can get the ring off Mushy's finger. The bride's father turns up to take her home, and a lack of water adds tension to the situation. Ruta Lee and Russell Johnson (Gilligan's Island) guest.
• "Abiline"—For people who didn't purchase Season Four, the season finale is included here (though oddly placed), as one of the drovers comes down with small pox which may keep them all from completing there drive.
Ramrod Rowdy Yates didn't actually run the Gil Favor outfit. He was second-in-command, and Clint Eastwood got second billing on Rawhide behind Eric Fleming, who played trail boss Gil Favor. Still, by Season Five, Eastwood seemed to be a dominating presence on the Western, with Rowdy often initiating the show's action. Charles Gray, who did a lot in Season Four as scout Clay Forrester, just pops in to let everyone know where the water is. Eric Fleming as Gil Favor still gets some good scenes, but some episodes find him just grumping around ("And don't just stand there and bleed to death!" will probably go down as one of my favorite Gil Favor rant lines). To his credit, Eastwood keeps Rowdy's self-deprecating manner constant. You will see him getting more opportunities to sing (it has occurred to me that Eastwood expected to have a country music career once Rawhide faded out, following in the footsteps of departing co-star Sheb Wooley).
Interestingly, Paul Brinegar as Wishbone, the grouchy cook, manages to hold his own a bit more in the stories, providing comic relief (watch his relief when his tooth is knocked out in a bar fight so he doesn't have to visit the dentist) and a friend who looks after the men on the drive. Robert Cabal as horse wrangler Hey Soos doesn't get too much to do, but has a couple of memorable moments in soothing a frightened child or making sure a prayer is said at a villain's funeral.
You'll also find strong guest turns, such as John Ireland's killer who falls for his victim's daughter in "Incident of the Portrait" or Eddie Bracken's professor whose past as a clown could save the day in "Incident of the Clown." Good actors, including Claude Akins and John Dehner, keep showing up during the season.
Presented in standard definition 1.33:1 full frame, there's some grain in the outdoor sequences. Otherwise, the black-and-white show looks quite good. The Dolby 2.0 Mono track is par for the course with these vintage television releases, but Paramount handles it with care and everything from the dialogue to the effects comes across loud and clear. English SDH subtitles are included for those hard of hearing. Extras consist of vintage episodic promos.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
By Season Five, the cliches are showing. You just know that, no matter how much Gil or Rowdy object, they'll give in and let a woman ride with the drive. You also just know that someone's going to get into trouble on a trip to town. Rawhide was a good TV Western, but if you're not into TV Westerns, that won't mean much, and one that's starting to show its age a bit won't change your mind.
Rawhide: Season Five was slightly disappointing to me. I hadn't seen the series, prior to reviewing the DVDs for Verdict, and Season Four was exceptionally strong. That probably won't matter if you're a longtime fan or a big Clint Eastwood lover. If not, I'd suggest tracking down Season Four or some earlier season to get the full flavor of the show. Still, if you've enjoyed Rawhide—or TV Westerns at all, for that matter—you should be entertained by Season Five. Just don't try to watch thirty episodes in a week, like reviewers do.
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