Gunsmoke: The Second Season, Volume 1 (TV)
R1 - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Rob Fields (20th January 2008).
The Film

Back when I was little, around 6 or 7 years old, my aunt and uncle that I was staying with at the time usually had Channel 43 on every Saturday night. Saturday night was usually a night for Westerns. I don't remember the exact order, but there was "The Wild, Wild West" (1965-1969), "Maverick" (1957-1962, "Rawhide" (1959-1966), and "Gunsmoke" (1955-1975). Isn't it amazing what one can remember after so many years? I never really watched any of these shows, except for a few select episodes of "The Wild, Wild West". There would be times since then when I would see TV spots for "Gunsmoke". Thinking about it, Channel 36 in Toledo, Ohio would show these classic episodes before it would go from becoming an independent channel to a FOX network. Now that I've got this particular title to review on DVD, I can get a glimpse into TV history and perhaps get an understanding as to why this Golden Age TV Western has lasted for 20 seasons.
"Gunsmoke: The Second Season, Volume 1" packs the first 20 episodes of trailblazing action, drama and excitement as the greatest western in TV history returns in Season Two of the series. Join Marshall Matt Dillon (James Arness) as he confronts the most ruthless outlaws, rustlers, gunslingers and card sharks ever to pass through Dodge City. Here, you can see Marshall Dillon work his way through one problem right after another, along with has faithful sidekick Chester. I guess you can call them the 'Lone Ranger and Tonto' of this series. Co-starring series regulars Milburn Stone (Doc), Amanda Blake (Miss Kitty) and Dennis Weaver (Chester), this first half of Season 2 is a straight-shooting collection no self-respecting Western fan should be without.
From only watching the first few episodes, I got the feel of an old western movie. Even though each episode is around twenty-seven minutes, it still gives off that feel. I'm just glad that it doesn't feel like the 1950's. You can even see the film grain. In this case, this doesn't bother me, as this shows off television history. My uncle used to tell me that there would be film grain in some of the shows he used to watch when he was a kid. This series is in black-and-white, which doesn't bother me either, since I've watched some older horror films that were presented similarly. The downsides? The shows are roughly 27 minutes. They could easily be one hour if the stories were drawn out more. Also, it seems like Marshal Dillon is virtually infallible and doesn't really need anybody. It's as if the supporting cast is just there chewing scenery. In what few episodes I've seen of "The Wild, Wild West", James West may have won in the end, but the bad guys got the drop on him at times. Also, Artemus Gordon was quite useful. To me, Chester is just there. Still, watching these episodes is like watching live versions of old radio dramas. I suppose that if I had taken advantage of the opportunities before and watched "Gunsmoke," I would have been in for a treat. For those of you who grew up watching this, you don't have to pick up those cheap discount boxes of select episodes any longer. Now that Paramount is putting out the complete seasons, you can start enjoying these instead. For those of you who have never watched this, you might want to give it a chance. You can see some of classic television at its finest.

This set includes the first 20 episodes of the second season:

- "Cow Doctor" (26:15) Doc suffers the loss of a human patient when he's unwittingly summoned to treat a rancher's cow.

- "Brush at Elkader" (26:24) Tracking down the man who shot his friend, Matt travels to Elkader, where the townsfolk have banded together to prevent a killer's arrest.

- "Custer" (26:24) Having arrested an army deserter for the murder of a rancher, Matt refuses to turn him over for court-martial.

- "The Round Up" (26:19) Trouble follows when Matt closes the bar to a group of drunken cowboys. Written by Sam Peckinpah.

- "Young Man with a Gun" (26:20) When Matt kills a gunman in a shootout, the victim's 16-year-old brother vows to avenge him.

- "Indian White" (26:23) When the Third Cavalry returns with a 12-year-old Cheyenne prisoner, a woman claims it's her long-missing son, whom the tribe kidnapped 10 years earlier.

- "How to Cure a Friend" (26:11) A crooked gambler (Andrew Duggan) sets up a poker game with the richest man in Dodge City.

- "Legal Revenge" (26:12) Although a homesteader claims he cut his leg chopping wood, Doc tells Matt the wound may have been inflicted by the man's wife (Cloris Leachman). Written by Sam Peckinpah.

- "The Mistake" (26:22) Arrested for the murder of Miss Kitty's faro dealer, a poker player (Mike Connors) claims he was with Doc, who's left town and can't confirm his alibi.

- "Greater Love" (26:17) Two wounded stagecoach robbers take Doc hostage. Claude Akins guest stars.

- "No Indians" (26:16) Although the evidence suggests the Pawnees shot and scalped a family of four, Matt suspects it's the work of white men posing as Indians.

- "Spring Term" (26:17) When a bullet meant for Matt hits someone else by mistake, he sets out to capture the men who tried to kill him.

- "Poor Pearl" (26:22) Matt becomes involved in a quarrel between two men in love with the same woman. Written by Sam Peckinpah.

- "Cholera" (26:15) When Doc doesn't turn up to treat a suspected cholera outbreak, Matt and Chester set out to find him. Paul Fix guest stars.

- "Pucket's New Year" (26:20) Matt promises to find the skinner who abandoned a buffalo hunter in a three-day blizzard. Grant Withers and Richard Deacon guest star.

- "The Cover Up" (26:21) A feud ends with two men being shot. But the killing doesn't stop when Matt arrests the man whom one of the victims claims did the shooting.

"Sins of the Fathers" (26:17) Trouble comes to Dodge House when a mountain man checks in with his wife (Angie Dickinson), the daughter of a bloodthirsty Arapaho chief.

- "Kick Me" (26:19) An elderly Kiowa scout is accused of killing the unfaithful wife of a bank robber who's been posing as a Dodge City merchant.

- "Executioner" (26:17) When a gunslinger goads a farmer into a fatal duel, the victim's brother plots his revenge.

- "Gone Straight" (26:22) Hunting down an ex-member of Billy the Kid's gang. Matt finds his quarry his reformed and is living a respectable life under an assumed name. Carl Betz guest stars.

Video

Each episode is presented in its original full screen ratio of 1.33:1 and in black-and-white. As I stated earlier, I haven't really watched any of these episodes prior to this DVD release. So, upon reading the fine print on the back that states, "Some episodes may be edited from their original network versions," it won't matter to me since I won't know which episodes. Paramount did a great job re-mastering each episode. With the exception of occasional grain, they look as good as they're going to, at least until the next time, when or if, they may be presented in some other format. I've heard people tell me at the video store I worked at before that some of the discount collected sets don't have the best picture quality. I don't find that hard to believe, since I've seen some horror films like this ("Night of the Living Dead" (1968) for example). At least with these re-mastered sets, the picture looks crisp. As for the black-and-white, even though you can only see a few selected colors, one color doesn't blend into another. You can view the episodes individually or watch them in one continuous marathon using the 'Play All' option. Although the episodes don't have chapter selection menus, there are chapter stops.

Audio

Each episode is accompanied by an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack. The dialogue is quite clear. I'm not noticing any volume drops or flaws. My uncle told me that these kinds of things happened back in the day. You can even hear the birds chirping in the background clearly, also the horses carrying their riders. Being that this is an older series, I'm glad it's only the original audio and not an up-mixed 5.1 surround track. I think it would have ruined the experience. Also, it seems that the original music is present, since I didn't see any fine print about the music itself. There are no subtitles available whatsoever.

Extras

Paramount has included original sponsor spots and a collection of bonus trailers as extras on this set, below is a close look at these supplements broken down per disc.

DISC ONE:

This disc features the following three bonus trailers before the start of the Main Menu:

- "Mission: Impossible: The Second Season" which runs for 35 seconds.
- "MacGyver: The Complete Final Season" runs for 1 minute.
- "The John Wayne DVD Collection" runs for 1 minute 25 seconds.

Note: You can only view the previews via a menu before the Main Menu. They cannot be selected any other way.

DISC TWO:

This disc does not contain any extras.

DISC THREE:

This disc has 2 minutes and 44 seconds worth of sponsor spots. Here you will see 6 spots for 'L & M cigarettes' (a disclaimer about the historical contexts of the spots and how smoking is not endorsed appears before the spots begin). Then you will see one final spot for the 'Remington Roll-A-Matic' electric shaver. Nearly all of the sponsor spots are endorsed by James Arness (with one co-endorsed by Amanda Blake). This should be a trip down memory lane for those of you who were around back in the day. Even these promo spots have been re-mastered

Packaging

"Gunsmoke: The Second Season, Volume 1" is a 3-DVD set with each disc all placed into a single clear Amaray keep case.

Overall

The Film: B Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: C Overall: B-

 


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