I applaud this release of the entire first season of Gunsmoke on DVD, and hope the remainder of the best TV western ever made will also be released.
Gunsmoke, the longest running western in TV history (or TV drama for that matter at 20 years and 635 episodes), is complex and textured, dealing with mature themes and unforgettable characters that became part of our culture. It was billed as the first `adult western.’
I grew up watching the series, which debuted in 1955 as a half-hour black and white show then progressed to an hour in its seventh season, and began being produced in color in 1966.
The original opening depicted the Marshall in a fast-draw gunfight against a villain he killed, but this was toned down years later after groups complained of violence. As a result, rather than seeing the villain fall dead, the camera instead stayed only on Dillon as he drew his `peacemaker.’ In the 70′s, the opening eliminated the gunfight altogether and depicted Dillon riding quickly across the range. In the 1960′s, early episodes of the series were rebroadcast as `Marshall Dillon.’
The much-honored and beloved show went off the air in 1975. Thirty-nine glorious black and white half-hour shows comprise this incredible set.
Few need to be told what his western depicted: It’s the story of Marshall Matt Dillon (played to perfection by James Arness) who tamed the lawless Dodge City, Kansas, in 1873. He did so not only with his six-shooter but with his courage, sense of honor, justice and irreproachable integrity behind the badge.
A radio show predated the TV series and aired from 1952 to 1961. The radio Marshall was voiced by William Conrad (who later portrayed the lead role of the portly private investigator `Cannon’ in the 1970′s.) When CBS decided to produce a TV series, Conrad wanted the role, but wasn’t chosen because of his girth. The rumor that western icon John `Duke’ Wayne was offered the pivotal role of Dillon, but he turned it down and instead recommended his good friend Arness, has largely been debunked.
In addition to Dillon, the core characters are Miss Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake), owner of the Longbranch Saloon and Matt’s long-time love and lover; the crusty but sensitive Doctor Galen Adams (Milburn Stone); and Deputy Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver). Burt Reynolds also had a recurring role as Quint Asper from 1962-1965. Ken Curtis replaced Goode as `Matthew’s’ Deputy Festus Haggen, who portrayed the loveable deputy who couldn’t read from 1959 through the end of the series. Gunsmith then deputy Newly O’Brien (portrayed by Buck Taylor) moved to Dodge City in 1967 and remained until the show went off the air. Pat Hingle portrayed hard-nosed Doctor John Chapman for six episodes in 1971 when Milburn Stone left briefly for health reasons.
Arness and Stone remained through the series entire 20-year run, while Blake brilliantly portrayed the red-headed Kitty for 19 seasons.
Weekly guest stars represented the cream of the acting crop for decades! Here’s an example: Bette Davis, Victor French, Morgan Woodward, Jack Elam, Denver Pyle, Jeanette Nolan, Jim Davis, Warren Oates, Jacqueline Scott, George Kennedy, Ed Nelson, Michael Learned, Forrest Tucker, Paul Fix, Slim Pickens, Bruce Dern, Harry Morgan, Steve Forfest, Richard Kiley, Beverly Garland and Leonard Nimoy.
Here are the episodes included in this boxed set: Matt Gets It (Debut); Hot Spell; Word of Honor; Home Surgery; Obie Tater; Night Incident; Smoking Out the Nolans; Kite’s Reward; The Hunter; The Queue; General Parcley Smith; Magnus; Reed Survives; Professor Lute Bone; No Handcuffs; Reward for Matt; Robin Hood; Yorky; 20-20; Reunion ’78; Helping Hand; Tap Day for Kitty; Indian Scout; The Pest Hole; The Big Board; Hack Prine; Cooter; The Killer; Doc’s Revenge; The Preacher; How to Die for Nothing; Dutch George; Prairie Happy; Chester’s Mail Order Bride; The Guitar; Cara; Mr. and Mrs. Amber; Unmarked Grave; and Alarm and Pleasant Valley.
Was this review helpful to you?
After waiting so many years and being teased by three compliation releases, Gunsmoke is finally being released on DVD in a complete season package.
By releasing the first season of the show on DVD, Gunsmoke is finally being accorded the honor due it but first given to many other shows who didn’t last as long and/or weren’t nearly as good. The show didn’t last 20 years without capturing the imaginations of a lot of viewers. Back in 1955, CBS thought viewers were ready to see an adult Western – one that was not created and written for kids, but one that intended to tap into the large audiences that were rushing to theaters to see Gary Cooper, James Stewart, John Wayne, and Henry Fonda on the prairie.
Casting Wayne protege James Arness as Dodge City, Kansas US Marshal Matt Dillon, Gunsmoke set the stage for all of the great television Westerns that came after it, like Bonanza, The Rifleman, Cheyenne, and others. First, the hero or heroes were stalwart, salt-of-the earth types that resonated humanity and virtuosity, like Arness’ Dillon (and also set the stage for very tall leading men like Chuck Connors of The Rifleman and Clint Walker’s Cheyenne Bodie). Next, stock the show with a spectacular supporting cast – Milburn Stone as Doc, Amanda Blake as Kitty, and Dennis Weaver as deputy Chester Goode. Add a weekly blend of terrific guest stars, throw in superb writing and directing, and the Western television series had its blueprint. And television had one of its best shows of any genre.
I’ll weigh in with this; Gunsmoke in the first season came from a very adult level. They showed us a West that was rugged, merciless, ruthless, lonely, grimy, dirty, sweaty, and corrupt! Along with varing shades of GRAY! It wasn’t all black and white, good vs. bad!!
But on the flip side of that doulbe eagle coin, was justice, compassion, friendship, and hope.
Enjoyable from a nostalgic sense of view or as a first timer to Gunsmoke!
The dvds look great! Clean, clear and sharp black and white tranfers! Enjoy!