DVD Review: The Virginian (The Final Season)

This is going to sound confusing, but stick with me. The eighth season was the final season of The Virginian even though the series lasted another season. You are confused. For the show’s 9th season, the network retooled it into The Men From Shiloh. The episodes would revolve around the cast going away from the Shiloh Ranch. The eighth season represents the end of the traditional format for The Virginian. The Virginian (James Drury) and Trampas (Doug McClure) were making the Shiloh a successful operation. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a major change for the final season. David Sutton (Good Morning America‘s David Hartman) rode off into the sunset. Jim Horn (National Lampoon’s Animal House‘s Tim Matheson) arrived eager to put his young back to work on The Virginian: The Final Season.

“The Long Road Home” marks the arrival of Jim Horn. He’s been riding with Leslie Nielsen (Police Squad). They end up getting hired on as temp hands at the Shiloh ranch. The Virginian is impressed by their ability to get the job done. He wants them fulltime. But can the duo really settle down? We know that at least one of them wants to be a part of the team. “Halfway Back from Hell” sends Trampas down to Arizona. He falls in with a group of nearly unarmed men having issues with local Indians. Turns out the reason they’re unarmed is their status as prisoners. Trampas finds himself fearing for his life between the Indians and the convicts. “Family Man” gives Jim his first major storyline when a young husband has to split town and leave his pregnant wife behind. Jim ends up delivering the baby and help run the abandoned wife’s farm. Can he keep up this life? What’s going to happen when the real dad returns? “A Love to Remember” brings west a female reporter (House‘s Diane Baker) looking for a story about working on a ranch. The bigger story is that she falls hard for The Virginian. Can their love blossom on the range?

Trampas goes on vacation only to find himself up on murder charges in “The Substitute.” A bounty hunter swears Trampas killed a doctor. It was easier to be railroaded for a crime in an era before CSI action. “Home to Methuselah” brings a lawman to Shiloh in order to say hello to his old friend The Virginian. He talks his pal into going hunting for him. Little does the Virginian know that the target is human and not deer. Timothy Carey (Paths of Glory) might be the prey. “A Woman of Stone” deals with what happens to a white widow of a dead Indian. In this case, Bethel Leslie must leave the reservation with her children. One of the kids might be sick with what killer her husband. Can she get help? “Black Jade” beams William Shatner (Star Trek) into the old West. There’s a trade of meat for a watch which turns out might be hot. “You Can Lead a Horse to Water” has a deputized Trampas get robbed in a stagecoach. What makes it worse for him is the highway man is a woman. Along for the ride is Strother Martin (The Wilde Bunch) and Noah Beery Jr. (The Rockford Files).

“Nightmare” brings the legendary Joan Crawford to Shiloh. Trampas better not put up her vest on a wire hanger. She’s a successful businesswoman up on murder charges. Her only hope if the Virginian to keep her from the noose. The Virginian was the third longest running Western behind Gunsmoke and Bonanza. It seems appropriate in this “final season” to have Dennis Weaver (Chester on Gunsmoke) playing a judge on “Train of Darkness.” He’s not really a judge, but a hired gun. On a train ride with Jim Horn, other riders are eager to kill the Judge. “A King’s Ransom” lets Patrick Macnee (The Avengers) play the bad guy. He kidnaps the Shiloh Ranch owner (John McIntire). He seems destined to get his ransom. “The Gift” is none other than Tab Hunter (Polyester). He’s a murdering bank robber looking for the loot from his last heist.

The Virginian: The Final Season is as big and involving as its Wyoming landscape. The series is also noteworthy for having episodes that last 76 minutes. This is long enough to be considered a feature length motion picture. This cinematic length is reflected in how the stories play out. The action plays out without being rushed except to make the commercial breaks. Guest characters really have time to be introduced and develop. Normally when there’s a final season, there’s a bit of sadness that it came to an end. Instead fans can look forward to see how it was transformed into The Men From Shiloh.

The Episodes
“The Long Ride Home,” “A Flash of Darkness,” “Halfway Back from Hell,” “The Power Seekers,” “The Family Man,” “The Runaway,” “A Love to Remember,” “The Substitute,” “The Bugler,” “Home to Methuselah,” “A Touch of Hands,” “Journey to Scathelock,” “A Woman of Stone,” “Black Jade,” “You Can Lead a Horse to Water,” “Nightmare,” “Holocaust,” “Train of Darkness,” “A Time of Terror,” “No War for the Warrior,” “A King’s Ransom,” The Sins of the Fathers” “Rich Man, Poor Man” and “The Gift.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers look fine with the colors being a good tone. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You’ll hear plenty of good gunshots crack from the speakers.

No bonus features.

Timeless Media Group present The Virginian: The Final Season. Starring: James Drury, John McIntire, Doug McClure and Tim Matheson. Boxset Content: 24 episodes on 9 DVDs. Released: July 16, 2013.

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