Gunsmoke: The Fourth Season, Volume 2 – DVD Review

When a show hits 156 episodes, this normally means the end of the line. Lately a cable drama hits 100 episodes and channel celebrates by shutting down production. That’s more than enough for syndication action so why pay for more? That wasn’t always the case. After watching Gunsmoke: The Fourth Season, Volume 2, you’re not even a quarter of the way to the final episode. The show lasted 20 seasons and 635 episodes. The series about Dodge City lasted about as long as the Wild West era. This is still a time when Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness), Chester (Dennis Weaver), Doc (Milburn Stone) and Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake) kept their business to a half hour slot.

“Love of a Good Woman” twists the usual stranger seeking revenge story. Kevin Hagen (Little House on the Prairie) arrives in town looking to get a piece of Marshall Dillion for sending him to prison for five years. Before he can have his showdown, he gets sick and finds himself being treated by Doc’s old nurse from the Civil War. Will her compassion ease his anger or will he get off his deathbed to put Dillion deep in Boot Hill? “Jaywakers” explains the nickname for the college basketball team from Kansas. There’s an issue with them and a cattle herd, “Kitty’s Rebellion” shows what happens when an old pal comes to town and discovers her new profession. He gets defensive when others offend her. This gets to the point where he’s bad for business. Kitty has to lay down her own law letting him know she’s not as pious as he believes. He’s not sure how to take the news that his ideal woman isn’t his dream. “Sky” is almost a Law & Order: SVU episode. Kate has the hots for an extremely young Billy, but he’s not into a cougar. That night, Matt has to investigate a shooting involving Kate. The owner of the boarding house swears Billy shot the woman in order to get to a stash of cash. They can’t believe it. While on Billy’s trail, they discover quite a few disturbing facts about the guy.

“Doc Quits” brings medical competition to Dodge City. A new doctor comes to town with lower prices and more sizzle. Doc can’t stand how his regular patients have gone to the new guy. He doesn’t trust the guy’s medical knowledge. Is this going to end ugly for an unsuspecting townsperson? “The Bear” frames Denver Pyle (Dukes of Hazzard) for murder when he’s about to get married. Russell Johnson (Gilligan’s Island‘s Professor) gets involved. “The Coward” has a cheap gambler trying to get a freebie hitman to do his bidding. He pushes the subject of how killing Matt Dillion would make a man’s reputation in hopes someone will do it for him. Is someone foolish enough to be a pro bono hitman? “The F.U.” might be the dirtiest title for a TV episode ever aired on broadcast TV. Joe Flynn (McHale’s Navy) gets killed after a testy card game with Bert Freed (TV’s Shane). Freed is the immediate suspect especially since he’s fled town on a train. It’s up to Matt and Chester to bring him back for trial. Ironically, Flynn would eventually die under mysterious circumstances, but wouldn’t get the same level of police investigation. “Wind” has gamblers at Miss Kitty’s saloon demanding a piece of Lady Luck in the for of one of her girls.

“Renegade White” throws Matt off his horse so that he’s easy picking for the Cheyene. Can he keep his scalp? “Change of Heart” makes Ken Curtis play someone other than Festus. He’s up to no good in his new identity. He plots to swindle his brother’s ranch. “The Choice” has a wanted man get a job in Dodge City. Mat doesn’t have an issue with this black mark. “The Never Was a Horse” brings gunman in town hoping to showdown with Matt on the dirt main drag. He probably got the message from “The Coward.” “Cheyennes” gets messy when a family is killed by tribal members. Matt wants to nail the white guys who sold the Indians firepower.

Amazing how even after so many episodes, the actors don’t look ready to split the show. They’ve become inhabitants of Dodge City. They’re always ready to deal with the outsiders that want women, revenge or cash. The revenge stories are always the best since they allow bad guys to go nuts while Matt Dillion keeps his cool. This might be his ultimate secret to winning all those showdowns.

The Episodes
“Love of a Good Woman,” “Jayhawkers,” “Kitty’s Rebellion,” “Sky,” “Doc Quits,” “The Bear,” “The Coward,” “The F.U.,” “Wind,” “Fawn,” “Renegade White,” “Murder Warrant,” “Change of Heart,” “Buffalo Hunter,” “The Choice,” “There Never Was a Horse,” “Print Asper.” “The Constable,” “Blue Horse” and “Cheyennes.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer quality is rather sharp on these black and white episodes. You can tell the difference between the exterior locations and faked soundstage work. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The levels are fine. The shots ring out strong. The episodes are subtitled.

Sponsor Spots (1:21) includes James Arness commercials for Remington shaving products and LM Cigarettes.

Gunsmoke: The Fourth Season, Volume 2 serves up another visit to Dodge City. Marshal Matt Dillon dishes up the justice that keeps this town a refuge of civilization. He’s prepared to battle off any trouble the rolls onto the streets like tumbleweeds. Just a shame that he wasn’t able to stop Joe Flynn from dying.

CBS DVD presents Gunsmoke: The Fourth Season, Volume 2. Starring: James Arness, Dennis Weaver, Milburn Stone and Amanda Blake. Boxset Contents: 20 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released on DVD: December 14, 2010.

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