DVD Review: Rawhide (The Fifth Season, Volume 1 & 2)

Let’s not focus on Clint Eastwood berating a stool. He didn’t seem to be that focused either. Instead let’s go back to the beginning when Clint Eastwood became an international superstar and not merely a supporting player. Rawhide: The Fifth Season, Volume 1 & Volume 2 was filmed around the time Clint sealed the deal with Sergio Leone to make the Spaghetti Western classic A Fistful of Dollars. Before he could fly to Spain, Clint still had a cattle drive with 29 more incidents along the way.

“Incident of the Hunter” makes Rowdy Yates (Clint) flashback to his time as Confederate solider in a POW camp. A new man joins the crew that might have been a fellow POW. What makes this reunion awkward is a fake name and knowledge that the guy has been working as a bounty hunter. What is his game on the trail? Will he be dragging off Gil Favor (Eric Fleming), Wishbone (Paul Brinegar) or Clay Forrester (Charles H. Gray)? “Incident at Cactus Wells” sticks Keenan Wynn (Once Upon a Time in the West) on the fringe of the herd.

“Incident of the Four Horsemen” makes Favor hire four riders to keep the herd from range war turf. Trouble is the four might wanting to get the cattle in the middle of the feud. Claude Akins (Sheriff Lobo) should never be trusted near horses. “Incident of the Lost Woman” finds an abandoned woman and her baby roaming the wilderness. She claims to be a widow, but forgets to inform them that her husband’s relatives might be following. A young Harry Dean Stanton arrives on a cloud of dust as kin to the baby. Another relative is played by Hampton Fancher. His face might be unfamiliar, but he co-wrote the screenplay of Blade Runner and directed The Minus Man.

Rowdy takes over the drive on “Incident of the Wolvers.” Things go smooth until wolves attack the herd. He’s not too thrilled at hiring locals to scare off the predators. “Incident at Sugar Creek” brings the sweetness of Beverly Garland (Not of This Earth). She defies her townsfolk and treats a drover with tick fever. In a case of “do you have an identical cousin,” Claude Akins returns for “Incident at Quivira” as Sergeant Parker. Claude appeared on 7 episodes of Rawhide. This time he’s part of a group looking for a magical item.

“Incident at Spider Rocks” scars the drovers with the arrival of Lon Chaney Jr. The boys are hustled at a saloon and don’t appreciate being cheated. How could they not know the games were crooked when James Best (Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard) is in the room. “Incident at Crooked Hat” features a gunfight involving mistaken identity. James Gregory (Inspector Luger on Barney Miller) gets swept int the confusion. “Incident of Judgment Day” brings more of Rowdy’s old POW pals from the Confederacy. There’s problems in the reunion. Claude Rains (The Invisible Man) appears on the range. “Incident of the Gallows Tree” brings back Beverly Garland. Quince (Steve Raines) gets busted on murder charges.

“Incident of the Comanchero” gives us nuns on the range. Robert Loggia (Innocent Blood) brings a little gangster to the cattle drive. “Incident at Rio Doloroso” brings the Latin joy of Cesar Romero (The Joke on Batman). A lack of communications leads Rowdy and Gil in trouble for a local dying. Are they going to be strung up? “Incident at Alkali Sink” marries Russell Johnson (The Professor on Gilligan’s Island) to Ruta Lee (Funny Face). Before they can enjoy the honeymoon, her dad shows up calling Russell nasty things.

After that final episode, Rowdy kept on riding to Spain to play cowboy for an Italian crew. What’s interesting is that A Fist Full of Dollars, wasn’t released in America until after Rawhide was canceled midway through its eighth season. He never got the movie star slumming on TV attitude found in John Travolta and Eddie Murphy. He was just part of the drovers that kept encountering people who look like Claude Akins.

“Incident of the Hunter,” “Incident of the Portrait,” “Incident at Cactus Wells,” “Incident of the Prodigal Son,” “Incident of the Four Horsemen,” “Incident of the Lost Woman,” “Incident of the Dogfaces,” “Incident of the Wolvers,” “Incident at Sugar Creek,” “Incident of the Reluctant Bridegroom,” “Incident of the Querencias,” “Incident at Quivira,” “Incident of Decision,” “Incident of the Buryin’ Men,” “Incident at the Trail’s End,” “Incident at Spider Rock,” “Incident of the Mountain Man,” “Incident at Crooked Hat,” “Incident of Judgement Day,” “Incident of the Gallows Tree,” “Incident of the Married Widow,” “Incident of the Pale Rider,” “Incident of the Comanchero,” “Incident of the Clown,” “Incident of the Black Ace,” “Incident of the Hostages,” “Incident of White Eyes,” “Incident at Rio Doloroso” and “Incident at Alkali Sink.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfers look much better than Season Four. They look as if taken off new HD masters rather than the old broadcast masters. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. The cows come through cleanly. The episodes are subtitled.

Previews (1:01) are provided for 23 episodes. The teasers are introduced by the drovers.

Rawhide: The Fifth Season, Volume 1 & Volume 2 capture Clint Eastwood before his European gig that turned him into an international superstar. He’s still Rowdy Yates for this time on the range. You can get both volumes bundled together at a cheaper price.

CBS DVD presents Rawhide: The Fifth Season, Volume 1 & Volume 2. Starring: Clint Eastwood, Eric Fleming, Paul Brinegar and Steve Raines. Boxset Contents: 29 episodes on 8 DVDs. Released: September 18, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

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