DVD Review: Gunsmoke (The Eighth Season, Volume 1 & 2)

Plenty of strangers have arrived in Dodge City. Mostly they’ve meant trouble for Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness), Chester (Dennis Weaver), Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake) and Doc (Milburn Stone). Gunsmoke: The Eighth Season, Volume 1 and Volume 2 brings in two strangers that altered the show. One would become an international superstar while the other would evolve into a major co-star. Even after more seasons than the normal western, Gunsmoke was still evolving.

“The Search” opens the season with Matt showing he goes beyond the call of duty to help. A guy becomes paralyzed when thrown from his horse. Matt has to go through dangerous country on foot to get help. Do you suspect guest star Leonard Nimoy is the future superstar? That’s not the case this time. “Quint Asper Comes Home” brings Burt Reynolds into town as Quint Asper. He’s a half-Comanche that’s furious over the death of his father. He’s out for revenge. Matt’s wants to channel that anger to something that will serve the town and not give him another body to plant in Boot Hill. The rehab does work since Quint stuck around until season 10. The arrival of Burt Reynolds would be culturally significant since months later, his character would inspire the naming of one Quentin Tarantino. The arrival of Reynolds on the set would build up his friendship with stuntman Hal Needham. The duo would eventually team up with Needham in the directing chair for Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run. Who could have predicted the arrival of the angry Quint would inspire the future of cinema? There’s also a future Star Trek regular sighting with James Doohan in a non-Scotty role.

“Root Down” is another episode where Chester nearly gets trapped in a marriage. He was like Cosmo’s bachelor of the year on the frontier. “Jenny” has bank robber arrive in town using his loot to gamble. What he doesn’t count on is his girlfriend (Ruta Lee) flirting with Marshal Dillon. This might not be the best way to launder stolen cash. “The Trappers” has two hunters get into trouble in the wilderness. Strother Martin (The Wild Bunch) flees for his life. But his partner doesn’t die and now wants him dead. “The Hunger” puts Joe Flynn (McHale’s Navy) in the Wild West. A woman and her daughter are bring held against their will by a sodbuster. “The Way It Is” is owned by Claude Akins. What he really wants to do is own Miss Kitty. How can she resist the charms of the future Sheriff Lobo?

“Us Haggens” marks the arrival of Ken Curtis as Festus Haggen. The future lawman is out for revenge. Turns out someone has killed his twin brother. Him and Denver Pyle (Dukes of Hazzard) are out for blood. How will Matt make him be a peacemaker? Festus would take over Chester’s role when Dennis Weaver split the show at the end of the season. This was not Ken Curtis’ first time on Gunsmoke. He played other characters before landing the one that stuck around. “Old Comrade” puts Frank Sutton (Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.) in a pair of cowboy food.

Volume 2 starts out with “The Bad One” which has a girl lying about her bad boyfriend. “Ash” has a man change after a bang on the head. Can he be restored to his old self? Amongst the supporting actors is Adam West (Batman). “Quint’s Indian” finds him framed as a horse thief. The locals think the blacksmith is guilty. “I Call Him Wonder” brings back Leonard Nimoy as another character. “With a Smile” has a rich man’s son swear his daddy will get him found innocent. Amongst the faces is James Best (Dukes of Hazzard). “Quint-Cident” makes the sex symbol understand that some ladies won’t take no for an answer. In this case a rich woman wants him to suffer for rebuffing her advances. “The Quest for Asa Janin” puts Matt to the extreme to find if a man really killed a saloon girl even after the guy is convicted. Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez pops up serving drinks.

Gunsmoke: The Eighth Season, Volume 1 and Volume 2 lets Burt Reynolds join Dodge City to keep things hopping. He brings a youthful sex appeal to a show that has been getting rather old. Although the series still had 12 more seasons to go. Festus’ appearance is also a delight. Little did viewers know that Ken Curtis would turn Festus into a regular. His next appearance in season 9 would have him as another character. But the producers would realize the viewers needed more Festus.

The Episodes
Volume 1
“The Search,” “Call Me Dodie,” “Quint Asper Comes Home,” “Root Down,” “Jenny,” “Collie’s Free,” “The Ditch,” “The Trappers,” “Phoebe Strunk,” “The Hunger,” “Abe Blocker,” “The Way It Is,” “Us Haggens,” “Uncle Sunday,” “False Front,” “Old Comrade,” “Louis Pheeters,” “The Renegades” and “Cotter’s Girl.”

Volume 2
“The Bad One,” “The Cousin,” “Shona,” “Ash,” “Blind Man’s Bluff,” “Quint’s Indian,” “Anybody Can Kill a Marshal,” “Two of a Kind,” “I Call Him Wonder,” “With a Smile,” “The Far Places,” “Panacea Sykes,” “Tell Chester,” “Quint-Cident,” “Old York,” “Daddy Went Away,” “The Odyssey of Jubal Tanner,” “Jeb” and “The Quest for Asa Janin.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfers bring out the glowing nature of a young Burt Reynolds. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. Things sound fine from the frontier. The episodes are subtitled.

Previews are provided for several of the episodes.

Sponsor Material reminds us who brought us Gunsmoke including Micrin mouthwash and Arrestin cough medicine. These ran after the opening credits when Matt holstered his gun.

Gunsmoke: The Eighth Season, Volume 1 and Volume 2 are significant for introducing Burt Reynolds and Festus to the streets of Dodge City.

CBS DVD presents Gunsmoke: The Eighth Season, Volume 1. Starring: James Arness, Amanda Blake and Burt Reynolds. Boxset Content: 19 episodes on 5 DVDs. Released: May 7, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.

CBS DVD presents Gunsmoke: The Eighth Season, Volume 2. Starring: James Arness, Dennis Weaver and Milburn Stone. Boxset Content: 19 episodes on 5 DVDs. Released: May 7, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.

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