DVD Review: Rawhide (The Eighth and Final Season)

The year 1965 must have been a strange time to be Clint Eastwood. Rawhide was entering its eighth season. The endless cattle drive was changing since Gil Favor (Eric Fleming) had quit being the trail boss. Rowdy Yates (Eastwood) would now take over the drovers. He’d be the man to keep those doggies rolling. While Eastwood must have enjoyed the promotion to true TV star, he was becoming a major movie star in Europe and Asia. A Fistful of Dollars was making serious box office dollars outside the USA. Clint had spent his summer hiatus making For A Few Dollars More. Everywhere outside of America, Clint was the face of the Spaghetti Western. Another big change was Rawhide moving from its longtime Friday night slot to Tuesday night opposite Combat! and My Mother the Car. A stranger threat to the show was CBS about to swap over to full color shows. What would the future hold for the longtime black and white series? Rawhide: The Eighth and Final Season spoils the answer.

“Encounter at Boot Hill” makes Rowdy’s first day at the top of the command chain a mess. A drover gets killed while another is injured when they stumble across a lynching. The sheriff (Kolchak: The Night Stalker‘s Simon Oakland) doesn’t care if the guys were innocent. Along for the ride are Raymond St. Jacques (Coffin Ed Johnson in Come Back, Charleston Blue) and Timothy Carey (Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory). “Ride A Crooked Mile” brings us troublemaker John Drew Barrymore (Drew Barrymore’s dad). He’s making Rowdy’s life miserable. “Six Weeks to Bent Fork” has the crew pushing the cattle hard down the trail in quest of a big bonus payoff. James Gregory (Barney Miller) has to push L.Q. Jones (The Wild Bunch) to make it quick.

More should be said about Raymond St. Jacques joining the drovers this season. In the world of the TV Westerns, he was the rare black cowboy that wasn’t merely a guest star. He was part of Rowdy’s team. “Walk Into Terror” has him stuck in a collapsed mine with Quince (Steve Raines). What’s even more scary is the only two guys that can free him are Claude Akins (Sheriff Lobo) and Bruce Dern (Nebraska). “Escort to Doom” puts Rip Torn (The Larry Sanders Show) in the role of a chief to a group of Cherikowa Indians. Perhaps this is how the Salty Dog was introduced to the West? “Hostage for Hanging” puts Rowdy in the clutches of Robert Blake (Beretta) and Warren Oates (The Wild Bunch). He’s doomed. “The Vasquez Woman” turns out to be part of Cesar Romero’s family.

“Duel at Daybreak” unleashes the simmering anger of Charles Bronson (Death Wish). Strange to think that in a few years both Eastwood and Bronson would be the biggest stars in movies. “The Testing Post” has the cavalry arrive to claim a few head of cattle. Rowdy has no problem supporting the troops. However he learns that the military men are secretly cattle rustlers. Rory Calhoun (Angel) is part of the subterfuge. “Crossing at White Feather” brings the series to an end with the tale of a drunk drover really screwing up on company time.

This must have been a confusing time for Clint Eastwood. He was becoming a movie star at the same time he was finally the star of Rawhide. Supposedly he was getting exhausted at the series grueling production schedule. But could he ride off into the sunset like Fleming? Would fans turn on him? Turns out Clint didn’t have to answer that question since CBS canceled the show mid-season. He would be free to head back to Spain for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Rawhide was replaced by the more colorful and family friendly Daktari that did much better in the time slot. In the end, Rawhide ended at the right time.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers bring out the richness of the location shooting. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You can still hear the cattle in the distance as Clint works on his squints. The episodes are subtitled.

No bonus features.

Rawhide: The Eighth and Final Season wraps up the exploits of Clint Eastwood before he became a major movie star. He finally gets to lead the cattle drive. Sadly his journey is only half a season. But there’s plenty of exploits on the trail.

CBS DVD presents Rawhide: The Eighth and Final Season. Starring: Clint Eastwood, Paul Bringegar, Steve Raines and Raymond St. Jacques. Boxset Contents: 13 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: June 3, 2014.

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