Most producers dream of their primetime TV series lasting a decade on the air. This is the platinum standard rarely achieved in a media that five years is normally considered golden. Although for Gunsmoke this was merely halfway through it’s marathon twenty seasons on the air. Thanks to CBS’ resistance to color television, this wasn’t even the last season to be shot on black and white film. Gunsmoke: The Tenth Season – Volume 1 & Volume 2 includes 36 episodes that are rarely shown on television since TVLand and Me-TV would rather run the 9 color seasons. For a lot of casual fans, these will be brand new episodes to their eyes.
“Blue Heaven” brings the unlikely team of Tim O’Connor (Buck Rogers) and Kurt Russell (Big Trouble In Little China) to the streets of Dodge City. They’re both on the run. Tim’s got bigger problems since he’s a wanted man for murder and robbery charges. Kurt’s just wanted by his mother (Wild At Heart‘s Dianne Ladd). “Doctor’s Wife” brings a little competition to town for Doc (Milburn Stone). A new physician sets up his practice. His wife starts a whispering campaign against Doc to drum up business. Harold Gould, the Dean of Thespians, is part of the malpractice mischief. “Take Her, She’s Cheap” makes Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) the object of a farm girl’s affection. But he’s not going to marry and upset Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake). Harry Dean Stanton (Repo Man) is good and creepy. “Hung High” put Matt on the road to escort a prisoner to the gallows. On the way, a lynch mob does the work ahead of schedule. Now Matt’s in trouble with the law. There’s a lot of stars in this episode including George Lindsey (Goober on The Andy Griffith Show), Michael Conrad (Hill Street Blues), Robert Culp (I Spy) and Edward Asner (Up). “Innocence” puts Claude Akins (Sheriff Lobo) in the middle of a love triangle. The wedding plans turn into a mess. “Aunt Thede” introduces us to another relative of Festus (Ken Curtis). She’s eager to set up a still on her land. Dyan Cannon and Frank Cady (Green Acres) guest star.
“Double Entry” involves Matt’s pal (F Troop‘s Forrest Tucker) setting up a business in Dodge City. Matt might not like the services being offered. “One Killer On Ice” brings the double team madness of John Drew Barrymore (Star Trek) and Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider). “Chief Joseph” allows a sick native to be treated like crap while he’s dealing with pneumonia. Robert Loggia (The Sopranos) gets in on the nastiness. “Circus Trick” is a three ring affair involving Warren Oates (The Wild Bunch). “Song for Dying” features Lee Majors (The Six Million Dollar Man) riding into town. “Bank Baby” has Hampton Fancher (writer of Blade Runner) encountering Quint (Burt Reynolds). This was the final season for Burt Reynolds playing Quint. He would go off to Europe to make his stab at Spaghetti Western fame. However his Navaho Joe wouldn’t turn him into a global superstar like Fist Full of Dollars did for Rawhide‘s Clint Eastwood. Burt would return to TV in a few seasons as Dan August. Oddly enough Lee Van Cleef (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) shows up in “The Pariah.”
Evil people want to stop Miss Kitty from selling booze in “Dry Road to Nowhere.” John Saxon (Enter the Dragon) is part of the insanity. “Twenty Miles from Dodge” holds up stagecoach with Miss Kitty. Will she survive with Darren McGavin (Kolchak). Stafford Repp (Batman) and Everett Sloane along for the highway robbery. “Honey Pot” gives us a dose of Rory Calhoun (Motel Hell). “He Who Steals” gets stolen by Russ Tamblyn (West Side Story).
Each Volume of Gunsmoke: The Tenth Season has 18 episodes of Wild West action. The lack of color helps the gritty nature of this season. It’s strange to think how these episodes might have had a longer and more popular life in syndication if they’d just filmed Burt Reynolds in color. His leaving the show didn’t create too big of a hole since so many of the script revolved around the guest stars.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfers bring out the stark feel of life in the Old West. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The levels give you all the bullets shooting across Dodge City. The episodes are subtitled.
No bonus features.
Gunsmoke: The Tenth Season – Volume 1 & Volume 2 marks the end of the Burt Reynolds era. There’s still plenty of outsiders causing trouble around Dodge City for Matt, Doc, Festus and Miss Kitty to fix. Only 10 more seasons to go.
CBS DVD presents Gunsmoke: The Tenth Season – Volume 1 & Volume 2. Starring: James Arness, Ken Curtis, Amanda Blake and Burt Reynolds. Boxset Contents: 36 episodes on 10 DVDs. Released: August 12, 2014.