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

Normally after a decade on TV, a series is in syndication. Before Gunsmoke, television shows didn’t last this long on network TV. Even more exceptional is that when CBS finally decided to make the transition to broadcasting in full color, Gunsmoke shoot up in the ratings from being in the middling 30s to the Top 5. American viewers wanted more of Dodge City now that they could see the brown in the dirt main street. By season 15 the show was battling for the top spot – nearly a decade after it was the most popular show on the dial. Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness), Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake), Doc (Milburn Stone), Festus (Ken Curtis) and Newly (Buck Taylor) were riding high once more. Gunsmoke: The Fifteenth Season – Volume 1 & 2 has all 26 episodes split over two boxsets.

“The Devil’s Outpost” has Matt bust an outlaw when his crew tries to rob a stagecoach. The trip back is hairy as the crew wants to free their member. “Stryker” has an ex-US Marshal drop by to visit Matt. But it’s not much of a social visit since Matt’s testimony sent this guy to prison for 15 years for being a crooked cop. Knott’s Landing‘s Joan Van Ark is part of the revenge plot. “Coreyville” has nothing to do with me even if Kevin Coughlin play Billy Joe Corey. Bruce Glover (Diamonds Are Forever) causes trouble. “A Man Called ‘Smith'” has an outlaw (Police Woman‘s Earl Holliman. Playing the role of a buffalo hunter is Sid Haig (Devil’s Rejects). Sid recently passed away after an extraordinarily long career that had him pop up in so many movies and TV shows. “Charlie Noon” has Matt taking James Best (Dukes of Hazzard) to jail when there’s an issue with the local Indians. Ron Howard (Happy Days) pops up as still a child star. “MacGraw” brings back Sid Haig in a different role. Sid also a mobster in the James Bond flick Diamonds Are Forever.

“Roots of Fear” has Jodie Foster (Silence of the Lambs) as a daughter of a family that loses all their money they’d saved right when they are about to buy a home. It’s a tale that seems ripped from today’s headlines. “The War Priest” makes Richard Anderson (Oscar Goldman on The Six Million Dollar Man) face off with ForreVist Tucker (F Troop). That’s PPV worthy. “The Badge” has Matt get wounded in a gun fight. This freaks out Miss Kitty so much that she sells her saloon and hits the road. Can she really feel safe outside of Dodge City? “Kiowa” has Victor French (Highway to Heaven) and John Beck (Rollerball) tracking down the Indians that kidnapped a family member. “Hacket” brings back Earl Holiman as a train robber looking for the guy who got cold feet and screwed up his great heist.

Gunsmoke: The Fifteenth Season – Volume 1 & 2 has the series still telling fine western tales after all the seasons. The locals are played by the same folks as the 14th season so there’s no major new character introduction. For those curious, there’s five more years to go until CBS pulled the plug on the action (although they did make a few reunion movies). Part of the show was that you don’t get all the major characters through out the episodes. Everyone got their solo story over the season which probably made the cast a bit relieved to have a steady gig that wasn’t a complete grind. They used to use this time off to be stars at rodeos across America. That was their version of the comic conventions of their days. It’s interesting to think that the show was a hit during the peak of the Vietnam War. This wasn’t a true case of people wanting a safe nostalgia for entertainment since each episode had someone wanting revenge or getting gunned down by Matt. This might have been a simple time, but it was far from a non-lethal era.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The restoration job on the episodes really makes them look sharper than when the originally ran in 1969. These are so much better than the reruns that got battered around on cable over the decades. The colors are right and things look fine during the night scenes. If you need a gift for Dad, you can’t go wrong with upgrading his memories of Dodge City. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. You’ll hear the horses clop on the trail. The episodes are subtitled.

Previews (1:01) are provided for many of the episodes. You’ll be reminded of how crummy the episodes used to look before this DVD.

CBS DVD presents Gunsmoke: The Fifteenth Season – Volume 1. Starring: James Arness, Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake, Ken Curtis and Buck Taylor . Rated: Unrated. Boxset Contents 15 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: October 1, 2019

CBS DVD presents Gunsmoke: The Fifteenth Season – Volume 2. Starring: James Arness, Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake, Ken Curtis and Buck Taylor . Rated: Unrated. Boxset Contents 11 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released: October 1, 2019

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