DVD Review: Bonanza (The Official Eleventh Season – Volume 1 & 2)

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America was going through so much turmoil in the Fall of 1969. The Vietnam War was still raging. The Cold War heats up when an American sub collides with a Soviet sub deep under the waves. The Manson Family were killing people in Los Angeles. The Zodiac Killer was claiming victims around San Francisco. Woodstock was eclipsed by the brutality the Rolling Stones at Altamont. Bryan Adams had just experienced “The Summer of 69.” TV viewers retreated from the headlines of the 1960s to the sanctuary of the Ponderosa ranch in the 1860s. Bonanza was still in the Top 5 of TV shows as people were still taking an hour off to spend time watching the Cartwrights ride their land outside Virginia City, Nevada. The main cast this season still consisted of father Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene), his sons Hoss (Dan Blocker) and Little Joe (Michael Landon) and ranch foreman Candy (David Canary). Victor Sen Yung was also back in the recurring role of Hop Sing, the cook. Bonanza: The Official Eleventh Season – Volume 1 & 2 has the 28 episodes that gave people a break from the headlines of the day.

“Another Windmill to Go” starts out with a psychedelic image of a man rowing his way across the Ponderosa in a boat. While this seems kinda goofy, it becomes serious business when Ben discovers because of an obscure law, the goofy rower might be the new owner of the land. You can fear for the legal outcome since the judge is played by Foster Brooks. You might remember him as the drunk comic that dominated so many Dean Martin Roasts with his boozy routines. “The Witness” has a woman witness the Logan gang (including The Wild Bunch‘s Bo Hopkins) rob her stagecoach. The Cartwrights agree to keep her safe at the ranch except they might need to be kept safe from her. “The Silence at Stillwater” has Candy get busted by a ruthless sheriff (Batman‘s Pat Hingle) on a variety of charges that will have him hanging. Could he have really gone on a murder spree? Strother Martin brings another Wild Bunch member to the set. “A Lawman’s Lot is Not a Happy One” puts Hoss in charge of the sheriff gig on a temp basis. Tom Bosley (Happy Days) wants to get busted so he doesn’t have to marry his penpal bride. “Anatomy of a Lynching” has the town upset when a suspect gets sprung from jail on murder charges after the key witnesses no show. “To Stop A War” has Steve Forrest in the middle of a range war a few years before he’d arm up for S.W.A.T. “The Medal” has Dean Stockwell (Blue Velvet) as decorated soldier with money issues needing help from the Cartwrights. He also has issues with John Beck (Rollerball). “Meena” has Little Joe meet up with his future Highway to Heaven co-star Victor French. “Dead Wrong” brings John Carradine out West as a preacher. “Abner Willoughby’s Return” has John Astin (The Addams Family) arrive as a seaman looking for his loot he stashed in a gloryhole. “It’s a Small World” has a former circus performer dealing with the prejudices of the local banker. IT stars Michael Dunn, best know as Dr. Loveless on The Wild Wild West.

“The Big Jackpot” has Candy quit when he inherits a fortune. But did he really get all that money? “Trouble with Amy” has Jo Van Fleet (East of Eden) as Amy. She’s one of the first characters exposed as a hoarder on TV. “The Lady and the Mark” has an old employee stop by the ranch in order to protect his fortune from conmen only to have to worry about the woman of his dreams showing up. “Is There Any Man Here?” has Mariette Hartley (remember her from the Polaroid camera commercials with James Garner?) wanting to hook up with Ben Cartwright. Somehow he has an issue dating a woman that’s as old as his sons. Talk about a problem we’ve overcome in the last 50 years. “The Law and Bill Burgess” has David Cassidy playing a troubled teen before he’d become a teen singing sensation in the ’70s as part of The Partridge Family. “Return Engagement” has Sally Kellerman (M*A*S*H) back in town to perform and Hoss wants to be her number one fan. Because it was an FCC requirement, Bruce Dern arrives in “The Gold Mine.” He’s an evil character wanting a former slave to cough up a gold claim. Joining Bruce is Ross Hagen, best known as Rommel in Sidehackers that ran on Mystery Science Theater 3000. “Decision at Los Robles” has Ben get into serious trouble in Mexico. Ted Cassidy (Lurch on The Addams Family pops up. “Caution, Easter Bunny Crossing” sticks Hoss in a rabbit costume. Do you need any other excuse to watch this episode? How about Vic Tayback (Mel on Alice) guest stars? “What Are Pardners For?” brings on Slim Pickens (Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles). “A Matter of Circumstance” has Little Joe bust up his arm. Vincent Van Patten (The Bionic Boy on The Six Million Dollar Man) springs up.

Even after a decade on the air, The Cartwrights were a relief for people wanting an hour of Western action to escape the headlines of the day. Although it wasn’t a complete escape since half the time one member of the family was being brought up on charges. Even Ben gets shot on vacation and ends up on trial. While the writers weren’t sneaking in scripts that reflected the turbulence of the time, the episodes reminded people that death and legal nightmares had always lurked on this land. Bonanza: The Official Eleventh Season – Volume 1 & 2 is more adventure from their corner of Nevada. For those keeping track, there’s only three more seasons of Bonanza to go.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The color transfers once more clean up these episodes compared to the quality of how they’ve looked in syndication for decades. It is like you’re seeing them for the first time. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You’ll hear all those Western sounds clearly. The episodes are subtitled.

Photo Galleries are included on “The Witness,” “The Silence at Stillwater,” “Anatomy of a Lynching,” “The Medal,” “The Stalker,” “Meena,” “The Darker Shadow,” “Dead Wrong,” “It’s a Small World,” “The Big Jackpot,” “The Trouble With Amy,” “The Lady and the Mark,” “Is There a Man Here,” “The Law and Billy Burgess,” “Return Engagement,” “Decision At Los Robles,” “Caution: Easter Bunny Crossing,” “The Horse Trader” and “What Are Pardners For?”

Promo Trailers are included for “The Stalker,” “Dead Wrong,” “Caution: Easter Bunny Crossing” and “What Are Parders For.” They are not color corrected so they look rather rough including red shifting.

Audio Commentary on “Dead Wrong” and “Caution: Easter Bunny Crossing” with Andrew J. Klyde gives background on the episode and what was going on for the series during season 11.

Sponsor Material (1:03) is Lorne selling the Chevy Impala.

The David Canary Candids are photos from the Barbara Lay Kieffer collection.

Photo Gallery of Dapper Dan Blocker has Hoss looking like he’s ready for an Octoberfest

CBS DVD present Bonanza: The Official Eleventh Season – Volume 1. Starring: Lorne Greene, Dan Blocker, Michael Landon, David Canary & Victor Sen Yung. Boxset Contents: 16 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: October 27, 2020.

CBS DVD present Bonanza: The Official Eleventh Season – Volume 2. Starring: Lorne Greene, Dan Blocker, Michael Landon, David Canary & Victor Sen Yung. Boxset Contents: 12 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released: October 27, 2020.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.