HTF DVD REVIEW: Gunsmoke: The Fourth Season, Volume 2

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Matt Hough, Dec 7, 2010.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer

    Apr 24, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Charlotte, NC
    Real Name:
    Matt Hough

    Gunsmoke: The Fourth Season, Volume 2
    Directed by Arthur Hiller et al

    Studio: CBS/Paramount
    Year: 1959
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    Running Time: 523 minutes
    Rating: NR
    Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
    Subtitles: SDH

    MSRP: $ 39.99

    Release Date: December 14, 2010

    Review Date: December 7, 2010

    The Series


    The fourth season of Gunsmoke continued the show’s four successive seasons at the top of the Nielsen rating charts, and watching the shows again for the first time in decades, I can understand its appeal. The half hour dramas each week are lean and briskly paced affairs with appealing regular characters featuring a constant stream of problems that Marshall Dillon and company must grapple with each week. This three disc set covering the second half of the fourth season offers ample proof for its at-the-time total mainstream appeal where the characters were becoming iconic touchstones in everyone’s lexicons.

    Gunsmoke is indeed an adult western. It is much more concerned with moral lessons that could be learned in the space of a half hour than it is in presenting non-stop action and firepower. Yes, there are gunfights fairly often, and there are plenty of confrontations with folks either wicked or merely misled. But despite a few action-oriented episodes, most of these stories are more humanistic in nature, allowing wrongdoers to either be punished for their crimes or, if they somehow manage to outwit the law, find themselves worse off for their moral turpitude. Quite a few of the guilty parties attempt to face-off with Matt Dillon (James Arness), but the outcome is never a pretty one.

    James Arness continues making a great impression as Marshal Matt Dillon in the fourth season. So strong was his impact, in fact, that he earned his third Emmy nomination as Best Actor for his work in season four. In a continuing slow change from previous seasons, only in three of this set’s twenty episodes do the writers allow him to introduce the show waxing philosophically while wandering through Dodge City’s infamous Boot Hill cemetery. Dennis Weaver, who won the year’s Emmy for his outstanding supporting work this season, is around to steal all his scenes as the sweet-natured, drawling deputy Chester Goode while Milburn Stone continues as the irascible Doc Adams (who is close to quitting in one memorable episode this season), and Amanda Blake serves up whisky and an attentive ear as Miss Kitty Russell of the Long Branch Saloon earning her first Emmy nomination in the process quite possibly for a scathing monologue she delivers to an old friend of the family from New Orleans who is shocked to find out what Miss Kitty’s occupation is.

    Gunsmoke didn’t go the guest star route in casting its series episodes, but quite a few famous faces turn up during the last half of the fourth season. Among the most familiar faces are Kevin Hagen, Jacquline Scott, Jack Elam, Lane Bradford, Ken Curtis (two appearances as different characters; he’d join the regular cast years later as Festus), Russell Johnson, Denver Pyle, Grant Williams, Norma Crane, Barney Phillips (two different appearances), Whitney Blake, Mark Miller, Dabbs Greer (twice in the recurring role as the town’s general store owner), Robert Rockwell, Hank Patterson, Ed Nelson, James Drury, Lucy Marlow, Harold J. Stone, Darryl Hickman, Jack Lambert, J. Pat O’Malley, Ted Knight, Strother Martin, and Gene Nelson.

    Here are the twenty episodes which make up the contents of the second half of season four:

    1 – Love of a Good Woman

    2 – Jayhawkers

    3 – Kitty’s Rebellion

    4 – Sky

    5 – Doc Quits

    6 – The Bear

    7 – The Coward

    8 – The F.U.

    9 – Wind

    10 – Fawn

    11 – Renegade White

    12 – Murder Warrant

    13 – Change of Heart

    14 – Buffalo Hunter

    15 – The Choice

    16 – There Never Was a Horse

    17 – Print Asper

    18 – The Constable

    19 – Blue Horse

    20 - Cheyennes

    Video Quality


    The programs feature the original 1.33:1 broadcast ratio. While the grain structure varies from episode to episode, the grayscale renderings of all the programs are exemplary, especially for television films of this age. With contrast dialed in perfectly, sharpness is crisp, and details in facial features and in clothes are nicely delineated. Black levels can be impressively deep on occasion. There are a few video artifacts with some slight spotting and some dust specks, but on the whole the transfers look marvelous. Each episode has been divided into 5 chapters.

    Audio Quality


    The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. The dialogue has been well recorded for the most part (only occasionally does the recording reveal a muffled presence) and fits in nicely with the sound effects and music in the mix. Select episodes do exhibit some slight hiss and minor crackling, but it’s never overwhelmingly noticeable.

    Special Features


    As in the first half of season four set, there is a montage of sponsor ads for Remington shavers and L&M cigarettes. It runs 1 ½ minutes in 4:3.

    There are promo trailers for Cannon, Jake and the Fatman, The Wild Wild West, and Mission: Impossible.

    In Conclusion

    3.5/5 (not an average)

    The second half of season four of Gunsmoke contains another rich selection of stories well acted and briskly paced. The audio and video of these vintage films is as good as one could hope for. Recommended!

    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

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