Gunsmoke: The Third Season, Volume 2
Directed by Ted Post et al
Running Time: 523 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
Date released: May 26, 2009
Date reviewed: May 15, 2009
The third season of Gunsmoke began the first of four successive seasons with the show 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 third season offers ample proof for its at-the-time growing mainstream appeal.
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 occasionally, and there are plenty of confrontations with folks both wicked and 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.
James Arness continues making a great impression as Marshall Matt Dillon in the third season. So strong was his impact, in fact, that he earned his second Emmy nomination as Best Actor for his work in Season Three. About half of the box’s twenty episodes allow him to introduce the episode waxing philosophically while wandering through Dodge City’s infamous Boot Hill cemetery. Dennis Weaver, who also was Emmy-nominated for his outstanding 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, and Amanda Blake serves up whisky and an attentive ear as Miss Kitty Russell of the Long Branch Saloon.
Gunsmoke didn’t go the guest star route in casting its series episodes, but quite a few famous faces turn up during the second half of the third season. Among the most familiar faces are Corey Allen, Jack Weston, Werner Klemperer, Phyllis Coates, Murray Hamilton, Claude Akins, Patricia Barry, Harry Dean Stanton, June Lockhart, Glenn Morris, Strother Martin, Virginia Gregg, Kevin Hagen, Barney Phillips, John Dehner, Ross Martin, Peggy McCay, Stafford Repp, Ned Glass, Allan “Rocky” Lane, Jeanette Nolan, Raymond Bailey, Marshall Thompson, Ruta Lee, Simon Oakland, and Jack Cassidy.
Here’s the list of the second half of season three’s episodes contained in this set:
1 - Claustrophobia
2 - Ma Tennis (this haunting episode is my favorite of the season)
3 - Sunday Supplement
4 - Wild West
5 - The Cabin
6 - Dirt
7 - Dooly Surrenders
8 - Joke’s on Us
9 - Bottleman
10 - Laughing Gas
11 - Texas Cowboys
12 - Amy’s Good Deed
13 - Hanging Man
14 - Innocent Broad
15 - The Big Con
16 - Widow’s Mite
17 - Chester’s Hanging
18 - Carmen
19 - Overland Express (exciting adventure; one of the best)
20 - The Gentleman
The program’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio is delivered faithfully in these transfers. Though some episodes display heavier grain than others, all are sharp and beautifully restored transfers. The grayscale is perfectly delivered with vivid contrast that brings out deep blacks in the image with excellent shadow detail. There are a few specks here and there and a slight scratch or two, and the lack of anamorphic enhancement means there will occasionally be flashing in jackets and some aliasing, too. Still, these are beautiful looking transfers that belie the age of the original production. Most of the episodes are divided into 5 chapters though some are broken into 6 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is very typical for the era of this show’s production. Some of the episodes feature some light hiss and flutter, but most offer a reasonably solid mono sound experience that’s only occasionally thin-sounding and a bit shrill.
The only bonus item is a montage of two sponsor ads featuring the cast of the show. Arness, Stone, and Blake hawk L&M Cigarettes while Arness sings the praises of Remington shavers. The montage is in 4:3 and lasts 1 ¾ minutes.
The disc features trailers for The Wid Wild West, Perry Mason, and Mission Impossible.
Gunsmoke won the Emmy as the Best Drama Series during the 1957-1958 television season (it also won for film editing), and the episodes contained in this box set of the second half of the season give ample proof why it triumphed. The stories are tightly written and excellently performed. The box set while spare on bonus features offers transfers that belie their more than fifty years of age. Highly recommended!