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Wanted: GUNSMOKE (CBS/1955-1975)

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by JohnHopper, Feb 1, 2019.

  1. JohnHopper

    JohnHopper Supporting Actor

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    Big thanks to Flash, Jeff and Doug (and all those I forgot) for your kind support and loyalty!
    Stay tuned and be there tomorrow for a big surprise …
     
  2. JohnHopper

    JohnHopper Supporting Actor

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    Well, let’s continue our exploration of Gunsmoke! I come out of The Long Branch and walk down the streets of Dodge City and my next stop is… season 12. The series goes in color in the 1966-1967 period and was spoofed in a Wild Wild West episode entitled “The Night of the Surreal McCoy” (season 2) in which agent James West travels through a painting of a small town and faces a gunslinger in a street (actually, agent Artemus Gordon, disguised as a pistolero)—shot in the vein of the series showdown title sequence.

    GUNSMOKE • SEASON 12 (1966-1967) (29 episodes • 50 mins • color)
    The transition to color is quite a shock for those who experience the show in monochrome and keep in mind that the same process occurs for The Wild Wild West. At first, the colors look too bright, the light lacks of contrast and the sets are so unreal and stories soften and simplify but, as time passes, you get used to the change. One more thing about color, it allows to discover that two of the leads are redhead: Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty. The stories continue to be engaging enough with a blatant emphasis on psychological dramas during the first half of the season and then we resume to edgy tales. Unlike season 10 and 11 with a soundstage, the showdown title sequence is renewed and shot in a back lot as in the old days. The producers supervise less episodes than previously: 29 instead of 32.

    This season sees more or less the same big writers like Calvin Clements, Paul Savage, Hal Sitowitz, Clyde Ware and the same directors like Vincent McEveety and Mark Rydell but also some new ones like Richard Colla, Rawhide producer Bernard Kowalski, Irving J. Moore, Charles Rondeau. For the record, Irving J. Moore was a major asset on The Wild Wild West and directed twenty six episodes from that peculiar series.

    The opening and end theme music are renewed. Among other things, CBS musical director and composer Morton Stevens continues to contribute with four scores: “The Jailer”, “Moonstone”, “Muley”, “Ladies from St. Louis”. Apart from Morton Stevens, this season features four Wild Wild West composers: Harry Geller for “Mad Dog”, newcomer Jack Pleis for “Noose of Gold”, Richard Shores for “Snap Decision” and Fred Steiner for “The Mission”. As in season 11, the most prolific composer remains: Leon Klatzkin with a total of eight onscreen credits but not eight original scores, by the way. Leon Klatzkin’s music is dominant and is also tracked on The Wild Wild West. And, above all, one score is provided by Silver Age artists Ernest Gold (“Gunfighter R.I.P”) and Jerry Goldsmith (“Whispering Tree”).

    PRODUCTION TEAM
    producer: John Mantley
    executive producer: Philip Leacock
    story consultant: Paul Savage
    director of photography: Harry Stradling, Jr.


    The team remains the same except that Mantley and Leacock switch positions. Harry Stradling, Jr. still dominates the season but has got two occasional replacements. Working on the last season of Rawhide, cinematographer Neal Beckner shoots four episodes (“Gunfighter R.I.P”, “Moonstone”, “Champion of the World”, “Muley”) and maverick Charles F. Wheeler shoots one (“The Lure”).

    CAST OF CHARACTERS
    regular cast: James Arness (US Marshal Matthew “Matt” Dillon), Ken Curtis (Marshal assistant “Festus” Haggen), Milburn Stone (“Doc” Adams), Amanda Blake (Miss “Kitty” Russell), Roger Ewing (Deputy Thaddeus “Thad” Greenwood).

    The semi regular Thad gets his picture medaillon credits during the opening titles along with the four leads.

    supporting cast: Glenn Strange (Bartender/Fiddle player “Sam” Noonan), Ted Jordan (Freight agent “Nathan” Burke), Woodrow Chambliss (Woody Lathrop), James Nusser (wino “Louie” Pheeters).

    As usual, the strength of season 12 is the colorful guest actors that add weight to the story: see Claude Akins (2), John Anderson, Ed Asner, Timothy Carey, James Daly, Bette Davis, Jim Davis, Bruce Dern, Victor French, Steve Ihnat (2), John Ireland, Ben Johnson, Martin Landau, Darren McGavin, Stephen McNally, Diana Muldaur, Lois Nettleton, Warren Oates, Carroll O’Connor, Albert Salmi, John Saxon, William Shatner, Tom Skerritt (2), Michael Strong, Dub Taylor (3), Torin Thatcher, Jon Voight, Fritz Weaver, Morgan Woodward (2). For the record, three actors are part of director Sam Peckinpah’s team: Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, Dub Taylor.

    THE DVD SETS
    The prints are restored and look wonderful. Anyway, the logo and the title credits are blury during the opening titles. In each episode and at the end of the first set of end credits, a voice-over announcer introduces the next week trailer. It features a selection of separated from the episodes and unrestored next week trailers and, also, English subtitles.
     
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  3. JohnHopper

    JohnHopper Supporting Actor

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    “It's the Wild Wild West, for a showdown, with adventure,” said the announcer in the CBS promo.


    James West spoofing Matt Dillon!
    surreal_1. surreal_2.
     
  4. JohnHopper

    JohnHopper Supporting Actor

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    Find the new line of Gunsmoke during season 12.

    1. The New Showdown Main Titles

    Matt Dillon’s handgun and Matt Dillon faces a gunslinger.
    gunsmoke12_01. gunsmoke12_02.
    Matt Dillon’s face and the first use of the series logo.

    2. The New Opening Titles

    The second use of the series logo.
    gunsmoke12_03.
    gunsmoke12_04.
    The first credits for James Arness.

    3. The New End Titles

    Matt Dillon’s handgun used a background for the producer credits.

    gunsmoke12_05.
    Matt Dillon’s handgun used a background for the executive producer credits.
    gunsmoke12_06.
    Matt Dillon’s hanged hat used a background for the third use of the series logo.
    gunsmoke12_07.
    Matt Dillon’s hanged hat used a background for the second credits of James Arness.
    gunsmoke12_08.
    Matt Dillon’s office winchesters used a background for the story consultant credits.
    gunsmoke12_09.
    Matt Dillon’s office winchesters used a background for the cinematographer credits.

    gunsmoke12_10.
    The CBS logo in color.
    gunsmoke12_11.
     
  5. JohnHopper

    JohnHopper Supporting Actor

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    GUNSMOKE SEASON 12

    Episode #1
    “Snap Decision”
    written by Richard Carr
    directed by Mark Rydell
    music by Richard Shores
    guests: Claude Akins, Michael Strong, Michael Cole, Sam Gilman, Hank Patterson, Orville Sherman


    After the accidental killing of a former friend turned outlaw named Ray Gilcher (actor Sam Gilman), feeling tired and guilty Matt Dillon takes a room at the Dodge House and announces his resignation to Hays City Marshal Clint Tucker (actor Claude Akins) and Festus. At the funeral of Gilcher, Dillon meets Kipp (actor Michael Cole), the son of the deceased one. Later on, bounty hunter Shaver (actor Michael Strong) stops to town and gets acquainted with Kipp. We learn that the so-called son is a fraud and a poker player willing to get a gold watch he used to loose and teams up with Shaver to corner a wanted criminal at the Long Branch.

    It’s an adequate but un-inspired twisted bounty hunter entry about guilt and deceit. The high point is the performance of actor Michael Strong depicting a lousy and manipulative bounty hunter. The main drawback is the flat cinematography and the over-lit look that contrasts sharply with the previous monochrome season 11. The resignation gimmick was also done on Rawhide with trail boss Gil Favor. Composer Richard Shores also works on The Wild Wild West.

    Actor Claude Akins returns from the season 10 “Bad Lady from Brookline”.


    End credits for CBS composer Richard Shores.
    shores12.
     
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  6. Message #86 of 131 Apr 2, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2019
    JohnHopper

    JohnHopper Supporting Actor

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    GUNSMOKE SEASON 12

    Episode #2
    “The Goldtakers”
    written by Clyde Ware
    directed by Vincent McEveety
    music by Leon Klatzkin
    guests: Martin Landau, Roy Jenson, Brad Weston, William Bramley, John Boyer, Woody Chambliss, Charles Wagenheim, Ted Jordan, Charles Francisco, Michael Greene, Denver Pyle


    “Full cooperation. Yeah, I’m not sure that includes commandeering a man’s place of business. I know it doesn’t include beating up on a town citizen.”
    —Marshall Matt Dillon

    After the elimination of a military division, a band of outlaws led by Britton (actor Martin Landau) steals an unusable gold shipment and decides to pose as blue coat soldiers to melt and separate the gold at Dodge City. Matt Dillon leaves town to go fishing with a friend named Caleb Nash (actor Denver Pyle). Pretending to follow a set of rules, Britton posing as Captain Freeman asks the authorization to Thad to use the blacksmith’s shop for making a new rapid-fire weapon but, at the Long Branch, owner Jake Stuck (actor William Bramley) refuses cold because of property reasons and ends up in a cell. Meanwhile Matt Dillon has a good and lazy time at the creek. Britton launches the melting process at the blacksmith but his men get impatient, especially his second Troy (actor Roy Jenson). Things don’t go smoothly and easy as planned …

    It’s a top-tier entry and a fine intruder/imposter episode in the line of the season 11 “Seven Hours to Dawn” (also written by Clyde Ware and directed by Vincent McEveety) in terms of grand scheme and thanks to the cunning and greedy leader character named Britton played by actor Martin Landau who manipulates two main characters: Festus and Matt Dillon. In a way, actor Martin Landau did a Rollin Hand job because, at that time, he was currently working on Mission: Impossible but, in 1965, he also played a devious military (General Grimm) in the subversive putschist episode of The Wild Wild West entitled “The Night of the Red-Eyed Madmen” (directed by Irving J. Moore). Oddly enough, part of the plot of melting gold foreshadows a season 3 episode of Mission: Impossible entitled “The Mercenaries”.

    Basically, the story is divided in four parts: Britton coming to Dodge City, Matt Dillon fishing in the countryside, locked up Jake Stuck yelling in his cell, Matt Dillon is held prisoner. One swift violent scene sums-up very well the duplicity of the outlaws and corrupted power: a farmer stops his buggy next to the blacksmith’s shop and then receives a severe beating-up by the two phony sentries! Don’t miss the grand finalé that sees two sides facing each other as in The Wild Bunch! They should have opened up the season with that smashing one. My only complaint is how a savage outlaw like Britton can turn into a disciplined man so quickly, including the use of government documents! After “Snap Decision”, Matt Dillon changes again his habit and deserts his duty. Find a good ominous score by Leon Klatzkin which is tracked in the season 3 episode of The Wild Wild West entitled “The Night of the Arrow”: an episode that is also about blue soldiers imposters—what a funny coincidence!

    Actor Martin Landau returns from the season 4 “The Patsy” and appears as a guest on many western series (see The Big Valley, Bonanza, Branded, Lawman, Maverick, The Rifleman, Rawhide, Tate, Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Wild Wild West, to name a selection) and was a good friend of Silver Age film star Steve McQueen (see his western output: Trackdown, Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Magnificent Seven, Nevada Smith, Junior Bonner, Tom Horn). Actor William Bramley (“My Father’s Guitar”) and Denver Pyle (“By Line”) all return from season 11.


    End credits for CBS composer Leon Klatzkin.
    klatzkin12.
     
  7. JohnHopper

    JohnHopper Supporting Actor

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    Britton (actor Martin Landau) posing as Captain Freeman.
    goldtakers_01. goldtakers_02. goldtakers_03. goldtakers_04. goldtakers_05. goldtakers_06. goldtakers_07.
     
  8. Message #88 of 131 Apr 2, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2019
    JohnHopper

    JohnHopper Supporting Actor

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    Britton (actor Martin Landau) posing as Captain Freeman.
    goldtakers_08. goldtakers_09. goldtakers_10. goldtakers_11. goldtakers_12. goldtakers_13.

    The posse of Dodge City strikes.
    goldtakers_14. goldtakers_15. goldtakers_16.
     
  9. Jeff Flugel

    Jeff Flugel Screenwriter

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    Nice overview, John! Looking forward to reading your thoughts on season 12. Judging by the screen captures above, the show looks purty darn good in color...

    Head 'em up, move 'em on! Oops...wrong show. ;)
     
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  10. JohnHopper

    JohnHopper Supporting Actor

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    Thank you, Deputy! I'm glad you enjoy it. “The Goldtakers” is one of the two masterpieces from season 12.
     
  11. JohnHopper

    JohnHopper Supporting Actor

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    GUNSMOKE SEASON 12

    Episode #3
    “The Jailer”
    written by Hal Sitowitz
    directed by Vincent McEveety
    music by Morton Stevens
    guests: Bette Davis, Bruce Dern, Robert Sorrells, Zalman King, Tom Skerritt, Julie Sommars


    Just released from the penitentiary after a six years sentence, Lou, Jack and Mike—three Stone brothers—abduct Miss Kitty after closing time at the Long Branch. The mind behind this plot is old and bitter Etta Stone willing to avenge her late husband by forcing Matt Dillon going to see Miss Kitty at her house and then locking him up in the tack room and preparing him for the hanging. Festus, Thad and Doc worry about the absence of their friends. Two sons separatly try to negociate with the prisoners for their releases. Unfortunately, Jack Stone and Miss Kitty get caught by Etta and her two sons in the barn. Later on, Lou Stone discovers that his wife cheats him with his brother Ben. The big payback eventually arrives …

    It’s a real good and weird abduction/revenge drama paired with the subtheme of the cheating wife and supported by the refined score of Morton Stevens and the quality of the overall cast. The character of Etta Stone belongs to the horror anthology Thriller. It loosely reminds the season 11 “The Avengers” in which Miss Kitty and Festus are abducted and judged. The Stone family consists of: Golden Age star Bette Davis as Etta, Bruce Dern as Lou, Robert Sorrells as Mike, Zalman King as Jack, Tom Skerritt as Ben, Julie Sommars as Sara. By sheer coincidence, both Tom Skerritt and Julie Sommars appear as a couple in the season 11 “The Pretender” and Bruce Dern and Zalma King as hired guns in “Ten Little Indians”. After Richard Shores, this is the second composer working on The Wild Wild West.

    Actors Bruce Dern (“Ten Little Indians”, “South Wind”), Robert Sorrells (“Clayton Thaddeus Greenwood”, “Malachi”), Zalman King (“Ten Little Indians”, “My Father, My Son”), Tom Skerritt (“The Pretender”), Julie Sommars (“The Pretender”) all return from season 11.


    End credits for CBS composer Morton Stevens.
    stevens12.
     
  12. bmasters9

    bmasters9 Producer

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    Interesting-- a bad Mike Stone on that CBS Western, before the good Mike Stone (the late, great Karl Malden) on The Streets of San Francisco on ABC!
     
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  13. JohnHopper

    JohnHopper Supporting Actor

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    GUNSMOKE SEASON 12

    Episode #4
    “The Mission”
    written by Richard Carr
    directed by Mark Rydell
    music by Fred Steiner
    guests: Robert Random, Steve Ihnat, Warren Oates, Robert F. Simon, Arch Johnson, Jim Davis, Rafael Campos, Robert Tafur, Ruben Moreno, Michael Abelar, Bert Madrid


    Riding with two extra horses, Matt Dillon heads to the prison of Monterrey, Mexico, to get an American convict wanted for murder named Jim Basset (actor Jim Davis) and bumps into two banditos and a young saddle bum carrying a rebel cap named Reb Jessup (actor Robert Random)—the son of an old Confederate Colonel—that make the two outlaws flee. At the cantina of Santa Rosa, two renegades named Ashe (actor Steve Ihnat) and Laffe (actor Warren Oates) wait for Jessup and, later on, beat up and rob Matt Dillon. Ashe poses as the marshal to free Jim Basset and uses him to commit felonies. Matt Dillon recovers consciousness at the house of two confederate partisans who hold him prisoner because of his legal status but he eventually manages to escape from and goes after the four outlaws.

    It’s an exciting solo Matt Dillon entry, a wild outlaws adventure paired with a critical look on the conferederate cause. The bandit performances of two actors shine: Steve Ihnat as Ashe and Warren Oates as Lafe—Steve Ihnat is as unbridled as in the season 11 “My Father’s Guitar”. At the cantina, actor Warren Oates performs a song at the guitar. After Richard Shores and Morton Stevens, this is the third composer working on The Wild Wild West.

    Actors Rafael Campos (“Ten Little Indians”), Jim Davis (“The Raid”, “Treasure of John Walking Fox”), Steve Ihnat (“My Father’s Guitar”), Warren Oates (“Ten Little Indians”), Robert Random (“South Wind”, “Sweet Billy, Singer of Songs”) all return from season 11. Actors Arch Johnson (“Hammerhead”) and Robert F. Simon (“Song for Dying”) all return from season 10.


    End credits for CBS composer Fred Steiner.
    steiner12.
     
  14. Doug Wallen

    Doug Wallen Lead Actor
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    John, you are doing a great job highlighting these color episodes. I was 12 or 13 when I was introduced to Gunsmoke (1969-1970). I believe that it opened the CBS Monday network broadcast night. Always enjoyed the one-two punch of Gunsmoke and Here's Lucy. As you may have gathered elsewhere, I have slowly been making my way through the three massive Gunsmoke all in ones found in WalMart (3 compilations so far - Season 1-4, Seasons 5-7 and Seasons 8-9). These sets have been at a better price point for me and I have just about learned how to remove the discs from them :D.

    I have been able to covince my wife that Gunsmoke was a pretty good show (even if b/w). She just doesn't care for Chester and is waiting for Festus to arrive. I am looking forward to seeing the hour long episodes that begin with season 7. I have been amazed by the variety of forbidden topics that seem to be just under the surface for a mid 50's series. Seems that television may have been a bit more adult than I was lead to believe. I am really developing a fondness for these characters now that I didn't have during my teens.

    Having these episodes at my fingers is still something I find incredible. Such an enjoyable hobby for someone who spent many hours as a child in front of the tube. I am still amazed that three networks produced so many great series.
     
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  15. Message #95 of 131 Apr 8, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2019
    JohnHopper

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    Thank you, Doug!

    Oddly enough, I discovered the series in 2007 when the first season DVD was offered and it didn't ring any bell. I passed by.
    It is through its music scores that I get interested in seriously watching the show but from the Festus era only.
    I used to order 4 seasons of the series in the last five months: season 10, 11, 12, 13.

    I understand your wife concerning Festus who is the 'country' equivalent of Artemus Gordon from The Wild Wild West
    as a colorful figure and he appears mid-season 9 as a regular character (episode 16, “Prairie Wolfer”).
    He had a one-shot introduction during season 8 (episode 13, “Us Haggens”).

    Prior to his Festus character, actor Ken Curtis guests in as a new character in
    "Jayhawkers" and "Change of Heart" (season 4)
    "The Ex-Urbanites" and "Speak Me Fair" (season 5)
    "Lover Boy" (season 9)
     
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  16. Message #96 of 131 Apr 8, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2019
    JohnHopper

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    GUNSMOKE SEASON 12

    Episode #5
    “The Good People”
    written by James Landis
    directed by Robert Totten
    music supervision by Morton Stevens
    guests: Morgan Woodward, Tom Simcox, Allen Case, Steve Gravers, Charles Wagenheim, Kelton Garwood, Ted Jordan, Woody Chambliss, Clyde Howdy, Frederic Downs, James O’Hara, Shug Fisher


    Three cattlemen from the Rucker family hunt down rustlers moving a heard and hang one innocent drover named Jed Bailey (actor Steve Gravers). An old bounty hunter and now saddle tramp named Silas Shute (actor Shug Fisher) picks up the body of the hanged man believing he’s wanted criminal Jake Daniels and brings it back to Dodge City to get a reward and ends up in a cell for murder charge. The Rucker’s have already removed the rope from the tree and let accuse the bum. But Matt Dillon has a hunch …

    It’s a fair and bitter-sweet entry that combines Film Noir, court-room intrigue, existential family drama about the theme of guilt. The cast for the Rucker’s consists of: Morgan Woodward as Ben, Tom Simcox as the adopted Seth, Allen Case as Gabe. As in the season 11 “The Pretender”, actor Tom Simcox plays again a troubled character with a conscience. The undertaker character of Percy Crump returns from season 11. The courtroom takes place at the Dodge House. Features cues from Katzkin’s “The Goldtakers” during the prologue.

    Actors Morgan Woodward (“Seven Hours to Dawn”, “Taps for Old Jeb”), Tom Simcox (“The Pretender”), Steve Gravers (“Deathwatch”), Kelton Garwood (“Treasure of John Walking Fox” and “Parson Comes to Town”) all returns from season 11. Actor Allen Case returns from the season 9 “The Promoter”.


    End credits for Morton Stevens as a music supervisor.
    ms12_stevens.
     
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  17. JohnHopper

    JohnHopper Supporting Actor

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    GUNSMOKE SEASON 12

    Episode #6
    “Gunfighter R.I.P”
    written by Hal Sitowitz
    story by Michael Fisher
    directed by Mark Rydell
    cinematography by Neal M. Beckner
    music by Ernest Gold
    guests: Darren McGavin, Stefan Gierasch, Michael Conrad, France Nuyen, Don Hanmer, H.T. Tsiang, Allen Emerson


    Professional killer Joe Bascome (actor Darren McGavin) stops in a small town to get a bath and to meet later Paul (actor Michael Conrad) and Mark (actor Stefan Gierasch)—the Douglas brothers—offering $1000 to eliminate Matt Dillon. At the exit of the shaving parlor, he gets mixed up in a feud between three saddle bums and two Chinese people working in a laundry house. In the very end, Bascome is wounded in the leg and in the shoulder, the antogonists are dead as well as the old Chinese man and his daughter Ching Lee (actress France Nuyen) takes care of Bascome by looking for Doc at Dodge City. Time passes and the Douglas brothers remind Bascome his contract but he is also in love with Ching Lee. Things take another turn at Dodge City …

    It’s an intimistic drama and a character study focused on a proud hired killer that humanize himself at his own risk. That kind of story rather fits the Seventies series Kung Fu. As usual, actor Darren McGavin shines! Nuff said… Features some stock music. It’s one of the rare season 12 episodes shot by DP Neal M. Beckner who used to work on the last season of Rawhide.

    Actors Darren McGavin (“The Hostage”), France Nuyen (“Honor Before Justice”), Michael Conrad (“The Raid”) all return from season 11.


    End credits for CBS composer Ernest Gold.
    gold.
    End credits for CBS cinematographer Neal M. Beckner.
    beckner_d2.
     
  18. JohnHopper

    JohnHopper Supporting Actor

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    Actor Darren McGavin as professional killer Joe Bascome.
    gunfighter01. gunfighter02. gunfighter03. gunfighter04. gunfighter05. gunfighter06. gunfighter07. gunfighter08. gunfighter09. gunfighter10.
     
  19. Doug Wallen

    Doug Wallen Lead Actor
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    This one keeps popping up on TVLAND in a bad print.
     
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  20. Jeff Flugel

    Jeff Flugel Screenwriter

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    Boy, ain't that the truth! So many great, iconic shows produced by only a few networks. The same is true for the U.K. during the same period (1950s through the 1970s)...essentially only 2 main channels, but so much good content. And now that a large portion of these great shows are out on DVD, for us to savor at our leisure...well, it doesn't get much better than that, for a classic TV fan!


    Love me some Darrin McGavin! You got me curious about the above episode, John! McGavin is looking lean and mean in those screencaps, too.
     
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