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DVD Review: Gunsmoke – The Third Season, Volume 1

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Written by Hombre Divertido

After starting on radio in 1952, Gunsmoke came to television in September of 1955 and remained for a record-setting twenty years, which will finally be broken in the 2009 television season by The Simpsons. On December 9th Paramount released 19 Episodes from the third season of this classic western.

With the six-foot seven-inch James Arness as the imposing Marshall Matt Dillon imparting both the legal system and sometimes his own brand of justice, these episodes play out as simple good-versus-evil short plays that are both well written and well acted.

Arness is usually accompanied by well-meaning Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver), who is listed in some publications as his deputy though his specific role is not particularly clear in these episodes, as they solve various crimes, and assist Dodge City’s Doctor Galen ‘Doc’ Adams (Milburn Stone), and Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake), who ran The Long Branch Saloon, with any troubles they might be having.

Many of the episodes in this three-disc set seem surprisingly violent for the era with innocent bystanders being shot, women being beaten, Dillon and Goode often burying bodies, etc. There is also a high level of drama as these episodes are far more dialog-driven than one might expect which could be a reflection of the show’s radio roots.

Much of the credit of the success of the show has to go to Arness whose demeanor was tough, but possessed an engaging smile, and occasionally displayed an endearing sense of humor. Marshall Dillon often attempted to resolve issues with peaceful logic, but could draw his gun or throw a punch as fast as necessary, when his peaceful resolutions were failing.

Some of the guest star appearances in these episodes are priceless as we get to see the likes of Pernell Roberts, Jack Lord, and Jack Klugman playing villains. Morey Amsterdam also makes a fun appearance in an episode entitled “Joe Phy.”

There is not a lot of bonus material here, but this release does include sponsor spots featuring Arness in several commercials. The ads are primarily for cigarettes, including a morbidly amusing one in which Arness is give a carton of cigarettes as a Christmas present. With these episodes only running thirty minutes when aired, Paramount could have given us all thirty-nine episodes in one release rather than breaking it up into volumes.

Recommendation: For those looking for action-packed westerns full of shootouts and fights, Gunsmoke may actually seem tame or slow, but for those who can appreciate the solid performances of the actors and the nostalgia associated with classic westerns of the fifties, this is a worthwhile addition to any collection.

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