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DVD Review: Rawhide – The Third Season, Volume One

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Rawhide premiered on January 9, 1959 on CBS and ran until January 4, 1966. The series was produced by Charles Marquis Warren, who also produced several early episodes of Gunsmoke. Warren used his 1958 film Cattle Empire as the basis for the series. He had directed the movie, and screenwriter Endre Bohem would become a story editor and consultant on the series. Further, Paul Brinegar, Steve Raines, and Rocky Shahan who had all appeared in Cattle Empire, would later join the cast of Rawhide when the series premiered in 1959.

Though Rawhide had completed its original run a few years before I was born, I have vivid memories of the show. When I was a little girl, Clint Eastwood had become a huge star with the spaghetti westerns he made while on his summer hiatus from the series and subsequent mega-hits such as Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, Every Which Way But Loose, and many others. As a result, episodes of Rawhide were aired frequently on TBS, which my brother and I watched whenever we could.

Rawhide_S3_PK_T20497-158.jpgClint Eastwood's face is the most prominent figure on the box art for Rawhide: The Third Season – Volume One. However the show was very much an ensemble cast and Eastwood's character of Rowdy Yates was one of several square-jawed cowboy types that filled out the cast. In the fifties and sixties, the primetime television schedule was bursting with westerns – Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, The Big Valley, and Bonanza were all big hits.

Rawhide's plot was tailor made for success on television of the time. There were twenty riders looking after 3,000 head of cattle. The drovers included trail boss Gil Favor (Eric Fleming), ramrod Rowdy Yates (Clint Eastwood), rider Jim Quince (Steven Raines), rider Joe Scarlet (Rocky Shahan), rider Simon Blake (Raymond St. Jacques), scout Pete Nolan (Sheb Wooley), the wrangler, Jesús "Hey Soos" Patines (Robert Cabal), the cook, George Washington Wishbone (Paul Brinegar), the cook's assistant, Harkness "Mushy" Mushgrove (James Murdock), and John Ireland as Jed Colby.

A typical episode of Rawhide involved the drovers coming upon people on the trail in some sort of distress or involved in criminal activity. Occasionally one of the members of the cattle drive would find their way into a nearby town and encounter some sort of trouble from which the other cattle drivers would have to rescue them. The members of the cattle drive were like a family, and used their common sense and tough western exteriors to survive various difficult situations.

Paramount's release of Rawhide: The Third Season – Volume One presents fifteen episodes from the 1960-61 season. Here is a rundown of the set's episodes:

"Incident at Rojo Canyon" – A singer's search for her father is stalled when the drovers find themselves under attack by Confederate soldiers still fighting the Civil War.

"Incident of the Challenge" – Gil joins the search for a girl who is said to have mystical powers. I thought this episode was one of the weaker of the set. Favor gets knocked off his horse and is knocked out. A guy name Mitla finds Favor and cares for him until he recovers. Grateful, Gil joins Mitla in his search for Julia Garcia, a girl said to possess magical powers to cure.

"Incident at Dragoon Crossing" – Rowdy tries to prove that the acting trail boss, John Cord is in cahoots with the outlaws that are charging high tolls at a river crossing. This episode is a typical Rawhide theme — the younger Rowdy trying to prove his worth to Gil, and the drovers having to deal with outlaws.

"Incident of the Night Visitor" – Jeff Barkley catches a stranger in the camp, a boy of about twelve. He wings Jeff. They track the boy's footprints. Favor finds the boy. He was traveling with some horse traders led by Nick Mesa. Favor takes the boy back to Mesa, but he doesn't want the boy back.

"Incident of the Slavemaster" – The drovers attempt to rescue the former Union soldiers who've been enslaved by a deranged ex-Confederate officer. One of the strongest episodes on this set, Peter Lorre guest stars as Victor Laurier, a man formerly in charge of a P.O.W. camp.

"Incident on the Road to Yesterday" – A wrangler asks Gil to return $250 to a stage line he held up and to check on his first love. In the process, the wrangler learns he is wanted for murder.

"Incident at Superstition Prairie" – Wishbone finds an Indian left to die in a cave, and rescues him. Another recurring theme: the men of Rawhide always sought to rescue those in distress, popular or not.

"Incident at Poco Tiempo" – The Poco Tiempo bank has been robbed. Rowdy and Quince are suspects. Nearly every time one of the drovers leaves the trail and goes into town, trouble results. "Incident at Poco Tiempo" is one of the best episodes on the set, well written and paced, Agnes Moorehead (Bewitched) makes a memorable guest appearance as a nun.

"Incident of the Captive" – Harkness Musgrove's mother is coming to take him home to operate his father's barber shop. Mushy asks to be a drover and Favor says yes. One of the "funnier" episodes of Rawhide ever produced.

"Incident of the Buffalo Soldier" – Rowdy joins the chase after an embittered cavalryman who has been accused of killing another soldier. This episode is a bit of a look into Clint Eastwood's future stardom in spaghetti westerns.

"Incident of the Broken Word" – A rancher resorts to murder to keep Gil from finding out that the cattle he plans to sell him are infected with anthrax.

"Incident at the Top of the World" – Gil hires a new driver who has just spent five years in an army hospital and is addicted to morphine.

"Incident Near the Promised Land" – A bank scare forces Gil to make a grazing deal that could ruin him financially.

"Incident of the Big Blowout" – The drovers celebrate the end of the drive, and in the drunken celebration, Rowdy is mistaken for another man.

"Incident of the Fish Out of Water" – Gil returns to Philadelphia to visit his family, and must decide whether to stay and raise his two daughters.

Rawhide_S3_PK_T21048-51.jpgRawhide is a very well written series and offers a good mix of dramatic situations to keep things interesting. Along with the cattle drive, men are arrested for murder, suspected of murder, deal with drug problems, rescue people along the way, and deal with their own domestic issues. All of this makes for a pretty solid hour of western-themed television viewing.

Like many television shows of the time, Rawhide featured many current and future stars in guest spots. The following famous names turn up in these episodes: Julie London, Dane Clark, Peter Lorre, John Agar, Frankie Laine (he sings the classic Rawhide theme song), Chester Morris, Agnes Moorehead, Mercedes McCambridge, Woody Strode, E.G. Marshall, Dick York, Robert Culp, and Mary Astor.

Fans of Rawhide, Clint Eastwood, and old television westerns will not be disappointed. Rawhide: The Third Season – Volume One has fifteen classic episodes featuring guest appearances by some of Hollywood's biggest names.

This is a four-DVD set, presented in full screen format. For a black-and-white show over 45 years old, the video is remarkably clear. Aside from some occasional fuzziness around the edges, the transfer is very well done. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital: English Mono and sounds pretty good for an older show.

This set has no special features.

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