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Gunsmoke: The Seventh Season, Vol. 1 [5 Discs] [DVD]

Release Date:12/11/2012
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    Overall Customer Rating:
    100% of customers would recommend this product to a friend (6 out of 6)

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    1961 was a year of transition for Gunsmoke. The radio version of the popular series, which had been running since 1952, was cancelled; the Prime Time TV version, which had adhered to the 30-minute format since its inception in 1955, expanded to a full hour; and Dennis Weaver, cast as Matt Dillon's drawling deputy sheriff Chester Good, had announced his intention to leave the show as soon as he was able to secure a suitable starring series of his own. The series' seventh season began with a newly-filmed version of the familiar Gunsmoke opening sequence, in which Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) outdraws an unidentified opponent on the deserted streets of Dodge City. This would be one of the few "exterior" glimpses of Dodge we'd see this year; to compensate for the extra cost of filming a 60-minute program each week, the series moved indoors for most of its shooting schedule, in a studio-fabricated facsimile of Matt's familiar stomping grounds. Too, the interior of the Long Branch Saloon, owned by Matt's great and good friend Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake), now boasted a brighter, cleaner "look", not to mention a new face behind the bar: Loyal bartender Sam, played by veteran movie heavy Glenn Strange (best known for his portrayal of the Frankenstein monster in several Universal horror epics of the 1940s!) One thing hadn't changed, however: The shabby office of Dodge City's venerable "sawbones" Doc Adams (Milburn Stone), who took full advantage of the new one-hour format to launch longer and more vitriolic verbal attacks against his "friendly enemy" Chester. The extended length of each episode also permitted the producers and writers to more fully flesh out the supporting characters and the various good and bad guys (and girls) who rode through Dodge on a weekly basis. Season Seven established the soon-to-be-familiar Gunsmoke pattern of spending several minutes establishing what seemed to be the main plotline, only to veer off in another direction entirely when unexpected events (usually violent in nature) dictated such a radical development. Too, the hour-long episodes contained far less of Matt Dillon than in previous seasons: Frequently he wouldn't show up until well into the story, and sometimes he'd barely appear at all until the end, when he'd rush in to solve the dilemma at hand with gun and fist. Although it wasn't well publicized at the time, star James Arness (who now owned a hefty percentage of the show) had worked out a contract whereby he'd only be required to work three days a week, explaining Dillon's increasingly conspicuous absences. As in previous season, the 34 episodes featured during Season Seven were an embarrassment of riches insofar as familiar character actors were concerned. Among those appearing this season are George Kennedy, Buddy Ebsen, Leonard Nimoy, Harry Dean Stanton, Lois Nettleton and Edgar Buchanan. ~ Hal Erickson

    Cast & Crew

    • James Arness - Marshal Matt Dillon
    • Milburn Stone - Dr. Galen `Doc' Adams
    • Amanda Blake - Kitty Russell
    • Dennis Weaver - Chester Goode
    • Ken Curtis - Festus Haggen

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