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The Rifleman: Season 3, Vol. 1 [DVD]

Release Date:05/24/2016
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    Hoping to halt the ratings decline suffered by the ABC western series The Rifleman towards the end of its second season, the series' producers made a handful of significant changes during Season Three. For one thing, the show was moved from its family 9PM Tuesday timeslot to 8:30 PM on the same night, thus avoiding the one-two punch of competing series Dobie Gillis and Alfred Hitchcock Presents (it was now seen opposite the second half of the hour-long NBC oater Laramie and the now-all-rerun Father Knows Best. Next, the incessant preachifying and moralizing of series protagonist Lucas McCain (Chuck Conners) was pared down to its barest minimum, usually reserving Lucas' words of wisdom to his son Mark (Johnny Crawford) to the closing scene of each episode, after 22 minutes' worth of solid action and adventure. Finally, a dash of feminine interest was added to the stew in the shapely form of Millie Scott (Joan Taylor), the feisty but gorgeous new storekeeper in North Fork ("Miss Milly" was first seen in the episode bearing that name, which originally aired November 15, 1960). Although Millie and Lucas get off on the wrong foot, the two later become close (but not too close) friends--and besides, what western series could do without the occasional "damsel in distress" plotline? Demonstrating the newer, "tougher" Lucas McCain, the season opener "Trail of Hate" finds the normally pacifist Lucas seeking revenge when his son Mark is victimized by bank robbers. Other highlights this season include "Seven", in which a gang of condemned murderers hold North Fork in thrall;"The Pitchman", with future Hawaii 5-0 producer Bob Sweeney as a glib lightning rod salesman; Richard Whorf, soon to direct dozens of episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies, plays a drunken artist who redeems himself when he sketches the image of a killer in "The Illustrator"; Buddy Hackett", cast as a villain (!) in one of the first-season episodes, returns as a dimwitted janitor who inadvertently becomes a "fast draw" in "The Clarence Bibs Story"; and the great Agnes Moorehead plays the title role in "Miss Birdie", the story of a peppery old spinster who gets it in her head to capture a notorious outlaw. Season Three is also distinguished by the series' first two-part episode "The Wyoming Story", in which Lucas goes undercover for the government to break up a gang of illegal arms dealers. Not long afterward, we are treated to the series' 100th episode, "Dark Day in North Fork", a harrowing story wherein a blinded Lucas faces a showdown with an old enemy. Finally, the episode "Assault" boasts the directorial talents of Ida Lupino, who'd honed her TV western skills on such classic series as Have Gun, Will Travel. And still later, the episode "The Queue" makes a courageous stand against blind racial prejudice. Unfortunately, the aforementioned "improvements" upon The Rifleman failed to do the trick ratingswise,with the series plummeting to 27th place--which, in all fairness, was largely due to the overall flagging of interest in TV westerns. ~ Hal Erickson

    Cast & Crew

    • Chuck Connors - Lucas McCain
    • Johnny Crawford - Mark McCain
    • Paul Fix - Marshal Micah Torrance
    • Joan Taylor - Miss Milly Scott
    • Patricia Blair - Lou Mallory

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