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DVD review: 'Gunsmoke' The Sixth Season Volume 1

The original 30-minute episodes of “Gunsmoke” were the best of the long-running series.
Published: August 24, 2012

‘Gunsmoke' The Sixth Season Volume 1

The sixth season of “Gunsmoke” (1960-'61) was its last as a 30-minutes-per-episode series and its last truly great string of teleplays.

John Meston — co-creator along with director Norman MacDonnell of the original radio series that was adapted for television in 1955 — was still writing the majority of the scripts, reveling in upending old-fashioned Western fiction cliches in favor of gritty, quirky, colorful characters, realistic portrayals of 19th-century hardship, and frequently dark story lines with untidy and often tragic endings.

The original cast beloved by millions was still intact, with 6-foot-7-inch James Arness as the incorruptible, no-nonsense, leather-tough U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon, Amanda Blake as Kitty Russell, the saloonkeeper with a heart of gold and an unspoken love for the big lawman, Milburn Stone as the cantankerous but caring Dr. Galen “Doc” Adams, and the inimitable Dennis Weaver — former University of Oklahoma drama major and track star — as “Mr. Dillon's” Okie-drawling, limping, loyal assistant, Chester Goode.

The first volume of the sixth season contains 19 episodes (TV series averaged well over 30 episodes a year back then).

Actors who made numerous appearances in different roles over the years crop up in several segments, including John Dehner, this time as a bullying outlaw named Rack, who captures Matt and tries to use him as a passport out of the country; John Hoyt as a mean rancher who pushes his mild-mannered son too far in “No Chip,” and Kenneth Tobey as a troublemaking buffalo hunter who may or may not have killed one of Matt's best friends in “The Worm.”

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