During its first season on CBS, Gunsmoke wasn’t in the top thirty in the television ratings. It was during the series second year that that the show caught on, eventually becoming the year’s seventh most popular program. From then on, Gunsmoke became one of the most popular westerns in television history, running for twenty seasons from 1955-1975.
Matt Dillon (James Arness) is the Marshall of Dodge City. He does everything he can to prevent the use of guns in the town. Instead, he prefers to show the townsfolk other alternatives for solving their differences. While many westerns of the time focused on shoot outs and saloon brawls, Matt Dillion regularly uses his smarts and quickness to capture the bad guys and have them punished for their crimes. Occasionally there are action scenes involving gunplay, but those moments are few and far between.
In the second season, it is clear that James Arness is becoming the focal point of the series. More than half the episodes on this three DVD set begin with Marshall Dillon walking through Dodge City’s Boot Hill cemetery, waxing philosophically about everything from his need for Doc Adams, to why men hurt other men. Dillon doesn’t claim to have all the answers; He just tries to be a moral man and do the best job he can.
Dennis Weaver steals every scene he’s in, as the good natured but clueless Chester Goode. He’s like the western Barney Fife. He idolizes his boss and wants to do a good job but has no idea how to do it; he’s so good-natured, nobody has the heart to tell him to consider a different profession.
Milburn Stone plays the testy but dedicated Doc Adams, and Amanda Blake appears as Miss Kitty Russell, always ready to pour a drink and lend a sympathetic ear at the Long Branch Saloon. By the start of Gunsmoke’s second season it was becoming increasingly obvious that Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty were developing a special relationship.
Several famous or soon-to-be-famous faces pop up in Gunmsmoke: The Second Season, Volume 1. Among the most familiar are Tommy Kirk, Andrew Duggan, Denver Pyle, Claude Akins, Richard Deacon, Carl Betz, Stuart Whitman, Mike Connors (though he was known as “Touch Connors” then), Marian Seldes, Cloris Leachman, and Angie Dickinson as a very unrealistic Indian.
Sam Peckinpah, who would later write and direct such classics as The Wild Bunch and The Getaway, wrote a couple of the episodes on the Gunsmoke: The Second Season, Volume 1 set including: “The Round Up” and “Poor Pearl.”
Some fans will be disappointed that Paramount has chosen to release season two of Gunsmoke in two installments. Volume 1 has the first 20 of the 39 episodes originally shown during Gunsmoke’s second season. No release date has been announced for Gunsmoke: The Second Season, Volume 2. However, fans of Gunsmoke will definitely want to pick this set up.
The video quality of Gunsmoke: The Second Season, Volume 1 is surprisingly good for a fifty year old show. The black and white picture is very clean and crisp. The audio is presented in Dolby digital 2.0. The sound quality is fairly good, there are occasional hisses in the soundtrack, but none more than is to be expected on a television show this old. As per usual, the special features in these old shows from Paramount are fairly non-existent. Gunsmoke: The Second Season, Volume 1 does offer a few sponsor commercials featuring James Arness and Amanda Blake plugging L&M cigarettes. In another, Arness plugs Remington electric shavers.