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Miss Kitty and the Gunsmoke boys are back for more, but some of the thrill is gone....
Paramount / 859 Minutes / 1961-1962 / Unrated / Street Date: December 11, 2012
For those unfamiliar with the sagas and drama that take place within the city limits of Dodge City, Gunsmoke follows Matt Dillon (James Arness) as he keeps trouble out of town and adheres to the tried-and-true formula of western lore. As the series marches into its seventh go-round on this Vol. 1 set (Paramount continues to stubbornly split up the show's seasons), Gunsmoke seems less inclined than ever to perpetuate cliff-hanger story structures, which takes away some of its what-happens-next? thrill, but let's be frank: Gunsmoke is always Gunsmoke, and that's okay.
This 5-DVD collection usually starts an episode by introducing an outsider, identifies why said outsider is trouble, and then Dillon and the boys either kick the baddie out of town or shoot him (or her) dead in the street. There are issues when a local man finds anger at the thought of his widowed father taking a Native American bride (The Squaw), a gold-panner who seeks riches but doesn't exactly find it (All That), and of course there's a revolving door of guest stars here to notice: folks like Harry Dean Stanton, Leonard Nimoy, and Dick Sargent all show up for a bit.
Alas, Gunsmoke: The Seventh Season, Vol. 1 is not the show at its most impressive. The mere act of seeing familiar faces - Dennis Weaver as Chester Goode, Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty - allows a nostalgic draw to permeate these discs, but even if the show remains compulsively watchable, this edition don't represent the series like its glory days did. This is entertaining television, of course, but there's no way around it: Gunsmoke has definitely been better.