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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Drama > Western > Crime > Mystery > Legal > TV > The Fugitive – The Fourth & Final Season, Volume One (1966 – 1967) + Gunsmoke – The Fourth Season, Volume One (1958 – 1959) + Perry Mason – Season 5, Volume 2 (1962/CBS DVD Sets)

The Fugitive – The Fourth & Final Season, Volume One (1966 – 1967) + Gunsmoke – The Fourth Season, Volume One (1958 – 1959) + Perry Mason – Season 5, Volume 2 (1962/CBS DVD Sets)


Picture: B-/C+/C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C/C-/D     Episodes: B-



Continuing our general look at classic TV from the CBS archives, we look at three shows people still talk about and are well into finding their entire output on DVD.  For Gunsmoke and Perry Mason, they ran so long that it will be a while before their entire runs make it since there are so many shows, but the original Fugitive is coming to its end.  This coverage is interesting as the last Fugitive season was in color, so it is our first look at those shows.  We have never covered any actual season of Gunsmoke, though we have covered other episodes and TV movies and the series Perry Mason continues to be far superior to the belated TV movie revival which is nowhere as challenging on the level of a puzzle.


Here is our previous Fugitive coverage:


Season One, Volume One



Season Two, Volume One



Season Two, Volume Two



Season Three, Volume Two




The controversy about music being replaced for copyright reasons spoiled the fun of the shows being issued, but that is not an issue here and this first half of the final season of the show, Quinn Martin ramped up the suspense and though they were not flush with money, had to spend more on the shows since they moved to full color and it is as strong a season as the show would have all the way to the record-setting ratings for the final episode that will conclude the next and final set.


In the case of this Season Four, Volume One set, here are the episodes, including guest stars:


1)     Last Oasis (Hope Lange, Peter Mark Richman, Arch Johnson)

2)     Death Is The Door Prize (Lois Nettleton, Ossie Davis, Howard Da Silva)

3)     A Clean & Quiet Town (Michael Strong, Carol Eve Rossen, William Bromley)

4)     The Sharp Edge Of Chivalry (Robert Drivas, Eduard Franz, Madlyn Rhue, Rosemary Murphy, Richard Anderson, Ellen Corby)

5)     Ten Thousand Pieces Of Silver (Paul Mantee, Lin McCarthy, Ford Rainey)

6)     Joshua’s Kingdom (Kim Darby, Harry Townes, Tom Skerritt, Walter Burke)

7)     Second Sight (Tim Considine, Ned Glass, Ted Knight, Janet MacLachlan)

8)     Wine Is A Traitor (Roy Thinness, James Gregory, Richard O’Brien)

9)     Approach With Care (Denny Miller, Dabney Coleman, Michael Conrad)

10)  Nobody Loses All The Time (Don Dubbins, Ben Wright, Herbert Ellis)

11)  Right In The Middle Of The Season (Dean Jagger, Nancy Malone)

12)  The Devil’s Disciples (Bruce Dern, Lou Antonio, Diana Hyland)

13)  The Blessing Of Liberty (Julie Sommars, Ludwig Donath, Tony Mustane, Noam Pitlik)

14)  The Evil Men Do (James Daly, Elizabeth Allen, Barry Russo, Tom Signorelli)

15)  Run The Man Down (James Broderick, Edward Asner, Val Avery, Roy Engel, Stuart Nisbet)


The shows has to pick up the pace a bit and the producers knew this should be the last season because David Janssen’s Richard Kimble could not run forever, but I still think the show was in the spirit it began with and there is no doubt the makers cared about the audience.  Barry Morse was still showing up in many episodes as Lieutenant Philip Gerard, obsessed with catching Kimble certain that he had murdered his wife.


The show holds up very well for its age and I look forward to revisiting its conclusion.



As for Gunsmoke, here is our previous coverage of official copies of the classic series in its 50th Anniversary two DVD volumes where I discussed the show and its origins:





There are also the later TV movie revivals, which were thankfully limited:





This is amazingly the first time I have had the chance to see the arc of any season of the very long-running show and when you watch it like that, you can see why it was one of the bets and most successful of all TV Westerns, especially in a glut of them.  Part of it had to do with the character focus, but there is another aspect that is never discussed about ht success of the show because the fact that it never felt as forced as most of its competitors.  The show has different eras (which goes beyond separation by decades of black & white versus color) that form in chunks of every few seasons or so and that kept the show going and so fresh for so long.


Then there is James Arness, who was rarely equaled in the genre on TV as a lead, such a natural in the role, it is remarkable to see today.  Amanda Blake is also interesting as neither the school teacher or bad girl split typical of old movie Westerns, but a character who could have been either, but is a mature woman who will not let her Miss Kitty be a victim or be minimalized in a man’s world.  The camera likes both of them, they can both act and they create a special chemistry that kept the show a step ahead character-wise from the competition.  In the case of this Season Four, Volume One set, it was hitting its early stride.


19 half-hour shows (the series was still under 30 minutes at this time, but episode length does not necessarily separate my theory of eras for the show) are all here and have their moments and surprises for an older series.  And Dennis Weaver was here early on as Chester as well as Milburn Stone as Doc.


Finally comes Perry Mason, which we have only covered limited episodes of here:


Season Four, Volume One



Season Four, Volume Two




That means we missed the early seasons (due in part to strong early press demand, understandably), but I have seen the earliest episodes (of course) and can say the show was solid early on and only became more polished as it moved on.  Picking up on Season Five, Volume Two, the 15 hour-long shows (over 4 DVDs) the show definitely found its early stride and the shows move along smoothly, written for an audience that more than likely read several of the actual novels when viewers read more books back in the day.


The spirit of the show respected the spirit of the books and though a few feature films were tried of Mason prior to TV, they did not take hold because they did not quite make the mark.  The series did and without two-parters.  The later TV movie revival never did capture the books or magic of this show, despite having more screen time to work with.  Only a diehard fan of the books could tell us how much of a difference we have between the TV and print versions, but the show certainly sold many more books.  Some moments may be unintentionally funny here, but these are very smart otherwise and worth revisiting for those who like a challenge.



The 1.33 X 1 transfers are all top rate and about as good as you could expect for DVD, though I want to give CBS extra credit for getting great prints and transfers for their classic TV on DVD releases; credit they do not always get.  Gunsmoke and Mason are here in solid black and white transfers, with some softness and grain you would expect for most shows of the time (I Love Lucy and Twilight Zone were rare exceptions) and some shots on each are very impressive.  That leaves the color shows on Fugitive and though no lab is credited on screen, you can see from misalignment of some footage (especially in between credits) that these are three-strip, dye-transfer Technicolor prints.  Though there may be some softness at times and color can be off in some shots, these prints and transfers are great and have never looked this good on TV before, which will please fans of the classic and surprise those who have not seen the show before.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on all three shows are as good as they could be for the older sound in the older digital format, but the newer the show, the richer it sounds.  I would like to hear lossless versions sometime, though.


Extras are nowhere to be found on Mason, but Fugitive has a 10+minutes interview with the great Dominic Frontiere on his career and scoring the show, while Gunsmoke adds an interesting set of Sponsor Spots and a Season Two episode entitled How To Cure A Friend.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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