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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Telefilms > Gunsmoke Movie Collection (CBS DVD/Revival Telefilms)

Gunsmoke Movie Collection (Telefilms)


                            Picture:     Sound:     Extras:     Films:

Return To Dodge     C+            C             D            C+

The Last Apache     C+            C+           D            C+

To The Last Man     C             C+            D            C



As the networks went into decline, many of the oldest hit TV series were turned to.  The especially desperate CBS (before the Viacom buyout) especially found itself in trouble.  In its prime, one of its biggest hits was the Western show Gunsmoke, which had an excessively long run as their Perry Mason series did.  Both returned in a series of TV movies, with Gunsmoke less successfully coming up with only three films.  James Arness was convinced to come out of retirement.


Return To Dodge (1987) also offered Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty, her final time in the role before her untimely death.  This is relatively the best of the three films, thanks in part to veteran director Vincent McEveety.  Arness’ Matt Dillon is now retired, but a near-death stabbing brings Miss Kitty back to him and that, unfortunately for them, is not the only echo of the past they will have to deal with.  This was not a great telefilm by any means, but is interesting at the least, yet shows this was not going to be a huge revival of a show that was already played out.


The Last Apache (1990) offers a revisionist take on how the Western (and the original series) treated Native Americans, and though Joe Lara is not bad (if not totally convincing) as the most active of the Apaches, it is very pale and trivial.  It tells the story in such generalities as to be very populist.  The retired Dillon rises again to help a “white man”/Native American conflict, but will not be able to stop the end of the Apaches.  Like him, we can only watch and be able to do nothing about it, but that leaves little point to watching at all.  The fact that Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves came out the same year speaks volumes about how behind the times this one was.


To The Last Man (1992) has Dillon take on an evil rancher (Pat Hingle not looking too well) trying to get away with murder with his crew.  This one was just a pointless waste and package deal that probably should have never been made.  It is flat, badly directed, badly written and would have never made it during the show’s hey day.


The amusing this is that each film has a theatrical rating, but they are still TV movies.  The ratings come from limited screenings in Los Angeles if that.  All are full screen and the final film looks like it was shot on video!  The picture quality on all of them is disappointing, but the third one is especially lame.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 on all three is limited.  Return To Dodge is monophonic, The Last Apache is Stereo with Pro Logic surrounds that overwhelm the surprisingly poor dialogue, and To The Last Man is simple stereo at best.  There are absolutely no extras on any of these.


They are sold separately or as a set, but that is only in an inch or so ribbon that holds the three DVD cases together.  All are rated R, except PG-13 for The Last Apache, but nothing is so shocking that it could not be shown on TV then or now.  These visits to Dodge are for fans only.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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