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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Drama > TV > Mini-Series > Gunsmoke: The Sixth Season, Volume One (1960 – 1961/CBS DVD Set)/Hatfields & McCoys (2012 TV Mini-Series/Sony Blu-ray Set)

Gunsmoke: The Sixth Season, Volume One (1960 – 1961/CBS DVD Set)/Hatfields & McCoys (2012 TV Mini-Series/Sony Blu-ray Set)


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



Here are some TV Westerns over a half-century apart that were both bog ratings successes.



First we have Gunsmoke: The Sixth Season, Volume One (1960 – 1961) which continues the early black and white era of the long-running hit series with James Arness as Matt Dillon.  The show held steady with Dennis Weaver, Amanda Blake and Milburn Stone facing daily dramas in Dodge City, but I do not think the show took off into any new directions.  I am not the biggest fan of the show or most Westerns anyhow, but there is some very good work here over the 19 episodes here across 3 DVDs.


Still, if you did not know it was a big hit show in its time, it is not that distinguishable from the many black and white TV Westerns (and there were so many at the time) being made.  It just found a big audience and that audience stuck with it for a very long time.  There is also some chemistry with the regular cast and though even the shows do not stay with me, they never feel like a waste of time either.  It will be interesting as I watch to see if the show actually got better in later seasons.


There are no extras.



Feature film director Kevin Reynolds reunites once again with Kevin Costner for a new TV mini-series, Hatfields & McCoys (2012) about the most popular family feud in American history and possibly of all time.  Costner is “Devil” Anse Hatfield and slowly but surely, he and his family start killing each other many years as the feud snowballs.  This happens with the McCoys led by Randall (Bill Paxton in one of his most effectively understated performances).  This is in three parts and runs 290 minutes!


For that, it takes its time and has some interesting moments, but it can be more long and drawn out than I expected, has some clichéd moments and in the beginning is a bit confusing and not because the main characters both served in the Confederacy.  Though the teleplay is not too complex, it is not always as clear as it could be, so you have to pay very strict attention throughout.  There is some humor and some parts do not seem as period (i.e., the performances) as others, but Reynolds just manages to juggle this and those really interested and patient will want to check it out.  Matt Barr, Tom Berenger, Powers Booth, Jenna Malone and Mare Winningham are among the supporting cast.


Extras include a Music Video and a Making Of featurette.



The 1.33 X 1 black and white image across the Gunsmoke episodes look about as good as they are going to for a show of its age, plus they look really good as compared to the many bad VHS and lame DVD copies of the same shows that have been circulating for years, so if you like the show, this is the edition to own.  The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Hatfield may have some styling to make it look like it is from the past (slight darkness, maybe some light sepia) but this remarkably does not interfere with the playback quality and solid performance is the result throughout (even over HD broadcasts I have seen), so the picture quality is stabler (not much motion blur) and more consistent than expected.


The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the Gunsmoke episodes can show their age with background noise and some compression depending on the episode, but distortion is not as bad as it could be and goes just fine with the picture quality.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Hatfield is rich, warm and consistent with a defined soundfield throughout down to the music and ambient sounds.  Add its fine picture quality and it is one of the best TV mini-series performers on Blu-ray to date and fans will want to see it like this.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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