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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Thriller > Murder > TV > Docudrama > British > The Fiend Who Walked West (1958/Fox Cinema Archive DVD)/Gunsmoke – The Ninth Season, V. 1 + V. 2 (1963 – 1964/CBS DVD Sets)/The Wild West (2007/BBC DVD)

The Fiend Who Walked West (1958/Fox Cinema Archive DVD)/Gunsmoke – The Ninth Season, V. 1 + V. 2 (1963 – 1964/CBS DVD Sets)/The Wild West (2007/BBC DVD)


Picture: C/C+/C     Sound: C+     Extras: C-/D/D     Main Programs: C/C+/C+



PLEASE NOTE: Fiend Who Walked West is only available from online from Fox and can be ordered on the sidebar from Amazon.com.



The next set of Western Genre releases show the scale and range of the interest and history of such tales before the genre declined…



Gordon Douglas’ The Fiend Who Walked West (1960) was a Western, but it is also oddly a Western remake of the one the greatest Film Noirs ever made, Kiss Of Death (1946), but why the studio thought it was a good idea to try and transplant the film into a situation over 100 years before the original is wild in itself, except that Westerns on TV and at theaters were still very popular at the time.  This oddball film has no less than Robert Evans in the roll of the killer, now making it a curio since he took over Paramount Pictures by the end of the decade and rebuilt it into a cinematic powerhouse.  This film is not the kind of film that would have helped.


Evans is out of his element and despite serious efforts by Douglas, the film never really adds up on any level and even seems too drawn out for its own good, holding back any possibilities for suspense and synergy between Evans and the rest of the cast including Hugh O’Brian, Stephen McNally, Dolores Michaels and Linda Crystal.  It is certainly odd for any kind of Western, but here it is.  Those curious might get some chuckles out of it.


A trailer is the only extra.



So at the same time, Gunsmoke was as big as any TV Western and The Ninth Season (here in two volumes) ran during the 1963 – 1964 TV season.  Still in black and white despite the arrival of Bonanza (reviewed elsewhere on this site), the show was at least consistently good and serious enough to take seriously.  This helped it keep itself in its own element, but nothing was as different or as experimental as The Fiend Who Walked West, yet this plays better simply because the producers kept the quality of the show high and the cast were a tight family at this point.


Outside of technical analysis, black and white film had become faster by this time, but this did not affect the show or its look like it had on some other shows before they were either cancelled (Perry Mason) or switched to color like this one soon would.  Jeannie Cooper. James Best, Slim Pickens, Denver Pyle, Sharon Farrell, George Kennedy and Harry Dean Stanton are among those making guest turns and the writing stayed literate enough.  Those used to bootleg copies or lesser prints will be happy with these sets yet again as CBS is doing a good job issuing these officially on DVD.


Too bad there once again are no extras.



Finally we have a three-part BBC/Discovery Channel series from 2007 called The Wild West which mixes theories and ideas about the Old West, questions its history from Wyatt Earp to Billy The Kid.  The twist here are the reenactments that include Toby Stephens, Liam Cunningham and David Leon before they became well-known enough character actors and sometime leads.


Of course, the oddest thing is having a show by mostly British people with a British narrator talk about American Western history, but it has some moments for fans who care and is worth a look for that audience.


There are no extras.




The anamorphically enhanced black and white 1.78 X 1 image on Fiend is actually a cut-at-the-sides version of the original 2.35 X 1 CinemaScope frame, ruining the image and wide compositions throughout including the loss of some valuable visual information, likely done lamely for HDTV broadcast.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on West is an older digital shoot and is even softer, so the visual champ here are the 1.33 X 1 black and white presentations on the Gunsmoke episodes from their original 35mm prints and looking good for their age, despite showing some age.


The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Field and the Gunsmoke episodes, plus the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on West are nothing sonically spectacular, have their flaws and limits, leaving them on par with each other.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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