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Gunsmoke: Prairie Wolfer (1964)
Season 9, Episode 16
10/10
Festus joins the gang for good.
13 October 2006
Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis) is a prairie wolfer, a profession he swears off in the end of the tale. He comes to town and gets involved with a cattle rustling scheme when he signs on with the cattleman's association to hunt down the wolves that have evidently been killing their cattle.

Noah Beery Jr guests as a cattleman who has an eccentric daughter with a naive romantic interest in Festus.

For several seasons Dennis Weaver (Chester Goode) had been unhappy with his role in Gunsmoke. Burt Reynolds (Quint Asper) was added to the cast in the 8th season to carry some of Weaver's increasingly diminishing load as Matt Dillon's sidekick. That same season, character actor Ken Curtis began his role as Festus, appearing in several popular episodes. In this season nine entry, we witness the crossroads of the program, Chester and Festus appear together as if a torch was being passed. The episode ends with Matt saying, "Festus, you'll be coming back won't ya?" and Festus responding, "Well, I reckon I will one of these days, fact is, you can pretnear count on it Marshall."

The Chester character was a bit of a phenomenon back in the 50s and Weaver decided he was meant for starring roles. Festus was his replacement. The merits of each character/actor can be debated forever, both were great. But Festus has to rank as one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, replacement characters ever. This was no Dick Sargent, Festus was totally different than Chester. The character of Festus Haggen evolved into one of television's greatests.

This is a seminal episode in the Gunsmoke series. Here you have Matt, Kitty, Doc, Chester, Festus, Sam AND QUINT! All together in one show.

If you are a Gunsmoke Fanatic... THIS IS THE STUFF.
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Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge (1987 TV Movie)
9/10
Best TV "reunion" movie ever.
21 June 2006
Gunsmoke cast regulars James Arness (Matt Dillon), Amanda Blake (Kitty) and Buck Taylor (Newly) reunite for a pretty good old fashioned western. The plot involves the release from prison of Matt's most deadly foe, Steve Forrest, reprising his role as Will Mannon, bent on revenge. Another Gunsmoke alumni is along for the ride, Earl Holliman, who does a good turn as Jake Flagg. According to reports, Ken Curtis held out for too much money and subsequently did not reprise his role as Festus, what remains of his part is filled in by character actor Mickey Jones as Oakum. Too bad, it would have been great to see him don the spurs one more time. Milburn Stone (Doc) who appears along with Festus in flashbacks, had passed away by the time this film was made. There are several minor plot holes, chief among them is that in the episode, "Mannon" the title character was killed at the end, apparently while the end credits rolled, Doc discovered that he was still alive, saved him and he was then sent to prison. All in all, this film holds true to the legacy of the great, classic TV series.
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Gunsmoke: Winner Take All (1965)
Season 10, Episode 22
10/10
Cain and Able Revisited
11 June 2006
This episode is a slightly twisted melodrama consisting of a manipulative woman who comes between two brothers. None of the guest stars are household names, but they all do a very good job.

Notable quotes: Relco:"Ain't you just a little bit out of your territory here Marshall?" Matt:"I take my territory with me and right now, you're in it."

This is a great episode for Festus fans. Ken Curtis (Festus) is still fleshing out the role that would become his signature. He is not yet Matt's Deputy and at the onset, he arrives in Dodge at the end of a cattle drive. He has some very funny scenes with Burt Reynolds as Quint and with Doc (Milburn Stone) and Kitty (Amanda Blake) at the Longbranch where they are introduced to a pearl button bangle billy of a Haggen Hunch at the Roulette wheel. Later on he saves Matt's life and they team up to defeat the bad guys, this is classic television.

I believe that the poor fellow that gets shot in the opening credits might be Ted Jordan, the same actor who would go on to portray the loud-mouthed Nathan Burke in the color episodes.

If you love Gunsmoke, this episode is the Nazz.
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