The CBS Home Entertainment August 25, 2020 three-disc DVD release of "Gunsmoke Movie Collection" is an awesome followup to the recent EPIC (reviewed) CBSHE 65th Anniversary "Gunsmoke" CS DVD set. The big picture is that the films wrap up a franchise that begins with a radio show (1952-61) and continues with the aforementioned 1955-75 television series.
The overall message is the same one that it is to every post on Western films and television series. This advice is "try it; you'll like it." Discovering that the genre is not boring and does not offer substance beyond saloon fights, high-noon showdowns, cowboy v. indian battles, and cattle rustling has greatly enhanced the life of your not-so-humble reviewer.
"Collection" begins with "Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge," the best of a stellar lot. Retired marshal Matt Dillon is enjoying his golden years when his noble instincts lead to the "Gunsmoke" theme of his being ambushed and left for dead, This leads to Dillon returning to his old stomping grounds to be patched up so that he can live to fight another day. This leads to former saloon owner/confidante/"its complicated" significant other Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake) coming back from the Big Easy to reunite with the man who is the opposite of easy in every sense.
The regular "Dodge" and series theme of a man whom Dillon brought to justice coming gunning for revenge leads to one of many awesome developments in "Return." This leads to Dillon cutting his bed rest short to hit the trail in pursuit of justice. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the big bad arrives in Dodge to terrorize the town while he waits for Dillon to return.
"Gunsmoke" flashbacks reveals why these events highly upset Miss Kitty; her actions then and in the future reminds us that the tremendous appeal of Kitty includes her being just as tough as the men.
Dedicating "Gunsmoke: The Last Apache" to then-deceased Blake nicely reflects the love of both the "Gunsmoke" family and the fans to this "cousin" of Barbara Stanwyck. This excellent outing fills many squares on both "Gunsmoke" and "classic television" bingo.
Our story begins with once-again retired Dillon travelling to Tombstone, Arizona in response to a summons from lost-love "Mike" Yarnard (Micheal Learned of "The Waltons"). We (and Dillon) meet Mike in a "Gunsmoke" episode that finds her nursing a nearly dead and suffering from severe amnesia Dillon far from home. That story continues with a blissfully ignorant Dillon falling in love and enjoying a peaceful existence until his rude awakening that brings him back to his old life.
"Apache" finds Dillon arriving at the ranch of Yarnard only to find it destroyed, He also receives a special motivation to take off after the half-breed renegade who has run off with the daughter of Yatnard. The Dodge ending this time has Dillon get his man, and the girl.
"Gunsmoke: To The Last Man" is a sequel to "Apache" and is even more of a "ripped from the Old West" headlines film that the last one. The perspective of the indians in this one can be thought of as the white man has taken your land and confined you to slum conditions reservations; what are you going to do? I'm going to Disney World!
Of course, this involves Dillon hitting the trail in search of frontier justice with extreme prejudice. The body count this time is above average.
All of this shows that "Gunsmoke" star James Arness still has it after all those years in the saddle and that a quality Western never goes out of style. This is not to mention the franchise achieving the show business ideal of leaving them wanting more, much more.