TV Review – GUNSMOKE: THE JAILER (1966)

Amanda Blake was scared to work with Bette Davis on GunsmokeGUNSMOKE: THE JAILER (1966, USA) ****
Western
net. CBS Television Network; pr co. CBS Television Network; d. Vincent McEveety; w. Hal Sitowitz; exec pr. Philip Leacock; pr. John Mantley; ph. Harry Stradling Jr. (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Morton Stevens; ed. Albrecht Joseph; ad. John B. Goodman; set d. Herman N. Schoenbrun; cos. Alexander Velcoff; m/up. Glen Alden, Pat Whiffing; sd. Vernon W. Kramer (Mono); tr. 1 October 1966; r/t. 51m.

cast: James Arness (Matt Dillon), Milburn Stone (Doc), Amanda Blake (Kitty), Ken Curtis (Festus), Bette Davis (Etta Stone), Bruce Dern (Lou Stone), Robert Sorrells (Mike Stone), Zalman King (Jack Stone), Tom Skerritt (Ben Stone), Julie Sommars (Sara Stone), Roger Ewing (Thad), Glenn Strange (Sam Noonan), Stephen Burnette (Townsman (uncredited)), Fred McDougall (Prison Wagon Driver (uncredited)), Anthony Redondo (Guard (uncredited)).

(s. 12 ep. 3) Etta Stone (Davis) is a very bitter, older, woman who has Kitty and Matt captured and thrown into a homemade jail, and now she plans on hanging Matt for the execution of her husband 6 years before. This is an exceptional episode of the long-running TV series with a top-notch cast and excellent direction from McEveety. Davis is all brooding, dominant matriarch and vengeful psychotic as she seeks revenge on Matt (Arness) for the hanging sentence handed to her husband through her kidnapping of Kitty (Blake). She uses her sons – including Dern and Skerritt – as her instruments of retribution, as well as Dern’s wife Sommars, who unbeknownst to Dern has picked up with Skerritt whilst Dern had been serving time in prison. Arness and Blake begin to play on the sibling tension leading to the final confrontation. It is undoubtedly Blake’s best performance in the series (she acknowledges the episode as a personal favourite) and her scenes with Davis are electric. It is a great example of how superb acting and strong direction can lift a story.

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