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GUNSMOKE: THE LONG RIDE (TV) (director: Jerry Jameson; screenwriter: Bill Stratton; cinematographer: Ross A. Maehl; editor: Scott Powell; music: Artie Kane; cast: James Arness (Matt Dillon), James Brolin (John Parsley), Amy Stock-Poynton (Beth Reardon), Christopher Bradley (Josh Reardon), Patrick Dollaghan (Deputy Monaghan), Don McManus (Jules Braxton Jr.), Marco Sanchez (Collie Whitebird), Ali MacGraw (Uncle Jane Merkel), Tim Choate (Sheriff Bart Meriweather), Michael Greene (Ike Berry), Stewart Moss (Dr. Strader), Jim Beaver (Traveling Blacksmith), Sharon Mahoney (Amanda Southwick), Richard Dano (Skeeter Padgett), Ed Adams (Tebbel), John David Garfield (Skinner), Victor Izay (Pastor Zach), Doug Katenay (Two Hawk), Fred Lopez (Deputy Spinoza); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Norman S. Powell; CBS-TV; 1993)
“If you were a fan of the adult Western Gunsmoke serial on TV (1955-75), then the chances are good you would also find this made for TV movie to your liking.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

If you were a fan of the adult Western Gunsmoke serial on TV (1955-75), then the chances are good you would also find this made for TV movie to your liking. It was filmed in Santa Fe, N.M., and the vistas are beautifully shot. Since Amanda Blake (Kitty) and Milburn Stone (Doc) had passed on, and Dennis Weaver refused to play Chester again, an elderly but still rugged looking James Arness goes it solo. Director Jerry Jameson (“Airport ’77″/”Starflight One”/ “Raise the Titanic!”) keeps it as a no-nonsense traditional Western and Bill Stratton provides a tight script.

In the mining town of Golden, three jewel thieves rob the respected mine owner Jules Braxton and for no reason kill him. The victim’s irate son Jules Braxton Jr. (Don McManus) seeks revenge and posts a reward through posters for the arrest of former Marshall Matt Dillon (James Arness), Dead or Alive, because of a crooked eyewitness accusing him of being the killer. On the day of his daughter Beth’s (Amy Stock-Poynton) open field ranch marriage to Josh Reardon (Christopher Bradley), two surly bounty hunters Deputy Spinoza (Fred Lopez) and Deputy Monaghan (Patrick Dollaghan) arrest Matt and bring him to town. When the thuggish deputies try to kill Matt, he overcomes them and rides into town to straighten things out with the circuit judge. But he’s in another town in the middle of a trial. So Matt goes into Ute territory to hunt down the three robbers, whom he sold horses to that were found at the crime scene and one of the gang looks like him (Michael Greene).

In the Indian territory Matt helps a minister, John Parsley (James Brolin), out of a jam with the Utes, and his frontier girlfriend, a reformed ex-whore named “Uncle” Jane Merkel (Ali MacGraw), now running a trading post in the Indian territory, help Matt fight off the vicious posse rounded up by Braxton and help bring one of the wounded robbers, who loses a leg to gangrene, a Ute named Collie Whitebird (Marco Sanchez), to town as a witness. Meanwhile Beth finds the motive for the crime, as she breaks into the local lawyer’s office and locates a change in will whereby Braxton is now cutting off the inheritance of his good-for-nothing son.

No surprises and nothing to get excited over. But it’s a good reminder of how the “Gunsmoke” series worked and why it was so popular for such a long time.

Gunsmoke: The Long Ride was originally telecast May 8, 1993.

REVIEWED ON 12/28/2009 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”