Posted: 02/28/2005

 

The Rifleman – Volume 3

(1958-1963)

by Barry Meyer



20 episodes of the Western TV classic just released on DVD from MPI Home Video.


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Grab your boots and saddle and get ready to ride! Gravel-throated tough guy Chuck Conners plays Lucas McCain, a rugged cowboy widower who guides his young son Mark (Johnny Crawford) through the hardships of maintaining a ranch in North Fork, New Mexico in the late 1880s. Unfortunately for McCain, the Marshall of North Fork (Paul Fix) has a difficult time handling the bad guys and must call upon the otherwise peaceful farmer to bring his Winchester Rifle to protect himself, his son, and his neighbors. Through their adventures together, Lucas takes time out of his wild adventures to teach his son some important life lessons and demonstrates the importance of honesty and courage.

The Rifleman had a successful five-year run, taking the #1 rating in its time slot on ABC from 1958-1963. This popular family classic featured familiar faces from both film and television, such as Claude Akins, Jack Elam, Warren Oates, Agnes Moorehead, John Carradine, Lon Chaney, Jr., Martin Landau, and Sammy Davis, Jr. The show was also a launching pad for the careers of some directors who went on to build successful careers, including Arthur Hiller (Silver Streak, The In-Laws), Ted Post (Beneath the Planet of the Apes), and even Sam Peckinpah (Straw Dogs, The Getaway).

This 4 disc set is the third volume of an MPI collector’s set, this edition containing 20 action packed episodes from the TV shows second season. If you’ve ever watched The Rifleman, no doubt you’ll remember that fantastic opening, with Conners pumping out ten rounds from the hip from his Winchester rifle and then giving the camera a steely-eyed gaze as he reloads. It’s the kind of show which sparks that old chestnut - “They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”

Some standout episodes include “Tension,” featuring Jack Elam as a sinister outlaw who turns one of Lucas McCain’s own neighbors against him. After his son loses a fight to McCain’s kid, Sam the barber (Whit Bissel) straps on his gun and tries to even the score. “Tension” was directed by Ted Post, who would go on to helm some classic cinema hits, like Magnum Force, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and Hang ‘em High. “Case of Identity” finds a pair of dubious detectives rolling into town and setting their sites on young Mark McCain. They’ve been hired by a squint-eyed Royal Dano, who is searching for a replacement for a long lost son who he lost in a disastrous accident that claimed the life of his dear wife. In “Heller” the Rifleman tackles the proverbial moral dilemma of child abuse. Teenaged Heller (Gigi Perreau), the wild-eyed daughter of the town drunk, gets caught stealing from the local grocer, so Lucas McCain must deliver her home to her father. What he finds there is a brute of a father beating the tar nation out of his own young son. This kind of parental behavior wasn’t so uncommon back in the day, but that doesn’t mean that the Rifleman is gonna stand for it.

Fans of Westerns or classic television will not be disappointed with this excellent collection, put out by MPI Video.

Barry Meyer is a writer living in the wild west town of Jersey.



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