Picks and Pans Main: Video

updated 02/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST


So all right, Marshal Dillon does actually say, "It's a chancy job...but somebody has to do it" and "He'll make a mistake, Chester; his kind always does."

The four half-hour episodes on this tape (the first in a projected series) are still the primest of prime-time stuff. All four episodes date from 1955 and 1956, and the first of them, the series debut, is introduced by John Wayne, who says of James Arness, "I predict he'll be a big star. You might as well get used to him, like you had to get used to me."

All four shows feature the series' splendid ensemble cast, with Amanda Blake as Kitty, the saloon marm; Dennis Weaver as the obsequious Chester; and Milburn Stone as the crotchety Doc, backing up Arness's phlegmatic Dillon. His antagonists in these programs are played by TV veterans Paul Richards, John Dehner and Leo Gordon, and Charles Bronson, in a first-class performance as a sleazy murderer.

The show, in the vanguard of the "adult Western" era, was nicely written—occasional clichés aside—by such people as Charles Marquis Warren and John Meston. Arness, in one of his walkabouts through Dodge City's Boot Hill, laments that, on his beat, "a man'll draw his gun to prove a point quicker'n he'll call on his logic." And when the marshal gives in to some of Miss Kitty's pointed cajoling by agreeing to a date—"Next time I get a day off, we'll fish"—she responds with resignation, "Good. That'll give me plenty of time to get ready." (CBS, $4.95 for this introductory tape; 800-544-4431)


This four-part Dark Shadows package, a compilation of highlights and episodes from the old cult-favorite afternoon horror soap opera, has a lot going for it: namely, atrocious and hammy acting, insipid dialogue (there seems to be a run on the phrase "I hope I didn't frighten you") and a huge number of flubbed lines. Let's not forget bad lighting, punches that clearly don't connect and poor sound effects.

The series was (and is), in fact, so bad, it's good. And despite the fact that it has not aged at all well, fans of the once mega-popular series, centered around a brooding vampire named Barnabas Collins, will very fondly recall the show, which aired on ABC from 1966 to 1971. (It was created by Dan Curtis, who went on to direct The Winds of War.)

The four tapes in this new package are culled from early episodes, which means that the very early career work of such DS alums as Kate Jackson and David (Falcon Crest) Selby is not yet in evidence. No matter. Other DS packages are forthcoming, and there is enough here to keep the most avid junk-TV fan happy. (MPI, $29.98 each; 800-338-7710)

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