Sunday, February 19, 2012

On DVD: The Restless Gun (1957)

Timeless Media Group has become a major player in the distribution of classic TV DVD's, particularly those obtained from the NBC-Universal library. Ivan Shreve, Jr., over at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, has kept readers apprised of pending TMG releases, and with good reason. With classic Westerns becoming popular again in cable reruns on Encore Westerns, Me-TV, et al, a new generation of viewers are discovering a lot of these shows for the first time.

TMG, as noted previously, also acquired some other properties as well, including Goodson-Todman's Branded, which we reviewed the other day. This time, our focus is on the 1957-59 NBC series, The Restless Gun, which starred John Payne.

Restless, which was launched as a back-door pilot on another NBC series, Schlitz Playhouse, was based on the radio Western, The Six Shooter, which starred movie icon Jimmy Stewart. The character's name was changed when Restless went to series to Vint Bonner, likely for copyright reasons. Restless was actually more like an anthology in and of itself in that several guest stars, as was the custom in those days, appeared multiple times in different roles. Additionally, Restless has a huge connection to the iconic series that replaced it on NBC in 1959, Bonanza. Actors Dan Blocker, Ray Teal, and Michael Landon each appeared on Restless, with Landon in the Schlitz Playhouse episode, Teal in at least 1 Restless episode, and Blocker in at least 5 episodes that I could count from reading a Wikipedia entry on the show. 2 of those episodes appear on an 8-episode sampler that Timeless released in 2007. That sampler also includes the pilot, which also co-starred Andrew Duggan (later of Lancer) & William Hopper, better known as private eye Paul Drake on Perry Mason. Other notables include Claude Akins, who appeared in at least 2 other episodes aside from one on the sampler, and John Ericson, later of Honey West.

Edit, 11/23/16: YouTube deleted the video previously shown. In its place is a fan-created montage.

The sampler does include the NBC logo prior to the start of the pilot episode. Wikipedia, foolishly, listed Schlitz Playhouse as a CBS series, which tells you something about contributors and their attempts at research.

After leaving NBC, Restless Gun was picked up by ABC to air on weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings for the 1959-60 season. I'd not be surprised to find the show currently on Encore Westerns' roster.

Rating: A.

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