Review

  • Warning: Spoilers
    I am in the process of watching all 156 episodes of LAWMAN, the Warner Bros western which ran from 1958 to 1962. I remember it from its original run, but haven't seen an episode in nigh to fifty years. I was a trifle worried it wouldn't be as good as I remembered. Back in the day critics slammed this show as being a ripoff of GUNSMOKE with the same granite-butt marshal and his saloon owner love interest, only set in Laramie rather than Dodge.

    The bad news? The critics had a point. Marshal Dan Troop is pretty much a clone of Marshal Matt Dillon. Miss Lily is pretty much a clone of Miss Kitty. The good news? John Russell is fabulous as the granite-butt law officer, even better in my judgment than James Arness. The gorgeous Peggy Castle is even sexier at the Birdcage than Amanda Blake was at the Long Branch. These two certainly gave the show a solid foundation.

    The third cast regular is the young and handsome deputy Peter Brown. Here LAWMAN departed significantly from GUNSMOKE, in which the eccentric Chester and Festus were often comic relief characters. Brown was a top-of-the-line young Warners heartthrob. His relationship with Russell's veteran marshal had a father to son quality. He was nothing like the old B western comic sidekicks who seemed the inspiration on GUNSMOKE.

    The production values on the show were good, better on the whole than the early GUNSMOKE's in which the indoor for outdoor sets and painted backdrops were often obvious. Not here. The guest casts were an interesting combination of young talent like Robert Fuller, Richard Long, James Drury, and Louise Fletcher with established fifties western regulars like Lee Van Cleef, Coleen Gray, Strother Martin, Jack Elam, and Slim Pickins, and a smattering of real old-timers such as Glenn Strange and Lane Chandler.

    All in all, this show lacked the penetrating writing which made GUNSMOKE unique, but fine performances by the three regulars, good guest casts and production values, and solid, if perhaps rarely out of the ordinary scripts, make this series one well worth rewatching.