Rawhide: The Second Season, Vol. II

(Paramount; $38.99.) What made Rawhide an exceptional series is that it usually held fast to its single, simple premise, a handful of drovers push around a lot of surly cattle from point A to point B. Television necessitated that they run into characters and incidents, but it seems as though the show’s remarkable creator, Charles Marquis Warren, who had been honing this sort of story for many years, stayed as true to the concept as he could. In a B-movie, the lack of any significant character arc could be seen as inadequate writing, but in a series of this sort, it played perfectly.

The characters were nuanced in subtle ways over much ground. Eric Fleming, as trail boss Gil Favor, was not particularly intriguing, which is to say that he didn’t throw a lot of posturing into the part. Clint Eastwood was California cool, looking like a Rockabilly singer, gangly and charming. It doesn’t require any effort to see why he was able to make the transition to superstar within the decade. Sheb Wooley, Jim Quince and the gang never seem forced. Even the comic relief, Paul Brinegar as the cook Wishbone, is not required to chew the quantity of scenery someone like Walter Brennan or Slim Pickens might.

The point is, unlike so many series at the time, Rawhide didn’t seem to need to be pumped full of steroids to get an audience, and for that reason it plays well, even now.

Like the show, this four-disc, 16-episode set is lacking any frills, but the video quality is fine.

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