Ken L. Jones
Kevin L. Jones
Children of the Night #1
"Gunsmoke"’s Dodge City A Literal Ghost Town?
Ken L. Jones and Kevin L. Jones
To prove our thesis let’s start with Marshall Matt Dillon himself. Of course you probably recognized him in the 1954 giant ant classic Them where he played FBI agent Robert Graham next to amongst other notables a beardless Santa Claus Edmund Gwenn of the original Miracle on 34th Street fame.
Still perhaps you might not have recognized Matt Dillon as the imposing walking giant carrot killing machine in the classic 1951 sci-fi/horror hybrid The Thing From Another World but you should have because he was the title character.
Arness who was a huge imposing man made a great monster in that one and its too bad he didn’t chose to make more such fare because imagine what a natural he might have been as Frankenstein’s Monster.
Arness’s reluctance to be in such other programming was more than made up for by his little brother Peter Graves but that’s a whole other column by itself.
Milburn Stone who played “Doc” Galen Adams with such grumpy lovableness was in his younger days in lots of our favorite monster and sci-fi movies. He was in the 1943 Universal classic The Mad Ghoul with such horror heavy weights as Turhan Bey, Robert Armstrong of King Kong fame, and the mighty George Zucco. This is quite an interesting movie in which Mayan gas brings the dead back to murderous life.
Stone was also in the extremely underrated 1947 Universal weird war/horror hybrid The Invisible Agent starring the more than cool Jon Hall in the title role. Milburn also did a nice turn in the chilling classic 1953 Invaders From Mars where he played Captain Roth in one of our very favorite science fiction movies of all time.
Finally our favorite Milburn Stone monster role was Universal’s 1943 Captive Wild Women where he played the very heroic lead role in it. This movie was a very interesting departure for such Universal monster fare because of its unique circus orientated storyline. Stone was ably doubled in the big cat arena by circus legend Clyde Beatty and talk about horror how about actress Acquanetta who was turned from a sideshow gorilla into a wild and violent but beautiful human woman by none other than John Carradine himself? There is also a 1944 sequel Jungle Woman with much the same cast and which we would like to see and think we would like but it’s not yet out on DVD so we haven’t had that pleasure yet.
Now Marshall Dillon had two main deputies in Dodge City.
The original, Dennis Weaver, made his mark on the world of the weird by starring in Rod Sterling’s 1961 Twilight Zone epic "Shadow Play" which is kind of like Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day if it was set on death row and was deadly serious.
But even more famously the man who played Chester Goode went on to even more renown playing David Mann in the TV movie Duel which is considered to be one of the best TV movies of all time probably owing to the fact that a very young Steven Spielberg directed it. This tale of a haunted car with an unseen driver that begins chasing and trying to kill an everyday Joe gains much of its power from how naturally and realistically Weaver played the whole thing.
Ken Curtis who played Festus Hagen, Matt’s other number two man, had an even heavier commitment to horror films than that. That Curtis, originally a debonair big band crooner, made the dirty, bad smelling Festus lovable and well remembered is more than enough to admire him for but beyond that he was quite a mover and shaker in horror movies in general also. Of course he had a pretty nice cameo in Universal’s sequel to The Black Lagoon, The Creature Returns where he was a radio reporter but after that he attained true autership when he backed two monster classics the renowned Killer Shrews and the extremely underrated 1959 movie The Giant Gila Monster.
“Gila” is fun from start to finish and features teenage hot-roders vs. a giant lizard in this rock and roll extravaganza. Also worth noting that in it lead actor Don Sullivan memorably played a miniature banjo and sang Laugh, Children Laugh, a Sunday school type rock and roll song that actually made it to number one nationally as unlikely as that might sound. Curtis never appeared in that one but he certainly did have one juicy role as one jerk of a drunken scientist in the 1951 horror classic Killer Shrews where he helped mutate tiny gerbil like creatures into German shepherd sized monsters who were relentless flesh eaters.
Also worth mentioning is Buck Taylor who played Newly part-time deputy and town gunsmith. After the show ended he became a well-known western artist. Before that we knew him from the original "Outer Limits" series where he starred in an episode called "Do Not Open Till Doomsday" that was about a very strange camera that had an alien dimension hiding inside of it. Most recently Buck did a nice turn in the big screen version of Steven King’s The Mist which came out in 2007.