"Five Sundowns to Sunup", originally aired 5th December 1965, was directed by B-movie veteran Gerd Oswald and guest-starred Marie Windsor.
This was quite easily the best "Bonanza" episode I've seen recently, not having seen another to equal it in the current run of repeats (since 1963) of this series shown on Jones channel (#13) in New Zealand. The taut plot and imaginative treatment remind me quite a bit of manhunting/hostage "Gunsmoke" episodes screening in the mid Sixties.
Former noir femme fatale Marie Windsor (aged 46 but well preserved here) plays an embittered widow woman whose son is in the Virginia City jail due to be hanged for murder. Sheriff Coffey has been wounded and Ben Cartright replaces him while Hoss and Joe join a small posse of those willing to run up against this formidable matriarch. The tension builds well without the overdramatics of many previous "Bonanza" outings.
I've been surprised at the modernized quality in the dozen or so episodes I've seen since Adam (Pernell Roberts) left "Bonanza" -- except in the "comedy" episodes -- though Adam did feature in a few good stories in his last series (1964-65). An example of the general improvement was the previous episode featuring Royal Dano, Tim Considine and Dan Blocker, though somewhat spoiled by comedy sequences.
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