Gunsmoke: Season 18, Episode 15

Arizona Midnight (1 Jan. 1973)

TV Episode  -   -  Western
6.8
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 24 users  
Reviews: 2 user

A very short man rides into Dodge and offers $50 to any man who will take care of him from midnight to dawn tonight, the first light of the full moon, when he will turn into a "were-elephant."

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Title: Arizona Midnight (01 Jan 1973)

Arizona Midnight (01 Jan 1973) on IMDb 6.8/10

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Cast

Episode cast overview:
...
Doc
...
...
...
...
Billy Curtis ...
Arizona
...
Fred
Ken Mayer ...
Ed
Stanley Clements ...
Red
Glenn Strange ...
Sam
Ted Jordan ...
Sandie Powell ...
Beatrice
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A very short man rides into Dodge and offers $50 to any man who will take care of him from midnight to dawn tonight, the first light of the full moon, when he will turn into a "were-elephant."

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Western

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1 January 1973 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Quotes

Festus: Doc, can I go with you? I've ain't never swapped words with no midget before.
Doc: Well, couple of things you ought to know about midgets, first though.
Festus: What's that?
Doc: Don't pick him up.
Festus: Oh, I wasn't fixin to pick him up Doc.
Doc: I just didn't want you to do anything stupid, that's all.
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User Reviews

Gunsmoke's "elephant in the room"
16 September 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I've not given this episode a quality vote, as I can't decide whether it's good or bad.

One thing that's clear is that "Gunsmoke" and "comedy" don't mix. The show was originally conceived as a less-dishonest view of the American West, with its degeneracy and violence bluntly thrown in the audience's face. Not surprisingly, outright comedy * introduces a jarring shift in tone. **

Whatever its absolute merits, "Arizona Midnight" is a half-hour story horribly distended into an hour episode, larded with meandering dialog. (The writer must have gone crazy trying to come up with plausible longueurs.) It doesn't help that Billy Curtis (no relation to Ken Curtis, whose birth name was Gates) is an unconvincing actor. (Curtis starred 35 years earlier in another comedy Western, the infamous all-midget "Terror of Tiny Town".)

Nor does it help that "Gunsmoke" was, in its later years when composers wrote episode-specific scores, an often poorly scored program. (Justin Boggan will no doubt disagree.) The composers had no idea how to handle comic moments, let alone comic episodes, and invariably fell back on a hundred years of musical cliché, with gurgling woodwinds and snarky brasses announcing every event the audience was supposed to find funny. (Richard Strauss did it a lot better.) "Arizona Midnight" would have been better if it hadn't been scored at all.

The denouement is plausible, but only just barely so. Had Arizona's activities involved a theft or major scam, they might have gone down more easily, and certainly would have been more in line with the original conception of "Gunsmoke".

Some people love this episode, some hate it. It shows up on at least one "worst of" lists. It's possible a different treatment of the same basic situation would work -- but I have no idea what it would be.

View with caution. If you get Very Angry, don't say I didn't warn you.

* Subtle humor /can/ work. In one otherwise-serious episode, a woman carelessly wrings out a piece of laundry on Matt's boots. It's not shown in close-up, and you might miss it if you're not paying attention.

** "Gunsmoke"'s reputation was initially a studiously serious program, which only exaggerates the jar. ("The Rifleman", with its generally dark tone, had a similar problem when it tried to be funny.) Inferior Westerns (such as "Bonanza" and "The Big Valley") weren't believable enough for broad humor to seem out of place.


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