Gunsmoke (1955–1975)
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Island in the Desert: Part 1 

Festus is shot by the killer he is pursuing in the blazing desert, only to be helped by a crazed hermit and forced to tote water to try and get him to a town 80 miles away.





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Episode cast overview:
Matt Dillon
Ben Snow
Gard Dixon (as William C. Watson)
Sheriff Grimes
Hank Brandt ...
John Lipon
Ted Jordan ...


Matt and Festus bring a particularly notorious killer into a town on the edge of a desert, where the sheriff cheerfully informs the killer that "tomorrow we start working on the gallows." The sheriff spoke too soon: the killer gets the drop on him, murders him and flees into the desert. Festus, who stayed behind to borrow a new mule, goes in pursuit but is bushwhacked in his own right. Festus, however, is rescued by Ben Snow, a hermit who was a gold miner many years earlier -- only to be shot in the leg and left for dead by his partner. Snow is half-crazed ("I'd even make friends with a snake!") -- but he actually found his gold mine, a spring which provides him with water and shelter and food from desert animals. He's panned the spring incessantly and racked up a huge cache of gold dust. Snow might be able to get out of the desert (he's tried before and left water caches as far as he could walk), but he's so bent out of shape that he refuses to go without the gold -- many dozen ... Written by Peter Harris

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Release Date:

2 December 1974 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The year in which this episode occurred is 1873. See more »


Ben Snow's pet rattlesnake ("Homer, stop that buzzing! Festus here is a guest!" is supposed to be in two scenes (one in each hour), but when he's seen it's obviously stock footage that doesn't match the environment - particularly in his second appearance. See more »

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User Reviews

Gunsmoke's Best Episode Ever!!
6 February 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Gunsmoke's Part One of "Island In The Desert" was the pinnacle of all episodes during its twenty year run. Festus Haggin brought in a known killer named Gard Dixon to Cottonwood for his hanging. The town -- in its infinite wisdom -- was ready to see a killer be hung for first-degree murder and robbery. Festus Haggen left the jail in hopes of returning to Dodge City ... or so it seemed to him in the opening part of the episode. Soon enough, Gard Dixon took a letter opener and -- eventually -- stabbed the deputy to death; he then fired one round from a gun and wounded the deputy to death ... thus starting the escape to the desert. The town became shocked at his escape. Obviously, Gard Dixon would likely flee to Mexico to avoid a hanging in Cottonwood.

Burke obtained a message from the telegraph office in Dodge City. Word came out that Gard Dixon escaped from Cottonwood; moreover, Matt Dillon and Newly O'Brien would be leaving Dodge City to find Festus Haggen ... and eventually track down a vicious animal named Gard Dixon. The acting sheriff in Cottonwood would tell Dillon and O'Brien that little or no signs of water or trees were present in an eighty- or ninety-mile trek into the desert.

Gard Dixon seriously wounded Festus Haggen during the chase. Haggen fell unconscious after being grazed by gunfire from Dixon's rifle. Ben Snow found Festus Haggen all alone in the blazing desert without any water. He took him into his cave. He used a mud mixture to Haggen's wound on his head. Haggen had been resting in Ben Snow's cave. All the while, Ben Snow had been living as a hermit. Festus Haggen was about to find Gard Dixon at first light.

Ben Snow had other plans for Festus Haggen. Ben Snow had intentions of heading to Ten Strike -- a once-thriving town in Arizona ... all while he was finding Gard Dixon. He forced Haggen to carry water like a pack mule. Ben Snow would eventually make Festus Haggen's life miserable during the trek. Haggen was fighting for survival against Ben Snow's tyrannical behavior. Ben Snow was more inclined to reach Ten Strike rather than aiding Festus Haggen in search for a ruthless killer in the desert. A Fat 18 Out Of 10!! A bigger-than-life episode from the 1974-1975 Television Season!!

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