Gunsmoke: Season 20, Episode 11

Island in the Desert: Part 1 (2 Dec. 1974)

TV Episode  -   -  Western
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Ratings: 8.5/10 from 36 users  
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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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Title: Island in the Desert: Part 1 (02 Dec 1974)

Island in the Desert: Part 1 (02 Dec 1974) on IMDb 8.5/10

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Episode cast overview:
Ben Snow
William Watson ...
Gard Dixon (as William C. Watson)
Regis Cordic ...
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)  »

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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

Perhaps one of the best episodes in the entire collection
1 April 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I have to say that this entire episode (part 1 and 2) is perhaps the best show in the entire collection of 'Gunsmoke'. The fine acting and the way each line is delivered by the actors makes the viewer believe that they are right in the middle of the story with a unique realism not experienced many times.

In this first part episode, Festus is on the path of an escaped convict named Gard Dixon in the arid desert outside of Cottonwood. When Festus is ambushed by the convict, Festus lays in the arid desert with no hope of survival.

However, Festus is found by a man named Ben Snow (Strother Martin). Ben Snow has been in the desert for a very long time. Oh, not by his choice but by a bad situation. Ben and a friend was looking for gold and they got caught up in a sandstorm. After six days the storm passed and Ben found himself all alone. During the this time Ben found a large amount of gold and has been wanting to find a way out of the desert for a long time.

Ben takes Festus back to his area where water is found and helps him get back to health. During his recovery, Festus sees sign that Ben has some serious psychotic behavior issues. Ben carries on conversations with snakes and keeps talking about this town named Ten Strike that is full of people and pretty girls. Ben also wants to find a formal rival of his named Sam Bristol in the town of Ten Strike so that he can show Sam that he is now rich.

Festus is forced to carry water like an pack mule while the delusional Ben Snow holds him at gunpoint. So the first episode ends with the two heading to Ten Strike.

Strother Martin is brilliant in this show playing the crazed Ben Snow that wants nothing but to see Sam Bristol. Some of the best acting I have seen in a long time. Ready for Part 2.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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