Gunsmoke: Season 3, Episode 5

Potato Road (12 Oct. 1957)

TV Episode  |  TV-PG  |   |  Western
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 36 users  
Reviews: 3 user

An addled and desperate prairie family lures Matt and Chester out of town as a preliminary part of their plan for attempting a violent robbery of the Dodge City bank.



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Title: Potato Road (12 Oct 1957)

Potato Road (12 Oct 1957) on IMDb 8.1/10

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Episode cast overview:
Robert F. Simon ...
Pa Grilk
Tom Pittman ...
Budge Grilk
Ma Grilk


Young Budge Grilk tells Matt that his father has committed a murder and offers to lead the Marshal to their homestead. Matt and Chester are wary of Budge because of his addled and unkempt demeanor, but they decide to accompany him. When they arrive at the decrepit homestead, Matt and Chester are surprised and taken as hostages at gunpoint and locked in a squalid potato cellar. Matt suspects that the entire family is half-starved and capable of desperate measures to ensure their survival. Pa Grilk confirms Matt's suspicion when he tells them that they are to be killed so that he and Budge can rob the Dodge City Bank without interference. Matt eventually gets the upper hand on Budge and is able to hold him at knife-point. He attempts to barter for his and Chester's freedom, but he is shocked and dismayed when the ruthless Pa Grilk proves fully willing to sacrifice the young man's life. Written by Sam Spear

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

12 October 1957 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


At the beginning of Potato Road, Matt rides into town in a dark outfit, but in the next scene when he dismounts his horse, he is seen in a lighter outfit. See more »


Marshal Matt Dillon: [Walks alone on Boot Hill, thinking aloud] When the wind comes out of the west a hundred miles high and a thousand miles wide, it dries the settlers out like buffalo bums and leaves them cracked and empty, wishing they'd never left Indiana. But some of them really can't take it. They start spinning around like poisoned wolves, baffled but dangerous in their hurt and anger. Those are the hardest I have to go up against. Matt Dillon, U. S. Marshal.
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User Reviews

Interesting for What It Implies
4 August 2011 | by (Claremont,USA) – See all my reviews

Matt and Chester are tricked into riding out to a squalid homestead where they encounter a half-crazed family intent on robbing Dodge's bank.

An interesting episode for both its highs and lows, and for what the story implies. The idea and title clearly come from the backwoods movie of 1941, Tobacco Road. However, instead of a humorous tale of an eccentric family of Southern rubes, the Grilk family are desperate and murderous, nothing amusing at all. The trouble is, it's spread on so thickly the portrayals come close to unfunny parody that undercuts the entry's serious intent. On the other hand, is the entry's powerful ending. Now, what distinguishes Gunsmoke from other series of the time is its occasional refusal to come up with a happy ending. And that's certainly the case here, with a desolation that speaks volumes about homesteading on the frontier.

All of which brings up two of writer Meston's favorite themes— namely, the psychological and physical toll of homesteading, especially on women. In the script, Pa Grilk (Simon) takes out his frustrations on Ma (Nolan) by beating her regularly, and being isolated on the prairie, she has no defense. Now, being isolated like that is a powerful theme and I wish Meston had developed it more than he does since it would more fully explain the family's half-crazed behavior. Besides, that ramshackle dugout of a house or whatever it might be is like nothing I've seen from the time, and speaks volumes in itself.

Anyway, it's an interesting episode as much for what it doesn't say as for what it does.

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