Gunsmoke's Murdoch Episode: Jack Elam, Bob Random & Jim Davis Guest Star
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Gunsmoke's Murdoch Episode: Jack Elam, Bob Random & Jim Davis Guest Star

Gunsmoke's Murdoch was first telecast over CBS on Monday night, February 8, 1971. Jack Elam garners the title role, playing a legendary U.S. marshal who's out to bag the infamous Carver gang and the rebellious son riding with them. Regulars James Arness, Ken Curtis, Milburn Stone and Buck Taylor are also joined in the cast by Bob Random, Jim Davis, Anthony Caruso and Clint Howard.

CBS-TV's Gunsmoke (1955-75) blazed new trails in the TV western genre. The 1971 episode "Murdoch" guest stars Jack Elam as Lucas Murdoch, a United States marshal who's bound and determined to capture and execute the notorious Carver gang.

Gunsmoke's Murdoch: Cast & Credits

Jack Miller penned the teleplay for "Murdoch," with Robert Totten directing. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:

  • Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness)
  • Doc Adams (Milburn Stone)
  • Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis)
  • Newly O'Brian (Buck Taylor)
  • Lucas Murdoch (Jack Elam)
  • Scott Murdoch (Bob Random)
  • Townsend (Anthony Caruso)
  • Amos Carver (Jim Davis)
  • Lonny (Clint Howard)
  • Morris (Tom Waters)
  • Braly (Tim Burns)
  • Ruth (Liz Marshall)
  • Sam Noonan (Glenn Strange)
  • Nathan Burke (Ted Jordan)
  • Gatlin (Bobby Clark)
  • Fairchild (Gary Combs)
  • Townsman (Bert Madrid)
  • Payroll Guard (Rod McGaughy)
  • Payroll Guard (Hank Robinson)
  • Deputy U.S. Marshal Lennox (Chick Sheridan)
  • Townsman (Max Wagner)

Jack Elam in one of his many western roles - Twentieth Century-Fox

Murdoch: Episode Synopsis

As deputy U.S. marshal Festus Haggen looks on, a band of men ride into Dodge City and position themselves in strategic locations. Their leader then rides in, introducing himself as U.S. marshal Lucas Murdoch. He asks to see Marshal Dillon, and is ushered inside Matt's office. Murdoch, a legendary lawman and an old friend of Matt's, informs the Dodge City marshal that he's laying a trap for the Carver gang. He's been tracking them for 17 months now and has lost three men during the hunt.

Murdoch has let it be known that $42,000 in gold is to be delivered and stored in Nathan Burke's Adams Express freight company safe. He's counting on the Carver gang to show, hoping to ambush the outlaws with eight men strategically placed on Front Street. Amos Carver and his boys ride in while the rest of the town is watching the Fourth of July fireworks down on River Street. A bloody shootout occurs, with Murdoch, Matt and the deputies killing two of Carver's gang and wounding three more.

One of the wounded is later abandoned by the gang and tended to by his buddy Scott. A posse finds the pair holed up in a barn where they are persuaded to surrender. They're hauled off to the Dodge City jail, with Murdoch eyeing the one called Scott. It turns out that he's Scott Murdoch, the rebellious, 18-year-old son of Marshal Lucas Murdoch. That complicates matters, as Marshal Murdoch is carrying an execution warrant on all ten members of the Carver gang, including his son as a possible John Doe.

Murdoch: Air Date & Network Competition

"Murdoch," filmed at CBS Studio Center in Studio City, California, was aired over CBS on Monday night, February 8, 1971, in the 7:30-8:30 (ET) time slot. Network competition that evening was The Young Lawyers (ABC) and The Red Skelton Show and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (NBC). 

Murdoch: Analysis & Review

Veteran character actor Jack Elam (1920-2003) generally earned his living playing grizzled sidekicks or heartless killers. In "Murdoch," Elam earns a special guest appearance as Lucas Murdoch, a hardened lawman whose best days are apparently behind him. Elam's Murdoch is a fascinating character, having gone through the trench wars of the Old West. He tells Matt Dillon that he's almost a half man now, blinded in his left eye and damaged in the other by an outlaw's bullet. Murdoch, however, had exacted his revenge against his attacker, hanging the man from the nearest tree on an execution warrant. Murdoch relates that he had even enjoyed the hanging, as the victim had killed seven men and attacked a 14-year-old girl. 

The grizzled Murdoch has come to Dodge to lay waste to the infamous Carver gang. He's once again armed with a two-year-old execution warrant signed by the Attorney General of the United States, giving him the authority to hang on sight Amos Carver and his list of John Doe associates. 

Bob Random (1943-) plays Scott Murdoch, the legendary lawman's son who has hooked up with the Carver gang. Scott, whose own dad was often absent during his childhood, sees Amos Carver as a father figure. Some of the best scenes take place between the Murdochs, with Lucas eventually persuading his rebellious son to lead him to Carver and his gang. The kid is just itching to see his daddy and Amos Carver go at it in a gunfight.

Anthony Caruso (1916-2003) garners a good supporting performance as Townsend, a senior member of the Carver gang. His best scenes take place when James Arness' Matt Dillon takes him out of his cell, plies him with coffee and whiskey and tries to exact some information regarding his gang's hideout. There's no deal here, Dillon stresses, as Townsend will still swing. Still, Townsend could prevent Scott Murdoch and several other young John Does from the hangman's noose.

The big climax in "Murdoch" comes when the aging marshal rides into battle like John Wayne in True Grit (1969), proudly seated atop his horse, armed to the teeth and ready for bear. The gunfight with Amos Carver ensues, with young Scott Murdoch getting a glimpse as to Carver's true character. 

Look for young Clint Howard (1959-) – younger brother of actor/director Ron Howard – as Lonny, a kid who rides his little broom pony down Front Street just before the Carver gang strikes. It's both tense and humorous, as Festus tries to shoo the boy down to the livery stable just before the bullets start flying.

"Murdoch" hails from Gunsmoke's memorable 16th season on the tube and is episode #535 of 635 in the series. "Murdoch" was preceded in the Gunsmoke chronology by "Jaekel" (2/1/71) starring Eric Braeden and Julie Gregg. 

Top Image

  • Ken Curtis, left, and James Arness of Gunsmoke - CBS-TV

Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 


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Comments (1)

When I read your Gunsmoke articles, I read them in black and white, go figure. another good one..voted