GUNSMOKE: CHATO (1970, USA) ****½
net. CBS Television Network; pr co. CBS Television Network; d. Vincent McEveety; w. Paul F. Edwards; exec pr. John Mantley; pr. Joseph Dackow; ph. Monroe P. Askins (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. John Carl Parker; th. Rex Koury (uncredited); ed. Gerard Wilson; ad. Joseph R. Jennings; set d. Herman N. Schoenbrun; cos. Alexander Velcoff; m/up. Glen Alden, Irving Pringle, Cherie Banks; sd. Andrew Gilmore, Jerry Rosenthal (Mono); tr. 14 September 1970; r/t. 50m.
cast: James Arness (Matt Dillon), Ricardo Montalban (Chato), Miriam Colon (Mora), Peggy McCay (Beth Cooter), William Bryant (Marshal Dan Cooter), Rodolfo Hoyos Jr. (Juanito), Robert Knapp (Surgeon), Pedro Regas (Old Man), Jim Sheppard (Deputy Case).
(s. 16 ep. 1) Chato (Montalban) is a mixed-race Native American with a serious grudge against lawmen. He also has a remarkable athletic ability: he can run and jump over mountain ledges while keeping up a steady fire with his rifle. After an exciting duel, he kills a friend of Matt Dillon’s who was tracking him. Matt (Arness) comes to New Mexico and engages him in a duel of wits with Chato to catch him. Chato’s one soft spot is his common-law wife (Colon). She is shot and severely injured by a group of renegade tribesmen who were also gunning for Chato. Chato calls a truce with Matt so the group can escape and get her to a doctor – but it’s only a truce. Arness declared this episode his favourite of the 635 he starred in. It is easy to see why. This is an intelligent and tense story with fully formed characters and motivations. Montalban is excellent as the proud Indian waging a one-man war against the white man who slaughtered his people. Arness delivers one of his best performances as he hunts down Montalban and then forms a temporary alliance as they both fend off the threat from a renegade tribe. McEveety’s direction is also a great example of how a story can be elevated by the way it is presented. The all-location shoot gives the production the feel of a big-screen feature and Parker’s score perfectly underlines the drama. A real winner of an episode that showcased the series at its best – remarkable considering it was into its sixteenth season. Writer Paul F. Edwards won a Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award for this episode.