What I didn't remember, until watching the episodes on the DVD, was that The Rifleman was hands-down one of the most violent shows in the history of television...and I mean that in an incredibly awesome way. I want the whole series now...even though the plots are rather formulaic, to say the least. The four half-hour(!) episodes on the DVD play out like this:
- Lucas and Mark are working on something at the ranch. A need to run into town arises. They go into town together.
- Once in town, they are immediately accosted by 8-10 roughnecks who make fun of Lucas for not carrying a pistol. Lucas brandishes his rifle and warns them that he could, if properly provoked, shoot every damn one of them in the chest at point-blank range before they could even draw their sidearms.
- The roughnecks don't appreciate being talked to like that. They plan to follow Lucas and Mark home and get the drop on them at nightfall.
- That night, Lucas puts Mark to bed. The roughnecks break in and, sure enough, they have the drop on Lucas...that is, until Mark flings open the bedroom door and, in his nightshirt no less, tosses Lucas his rifle.
- Lucas catches the rifle and shoots every damn one of the roughnecks in the chest at point-blank range before they can even draw their sidearms. Then, with the corpses of the dead still strewn everywhere around the house, he gently puts Mark back to bed with a kiss to the forehead.
Check out the YouTube below for a taste of The Rifleman. He even shoots Sammy Davis Jr. in the chest at point-blank range in this video. I swear I think a young Sam Peckinpah must've directed some of this stuff. "Eat hot lead, Hoss and Little Joe!" BLAM-BLAM-BLAM-BLAM-BLAM-BLAM!
(Edited to add: Since this was posted over the weekend, I've learned that...yes, indeed...Sam Peckinpah not only directed over a half-dozen first season episodes...but he, in fact, created and developed the concept of The Rifleman as a television series!)