These three episodes (The Big Crime, The Big Shoplift, The Big Girl) of Jack Webb's `Dragnet' from 1953 are pretty dated now, although you'd be hard pressed to find any mainstream movie that dealt with the censorious material contained here - child abduction, `kleptomania' (do we still use that word?), and transvestitism. Heck, they were loving Lucy back then, but they put her and Desi in separate beds and didn't let either utter the word `pregnant' when she was, well, you know, `with' little Ricky Jr.
You can find this dvd at a severely discounted price, and anyone who is unfamiliar with Dragnet but has an interest in post-WWII crime dramas that leaned hard on the documentary style should check this one out. Webb's Sgt. Joe Friday doesn't say `Just the facts, ma'am' in any of these three episodes, but the attitude is there. Along with partner Frank Smith (Ben Alexander) Friday always brings in his man, or woman, in time and under budget, even if sometimes it involves `a lot of leg work and no progress.' Dragnet began as a radio program in the late forties and the busy Mr. Webb starred in both the television and radio program throughout most of the fifties. The first run of the television show ended in 1959 and was revived in the late sixties with Harry Morgan as the sidekick.
All were pretty much the same, although I remember Joe Friday in his sixties' incarnation as being a little more acid tongued and scolding. I think Webb wasn't too thrilled with the counter-culture. All of them are filled with words - the scripts must have weighed a ton - and a lot of shots of Friday interviewing strangers in doorways. The acting style is rapid, clipped, and distinctly flat. It's not to everybody's taste, and it exposes itself to parody, but there's a relentless drive to it that can be appreciated. For the price the prints are in very good shape - some audio wobble here and there, a scratched sequence of frames - but mainly much better than I expected. The only complaint I have is the use of what I think was newly recorded music to usher out scenes. You know, the `wah-wah-wah' stuff they use before the boys walk out of the chief's office. It's the same two bars of pensive piano and nervous timpani. There's no extras and little text on the back of the dvd jacket, so it'll have to remain a mystery. My guess is that the usher out music is still under copyright. At worst it's a distraction until you get used to it.