It was 1953 when Edward G. Robinson, known for his gangster roles in "Little Caesar", "Key Largo" and star of hit films such as "Double Indemnity", "The Stranger" and "The Ten Commandments" would appear in a detective film known as "Vice Squad".
The film is a film adaptation of Leslie T. White's "Harness Bull" and was directed by Arnold Laven ("The Rifleman", "The Big Valley", "Geronimo") and written by Lawrence Roman ("A Kiss Before Dying", "Under the Yum Yum Tree".
Along with Robinson, the film would also feature actress Paulette Goddard, actress and Chaplin muse who starred in films such as "Modern Times", "The Great Dictator", "Second Chorus", "Pot o' Gold".
The police drama follows the day in the life of Capt. Barnaby (played by Edward G. Robinson) and is shot almost in a docudrama style.
The film begins with two thieves known as Barkis & Monty are trying to break into a car, meanwhile at a building nearby, a well-respected funeral director named Jack Hartrampf (played by Porter Hall) is having a fun time (and having an affair) with a woman named Vicki Webb (played by Joan Vohs). As he tries to leave the area without anyone seeing him, he sees a police officer Kellogg trying to arrest one of the car thieves, while one of them is hiding. The hiding thief shoots the police officer and the thieves leave with the stolen car.
As Kellogg screams for help, Jack comes to his aid and other police officers show up and see him next to the officer and arrest him.
The film then shifts to a police precinct as Capt. Barnaby comes to the office hearing that one of his officers is in the hospital and fighting for his life and we see how operations are going on at the office. Throughout the day, we see see Capt. Barnaby busy and giving orders to his detectives.
One detective is interrogating Jack Hartrampf who is not cooperating until his lawyer arrives (and keeping quiet because his wife will find out that he has been with prostitutes), meanwhile a thug has information for the Capt. and tells him that two thieves that were released from prison are now out and their plans are to rob a bank. So, Barnaby has his detectives look into it.
We also see Barnaby trying to help one woman who's afraid that her mother is being swindled by a man, having to prepare for a televised news conference and also having to deal with the death of an officer, while maintaining his composure in front of the detectives. But doing all that's possible to catch them.
It is possible that the two thieves that shot the officer, may be the same people who may be robbing the bank. Fortunately, Capt. Barnaby has a source to get information from the underground, via escort agency owner named Mona Ross (played by Paulette Goddard), who he hopes will give him information on these two thieves and find out where they may be.
Part of the worry of viewers who had bad experiences with MOD DVD's are the printing quality. There are some who can't get them to play and are literally now just coasters.
With "Vice Squad", its printed quite well with printing on top of the DVD, it's not a plain silver disc with letters. If you didn't know it was MOD, you would think it was an actual DVD release.
As for playability, I played it on my Blu-ray player and DVD player with no problems. I then played it on my Mac, no problems whatsoever.
VIDEO AND AUDIO:
As far as picture quality goes, the film has been manufactured using the best source available. The picture quality for "Vice Squad" is actually very good. Black levels are nice and deep, white and gray levels and overall contrast is very good, I didn't see damage or many white specks. A good amount of grain.
As for audio, dialogue is clear and detected no pops or hissing during my viewing of "Vice Squad".
There are no special features.
Edward G. Robinson called his '50s films as mere B-films, but I have to say that "Vice Squad" was actually quite entertaining and required really good planning and pacing to keep the overall storyline fluid.
The film is a docudrama focusing on a normal day of Capt. Barnaby and because it shows him interacting with many people and it definitely required Barnaby to be in his top game as he would go from room to room and character to character and having to deal with different cases with different levels of emotion.
So, for me the many transitions was a positive, another positive was how many locations shots of Los Angeles during the early '50s. There are a good number of shots at various locations that I have driven through and no longer look the way it does in this film. And for film buffs who always hunt for locations, there are actual sign posts on what streets they are at (ie. Santa Monica Blvd.). And also because of that era, it was interesting to see officers using shotguns instead of pistols.
And last, another major plus for me as a cinema fan is seeing one of the last few films that Paulette Goddard had shot in her career. But it's also important to let viewers know that her role is quite short, despite her getting the top billing along with Robinson. And speaking of talent, spaghetti western fans will probably be amused that actor Lee Van Cleef plays one of the thieves, Monty, who is one of the two thieves that is wanted in the film.
But for Edward G. Robinson fans, "Vice Squad" is one of the many B-films that he had starred in throughout the '50s, but this film is one of the better titles.
As for this made on demand DVD, fans of this film will be happy to know that the video is in great shape. No problems with video or audio whatsoever.
While I'm not sure why the film is called "Vice Squad" (since the film is not about narcotics, illegal sales of alcohol, gambling, etc.), I was quite entertained by this '50s film. Especially to see how far the LAPD would go in pursuing the killers (let's just say that these officers don't exactly play by the book).
Overall, if you enjoy '50s police films or shows like "Dragnet", definitely give "Vice Squad" a try!