Tag Archives: Dragnet

VICE SQUAD (1953) – The Real “Dragnet”

17 Sep

VICE SQUAD (1953) is a sharply-directed, fast-paced black-and-white crime thriller that follows a full shift in a day’s work for a police captain in the Vice Squad of the Los Angeles Police Department. The filmmakers shot it largely on location on a tight schedule and sought authenticity in every scene, adopting a semi-documentary approach that makes it one of the more believable police dramas of the era. As such, it offers a sharp contrast to the popular TV series of the time, “Dragnet” (1951-59), which, as much as I like it and as much as it was based on true cases, has always seemed to me quite stylized in its depiction of the LAPD through the quirky sensibility, off-kilter humor and incessant moralizing of its producer-director-star, Jack Webb, who played Sergeant Joe Friday in the show. I can imagine a conversation among the director, writer and producers of VICE SQUAD, where they wondered what “Dragnet” would look and sound like with someone in the central role who didn’t make speeches to all and sundry and wasn’t immune to bending the rules and making compromises to get the desired results in a case, i.e., someone less like Sgt. Friday (Webb, pictured below) and more like the actual police captain they consulted before making the film.

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Great Moments in Classic TV 2019

25 Jan

In 2019, I saw 425 TV episodes, 325 of them American and 100 Japanese. I will focus here on highlights from classic American TV that I discovered this past year.

The single series I watched the most episodes from was “Perry Mason,” for a total of 70. I’ve been going slowly, but methodically, through the nine-season box set I purchased in 2017 and I watched from “The Case of the Renegade Refugee” (Season 5 / #13, Dec. 9, 1961) to “The Case of the Simple Simon” (Season 7 / #24, April 2, 1964).

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Great Moments in Classic Television from 2017

8 Jan

I watched approximately 765 episodes from over 100 different TV shows in 2017, spanning the years 1949 to 2017. And that doesn’t include specials, movie-spin-offs or TV movies. I watched more from the 1950s than any other decade (190), followed closely by the 2010s with 185. I watched four series in their entirety, as well as two entire seasons of “Perry Mason.” I watched mostly on DVD, but also on VHS, Blu-ray, Amazon Prime, YouTube and cable TV. I like to celebrate anniversaries so I watched a lot of shows from 1957, 60 years ago, and 1967, 50 years ago, and a good amount from 1997, but far fewer from 1977, 1987, and 2007.

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“Dragnet”: Revisiting a Classic Police Show

16 Nov

I did a post on “Dragnet” on January 27, earlier this year, focusing on one particular episode, “The Big Producer,” about a onetime silent film producer who heads a ring selling obscene literature to high school kids and, in the course of the investigation, takes Sgt. Joe Friday and his partner, Frank Smith, on a tour of a rundown movie studio, taking on a SUNSET BOULEVARD aura. I’ve since watched all 22 episodes found in the “Dragnet” box set I own, all shown from 1952-1955, and can safely say that “Dragnet” is easily the most intense and dramatic TV series from the 1950s I’ve yet seen. It’s all based on actual cases and the crimes covered in the show include some subjects, such as child molestation and drug abuse, that were off limits to movies of the period because of the Production Code. I’m not sure how they got away with them on television. There are mostly stories of violent crime, such as murder, hit-and-run, and armed robbery and assault, but also episodes devoted to burglary, swindling, and check forgery, as well as suicide and accidental death. The emphasis was chiefly on the investigation, including long scenes of questioning of witnesses, and, ultimately, the grilling of the suspect.

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Dragnet meets Sunset Boulevard

27 Jan

Until this month I’d never watched an original black-and-white episode of “Dragnet,” the police drama series that ran from 1951-1959 and starred Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday. Webb also produced and directed the series, having adapted it for television from a radio series he’d originated after being inspired by his role as a crime lab technician in the 1949 movie, HE WALKED BY NIGHT, covered here on March 13, 2012. I’ve seen 12 episodes of “Dragnet” so far, thanks to a box set I picked up at a used video store last year.

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