Friday, November 11, 2011


   With Shout ! Factory picking up the ball with the color run of Dragnet after Universal quit after the first season (Dragnet 1967), an unexpected bonus turned up in season two set - the 1966 pilot movie. When Webb revived the series in 1966 he hoped to get Ben Alexander back in the role of Frank Smith, but he was busy with a new ABC series Felony Squad. Webb then cast Harry Morgan in the role of Bill Gannon. In the pilot (not aired until 1969), Gannon is on his last day before retirement and Friday's rank is Lt. - not the familiar Sgt.  Perhaps Webb still hoped to get Ben Alexander back and just used Morgan as a fill in for the pilot, once the series was sold hopefully Frank Smith would be back.  The series was picked up and Harry Morgan was cast as Bill Gannon and Friday was back to a Sgt. The movie itself is based upon the real life case of serial killer Harvey Glatman ("The Lonely Hearts Killer") and some of Glatman's own statements to the police were used in script. 
    Although I grew up with the color Dragnet the original B&W series is really where it's at. Warner thru its MOD DVDr program on Amazon has released the original 1954 movie in all it's Warnercolor glory. A fascinating pre- Miranda rights procedural police movie, with Jack Webb's entire "stock company" from the TV series (many of whom would also appear later in the color Dragnet) including Virginia Gregg, Stacy Harris and Vic Perrin.  Also on board are Richard Boone, Ann Robinson and Dub Taylor (who gets blown away with a shotgun in opening scene).  Based upon the actual L.A. Police Intelligence Bureau who during the 1950's were responsible for fighting the war on organized crime in Los Angeles.
   The original B&W TV series still seems to be ignored by Universal - there are bunches of public domain DVD's out there with the same handful of shows.  I've bought a bunch of them and this one seems to be the best, with the most episodes and decent quality.

"Shotgun, extreme close range, double-O. Starkey was hit four times, first two cut him in half. "

"The second two turned him into a crowd."

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