Saturday happens to be the birthday of famously stone-faced actor Jack Webb (1920-1982). There’s no way I could let the occasion slip by without riffing on his TV paean to virtuous L.A. cops, “Dragnet.”
“Dragnet,” of course, began life in the 1950’s, but my heart belongs to the 1960’s TV revival, in which Webb, as Sgt. Joe Friday, takes on the flower-power hippie generation and gives it what-for. Beside Webb, standing tall (in a manner of speaking), was the ever-admirable Harry Morgan as Friday’s partner Bill Gannon.
The TV-movie I’m Tweeting is unofficially known as Dragnet 1966. It was the feature-length pilot for the revival version of “Dragnet,” although this pilot itself wasn’t actually broadcast until 1969. (Got that?)
I haven’t seen the movie but have read that its story is based on an infamous L.A. murder case. But do you care? If it’s anything like the story, Friday straight-leggedly walks through the scene, gets the latest info on the case, and delivers a piercing zinger punctuated by a musical sting before going onto the next scene. That was always the campy fun of the show for me.
So show us your badge to get in, and then be with us for #SatMat this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. EDT prompt. Don’t make us have to get rough.
This week on The Gangsters All Here, it’s a two-for-one special as Paul Henreid — best known to film buffs as Victor Laszlo, the good guy in Casablanca — does a complete 180 as a villain and his doppelganger in a film-noir entry, The Scar (also previously released as Hollow Triumph).
(WARNING: Spoilers follow!)
Heinreid (who also produced the movie) plays recently paroled criminal John Muller. Muller wastes no time reverting to his old way, rounding up his old gang and planning a heist on a high-looted and well-protected casino. When that project works out less than swimmingly, Muller retreats to another city, where he discovers he has an uncanny resemblance to a local psychologist named Victor Bartok (also played by Henreid). Indeed, the only major physical difference between the two is a prominent scar on Bartok’s face. But heck, if Muller can ditch his own trashy life and take over someone else’s tony existence, he’s not going to let a little thing like a facial scratch stop him, is he?
On a scale of 1 to 5 fannies, this movie gets a 4. I would give it a 5, but frankly, that business about the scar gets a little hazy in the movie’s second half. However, that won’t deter you from enjoying powerhouse performances from Henreid as well as Joan Bennett as Bartok’s seen-it-all secretary. And if you look really closely, your eyes will pop at the sight of Jack Webb in the early role of a hitman who’s nicknamed “Bullseye”! Goodness, what would Joe Friday have to say about that?