Dragnet (Universal Vault Series)

All the facts, ma'am, on Dragnet

When a runner for the numbers racket ends up a tad short in his accounts, he's taken out into a field in broad daylight and blasted in two with with a sawed-off shotgun. Enter Joe Friday and Frank Smith, LAPD, who easily know WHO did it, but need to find the evidence to make a Grand Jury indict. That's not so easy. A terrific police procedural I liked very much. I'm a recent introductee to the 1950s Dragnet show, and really enjoyed the sparse style and no-nonsense police routine that had become so silly when it was redone in the late '60s, the Dragnet I grew up with. Dragnet had been successful on radio and TV for years when Webb adapted it to the big screen, and changed nothing except shot it in WarnerColor and added violence, blood and a little action to entice the crowds, which it did: the film was very successful (it's a Warner Bros. movie now owned by Universal). Webb and Ben Alexander, of course, are Friday and Smith; Ann Robinson, Richard Boone and Dennis Weaver are fellow officers. Dub Taylor is the guy who gets blown away in the opening scene, and Stacy Harris is the main villain, who has a terrible intestinal illness and two dogged cops making him miserable from dawn to dusk. Of course, there's the usual debate regarding the rights of suspects, the rule of law, and stuff like that. The D.A. and Friday even debate how criminals can sometimes go free not because they're innocent, but because they can't be proven guilty. It's the breaks, you know. Million-dollar Dialog: Witness who's afraid to testify: 'I don't see what all the fuss is. The paper says the dead fellow was a criminal. He don't seem worth the trouble.' Friday: 'Well, I'm sorry. You'd like a dead Arch Bishop. We don't have one. We've got a small-time hoodlum.' Friday: 'Why does the law always work for the guilty?' D.A.: 'Because the innocent don't need it.' (Well, I'm not so sure about THAT, Mr. D.A.) A good movie that I enjoyed a lot.