Two homicide detectives investigate the brutal shotgun murder of a crime syndicate member.




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Vic Perrin ...
Deputy D.A. Adolph Alexander (as Victor Perrin)
Dick Cathcart ...
Ray Pinker (as Olan Soulé)
Monte Masters ...


Saturday, April 9: A known bookie named Miller Starkie has been "cut in half" by a sawed-off, double-barrel shotgun. Working out of Intelligence Division, Sgt. Joe Friday and Off. Frank Smith piece together what little evidence they have, interview acquaintances, intimidate witnesses, interrogate suspects to the point of harassment, utilize a Minifon and a wiretap, and testify before the Grand Jury in a tireless effort to catch and convict Starkie's killers. Written by Michael J. Hayde <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Straight from Police Files-The Never-Told Trackdown of the Red-Spot Criminals! See more »


Crime | Drama | Film-Noir


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

4 September 1954 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Original Dragnet  »

Box Office


$500,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.75 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The many closeup action scenes suggest that the producers may have been intending to release the film in 3D which was at its height from 1953-54. By the time of the film's release 3D was being replaced by the many wide screen formats,without the need of special glasses, such as CinemaScope and VistaVision. See more »


The murder scene is an open lot bounded by Loma Vista, 3rd, Wentworth and Rachel. These are actual streets in the LA area but do not intersect or form a block. See more »


[an eyewitness is afraid to testify]
Jesse Quinn: Mr. Friday, I'd like to ask you a question. If you was me, would you do it?
Sgt. Joe Friday: Can I wait awhile?
Jesse Quinn: Huh?
Sgt. Joe Friday: Before I'm you.
See more »


Followed by Dragnet 1967 (1967) See more »


Foggy Night in San Francisco
Music by Herman S. Saunders (as Herman Saunders)
Lyrics by Sidney Miller
See more »

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User Reviews

Joe Friday Takes On Mob Boss Guilty Of A Gangland Hit
21 February 2003 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Contains Spoilers With the success of his television series, Jack Webb extended the working territory of Sgt. Joe Friday into widescreen color cinema with the first Dragnet motion picture, scripted by Richard Breen from an actual LAPD case file - complete with realistically detailed rap sheets on the perpetrators involved.

Miller Starkey, White Male American, aged 44 - in LAPD lingo WMA 44, with an LA prison number of 106484; bookmaker, gambler, procurer, with no known legitimate occupation, and debt collector for Vegas bookies. Upon hearing George Fenneman's announcement of the truth of the story with name alteration to protect the innocent, we witness the actual commission of the crime in a field near Loma Vista, Third, Wentworth, and Rachel Avenues, as Starkey is gunned down in cold blood by hit-man Chester Davitt and West Coast mafia second-in-command Max Edward Troy (Stacy Harris). This dramatic device was comparatively unused in film at the time, predating by nearly two decades the formula made standard by one of Joe Friday's fellow LAPD detective lieutenants, a man named Columbo.

Starkey's record is such that suspects in his killing are fairly easy to identify. The department rounds up Starkey's mob associates, and Friday and Frank Smith have the task of interrogating Max Troy, who despite four hours of often bitter questioning, refuses to admit to anything.

Joe and Frank are given 36 hours to find evidence against Troy and his pals or they will have to walk. Despite a heated argument with Deputy DA Adolph "Alex" Alexander (Vic Perrin), the suspects have to be let go when the 36 hours elapses. Friday and Smith, though, continue the investigation, assigning Policewoman Grace Downey (Ann Robinson) to infiltrate a swanky nightclub at which Troy and his pals hang out (and which is covertly co-owned by Troy), and eventually finding Starkey's "work book," a diary of names and addresses of gambling debtors.

From their sources the two officers learn that Starkey was badly beaten up and also that gambling debtors visited by Starkey were revisited by other enforcers who never got paid. From Grace Downey they also learn that Troy borrowed the nightclub bartender's car and that there is a package in the glove box that must be disposed of.

Eventually Chester Davitt, Troy, and two others are arrested and taken before the grand jury, but the grand jury votes not to indict, which angers LAPD Intelligence chief James E. Hamilton (Richard Boone) enough that Friday and Smith are assigned a bumper-to-bumper tail - which humiliates Troy and leads to a brawl with several toughs.

Grace Downey then comes up with a major clue, and wiretap recordings of the nightclub lead Chester Davitt's wife, who has furiously refused to cooperate with police, to suddenly change her mind and finger Troy and her husband, all of which gives the DA's office ample evidence to send Troy and company to the gas chamber. But Max Troy pulls one final fast one on the police ensuring he will never be arrested.

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