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 <email@example.com>
Hard-hitting crime drama bearing little relation to TV series
"Dragnet" was the first theatrical feature to be based on a successful television series. Too bad its script bears little relation to the elements of that show.
In the 1952-59 series, viewers never saw the crime being committed. "Dragnet" was a mystery program; Sgt. Friday and Officer Smith would be called in to solve a crime, then locate and arrest the guilty party/parties. (As Webb put it, "This makes YOU a cop, and you unwind the story.") "Dragnet" (1954) begins with the actual crime, so that we KNOW who's guilty even before the titles appear. The movie is no mystery, merely the depiction of a murder investigation, in toto.
Worse, the Sgt. Friday in this film is not the quiet, dedicated cop of the radio and TV original. The feature marks the beginning of Friday the Supercop, the holier-than-thou sergeant never without a wisecrack for the criminal ("Unless you're growin', sit down!") or a put-down for the recalcitrant citizen ("Mr. Friday, if you was me, would you [testify]?" "Can I wait awhile... before I'm you?").
The film was a huge box office success, the most profitable of Webb's five theatrical productions. It cost a hair over $500,000 to make, and took in nearly six million. It was Warner's second-highest grossing film of 1954, after "The High and the Mighty." And, of course, it opened the door for the TV crossovers that continue to this day. It's just a shame that the "real" Sgt. Friday didn't appear, and an even bigger shame that this 'evil twin' eventually eclipsed the original.
13 of 18 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?