Special Agent Eliot Ness (Robert Stack) forms The Untouchables, an elite squad of incorruptible lawmen, in order to bring down underworld kingpin Al Capone. First televised as a two-part episode of the Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse in April 1959, The Untouchables was later combined into one seamless version for movie theaters titled "The Scarface Mob." Here, accompanying this movie version are the Desi Arnaz and Walter Winchell introductions that preceded parts one and two of the original Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse broadcast. Written by
Al Capone versus Eliot Ness--Evil versus Good--Darkness versus Light...
The late 'Fifties brought B&W television to its highest point and "The Untouchables" was a case in point. People have a way of forgetting that the series--with its graphic violence--was controversial in its own time.
Robert Stack(as Eliot Ness) was here the perfect film noir hero--tough, laconic and utterly loyal to his subordinates. Neville Brand, no slouch himself, lit up the screen as Al Capone--sadistic, as tough as Ness and totally without concern for his own people(or anyone else, for that matter).
The reconstruction of mood and ambiance in this movie(re-edited from the TV series) is flawless. The mythic world which you see here is one that psychologist Carl Jung would have approved of. It was the "world" in which my own Dad had grown up--as seen through a child's eyes.
But, as history, it is woefully wide of the mark. The real Eliot Ness left Federal service after a few short years and was much less moral and self-possessed than the character played by Robert Stack. The real Al Capone had a weakness for beautiful women which ultimately killed him.
While Ness put the Chicago Gangsters under financial pressure, an accountant from the IRS actually put this multiple murderer behind bars--for income tax evasion.
I saw this as a kid, with my Dad at my side. It made me feel that there is, in the end, no issue more important than simple justice. Since that time, like most folks, I've learned to live with moral ambiguity. But that's not all good news, by any means.
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