|Index||3 reviews in total|
Written by Herbert Abbott Spiro, who was a prolific television writer for a few years in the 1950s; less so after. This was his only "Untouchables;" the story is fairly routine and Spiro has a tin ear for the dialog of the lawmen, though Ness gets in a few decent quips. Another decrement is Charles McGraw as Johnny Torrio; McGraw plays Torrio as a common, generic hood, and there is nothing in his performance that would connect you to the real Torrio, who was Al Capone's mentor and a good deal more imposing than this cheapjack. This episode was the only "Untouchables" to draw upon Torrio as a character. An early plot point turns on the killing by Ness' men of Guillermo Torrio, Johnny's nephew, during a raid. But don't break out Wikipedia to look him up, as Guillermo was not a real person. Despite the issues with Spiro's script, there are two very fine, nuanced performances by TV mainstays Edward Andrews and Henry Jones as legit alcohol dealers (in the depression year of 1931) up to their necks in trouble with Torrio's gang, and on their way down -- this is the best reason to watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Many, but not all of the episodes of "The Untouchables" were set during
the Prohibition era (1920-1933) and most of these episodes concerned
Eliot Ness' attempt to stem the flow of liquor from organized crime to
the public. In the case of "Portrait of a Thief", Ness is concerned
because their efforts SHOULD be having a greater impact on the amount
of alcohol being consumed in Chicago. But there STILL is quite a
bit...meaning the mob has developed a new source for alcohol and they
soon realize it's LEGALLY produced alcohol from the USA. One of several
companies in New York is legally making 190 proof alcohol for
pharmaceutical use...but it's instead being diverted to the mob. The
trail eventually leads to the Brawley Mills Company...and its two
bosses, Duncan and Wells (Edward Andrews and Henry Jones).
As for Duncan and Wells, they've made the proverbial deal with the devil. Mobster Johnny Torrio (Charles McGraw) is their hidden partner and he's not only demanding more booze but a much greater control over the company and its profits. He's basically squeezing Duncan and Wells dry...and Wells is ready to explode. He knows he's essentially a dead man. So the question is who will get to him...the mob or Ness and his men?
I liked this episode because it was nice to see such familiar and excellent guest actors--McGraw, Andrews and Jones. Even if you aren't familiar with the names, you'll no doubt recognize their faces if you've seen much 50s and 60s television. So am I saying the show is really good....no! There's one portion that is simply the most predictable and ridiculous cliché you could ever see in a gangster film. After Wells is murdered, Duncan tells Johnny Torrio that "I'm through with you....I'm going to name names...."...and every person who has ever seen a gangster film has heard a line like this before...and it didn't make sense any of these times! And, would anyone dealing with the mob actually be dumb enough to say this?!?! Duh... A very bad cliché to say the least! Despite this, it's still watchable and worth seeing.
Once again The Untouchables threw history to the wind in creating this
episode for Robert Stack and his team. Johnny Torrio who after
surviving a gangland hit, retired and turned it all over to his chief
lieutenant Al Capone. He never returned to Chicago, simply became an
underworld elder statesman.
But here Charles McGraw does come back when during an investigation of the syndicate getting legal grain alcohol from an upstate New York firm McGraw's nephew is killed. He blames the president and chief accountant of the firm Edward Andrews and Henry Jones for the death.
Torrio has something on both these guys and he's been getting his alcohol for his product and squeezing them for years. What it is is the heart of this Untouchables episode. It's Nicholas Georgiade of the team that uncovers it.
Not one of the better stories.
|Plot summary||Ratings||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|