Reviews written by registered user
|9 reviews in total|
This is my favorite Marx picture. For one thing, all four brothers are united at the start; for another, they all get a chance to shine. Groucho's wisecracks, Chico's puns, Harpo's wild antics (especially on line with his "passport"), and Zeppo's satirical wooing get high "Marx" for great comedy. Practically every film they did afterward - even the classic "Night at the Opera" - stole something from this picture. If you can, see it at a theater, and prepare to laugh like h***!!!
This series has taken a rap from latter-day critics, who can't stand
that it's not "Dragnet" (1952). A few misguided souls actually view it as
"camp comedy," and the terminally hip scoff at Sgt. Friday's rabid anti-drug
What makes this series rise above such criticism is the sincerity of all players, its dead-on realism in every situation and performance, and the fact that each story is TRUE. As with practically everything Jack Webb did, this show was ahead of its time in many ways. "Dragnet 1967-70" preached "just say no" twenty years before it became fashionable. Friday's assertions about the addictive nature of drugs, and that marijuana users tend to move on to harder stuff, is still borne out by statistics. The absence of gunplay and wild car chases underscore what a cop's day-to-day life REALLY is. Best of all, the chemistry between Webb and Harry Morgan is unbeatable.
Yes, a lot of the same actors are used over and over, but that was just as true in the 1950's version. Members of the LAPD, and other police departments, assert that "Dragnet" and "Adam-12" (also a Webb production) are still TV's most realistic cop shows. Forget what you've read before and give this version of "Dragnet" a try.
Considering it was shot in 11 days; considering its "special effects" are
something less than primitive, George Reeves and this film still pack a
Mysterious Mole-Men emerge from "the world's deepest oil well," and scare the inhabitants of the nearby town of Silsby. Despite pleas for tolerance and patience, Superman must disarm the town and protect the aliens while hard-headed Luke Benson repeatedly tries to kill them.
FACTOID #1: Despite other accounts, this film was NOT a "pilot" for the eventual series. In fact, there WAS no pilot. The day after shooting wrapped, the company spent another 12 weeks shooting 24 half-hour episodes. The comic book company decided to include a feature film as part of the schedule, so they'd be sure to recoup their investment at the box office in case no one bought the series. Lucky for us, that didn't come to pass.
FACTOID #2: Although the two-part TV version, "Unknown People," had been edited and packaged with the other 24 half-hours, it had to be withheld during the series' original run. It had been produced in 1951, and SAG rules forbade films copyrighted after 9/48 to air on TV without residuals. Not until 1960, when the rules were revised, did "Unknown People" appear.
"Dragnet" was the first theatrical feature to be based on a successful
television series. Too bad its script bears little relation to the
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.
"Pete Kelly's Blues" began as a radio show in the summer of 1951. Almost
soon as "Dragnet" reached TV's top ten, Webb began making plans to play
Kelly on television. But the more successful "Dragnet" became, the less
likely it seemed that NBC would ever let him drop it.
Webb's first feature, "Dragnet" (1954) changed all that. Its success enabled him to nab a handsome deal with Warner Bros.: he would make "Pete Kelly's Blues" his second production; he would promote it as a pilot for a new series, and if the public responded positively Warner could have a hand in the eventual TV production.
The strange thing about all this is that Webb's Pete Kelly is practically identical to Sgt. Friday. His movements are stiff, calculated for precision; he summons his friends like Friday beckoning a suspect; he walks, talks and handles a gun just like Friday. One reviewer likened him to a wooden indian! Considering Webb had waited over two years to play THIS role on film; considering his passion for realism, couldn't he have created a realistic jazz musician? In the end, the film did acceptable business, grossing nearly five million. But it wasn't successful enough to convince NBC to drop "Dragnet" in favor of "Kelly."
FACTOID: A TV version finally arrived in 1959, after "Dragnet" had ceased production. Produced and Directed by Webb, it starred William Reynolds (who, unlike Webb, could really play a trumpet), utilized scripts from the radio show, and lasted 13 weeks.
Why is it Jack Webb gets no respect as a director? This film puts to
the myth that Webb was a one-trick ("Dragnet") pony. Marines then and now
call "The D.I." the most accurate portrayal of boot camp training ever put
on celluloid. It's also a marvelous character study, with gripping
performances by both Webb and Don Dubbins. What makes it even more
1) Only three of the men in this film were professional actors; Webb, Dubbins and Lin McCarthy, and Dubbins had been a Marine. All the others were actual Marines, and Webb elicted memorable performances from most of them.
2) It was shot in a breathtaking 23 days in March of 1957.
3) To make the summer release date requested by Warner Bros., Webb edited as he shot. By the time principal photography wrapped, he had two reels cut and scored.
Yet, Webb is laughed at as an actor, and dismissed as a director? See this film and ask yourself, WHY???
FACTOID: The film was based on a KRAFT TELEVISION THEATER presentation called "Murder of a Sand Flea." Lin McCarthy played the same role in both productions.
"-30-" is an anomaly among Jack Webb productions: it's the least realistic
docudrama he ever made. Unlike "The D.I.," which got a ringing
from the Marine Corps., journalists sneered at this picture. Newspaper
critics harped on its wisecracks, its plot contrivances, and especially
constant abuse heaped on copy boys throughout the film. (Strangely,
commented on its LEAST realistic aspect: what kind of adoption agency
releases a little boy to a family where the father refuses to meet with
On the other hand, the film contains Webb's liveliest performance. His Sam Gatlin is animated and emotional. The closing scene, as Webb tries to explain to his second wife why he REALLY doesn't want to adopt a child, will shock you and perhaps put a lump in your throat. It's almost worth sitting through William Conrad's over-the-top, Edgar Kennedy-ish performance to see.
FACTOID: Warner Bros. really had a hard time marketing this one. In some cities, the ads labeled it a drama; in others, it was termed a comedy ("You'll laugh so loud, you might get arrested," read one ad under a picture of Jack "Sgt. Friday" Webb.) In the end, few people went to see it. It was the first Webb production to LOSE money, and it lost him his Warner contract.
By 1960, "Dragnet" had been cancelled, and so had all of Mark VII LTD's
other TV series. Webb's intention was to do theatrical films from now on.
Then he made this film.
"The Last Time I Saw Archie" is a series of comedy vignettes hooked on a true life situation - a stateside camp consisting of "leftovers" from a program designed to train pilots too old for combat duty during WWII. (The program was cancelled because the war was winding down.) Robert Mitchum plays Pvt. Archie Hall, a schemer who manages to convince everyone around him that he's more important than his rank indicates. Webb is Pvt. Bill Bowers (the same man who wrote the screenplay), the buddy who goes along for the ride. During the course of the film, Archie avoids all the mundane duties of military life, finds girlfriends for himself and Bowers, and secures an unrestricted pass and a private jeep.
FACTOID: The film was Webb's most expensive production; it cost about $2 million. It was also his biggest flop, grossing about $1.2 million. Webb would never again make a theatrical feature. Five years later, he'd be back to playing Sgt. Friday.
Although it's written by the same writer as "Dragnet" (1954), this film is
the antidote to the theatrical production, and the best "Dragnet" Jack
The actual case had occurred in the late 1950's, and had been worked by then-Sgt. Pierce Brooks, who served as technical consultant. (Wambaugh's "The Onion Field" was also a Brooks case.) A sex deviant photographs young, inexperienced models before raping and murdering them. Sgt. Friday and Officer Gannon try to find the killer pervert, and in the process they solve ANOTHER murder; that of a jewelry salesman from France who bears a striking resemblance to their suspect. The plot is gripping and (of course) well acted and directed. A great moment comes when Friday consoles the young son of the murdered jewelry salesman. It's a rare display of emotion for the "cop's cop." The dialogue is true-to-life, and so are the supporting characters - even the ones clearly played for laughs.
For anyone who wants to know why Webb's "Dragnet" was so successful, THIS is the film to see.
FACTOID: The film aired in 1969, but was actually shot in 1966. It wasn't intended as a pilot for a new series, but when NBC saw it, they wanted Webb back as Friday full time.