Saturday, January 09, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Dragnet (1954) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

DRAGNET (1954), directed by and starring Jack Webb, was recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

I unabashedly love this movie, which I first reviewed here as part of a Webb blogathon in 2014 and which I was fortunate to see again in 35mm at the Noir City Hollywood Festival in 2018.

I grew up watching Webb's TV shows, and if anything this film version of DRAGNET is even more fun, with a fantastic cast and delightful dialogue.  

Regarding the dialogue, one of my favorite moments comes when Richard Boone, playing Captain Hamilton, comments regarding a murder victim: "The first two [shots] cut him in half," to which Webb's Sergeant Joe Friday responds, "The second two turned him into a crowd." It makes me laugh every time. Sure, it's macabre, but how can you not love Jack Webb deadpanning a line like that?

The movie begins with a murder before the credits, quickly followed by Sgt. Friday and his partner, Officer Frank Smith (Ben Alexander), meeting with Boone's Captain Hamilton and Dennis Weaver as Captain Lohrman to discuss the case.  From there we follow the investigation step by step.

The cast is one of the film's deep pleasures, with Boone particularly fun as Friday's boss.  Great character faces pop up in almost every scene: Virginia Gregg.  Olan Soule.  James Griffith.  Stacy Harris.  Virginia Christine.  Herb Vigran.  William Boyett.  James Anderson.  Ross Elliott.  Vic Perrin.  Art Gilmore.  Dub Taylor.  Harry Lauter.  

The list of familiar actors goes on and on, even including Disney production designer Harper Goff, who was the production designer on Webb's PETE KELLY'S BLUES (1955), and trumpeter Dick Cathcart.

When I saw the movie at the Noir City Fest, costar Ann Robinson, who plays Officer Grace Downey, was present and recounted that she read for the role after someone else was cast; she was thrilled when they decided to pay off the other actress and gave her the role.  I only wish she'd been onscreen longer as she's quite engaging.  

And then there's the movie's look!  Downtown Los Angeles, complete with Yellow Cars...Googie designs...the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History...the's Mid-Century heaven.

This film is just great fun.  I think I've enjoyed it more on each viewing. DRAGNET is highly recommended for anyone who loves Webb police procedurals or a great look at '50s Los Angeles.

For more on this very enjoyable film, please check out a 2019 review by my friend Caftan Woman.

DRAGNET was filmed in WarnerColor by Edward Colman.  It runs 88 minutes.

The Universal Vault DVD I saw back in 2014 was of variable quality, with some scenes looking great and others...not so much.  I'm glad to report that Kino Lorber's Blu-ray looks consistently good from start to finish.

The Blu-ray disc, utilizing a brand-new 2K master, includes both the 1.75 and 1.37 versions of the film.  I watched the 1.75 version for this review.

Toby Roan's commentary track is packed with info on Jack Webb and the history of DRAGNET on radio and TV, the many character actors in the film, and the movie's locations.  For those wanting even more, check out Toby's 2014 post on the film at The Hannibal 8.

Additional Blu-ray extras are the DRAGNET trailer and a trailer for the crime film THE SLEEPING CITY (1950), which is also available from Kino Lorber.  I reviewed THE SLEEPING CITY here last summer.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Well! A Blu-ray, extras, and Toby Roan. I know what to answer when I'm asked what I want for my birthday this year.

Thanks for sharing my joy in Dragnet.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

This is a must for your shelf! I know you'll love the Blu-ray version.

I so enjoyed your look at the movie!

Best wishes,

8:39 PM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Laura, I really like this movie for every one of the reasons you like it too! I can remember I saw one solitary episode of the TV series on an aunt's TV in, probably, 1956 as a kid. It was quite a few years before I saw more but, even now, I can recall Webb's opening line after the famous music intro - 'My name's Friday, I've got toothache'. Kind of intro you don't forget LOL.

12:21 AM  
Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura, what a wonderful write-up of DRAGNET(1954). I, like you, am a fan from back in the day and I still am. Like you, I grew up watching and enjoying DRAGNET(1951-59) the original TV series in syndicated reruns during the early and mid 1960's, as well as the later series of 1967-70. The four note musical theme is one of the most famous ever: "Dum-de-dum-dum." Jack Webb's staccato voice giving us the iconic phrase, "My name is Friday-I'm a cop." All this and more stay in our mind-eye's memories.

Jack Webb's famous "What Is A Cop" monologue from the February 9, 1967 episode "The Interrogation" is still so appropriate for today and always will be. You can find the monologue here:

We should be thankful for our police officers, because they stand between us and the criminal element.

Laura, stay safe and healthy.

6:32 AM  

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