Who declared that the criminal life would lead a man to a shallow grave or the electric chair? In the early ‘60s many of the future stars broke into a life of showbiz thanks to running booze, guns and narcotics. Being a felon was a one way ticket straight to the top of Hollywood. Crime paid off royally for those who dared to rub their mugs against Eliot Ness (Robert Stack) and his mob busters. Fresh faces were eager to prove they could knock Frank Nitti (Bruce Gordon) from his lofty seat as Chicago’s vice mayor. The Untouchables: Season 3, Volume 1 has 16 episodes featuring as many stars as bullet holes.
“The Troubleshooter” introduces us to the lucrative world of the punch board. Ness and his crew aren’t amused at the new gambling game in town even if it only costs a nickel to play. Peter Falk (Columbo) comes into town to persuade Ness into ignore the foolish little game that makes fat dollars for the syndicate. But when the top cop refuses to back off, Falk takes aim for a character assassination. What would the kids of Chicago think when Ness is caught shooting an unarmed man? Vincent Gardenia (Moonstruck) gets to help out in the evil. “Power Play” makes Carroll O’Connor (All in the Family‘s Archie Bunker) a mobster bail bondsman. Wendell Corey (Rear Window) gets appointed crime commissioner in Chicago. Trouble is he’s forming his own version of the syndicate to run the underground economy. Can Ness clean up a crime commissioner who really does want to be the commissioner of crime? “Tunnel of Horrors” uncovers a narcotics racket being run out of a carnival’s tunnel of love. What’s more passionate than a mobsters’ relationship with sweet white opium? Joseph Ruskin runs the operation. Martin Balsam (Psycho) who turned his back on law enforcement for the fast dollars of crime. Ness thinks the guy is scum.
Another lawman that got his start as a Nitti underling pops out in “The Matt Bass Scheme.” Telly Savalas (Kojak) gets out of prison with a million dollar idea. Nitti wants to move his bootlegging operations outside Chicago city limits. Telly has the perfect way to get the booze into the Second City. He constructs a pipeline through the sewer system. In order to elevate his project, he rats out Nitti’s smuggling operation. You might have a difficult time identifying Telly since he’s not completely bald. “Loophole” has more star power than most crime movies. Jack Klugman (The Odd Couple and Quincy) is a hot shot lawyer who doesn’t mind representing the lowlifes. Ness wishes the guy wouldn’t use his talent on the wicked and guilty. This is confusing because shouldn’t every defendant be entitled to the lawyer they can afford? Klugman’s latest client is mob boss Martin Landau (Ed Wood‘s Bela Lugosi). His top enforcer is Gavin MacLeod (Love Boat‘s Capt. Stubbing). Normally that would be enough stars for a Love Boat episode, but there’s also a goon played by Joe Turkel (The Shining).
“Jigsaw” exposes a leak in Nitti’s empire. He brings in James Gregory (Barney Miller‘s Inspector Luger) to find the blabbermouth. Gregory has two possible suspects, but Nitti doesn’t suspect that his specialist wants to take over the empire. Cloris Leachman goes cold blooded in the midst of this bloodbath. “The Canada Run” lets the Lord guide liquor smugglers into a small lake town. Simon Oakland (Kolchak: The Night Stalker) comes up with the religious cover. “The Gang War” reminds us that hanging out at a speakeasy could be harmful to your health. Forget the cops raiding the joint, there’s a chance a rival will spray the joint down with bullets. Nitti’s empire of roadhouses selling illegal booze is threatened by newcomer Victor Buono (Batman‘s King Tut). He’s not a campy villain this time around. “The Whitey Steele Story” puts Ness undercover in a bookie scheme. Henry Silva (Ocean’s Eleven) might blow his cover. “The Death Tree” holds the names of Charles Bronson’s victims. He’s taking a bloody path to be king of the Chicago gypsies.
The Untouchables: Season 3, Volume 1 gives us a rogues gallery of famous faces. However the supporting good guys become a blur. The series at this point has completely evolved into The Eliot Ness Show with his Untouchables force turned into a posse of barely discernible back ups. Agents Hobson (Paul Picerni), Rossi (Nicholas Georgiade), Youngfellow (Abel Fernandez) and Rossman (Steve London) become speaking extras in their own cramped office. They’re interchangeable without specialized skills being associated with one agent. They take orders and give quick responses. Although this lack of personality isn’t a bad thing since it means we get to spend more time watching the guest villains. It’d be a crime to miss their underworld rise and fall. Who knew being a hitman could make you Captain of the Pacific Princess?
“The Troubleshooter,” “Power Play,” “Tunnel of Horrors,” “The Genna Brothers,” “The Matt Bass Scheme,” “Loophole,” “Jigsaw,” “Man Killer,” “City Without a Name,” “Hammerlock,” “Canada Run,” “Fall Guy,” “The Gang War,” “The Silent Partner,” “The Whitey Steele Story” and “The Death Tree.”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfers give the show the varnish of vintage gangster films. The image is crisp enough to see the bullet holes during rub outs. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. Nelson Riddle’s theme song sounds so amazing. Prepare to sit through the end credits to fully appreciate this mini-symphony. There’s a Spanish dub track. The subtitles are in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
The Untouchables: Season 3, Volume 1 captures the gangster life of the Prohibition era. The series takes us back to a sad time when a man had to turn to the criminal life for a Scotch and Soda. Each episode has the cat and mouse game between Eliot Ness and Frank Nitti. Which man really runs Chicago? Future stars are abundant in the roles of the rising mobsters. “The Loophole” has more familiar faces than your high school yearbook. Watch Ness’ exploits with your favorite Tommygun and moll.
CBS DVD presents The Untouchables: Season 3, Volume 1. Starring: Robert Stack, Bruce Gordon, Paul Picerni, Nicholas Georgiade, Abel Fernandez and Steve London. Boxset Contents: 16 Episodes on 4 DVDs. Released on DVD: August 25, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Charles Bronson, Jack Klugman, Love Boat, Quincy, The Odd Couple, The Untouchables