The Untouchables: Season 1 – Volume 2 – DVD Review

DVD available at Amazon.com

Executive Producer:
Quinn Martin

Cast:
Robert Stack….Eliot Ness
Able Fernandez….Agent William Youngfellow
Nicholas Georgiade….Agent Enrico Rossi
Steve London….Agent Jack Rossman
Anthony George….Agent Cam Allison
Walter Winchell….Narrator

Paramount Home Video presents The Untouchable: Season 1 Volume 2. Fourteen episodes on 4 DVDs. Episodes aired from Jan. 21, 1960 to April 28, 1960. DVD released Sept. 25, 2007.

The Show

If you’re suffering withdrawal pangs from The Sopranos finale, The Untouchables is the perfect mobster fix. While this series approaches the underworld universe through the eyes of Eliot Ness and his crew of lawmen, the bad guys get plenty of screen time. While it lacks the cussing, nudity and Johnny Cakes action of the New Jersey’s first family, The Untouchables violence level is surprisingly high for a network series from nearly half a century ago. They were conservative with the blood, but they had a liberal budget for bullets. It’s amazing who receives the business end of a Tommy gun. Mobsters and lawmen had an equal chance at pushing up daisies from a Chicago gutter. This second half of the premiere season keeps up the intense violence and hardcore law enforcement.

After the pilot movie and the first few episodes, The Untouchables moved beyond the reality of Eliot Ness. The producers transformed him into the ultimate lawman that single handedly cleaned up this country in the Thirties. Doesn’t matter if the high profile crooks weren’t based in Chicago, Ness tracked them down. America was his beat. This fictional expansion of Ness’ jurisdiction explains why the show was hated by America’s official “Top Cop,” FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. But why let one cross dressing fuddy-duddy ruin all the fun for the rest of us?

The second half of the season starts off with superb “The Star Witness.” The mobs main accountant (Jim Backus, Gilligan’s Island) wants to retire. He doesn’t understand that the underworld’s 401-K plan comes with a matching lead payout. If he wants to get out of the game, he has to turn into a stool pigeon for Ness. The episode gets extra vicious when they go after his daughter to make him forget the numbers. “The St. Louis Story” introduces us to Agent Cam Allison, the newest member of Ness’ crew. Cam’s father was a judge killed by mobsters when he wouldn’t go on the take. Ness has Cam help him take down the mob boss of St. Louis after a mail truck heist. The legendary hoodlum actor RIchard Bakalyn plays the upstart who mistakenly freelances a gig after making a pact with a crime boss. “One-Armed Bandits” deals with a legal loophole that allowed slot machines to be set up in stores. The mob forces them onto candy shop owners. Ness can only clean up this evil game when he discovers the slots are stashed in the same warehouse as bootleg liquor. Under the law, he’s allowed to ax all items in a booze locker. “Little Egypt” has Ness use Agent Allison in an undercover operation to stop a town from becoming a mobster property. The only safe way for Allison to report back to headquarters is homing pigeons. Fred Clark (Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine) is the criminal mastermind running the town with a riding crop. Clark normally played the frustrated guy in comedies, but he looked severally vicious when he unleashed the leather.

“The Big Squeeze” stands because it features Ace Banner, a suave sophisticate, who runs a robbery gang. Turns out there was a time when robbing a bank was not a federal crime. Ace sets it up just right by making deals with bank managers to let him rob their banks so they can claim more losses than cash in the safe. Thus everyone comes out a winner – except the insurance companies. Ness tails the crook so he can testify before the Senate and make it a federal crime. Ness pressures Ace to make one more job so he can get busted under the new law.

The two-parter “The Unhired Assassin” deals with the mayor of Chicago getting gunned down at an FDR speech in Florida. Ness and the Untouchables are in Miami since they fear a mob hitman is going after the mayor. What they don’t realize is that besides the contract killer, there was a nutjob in the crowd with a gun aiming for FDR. Is it a coincidence that the year JFK was elected to the White House, there was a multi-killer presidential assassination conspiracy story on TV? Lee Van Cleef (The Good, The Bad and the Ugly) and Sterling Holloway (the voice of Winnie-The-Pooh) are amongst the guest stars.

“The White Slavers” has Dick York running the prostitution racket for the mob. It’s shocking to see the original Darren from Bewitched as a pimp in the flesh trade. Part of the unflinching nature of the show is exposed when a batch of Mexican women have to be “fired.” While there’s nothing too graphic in their dismissal, the moment is reflected in York’s body. “The Frank Nitti Story” has Capone’s number one man going into the movie theater business. Nitti promises protection to cinema owners from films breaking and seats being torn up. We need Nitti more than ever nowadays. Ness has to stop this extortion racket especially since Nitti is tossing acid in the face of owners. Nitti’s captain on this project is Richard Anderson (Oscar Goldman from The Six Million Dollar Man). Anderson shines as a sociopath. The ending of the episode is fictional. No need to spoil the scene, but you’ll do best to check a bio of Nitti before you lose a bar bet.

The Untouchables is far from historical truth. The good thing is that after watching an episode, you can easily check the internet to find out the reality of the mobsters and what lawman either brought them to justice or put them in the grave. It’s almost educational like one of those mouse that changed history cartoons. What this series lacked in truth, it more than made up in dramatic entertainment. This could have been a play it safe show about tough guys in suits without all the gun play and high body count. But who wants that? We must have the rat-a-tat-tat of the guns to underscore the orchestra. Robert Stack plays Ness to the hilt. He didn’t take crap from anyone if it got in the way of the mission. Ricco and Youngfellow were the best wingmen on crime TV. After 50 years, this show still packs a brass-knuckle punch. Now instead of jonesing for The Sopranos, I’m hankering for the Season Two of The Untouchables.

The Episodes
“Star Witness,” “The St. Louis Story,” “One-Armed Bandits,” “Little Egypt,” “The Big Squeeze,” “The Unhired Assassin (Two-parter),” “The White Slavers,” “Three Thousand Suspects,” “The Doreen Maney Story,” “Portrait of a Thief,” “The Underworld Bank,” “Head of Fire – Feet of Clay” and “The Frank Nitti Story.”

The DVD

VIDEO:
The picture is 1.33:1. The black and white transfers are near mint like the first set. The details are sharp. You can see the smoke coming off the guns.

AUDIO:
The English soundtrack is Dolby Digital Mono. You’ll feel the horns in the theme song. There’s also a mono Spanish dub. The subtitles are in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

EXTRAS:
The Lucy Show’s “Lucy the Gun Moll” (25:24) is a strange bit of Desilu cross promotion. A few years after The Untouchables went off the air, Robert Stack plays lawman to America’s Favorite Redhead. Stack has fun spoofing his old Ness image. There’s a great routine when he “tests” a bottle of liquor. Steve London also puts on his old Fed suit. The comic gangster is Bruce Gordon, best know as Frank Nitti. Walter Winchell chimes in with a little voice over work. As far as cast reunions go, this ranks up there with Rescue from Gilligan’s Island. Be warned that Lucy shows off her legs during a dance sequence.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for The Untouchables: Season One, Vol. 2
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE SHOW

9
THE VIDEO

9
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

7
REPLAY VALUE

8
OVERALL
8
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

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