The Untouchables: Season 2, Volume 1 – DVD Review

Untouchables S2, V1 DVD cover
Available at Amazon.com

It’s no agency secret that J. Edgar Hoover hated The Untouchables. The legendary FBI director was already jealous that a Treasury Department investigator brought down Al Capone. TV completely inflated the stature of Eliot Ness. The series producers weren’t satisfied with tales found in Ness’s autobiography. They created episodes that had Ness and his faithful crew taking down every major gangster that terrorized America during prohibition. The second season of The Untouchables must have had Hoover’s panties in a bunch. The FBI became insignificant in crime fighting as The Untouchables battled Legs Diamond, Waxey Gordon and The Purple Gang. Eliot Ness became Paul Bunyon with a Tommygun.

Once you accept this version of Eliot Ness as completely fictional, you are free to enjoy this series as pure gangster fantasy. These are tall tales as dictated by Walter Winchell. Season two begins with a devious Elizabeth Montgomery in “The Rusty Heller Story.” She’s a dancer that wraps her legs around a crime empire. She makes an amazing entrance through a paper heart. Montgomery is extremely conniving as she manipulates various mobsters into a power struggle. She even flirts with Norman Fell. She’s willing to fink, but Ness doesn’t pay for information. Will she get what she wants before her plan is exposed and she gets a lead necklace?

“Jack ‘Legs’ Diamond” has the major mob bosses upset at Legs playing up to the gossip columns as if he was a movie star. They decide to give him a low profile – six feet of low profile. Legs doesn’t like their plan especially since it undercuts his new narcotics smuggling operation. Steven Hill dances through danger with his Diamond Legs. You might recall Hill as the ringleader on the first season of Mission: Impossible before Peter Graves retrieved the self-destructing tape recorders. Hill gives a great cold blooded performance as he mows down a trucker.

The highlight of this boxset is “The Big Train,” a two-episode epic. The producers go into major fiction territory with this yarn about Al Capone being transferred from a prison in Atlanta to the newly completed Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. The producers have Eliot Ness conceive and design Alcatraz. There were a few more people in Washington D.C. screaming at the TV set the night this aired besides J. Edgar. This wouldn’t be an eventful prisoner transfer since Al Capone has no intention of being stuck on the Rock. He plans for his men to hijack the prison train so he can flee to Italy. He even has a crooked prison guard to assist with getting him unshackled at the right time. Can Ness and his Untouchables crack Capone’s code to stop the train from being stopped? There’s an extremely bullet heavy finale as the gangsters and the Untouchables annihilate a small town. Neville Brand gives the perfect hoodlum performance as Capone. He knew how to chomp a cigar and grin. Gavin MacLeod plays one of Capone’s goons. The Love Boat‘s Captain Stubing was a vicious man during prohibition. There is a warning at the start of each episode to let us know that this was a complete work of fiction and that no prison guards ever assisted Al Capone on a jailbreak. At least one person shouting get heard by the producers of The Untouchables.

The members of Ness’s Untouchables squad really don’t exhibit much personality; they mainly serve as Ness’s muscle as they smash up the bootleg operations. There’s no comic relief or soap opera elements between the agents. They’re all about the business of crime fighting. Unfortunately they become anonymous and interchangeable while on the case. During a Saturday Night Live spoof of the series, Dan Aykroyd barked out “Rico! Youngblood!” Frank Zappa sang “Rico! Youngblood! Wake up!” on “The Untouchables” from Broadway the Hard Way. Before you lose Final Jeopardy on this piece of trivia, he’s Agent William Youngfellow. There’s no Youngblood. Ultimately the Untouchables were merely there to serve Eliot Ness and not become solo acts of justice.

The Untouchables: Season 2, Volume 1 keeps up the gangbusting goodness found in the first season. Sure the series is not even close to being historically accurate. What it lacks in truth, it more than makes up in excessive bullets. The truth weighs down the action. Maybe Eliot Ness didn’t catch every damn hoodlum, but who wants to watch J. Edgar Hoover jaunting around the country?

The Episodes

“The Rusty Heller Story,” “Jack “Legs” Diamond,” “Nicky,” “The Waxey Gordon Story,” “The Mark of Cain,” “A Seat on the Fence,” “The Purple Gang,” “Kiss of Death Girl,” “The Larry Fay Story,” “The Otto Frick Story,” “The Tommy Karpeles Story,” “The Big Train” (Two-parter), “The Masterpiece,” “The Organization” and “The Jamaica Ginger Story.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfer is rich and detailed. This looks as good as the first two releases. The soundtrack is Dolby Digital Mono. The audio level is just right for Nelson Riddle’s amazing closing theme song.

None.

I feel safe knowing that Eliot Ness and the Untouchables are hunting down criminals. If you like old fashioned gangsters, this a good boxset for your collection.

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CBS DVD presents The Untouchables: Season 2, Volume 1. Starring Robert Stack, Nicholas Georgiade, Abel Fernandez & Bruce Gordon. Sixteen episodes on four single sided, dual layer DVDs. Running time: 806 minutes. Episodes originally broadcast: Oct. 13 1960 to Feb. 2, 1961. Released on DVD: March 18, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.