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Hollywood has a great way to make sure the fatal truths don’t end great rivalries. Falling off the Empire State Building didn’t stop King Kong from battling Godzilla. In the history books, Treasury Department agent Eliot Ness and Frank Nitti only tangled during the downfall of Al Capone. But when The Untouchables became a hit as a TV series, the producers couldn’t just let Nitti dissolve into the bathtub gin. They needed a recurring evil face to rule Chicago’s underworld. It was too well known that Capone was locked up and died of V.D. But Nitti’s fate was less heralded by gangster historians. Since Robert Stack’s version of Eliot Ness had strayed far from the legend in his televised exploits, a fictional take on Nitti wouldn’t knock things off balance as seen on The Untouchables: Season 2, Volume 2.
The writers didn’t turn the series into Nitti Vs. Ness. The main role for Nitti was to be a role model for criminals with a dream to hit it big in the Chi-town underworld. These young studs would present their devious enterprises to Nitti in hopes that he’d back them. He was like Simon Cowell on American Idol. Except if you got voted off, you weren’t on the Pop Tarts sponsored tour. You became toast thanks to Ness’ crew. This arrangement made for plenty of famous faces to challenge Ness.
“Augie ‘the Banker’ Ciamino” allows Keenan Wynn (Dr. Strangelove) to don the fedora and mob it up in the title role. Instead of distilling illegal booze from a central still, Augie has tons of new immigrants using their kitchens and bathtubs to brew up the goodness. Ness has a problem with this great starter job for new citizens. What’s especially entertaining is seeing Harry Dean Stanton (Paris, Texas) as Augie’s main goon. He’s extra vicious when he’s unleashed to take out a few snitches. Who knew Stanton was once a young actor in Hollywood? That guy seemed like he was born middle-aged.
Kojak gets a chance to be bad in “The Antidote.” Telly Savalas has to come up with a way to put a kick back into legal denatured alcohol. He uses a company that makes asbestos as his legit front to bulk buy the alcohol. What an ironic episode that booze is seen as evil and asbestos as a great product. “Mr. Moon” has Ness doing real Treasury Department work. A shipment of paper used for making money is robbed. Victor Buono (Batman‘s King Tut) tells Nitti that he can make perfect $100 bills with the paper. It’s up to Ness to prevent the banks of America from being flooded with phony cash. Buono is a pure menace when one of his crew screws up royally. He could be wicked without resorting to camp.
The Untouchables: Season 2, Volume 2 closes an intense sophomore outing for the series. While the show isn’t close to historically accurate with Ness and Nitti’s realities, the action remains tough and gritty. The Tommy Gun induced violence erupts without hesitation. There’s a jolt during the drive by automatic attack in “The Nero Rankin Story.” This isn’t a kiddie show. There’s a tough nature to these characters that keeps the series from devolving into nostalgic camp. The Untouchables is a series that reflects the no nonsense attitude of Eliot Ness. You will be punished if you get on his wrong side.
“Augie “the Banker” Ciamino,” “The Underground Court,” “The Nick Moses Story,” “The Antidote,” “The Lily Dallas Story,” “Murder Under Glass,” “Testimony of Evil,” “Ring of Terror,” “Mr. Moon,” “Death for Sale,” “Stranglehold,” “The Nero Rankin Story,” “The Seventh Vote,” “The King of Champagne,” “The Nick Acropolis Story” and “90-Proof Dame.”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer is top notch. Some folks might see grain issues in the image. Since the series was shot with low light scenes, the grain will naturally be larger on the negative. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You’ll feel the bullets tear into the walls. There’s a Spanish dub track. The subtitles are in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
The Untouchables: Season 2, Volume 2 keeps up the old school gangster action. While this is not a truthful series, it’s an exciting show. Eliot Ness and his team of Untouchable agents are always ready to bust up punks. What makes this collection extra special is seeing them tangle with Harry Dean Stanton.
CBS DVD presents The Untouchables: Season 2, Volume 2. Starring: Robert Stack, Abel Fernandez, Nicholas Georgiade & Walter Winchell. Boxset Contents: 16 Episodes on 4 discs. Rating: Feb. 9 to June 8, 1961. Released on DVD: August 26, 2008. Available at Amazon.com