DVD Review: M Squad (The Complete Series – Special Edition)

Lee Marvin was a serious badass. Not that he needed Hollywood to prove it. He was a decorated Marine during World War II. But Hollywood allowed a lot more people to get blown away by Marvin’s gutsy acting style. While he was getting name in movies, he seemed to be cast as soldiers and mobster goons. He did hold his own against Marlon Brando in The Wild One. But he didn’t seem to be lined up to steal projects from Brando That all changed when Marvin took a gamble in television. M Sqaud made Lee Marvin the face of justice in Chicago in 1957. In fact he was cleaning up Chicago two years before America would get a glimpse of Eliot Ness in The Untouchables. M Squad: The Complete Series – Special Edition includes all 117 episodes that allowed Lee Marvin to track down killers blowing around the Windy City.

Marvin plays Lt. Frank Ballinger in Chicago’s M-Squad. That “M” stands for Murder although when Marvin arrives on the crime scene, it ought to stand for a more badass kinda “M” word that can’t be printed in a family friendly website. Seeing how this series was made for a network broadcast in 1957, Marvin can’t quite flex all his badass muscles. There seems to be an allusion that what we’re watching is Ballinger’s official report on the case where he pretties up his investigative techniques. Off the record, it’s easy to imagine that Ballinger was beating confessions out of his suspects. He only answers to Captain Grey (Twelve O’Clock High‘s Paul Newlan). Even though he can’t go hard cop on the screen, Ballinger’s presence makes it known that he is relentless during a homicide case. He won’t rest until the killer in jail or the grave.

The episodes are half hours so the investigations aren’t too complicated. “The Golden Look” has him looking for a robber that has a dazzling grill. Bruce Gordon guest stars which is an odd coincidence because he’d became the most famous gangster on The Untouchables as Frank Nitti. Also along for the case is Ken Lynch (Green Acres. “The Watchdog” has him not merely looking out for a criminal, but knowing that the outlaw might have contracted rabies during his escape. “Neighborhood Killer” features Stanford Repp (Batman) on the wrong side of the law. “Pete Loves Mary” has a pre-Mannix Mike Connors escaping from jail. On his trail is DeForest Kelley (Star Trek). “Diamond Hard” makes Angie Dickson (Police Woman) a gal who wants to go straight, but can’t give up her love of bad boys. “Hideout” guest stars Roger Corman superstar Dick Miller. “The Fight” ought to be titles Lee Marvin Vs. Charles Bronson (Death Wish). These future movie badasses are in a fine youthful form. “The Teacher” gets schooled with the arrival of Tom Laughlin (Bill Jack) and Burt Reynolds (Boogie Nights). “The Fire Makers” burns with Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek). “High School Bride” features Marion Ross (Happy Days) when she was in the ’50s. “Burglar’s Nightmare” features Connie Hines before she met Mister Ed. “Man With Ice” freezes Joe Flynn (McHale’s Navy). “Fire In the Sky” involves blowing up a plane for an insurance payoff. How is Richard Deacon (The Dick Van Dyke Show) involved in the deadly scam?

M Squad really made people take notice of Lee Marvin. Not only did he look tough, he had a groovy theme song featuring Count Basie. He was the perfect fusion of law and jazz. While the show doesn’t quite receive the rerun love of The Untouchables, M Squad is as equally addictive. Among its fans were the guys who made Airplane! They twisted the show around into Police Squad!. But there’s no need to spoof Lee Marvin’s arrival into stardom. He kicked the door down in M Squad.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfers vary in quality from great to rough. Nothing is visually painful to watch. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. You’ll hear Lee Marvin grunt out the truth from a suspect.

Lee Marvin Guest Star Episodes include his visits to Wagon Train, Checkmate and The Virginian. There’s also the Pittsburgh episode of Lee Marvin Presents Lawbreaker series. This was Lee’s reality show where he interviewed the cops and the convict of real life crimes.

M Squad: The Complete Series – Special Edition marks the big time arrival of Lee Marvin. He’s perfect as the no nonsense homicide cop that captures the guilty in Chicago.

Timeless Media Group presents M Squad: The Complete Series – Special Edition. Starring: Lee Marvin & Paul Newlan. Boxset Contents: 117 episodes on 16 DVDs. Rated: Unrated. Released: November 4, 2014.

Tags: ,