Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “The Untouchables: Season 1, Volume 1”

(CBS/Paramount. 1959-60/2007.  Black and White. 4 Discs. 14 episodes. 13 hours, 25 minutes.  Not Rated. Various directors.) Robert Stack, Jerry Paris. Theme music by Nelson Riddle.

Don’t be startled when you pop in disc one of this series to watch the two-part pilot, and Desi Arnaz is introducing it (the series was filmed at his and Lucille Ball’s old Desilu Studios). Desi gives way to famed columnist and radio personality Walter Winchell, who would go on to narrate the series. For those who only know the late Stack (1919-2003) from his Unsolved Mysteries series, his career dates from juvenile parts in 1930s movies to his signature role here as real-life Chicago gangbuster and prohibition agent Eliot Ness (for which he won an Emmy in 1960). The series shows the handsome-yet-stoic Ness and his Untouchables (unbribeable) Fed cohorts battling such colorful villians as Al Capone, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, even Ma Barker (Claire Trevor). Part of the fun in watching these old series is spotting future stars (look for Louise Fletcher in that Ma Barker episode…and by the way, Ness and Barker never really had a showdown, but I digress). Winchell’s clipped narration echoes the rat-a-tat-tat of the Tommy guns blazing away in most every episode. An early production project for Quinn Martin (more on him in the Streets of San Francisco review below). Pulpy fun.

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