Dragnet (1954)

“Why does the law always work for the guilty?”

Dragnet Poster

Synopsis:
Sergeant Joe Friday (Jack Webb), Officer Frank Smith (Ben Alexander), and undercover Officer Grace Downey (Ann Robinson) of the LAPD investigate the brutal murder of a bookie (Dub Taylor), committed by a known criminal (Stacy Harris) who others in his syndicate are trying to protect.

Genres:

Review:
The primary reason to check out this earnest police procedural — notable as the first feature film to be based on a television series — is to get a sense of what the enormously popular show (produced, directed by, and starring Jack Webb) is all about. Unfortunately, while competently filmed, Dragnet hasn’t held up well as entertainment: it’s overly didactic, relies far too heavily on fast-paced dialogue (its original roots as a radio series are evident), and will seem simplistic to modern audiences who already have an insider’s view of police investigations from numerous other shows and movies. Since this is essentially a colorized, extended version of the T.V. show — interspersed with occasionally creative but mostly awkward scenes meant for 3-D that never materialized — I recommend checking out an episode of the show first (on YouTube) to see if this is your cup of tea.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Some creative direction
    Dragnet Direction

Must See?
No, unless you’re a “Dragnet” fan. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Dragnet (1954)”

  1. First viewing. Snooze City. I actually took a number of breaks while watching this – which gives you an idea of the deadly pacing of this 90-minute film that seems twice the length.

    I had seen some episodes of the tv show when I was a kid but I don’t believe I was a fan. Watching this screen version, however, put me quickly in mind of the ‘Police Squad’ series – starring Leslie Nielsen – which, of course, went on to become the popular ‘Naked Gun’ series. One can see how easily ‘Dragnet’ gave way to parody.

    Totally free of anything constituting a cinematic experience, this murky police procedural has a unique distinction: almost from start to finish, it’s likely you won’t care who did what – where, when, how or why.

    The movie also boasts an unintentionally funny music soundtrack, heavy on a horn section which PUNCTUATES every single IMPORTANT lead in the case.

    I did like one moment which isn’t half-bad: there is one witness who is understandably hesitant about testifying because…well, because he could end up killed as a result. It’s not a bad scene…in an otherwise-dreary flick.

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