Dragnet (1954)

Approved   |    |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Dragnet (1954) Poster

Two homicide detectives investigate the brutal shotgun murder of a crime syndicate member.


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Cast & Crew

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Jack Webb


Richard L. Breen (screenplay)

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6 December 2020 | secondtake
| Just like the t.v. show but longer and in color
Dragnet (1954)

You can't watch this without knowing something about the t.v. series, which ran from 1951-1959. So this movie was a kind of spin-ff, but rather than creating a television show from a movie this goes the other way around.

The familiar voiceover is there, and the familiar voice: Jack Webb. He holds it all together with a clear factual style we expect and like. He is the creater of the t.v. show and he made this version come around (he directed). Why do it? Maybe just a different audience, and shooting in color, and maybe to create a longer story, over an hour.

Sadly, the Peacock TV (NBC) version streaming in 2020 was cropped to t.v. (4:3) proportions, and it feels cramped. I'm sure that Webb and the photographer, Edward Colman, wouldn't appreciate it. The color is restrained-the Kodak version called Warnercolor, not Technicolor-but it works well here.

I haven't seen the t.v. episodes in years, but I have a funny feeling you could find episodes that work with economy and power better than this one, which doesn't quite make use of the extra time well. There is a lot of clever, fast dialog, but to excess, making it strained and obvious. Fun, yes, but the movie isn't held up by these cheap quips.

Except sometimes. Early on, a cop says about the gun shots, "The first two cut him in half." Webb replies, "The second two turned him into a crowd." Classic Dragnet matter-of-fact style. It works. In fact, it might be this delivery, with fact after fact, that makes the show and the movie what it is, above all. The plot is routine as much as murder in the movies is routine, but the delivery is interesting.

But I have to just be blunt here...it's a huge bore on another level. Yes it has steady determination, but it's not a dramatic feature movie in any normal form.

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$500,000 (estimated)

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