30 September 2005 | silverscreen888
Most Powerful; Sometimes Graphic; the Best Anti-Crime Show of All Time
This show's concept was hastily developed to become a one-hour weekly dramatic series after the success of the beautifully produced made-for-television movie "The Scarface Mob". At first, the producers tried filming the capture of other important criminals using Eliot Ness, the TV-film's fictionalized real-life hero, as their central character. Then they designed a unit like the 1930s "Untouchables" squad depicted in the TV-movie, a federal group combating gang activity and other crimes in Chicago, one headed by Ness (Robert Stack) who worked out of an office in the city. He had six men, with Martin Flaherty (Jerry Paris), Jack Rossman, (Steve London), Enrico Rossi (Nicholas Georgiade), Lamarr Kane (Chuck Hicks) and William Youngfellow (Abel Fernandez) as its mainstays. In the second year, Paris left to be replaced by Lee Hobson (Paul Picerni) for the remainder of the series' run, and Cam Allison (Anthony George) was added for that year only. It was also decided that Frank Nitti (Bruce Gordon) and other mob bosses would be used as the main scheming villains without a regular "Al Capone" being portrayed. Nitti was killed off four times during the series, but Gordon was so popular with the show's watchers he was resurrected each time. A stable of regular police and ganglord types was also developed, played by Oscar Beregi, Joseph Ruskin, Frank Willcox, and Nehemiah Persoff with regular police and useful guest stars being hired a number of times. As Robert Stack had feared from the beginning, the show tended to marginalize the role of the ethical Ness in favor of unglamorously and dramatically portraying the activities of the victims, criminals, or crimelords of the week. The use of a narrator, radio commentator Walter Winchell, helped to keep the ethical view uppermost in observers' minds; and frequently, Ness and his squad were able to get across the desirability of cooperating with police, as this idea finally sank in. Outside agents played by John Gabriel, Jack Lord and others were sometimes used to improve a script. But from the first, the show's outstanding quality was the abilities of writers, directors and guest actors to produce powerful hour-long series. "The Petrone Story", "The Rusty Heller Story", "Cooker in the Sky", "Ginger Jake" and a hundred others may have occasionally overdone graphic detail and use of machine guns, but they were often brilliantly cinematic. The list of directors who toiled for the series included 29 first-raters including Ida Lupino, Tay Garnett, Vincent McEveety, Paul Wendkos, Richard Whorf, Walter Grauman and Bernard L. Kowalsi among others. The writers' list included 40 names, many illustrious, such as Robert C. Dennis, David P. Harmon, Ernest Kinoy, Harry Kronman, John Mantley, Gilbert Ralston, Sy Salkowutz, Alvin Sapinsley, George Slavin, William Templeton. Guest stars such as Patricia Neal, Elizabeth Montgomery, Lee Marvin, Arlene Martel, Will Kuluva, Dolores Dorn-Heft, Robert Middleton, Ruth Roman, Brian Keith, William Bendix, Barbara Stanwyck and Joe de Santis were always an extra cause to tune in to the latest adventure. In the last year, producer Quinn Martin bowed to pressure groups and tried to replace Italian surnamed villains with others; but the top-ranked series was canceled after 4 unforgettable years. To measure the quality of "The Untouchables" against most other series is impossible; its scenes have far more power than those of almost any other series; It was not always ethical fiction; but the series always had first-rate production qualities, acting, writing and directing. It holds a very high place in U.S. film history.