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  • Crime: The unknown nature of it all,and the agents who would stop at nothing to bring them to justice remains one of the greatest crime-drama shows ever to come out of the golden age of television from the late 1950's,early 1960's.

    The Untouchables may have been one great show,but in its day it was just that..one of the most violent crime shows on television,but during its four year-run it was propelled into the art of TV greatness when it aired on ABC-TV from September of 1959 to September of 1963.

    Produced by Quinn Martin and Desi Arnaz,under his production company Desilu Productions,the series produced an astounding 114 episodes,all in black and white,and stood shoulder to shoulder with such giants as Bonanza,Gunsmoke,not to mention in that same time frame,Maverick,and classic shows like Rawhide and The Riflemen and it was during the four incredible years that this show ran,won Emmys for its breathtaking scripts and incredible acting. At the time this show was on the air,Desi Arnaz's production company,Desilu was producing shows like "Make Room For Daddy"(The Danny Thomas Show),"The Andy Griffith Show", and others and would go on after The Untouchables went off the air to created the shows "Gomer Pyle","I Spy","Mission:Impossible","Star Trek", "Mannix",and would co-produced his own comedy show,"The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour",and would be in charge of production,which went un-credited for "The Lucy Show" starring Lucille Ball during the show's first two seasons.

    The Untouchables was groundbreaking at its finest and it was that reason to see why this was just so. Set in the prohibition era of Chicago during the late 1920's,early 1930's,during the depression,Special Treasury Agent Elliott Ness(played by Robert Stack) and his band of crimefighters must deal with bootleggers,gangland murders,assassins,and crime figures and mob bosses like Al Capone (Neville Brand) and Frank Nitti(Bruce Gordon). Brilliantly and expertly narrated by the great Walter Winchell,this power-packed crime drama of a series got the story told without the use of the screen gore,explicit profanity and blatant violence,but this show had plenty of gunplay and some of it was maybe tone down in this day and age,but during the show's run it was very violent,for instance the breaking of glass and the ricoheting of bullets were the standard but you never got to see any blood or gory stuff on the show,which was at the time prohibited due to the censors. This would become so true when Brian DePalma did the movie version of "The Untouchables" in 1987 with Kevin Costner in the Robert Stack role and Robert DeNiro in the Al Capone character and here this version was more violent and graphic than the TV show,which by the way gave Sean Connery an Oscar for his performance.

    But getting back to the TV show of the same title,

    Among the superior work by Stack,Brand,and Gordon,this show had a array of special guest stars that appear on the show almost on a weekly basis and the guest list included: Jerry Paris(long before his days on "The Dick Van Dyke Show"),Telly Savalas,Oscar Beregi,Jr.,Steve London, Jason Wingreen,Jason Robards,Jack Klugman,Grant Richards,Elizabeth Montgomery(long before her collaboration on "Bewitched"),Lee Grant,Abel Fernandez,Charles Bronson,James Coburn,and so many more. This was as awesome production that was to perfection along with Nelson Riddle's theme score.

    I got the chance to catch one of the episodes on video recently,and it goes to show that this series needs to seen again and needs to be put on there on DVD,especially with the first two seasons of the series. Sometimes they do show this long lost series seldom at times on New York's WOR-TV and its very sad that the cable network's A&E,Nick at Nite,TV Land,TRIO,or The History Channel doesn't air this program.
  • 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.
  • i became aware of the untouchables in the mid-late 1970's. when it was on, i stopped everything to watch it sometimes twice a day. didn't matter that i saw each episode a million times! the stories, the acting, the theme song was the best there is. Robert stack,Paul Picerni, Bruce Gordon, Neville Brand and especially Nick Georgiade (who is my very most favorite) all did great jobs. the show still holds up today. in fact, its better than most of whats on today! it would be great if a channel would pick it up and we could watch it again. just knowing these untouchable websites exist makes me feel really warm and good. thanks for being here for us. I've been trying to locate nick georgiade to write a fan/thank-you letter but have been unsuccessful. well, i can look at him here. i miss this show.
  • Quinn Martin, Desilu and Robert Stack propelled a crime series into the status of TV greatness. This series ran 114 episodes long, but stands shoulder to shoulder with such giants as GUNSMOKE and BONANZA. Set in Chicago, late 20s and 30s during depressed times and prohibition, Special Treasury Agent Elliot Ness(Robert Stack)and his band of crime fighters must deal with bootleggers, gangland murderers, assassins and crime figures like Al Capone(Neville Brand) and Frank Nitti(Bruce Gordon). Expertly narrated by Walter Winchell, this power packed crime drama got the story told without the use of on screen gore, profanity or blatant violence.

    Besides the super work by Stack and Gordon others became familiar faces:Nicholas Georgiade, Oscar Beregi Jr., Anthony George, Abel Fernandez, Jerry Paris, Steve London, Grant Richards and Jason Wingreen. This series was so near perfection production wise. Awesome.

    Note: TV Land, A & E, Nick at Nite, TNN...somebody put this back on the air for future generations.
  • I bought the first series of DVDs yesterday and until then, I never knew there was a two-hour pilot movie about it. I always thought Robert Stack was a better Eliot Ness than Kevin Costner. Stack's Ness was more like a tough, no-nonsense federal agent while Kevin Costner played him more like a nerdy accountant. This used to be my dad's favorite show and, on nights when I didn't have school the next day, he would let me stay up and watch it with him. When I was in college, I caught it when it was in syndication. I hope they continue to put out these DVDs until they have the whole series out. I'm really looking forward to it.

    Life sure was simple back when this series first aired. You rooted for the good guys and hissed at the bad guys and you were glad, in the end, to see Capone and his cohorts get what was coming to them. It also shows that we have to be ever vigilant with our government officials so that this kind of evil cannot permeate our society. Great action-packed series and now lives forever in the DVD format. Now, if only THE FUGITIVE would come out on DVD.
  • Seeing an excerpt from 'Untouchables' on satellite TV recently brought back some memories of forty years ago, when I looked forward in eager anticipation to seeing the weekly appearance of Eliot Ness and his associates. To see them again was to see characters apparently frozen in time, operating in a mythical world where the differences between good and evil were clearly delineated and the 'bad guys' got their just deserts. Notwithstanding the fact that Capone and Ness never met, that Ness had little, if anything, to do with putting Capone behind bars, the programmes were quite well directed and acted, even though some of the supporting characters had little,if anything, to say - I can remember often waiting for some considerable time for 'Rico' (Georgiade)to say his only line ! Enjoyable,nevertheless, as cinematic curiosities, well crafted, but so far removed from historical reality as to be a rather threadbare tapestry of the events which the series purported to represent.
  • I had never heard of "The Untouchables" TV show until one morning

    my 8th grade English teacher, Mr. Schmidt started ranting about the

    graphic violence depicted in movies and on television shows such as

    "The Untouchables" and what was he world coming to? From the next

    broadcast, I was an avid fan. Much as in the style of the James Cagney

    classic of 1933, "Public Enemy," "The Untouchables" wove a web of

    mysterious gangland horror by NOT showing the graphic violence but by

    instead keeping the killing in the shadows. The creators of the series

    never forgot that there is nothing you can show in theater that can

    measure up to the imagination of the audience. Another mysterious dimension to the series is, like "The Alfred

    Hitchcock Show", "The Untouchables" had an uncanny knack of featuring

    actors who would later become stars or at least very well known faces

    in movies and on television. After 4 years in the air force including

    a year in Vietnam, I watched the series as daily re-runs during the

    summer of 1971 just before going to university in Tokyo. One episode

    had Telly Savalas as an up and coming bookkeeper with The Mob run by

    Frank Nitty while Al Capone was in prison. That evening other business

    pulled me away from the television set and I figured I'd see the second

    half of the show some other time. Because I have been in Japan ever

    since, I never did find out whatever happened to the character played

    by Telly Savalas. Less than two years later, however, Telly Savalas

    finally made it big in television as Kojak.
  • Although the reputation of The Untouchables is that it is about prohibition, there are more stories about murder and extortion than about the alcohol trade, which is a background in many stories, but central to only a handful.

    These bad guys are really bad. Not only are there the commonplace shootings, but people have their cars blown up. They are knifed in the back. They are strangled in the back seats of cars. They are blinded when acid is thrown in their faces. They are hanged. They are set on fire. Good friends and reliable employees have their lives snuffed out with the villain employing less thought than he would spend on selecting the right tie to wear. As Frank Nitti (exquisitely played by actor Bruce Gordon) put it, while plotting the murder of a young man who worked tirelessly to make Nitti's enterprises succeed, "It's a matter of economics. Two of these (displaying bullets) cost 15 cents." While Frank Nitti is the best known of the criminals in this outstanding series, he appears in a tiny minority of the stories, about 25 of 118. Other actors with different personalities but equivalent levels of viciousness terrorize the innocent and not-so-innocent with levels of violence that are shocking even today, and were surely even more shocking in the 50s and early 60s.

    While Bruce Gordon as Frank Nitti is the best remembered portrayer of gangsters from this show, in other episodes, veteran actors like William Bendix and Nehemiah Persoff, and then-young actors like Martin Landau and Robert Redford, put on entertaining and gritty performances that rarely disappoint. All the while, the newsreel style announcing of Walter Winchell adds enormously to the sensation of reality.

    Today's viewer has the fun, not available to the viewers back then, of frequently spotting future stars in the cast, like Alan Hale Jr.(Skipper on Gilligan's Island), Elizabeth Montgomery (Samantha on Bewitched), Carroll O'Connor (Archie Bunker on All In The Family), Gavin McLeod (Capt. Steubing on The Love Boat), Jack Warden (veteran of countless movies and TV shows), Lee Van Cleef (perennial star and costar of westerns), Peter Falk (Columbo), Raymond Bailey (Mr. Drysdale on The Beverly Hillbillies -- without his toupee). The list goes on and on.

    Two often-made criticisms of the show are justified, but to my mind, unimportant. First, it is true that in real life Eliot Ness never met most of the notorious criminals that he and his men defeat on the show. However, the show is admitted to be fictional. Second, it is true that the characters of the good guys, Ness and crew, are not particularly colorful. However, the gangsters and their victims provide ample color, and the solid steadfastness of Robert Stack as Eliot Ness and the rest of his crew gives viewers an anchor of emotional security in the face of the omnipresent evil portrayed on the show. Without this, the helplessness of the victims in the face of the ruthlessness, treachery and cold-heartedness of the villains that dominate the show episode after episode might be difficult to bear.

    Everyone will benefit when the operators of networks that play reruns of old series finally decide to put real quality before the viewers and begin to regularly show The Untouchables, The Fugitive, Rawhide, and the other real classics of years past.
  • rustyheller200324 January 2007
    YEAH--For all those who have been asking:

    It's coming out on DVD, April 3, 2007. A four disk set, Vol one of the first season. Includes The Scarface Mob and goes up to episode 14, The Noise of Death. Check it out on amazon.

    If you guys like the show be sure to buy the DVD set which will insure that they'll come out with the rest of season 1 and all the other seasons. I'm tired of watching my old not so good copies on VHS. Columbia House never had the full show on VHS anyway and the copies made from the TV of the episodes CH didn't put out are much inferior. I can't wait to see it in crisp b/w and hear that great soundtrack.

    Funny thing, my 8th grade English teacher also railed on about the violence on The Untouchables, but the kids were crazy about it back then.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Here was a great American crime series about the great age of American crime.

    Robert Stack played Elliot Ness, the G-Man tasked to enforce absurd prohibition laws and deal with the organised crime that inevitably saw a profit to be made.

    The series was so popular in its day and Stack such an iconic figure of good combating wickedness that he often became typecast to a British generation. Even today, greying fans will sometimes refer to him as Elliot Ness.

    The series was filmed in black & white, and given an excellent noirish style. There was an almost perfect mix of action, suspense and drama. Aiding its authenticity and imbuing it with the stamp of semi-documentary, the story was frequently pushed along by a narrative voice-over, which made scene-shifting and location-changes seamless. Throw-in an excellent script, memorable theme and incidental music and you have the stuff of a classic.

    At least some of the programmes are available on DVD, and whilst the violence may seem pretty tame by today's standards, it is still well worth a look.

    Robert Stack never bettered his performances.
  • Chicago during the dry years (prohibition) was a venue which had a very rough exterior. Morally rigid guidelines, and a facet of poverty comprising of reprehensible destitution were unfortunate elements of American living which initiated an irascible backlash of pandemic criminal activity. Such tumultuous and illegal shenanigans embodied some extremely visceral emotions with hundreds of thousands of people who lived in Chicago! The television show "The Untouchables" dealt with hard bitten reality which evoked agitated behavior on both sides of the law! Elliot Ness was on a vigilante crusade to stop the flow of liquor into Chicago during the Prohibition era! As it turns out, Elliot Ness himself died of a heart attack which was attributable to his alcoholism! What is the point of this information? Not to depict Ness as a hypocrite, rather, to reiterate that Elliot Ness believed in enforcing the law, regardless of what his position was on any given social issue! The series, "The Untouchables" is an historically succinct account of how Al Capone ruled Chicago during a specific era! The federal agents were either bought off, or, like Ness, they were motivated by disdain and vehement objection for key members of the syndicate who were repetitively thwarting them! An onslaught of prominent actors and actresses made guest appearances on "The Untouchables". This made the series very powerful!! These special guest stars played the roles of Ness' scruple-less adversaries! More often than not, Ness would engage in an ideological diatribe with these criminals. In turn, these ruthlessly calm and collective masterminds of financially lucrative chicanery would emphatically ameliorate their reckless actions by blaming either their environment, or, the nation's prevailing circumstances! A couple of guest stars' appearances won Emmy awards for their segment performances on this series. (Elizabeth Montgomery and Robert Redford) The directing for "The Untouchables" focused on being extremely authentic! The narrating by Walter Winchell added a very wry and supercilious touch to the entire plot of each week's episode! The acting by guest stars and regulars (like Robert Stack) was outstanding! (Especially for the small screen). Chicago, in the twenties and thirties, was a city that cultivated it's identity by making nefariously illicit and felonious escapades their precariously notorious trademark!! The series "The Untouchables" illustrated such copious crimes with a very vividly pejorative and fatalistic disposition!! I loved this show, one of my favorites in all of television!! Mostly on account of the fact that as a Chicagoan, the show "The Untouchables" exudes a very definite and cynical identifiability!
  • Having been born and bred in Chicago, it was at a rather tender age of about 12 or 13 that I first became aware of all of the Gangland Lore that there was in our Fair City.* It was at this time of having Television Dramas such as THE UNTOUCHABLES as the main means of illuminating the period of our recent past known as the Prohibition Era.

    It surely must have been the popular topic in Hollywood in this time around 1959 to do stories about Prohibition, the Organized Crime Syndicate and the Desparado Bank Robbers of the 1930's Depression Years.In the Movie Houses we had the likes of AL CAPONE (1959) and THE PURPLE GANG (also 1959) and others.

    But on TV, we had only one other series besides THE UNTOUCHABLES to dramatize the businesslike organized crime of that timer between the two World Wars. And that would be NBC's THE LAWLESS YEARS (1959-'61). It featured episodic tales of many different Gangland Thugs, highly fictionalized like the Eliot Ness show was. In it, James Gregory portrayed one New York City Police Department Inspector Barney Ruditsky, who like Elliot Ness, was a real life person, but enough of the competition for right now.

    The stories on the Untouchables varied from having been fairly closely written following the facts of the actual occurrences, to just about totally fictional. The best examples would be the Two-Part Untouchables on the CBS weekly anthology, DESILU Playhouse and the two parter on the Untouchables Series, "The Unhired Assassin".

    The former details the formation of Ness' Unit of Treasury Agents,** the latter dramatized the events leading to the killing of Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak(Robert Middleton) in Florida by one crazed little Italian immigrant, Giusseppe Zangara(Joe Mantell). At the time, Mayor Cermak was on stage next to newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was Zangara's target.

    All of the episodes, whether more realistic or the far-fetched, strictly pulp fictional "Cops 'n' Robbers stuff, benefited from the use of Former Big Shot Newspaper Columnist, Walter Winchell's fine narration.

    When taken with a grain of salt,like all Hollywood Dramatizations should be, the series serves to recreate a little bit of history in Twentieth Century America. Maybe this TV Drama serves us well, particularly if it whets the curiosity, encouraging the viewer to read up on the times of "Bath Tub Gin and The Thompson Sub-Machine Gun!"

    * It's funny how often we still hear from some out-of-towner all about how bad our town is and how the Hoods run this place. Our Mother, the now 90 year old Bertha Ryan (nee Fuerst) has cousins in rural Michigan who wouldn't believe that she had never witnessed a Murder! Our late Dad, Clem Ryan, a Navy Veteran in World War II told the tale of English Kids around their Base in Southhampton, Englasd did the old "EH-eh-eh-eh!" sound to accompany their mime impersonation of a Machine Gun, upon hearing that he hailed from Chicago!

    ** "Treasury Agents", or as Snuffy Smith calls 'em, "Revenooers!"
  • I must differ only slightly from the praise of one who precedes me, but yes, it was a cracking good show! When a local station ran the series in syndication at midnight in 1967, I turned into an insomniac.

    Part of it was my youth; part was/is the b&w presentation giving it a brooding, "gritty" (pardon the cliche) flavour; part was the musical score. Frankly, I found it much superior to the colour and more mature (?) series recently under the same title. Possibly the early '60s series had the elements of a morality play that move some part of me that the more ambiguous -- and in places historically accurate -- new UNTOUCHABLES can not.

    One thing bothers me, however, although I fully understand that in the television productions of forty years ago one had to be discrete. It concerns the depictions of violence. I do not object (within reason) to violence per se, but THE UNTOUCHABLES showed a lot of it without the horror. With a more jaundiced eye of the 1990s, when on very rare occasions I have been able to see an old time episode, I am struck by the trivialisation of violent scenes. Even the point-blank firearms shots are comically muted, and there is never a hint of flying blood.

    That said, however, I consider the advent of THE UNTOUCHABLES and BONANZA in the 1959-60 season as the beginning of the REAL "golden age of television" in the United States.

    Post scriptum: I am sure there were a couple of spin-off "made for TV" movies in the 1960s from the series. Of that I know nothing more save the title of one of them: THE GUN OF ZANGARA.
  • I have been a historian of 20th century American culture for more than 25 years, with a specialty in the 1920s-1940s, as well as a film historian and filmmaker. "The Untouchables" is just as accurate any other Hollywood dramatization of gangland lore. When you have to crank out an hour-long TV episode every week for several years, who can afford to do research 24 hours a day? This show was more or less as accurate as it possibly could be. It is the ONLY version of gangland culture I have seen that has included Dutch Schultz's unforgettable babble, "A boy has never wept, nor dashed a thousand Kim." Hell, that was enough for me. If you need my credentials, check out my newest book (my 15th), "Warners Wiseguys," a look at the classic Warner Bros. gangland world.
  • "The Untouchables" is a show that has aged well, as the shows are still quite enjoyable today. And, even today, a few of the episodes are a bit shocking due to their violence...something that brought this Desilu series a lot of attention back in the day. Killings are often shown vividly and bad guys are, in an odd way, the stars of the show. As for Eliot Ness (Robert Stack), his part in most episodes is actually rather limited...as was Stack's acting range and emotional expression. Mostly, he and his men just appeared here and there and the very charismatic baddies killed each other! And, it's all VERY entertaining due mostly to the writing and broadness of the acting by the guest thugs each week.

    Not every episode is a winner and a few of the early ones are poor historically speaking because they claim to be about real life villains (such as Ma Barker and Pretty Boy Floyd) but bear almost no resemblance to these folks. They ARE very entertaining...but also complete fabrications...and much of it because the real life Ness had nothing to do with bringing these folks to justice. Despite this, I generally preferred the earlier episodes because later it seemed as if the writers had a hard time coming up with new plots and so they kept featuring Frank Nitti. Again and again, Nitti would somehow avoid capture...while the baddie of the week almost always ended up dead or in prison. Still, however, these shows, while weaker, were quite entertaining as well...just not to the same degree as the earlier ones.
  • Before Brian DePalma gave us his stylish telling of the tale Eliot Ness and his band of Treasury agents, the world was reintroduced to them via this television series from Desilu productions. Eliot Ness was portrayed in tight-lipped, square jawed fashion by Robert Stack and it became his career role.

    If Ness had only lived to see it. After his high point in leading that gang of Treasury agents in Chicago that raided illegal liquor establishments with flair, Ness went on to become Cleveland's Chief of Police and an unsuccessful candidate for mayor of that city. He drifted into obscurity after that.

    But shortly before that Ness who was in bad health and in a bad financial situation contacted author Oscar Fraley who helped him ghost write his memoirs of those days. Ness died right after that and the book was published after his demise. It was then snapped up by Desilu productions because Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz saw potential for a television series.

    The Untouchables had a good run for a few seasons. The period atmosphere was helped by the familiar voice of Walter Winchell who lived through that period and covered it. Winchell helped give the series a ring of authenticity it didn't deserve.

    After a while the Untouchables were in New York dealing with Lucky Luciano and those gang wars, dealing with the Purple gang of Detroit and others that had nothing to do with what they really did. They hit Al Capone and his competitor Bugs Moran in the pocketbook, but of course were not the ones who brought them down. We all know it was those busy accountants in the US Attorney's office in Chicago that did the job.

    The success of the series spun a brief spurt of nostalgia for that era in America both on the big and small screen. Neville Brand as Al Capone and Bruce Gordon as Frank Nitti were a perfect pair of scowling counterparts to the jut-jawed Robert Stack as Ness.

    Occasionally the series is still run on the nostalgia channels. It remains an interesting and glamorized look at a part of our past.
  • Outstanding weekly television series of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Who can ever forget that haunting theme music that was played at the beginning and end of each episode? The show was just terrific, even down to the superb narration of Walter Winchell.

    Having lost the Academy Award for his brilliant performance in "Written on the Wind," in 1956, Robert Stack turned his attention to this television series. He portrayed Eliot Ness, a crime buster of A-1 quality, who would bring down some of the biggest names in crime history.

    With a terrific supporting cast, each weekly episode was an absolute treasure to view. People such as Nehemiah Persoff and Virginia Vincent had standard stand-out roles.

    Yes, there was plenty of violence but Chicago of the 1930s was just that.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The above title describes THE UNTOUCHABLES in a nutshell.

    When Desilu Productions decided to adapt Eliot Ness and Oscar Frawley's 1957 memoir THE UNTOUCHABLES as a two part episode of the DESILU PLAYHOUSE anthology series in 1958, they didn't know that they were about to give birth to a classic TV crime series. So a year after the two part DESILU PLAYHOUSE episode aired, THE UNTOUCHABLES debuted on ABC in the Fall of 1959 and came on like gangbusters.

    Here's the series in a nutshell, at the end of the original pilot, Treasury Department agent Eliot Ness (Robert Stack) and his hand-picked group of agents known as "The Untouchables" continued their war on what was left of the Capone Organization led by Frank Nitti (Bruce Gordon). And also found time to go after such notable underworld figures as Dutch Shultz, Charles "Lucky" Lucianno, Jack "Legs" Diamond, the Genna Brothers, and Ma Barker among others who the real Eliot Ness never encountered. Not to mention a variety of would-be underworld kingpins, vice lords, and drug traffickers, many which often end trying to go for "gangster martyrdom" (dying with guns blazing during battle with the Untouchables)not before committing more than a few acts of violence before Ness and company catch up to them. All in 118 1 hour episodes that mixed the machine gun paced style of the 1930's gangster movies with the gritty edge of 1940's & 1950's film noir and pushed along by the staccato narration of Walter Winchell.

    For the record, Eliot Ness - real life - disbanded the Untouchables after Al Capone was put away, but that didn't stop Hollywood from doing this show and creating the situations. And remember, Hollywood has a bad habit of playing fast and loose with history. But that doesn't keep this from being an enjoyable show.

    For the record, Ness' agents were Jack Rossman (Steve London), Enrico "Rico" Rossi (Nicholas Georgiade), William Youngfellow (Abel Fernandez) for all four seasons with agents Cam Allison (Anthony George) and Martin Flaherty (Jerry Paris) both replaced by Lee Hobson (Paul Picerni) in the second season. A group of incorruptible agents in a time when cops and politicians "on the take" were the rule rather than the exception to the rule (this was the era of Prohibition). Considering the times (the late 1920's and early 1930's), Chicago and the rest of America needed a tough group of law-enforcers for such a tough age.

    In the hands of such writers as Leonard Kantor, Harry Kronman, and John Mantley among many others and directors such as Walter Grauman, Tay Garnett, Ida Lupino, and Paul Wendkos among others; THE UNTOUCHABLES became one of the true classics of the crime television genre. Not to mention at time one of the most violent series ever. But quite a few time during the run of the series, they showed that violence made more of an impact when the gory details weren't shown on screen. Examples of this include "The White Slavers" when a massacre of prostitutes were shown from the reaction of a character shielding his eyes and also in 'The Lily Dallas Story" when the title character machine guns a fence to death by showing a close-up of the tommy-gun being fired followed by a reaction shot of the title character. I could name a lot more incidents, but it would take a lot more space.

    During its four year run (1959-1963), THE UNTOUCHABLES ended up becoming one of the most memorable TV series ever to come out of any era. And its healthy afterlife in syndication (currently appears on ME-TV) and all four seasons being released on DVD (by CBS Video) ensured THE UNTOUCHABLES position as one of television's most unforgettable series.
  • drystyx25 November 2013
    The romanticized version of the Untouchables and the Capone mob has become larger than life. It reminds us of the famous line in THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALENCE of "print the legend".

    More than that, this series is iconic. It had a style, and it had so much violence and action, one wonders how it could have been produced so well and so quickly. Sets and props, including old cars, were repeatedly destroyed, although no doubt some were the same props destroyed once, shot from different angles.

    The violence and bloodshed would rival the gore movies of today. In fact, the villains were very much like the ones the spoiled rich kids of today like so well, just plain evil guys who perform evil for the sake of evil. Truly, their motivations for murder are very lame, but then these were goons, and goons don't need motivation.

    The stories were romanticized, fictional in the sense that the OK Corral movies are fictional. The "time" element is disregarded.

    What makes the show are the good guys. The bad guys are dull, but then true mobsters are dull and unimaginative. One thing the series did correctly was show how dull and unimaginative goons actually boast about how incredibly strategic they are, even though they do nothing but abuse power. This is relative even today. And it no doubt hits most power players of today below the belt.

    The Untouchables are the interesting characters. Stack gives us a Ness who is a bit more macho and likable than the true glory hound Ness, and I don't mean to disparage the real life Ness. He did well, and was a decent guy certainly in comparison to the mobsters, but he was a lot more political than the hero here.

    There are worse men to idolize, so I'm okay with that. In this series, Ness is tough and honest, and the real Ness was pretty honest.

    The Untouchables are the most interesting ones. Like most high school kids of the seventies, I would sneak up past bed time, to watch Johnny Carson just to get to the Untouchable reruns. I could hardly separate the two shows, and Johnny Carson's crew became a mainstay in my life as well.

    I would do impressions of Rico Rossi, and only the guys would know who I was doing. This was a "guy" show.

    It was Rossi, Allison, and the other Untouchables who made this great. They were the colorful characters, the most three dimensional. Rossi began as a barber who joined after surviving a gang land machine gunning of a barber shop, and represented the layman hero, the Everyman. Allison was the "darkest before the Dawn" hero who was leading player material. In one series, he goes undercover against the man who killed his lawman father.

    The stories were fascinating. While the mobsters were dull and predictable, the other characters were a mixed bag of people who tried to deal with them. Many made the mistake of trying to go along with them. That was another thing that Desi Arnaz (who gave us the series) got right. He had seen enough of the hood to know that playing ball with goons is the surest way to an early grave. Believe it or not, actually standing up to them is a better way to survive.
  • "The Untouchables" was my all-time favorite television program when I was a teenager. I ordered the 22 disc set and was surprised to find out that 14 of the episodes were either "The Muppets" or "Grizzly Adams." In addition, 8 other episodes were defective and stopped during the middle of the show.

    "The Untouchables" I did see were as good as I had remembered, and I forgot how many wonderful actors participated in this trend setting television program. I do advise you to be careful if you purchase this wonderful television program that has held up so well despite being 47 to 50 years old.

    You can imagine my bewilderment when "The Muppets" and "Grizzly Adams" shows popped up on the DVD instead of "The Untouchables." I have tried unsuccessfully to contact them (orders@dvdavenue.TV) 12 times. I will never order any DVDs over the internet again.

    There is a website called problems with DVD avenue.TV where customers who have been cheated by this incompetent company post their grievances. I estimate about 175 people have posted their complaints.

    P.S. Since I last posted I have watched 8 more episodes of "The Untouchables" and 3 of them stopped during the beginning and could not restart. At least I have not had to view anymore episodes of "The Muppets" or "Grizzly Adams."
  • This show got a lot of critique during it's run for being to violent and glorifying Mafia type criminals. As for the violence, while there is a lot of shooting, there is only a few times you see much blood. The Godfather films and The Sopranos since have done more to glorify the Mafia than this program ever did.

    The show was well written having an original basis on the book The Untouchables by Elliott Ness. Desilu seemed to be very good at getting writers to adapt fine scripts for most of the show. One does shudder to think what the show would have been if it weren't for Van Johnson's wife telling him to turn down Lucy's offer that Van play Ness because "television will never amount to anything".

    Robert Stack fits the role very well even though he was not the first choice. The show at it's height was a top rated program though it did not have the long term staying power of I Love Lucy.

    Walter Winchell was the master stroke of casting in the narrators role. His voice is so authoritative that it gives the show a feeling of reality with each introduction.

    Desilu did an early parody of the show in the mid 1960's when it was producing the original Star Trek series. If you ever catch it, the episode is called "A Piece of The Action" and Star Trel literally borrowed some of the Untouchables sets at Desilu to film the episode. Years later, Saturday Night Live did a great satire of Untouchables when Desi Arnez hosted.

    The music, especially the theme song, along with Winchell helps sell this show to the audience.
  • I use to watch the Untouchables every thursday nite, never missed a series ever. I still remember the comericals CHILDS double edge razor blades, Chesterfield cigarettes.

    Every time I watch it from one of my VHS tapes I long for the series to come back on TV.

    Bet you didn't know that a lot of the guest appeared on THE Adventures of SUPERMAN, also on LASSIE, and a few on GUN SMOKE. Which was no surprise sense THE UNTOUCHABLES was a Desilu Production.

    To sum it up if you haven't seen THE UNTOUCHABLES the TV series of the 50's, You haven't lived until you do.I hope someday to have all of the series to watch.

    Sencer Thanks James
  • This "made for TV movie" was actually a 2-part episode titled "The Unhired Assassin". It was one of two "2-parters", the other being "The Big Train", a fictionalized account of the otherwise uneventful transfer of Al Capone from the Federal pen at Atlanta to the then new Alcatraz. There is actually a disclaimer that airs prior to the episode acknowledging that was indeed no misbehavior on the part of the prison guards as the episode(s) would suggest. Another popular myth: the voiceover introduction for the show(s) was done by Executive Producer Quinn Martin himself. It was actually Les Lampson, a weekend newscaster seen on KTTV in Los Angeles. Lampson retired from local TV in 1979.
  • Many 60's and 70's stars got exposure in this series. An interesting note is that Elizabeth Montgomery was a gangster's girlfriend in one episode. Her boyfriend was an actor she would be involved with again. He was Darren Steven's boss, Larry, in Bewitched. There is also an episode where the principal characters are in a hotel lobby and a bellhop goes across the screen quickly. I believe that bellhop is Ryan O'Neal.

    It was a great series and I believe we learned a lot of history watching it as kids.

    Earlier commenters are correct about the absence of gore. In the Elizabeth Montgomery episode, her boyfriend is a squealer and the bad guys find him out. The order is given to silence him and two thugs grab him by the arms with a third goon approaching with a knife. The next scene shows the boyfriend holding a bloody handkerchief to his mouth! The violence was more implied than shown.

    It is one of my two favorite tv series. The other is Twilight Zone. It too shows a lot of young, soon-to-be stars (Not that I am a big fan of hers but Montgomery stars in an episode of TZ too - with Charles Bronson).
  • Hollywood doesn't make TV shows like this anymore.

    A period piece set in the late 20's and early 30's, Treasury Agent Elliot Ness (Robert Stack) usually triumphed over evil. The actors and sets were all first rate. Bruce Gordon stole the show as Frank Netti!
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