Synopsis by Hal Erickson
At the height of the popularity of his Dragnet TV series, producer/director/star Jack Webb struck a deal with Warner Bros. to direct several feature films--the first of which, but of course, was 1954's Dragnet. This time around, the "true story" in which "only the names are changed to protect the innocent" involves the murder of former syndicate member Dub Taylor. LAPD sergeants Joe Friday (Webb) and Frank Smith (Ben Alexander) follow the trail of evidence to shifty gangster boss Stacy Harris, who during most of the film is able to avoid arrest through legal loopholes. Richard Boone plays Captain Hamilton, while Ann Robinson, best known for her screaming and scurrying about in War of the Worlds, plays policewoman Grace Downey. Most of the rest of the cast is drawn from Webb's TV and radio stock company, including Virginia Gregg, who is quite good as the amputee wife of the victim, and Vic Perrin, who would later portray the voyeuristic serial killer in the 1967 TV movie version of Dragnet. Some sources list Cliff Arquette as being in the cast of Dragnet, playing his familiar Charley Weaver character, but we can't find him. Dragnet has often been derided because of Joe Friday's reluctance to honor the civil liberties of his suspects, but remember that this was 1954, long before the "You have a right to remain silent" era. Webb's terse, tightly edited, close-up-dominated TV technique translates surprisingly well to the big screen. At its worst, Dragnet falls victim to the corny overkill of the TV version: the subtle-as-an-earthquake musical cues, Friday and Smith's ubiquitous nods and exchanged glances, etc. Still, Dragnet was a satisfying and profitable feature film directorial debut for Jack Webb, whose subsequent efforts included Pete Kelly's Blues (1955), The DI (1957), 30 (1959) and The Last Time I Saw Archie (1961).
gangster, investigator, killing, police, robbery