103 of 111 people found the following review helpful
While there are numerous DVDs with public domain episodes of the original Dragnet television series on the market today, this set (from Brentwood Home Video) is the one to get. Here's why . . .
1. Quantity - The 20 episodes included on this set represent the largest single collection of original Dragnet episodes released to date (August 2003).
2. Price/Value - At a retail of [$$ it is amazing].
3. Variety - There are some very well-known (and "common") episodes included like The Big Seventeen and The Big Producer, but there are some rarer episodes and one, The Big Frame, has not previously appeared on DVD. Since Amazon did not list the episode titles, I am including them below for Dragnet fans so that you can compare this collection of episodes with others:
Episodes - Disc 1/Side A
1. The Big September Man
2. The Big Seventeen
3. The Big Show
4. The Big Break
5. The Big Hands
Episodes - Disc 1/Side B
1. The Big Betty
2. The Big Thief
3. The Big Little Jesus
4. The Big Bird (mislabeled incorrectly on rear cover and the disc menu as The Big Trunk)
5. The Big Boys
Episodes - Disc 2/Side A
1. The Big Shoplift
2. The Big Hit-Run Killer
3. The Big Girl
4. The Big Frame
5. The Big Producer
Episodes - Disc 2/Side B
1. The Big Crime
2. The Big Pair
3. The Big Bar
4. The Big War
5. The Big Oskar
My five star rating is closer to four & one-half stars as this collection is not "problem free." While all of the episodes range, visually, from fair to very good, there has been no digital restoration of the prints utilized for this collection. All episodes are watchable, just don't expect to see pristine prints . . . you can expect some film scratches and specks. Audio is very good on almost all of the episodes. The episode "The Big War" is of noticeably lesser visual quality than the other episodes. There are no DVD "extras," but you can access individual episodes through a menu option. What shines through on this set is the brilliance of Jack Webb . . . even though most of the episodes were made 50 years ago, the documentary style approach that Webb employed to tell these stories is still better than most of today's television police shows. Highly recommended!!!
41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2005
Those of us who grew up with and loved the 1960s version of Dragnet are in for a pleasant surprise. The 1950s version is grittier, more true-to-life, and even more "no-nonsense" than the later series. The black-and-white photography makes everything look downbeat and harder, and truly portrays the underside of society, rather than sunny Los Angeles. It's detectives in hats, records in pen and ink, milk in bottles, and cigarettes everywhere. High-tech means sending out a "radiogram." You don't get Friday lecturing hippies, but the 1950s series is, in my opinion, better.
I have many original Dragnet episodes on VHS, but this DVD set is quite a buy. Although some of the episodes have incorrect titles, you cannot beat the price. Fans of the 1960s series will enjoy seeing a rather young Virginia Gregg, a very young Peggy Webber, as well as Art Gilmore, Harry Bartell, a very young Bill Boyett (Sgt. MacDonald on Adam-12), Natalie Masters and assorted other actors who formed Jack Webb's unofficial company of players. There are some classic episodes here.
I noticed that one reviewer posted the list of episodes that you get in this set, but here is a brief explanation of each of them:
Disk 1, Side A
1. The Big September -- A woman is murdered by a religious fanatic.
2. The Big Seventeen -- Episode starts with the destruction of a movie theatre by kids on drugs. The 17-year old in question ruins his life by taking heroin. (Note: this boy would have been born in 1935 -- long before the hippie generation. Webb tackled drug use long before it was commonplace.)
3. The Big Show (should really be the "Big Secret") -- a young Virginia Gregg plays the wife of an army officer. While taking an interstate bus trip, a young woman handed the officer's wife a baby, and said she would be back. When the young mother did not arrive, Friday and Smith investigate. This is one of the best episodes on this DVD set. A must watch!
4. The Big Break -- A guy arrested for robbery breaks out of county jail and then an army jail. Lots of action in this episode.
5. The Big Hands -- A woman's body is found in a hotel room. Friday and Smith have to find out who she is, who killed her, and why. A young Olan Soule is a lab technician, a role that he would reprise in the 1960s Dragnets.
Disc 1, Side B
1. The Big Betty -- Thieves scan the obituary columns, then sell relatives of the deceased worthless merchandise. The last crook is nabbed at a New Year's Eve party. Classic lines: Crook: Evey year, New Year's Eve, I cry. Never had any reason for it. Friday: You're going to have one this year, lady.
2. The Big Thief -- A couple of crooks were robbing doctors at hotels. This is the most personal episode, as it shows Friday's reaction to killing a suspect, and his girlfriend comforts him. One of the best episodes in the DVD set!
3. The Big Little Jesus -- Those who have seen the 1960s series will recognize this one, as the 1960s version was just redone in color. A baby Jesus is missing from the oldest downtown church. Harry Bartell plays the priest.
4. The Big Trunk (really, the Big Bird)-- a burglar breaks into homes in new developments in the San Fernando Valley (which you can buy for $500 down!) and kills any pet birds he finds. Classic lines: Crook: I don't feel sorry for something just 'cause it's locked up. Friday (snapping on the handcuffs): You might.
5. The Big Boys -- Four boys, including a very young Leonard Nimoy, go on a robbery spree.
Disc 2, Side A
1. The Big Shoplift -- The detectives investigate a series of shoplifts of department stores. A young Peggy Webber plays a doctor's wife.
2. The Big Hit-Run Killer -- An elderly woman and her grandson are killed by a hit-and-run driver. With few clues, Friday must track down who it is.
3. The Big Girls -- Motorists are being robbed by different large, attractive women. Friday and Smith get the case.
4. The Big Frame -- Friday and Smith track down the killer of a man who apparently had died in a hit-and-run -- or was there another cause of the death? And who had killed him? The victim's girlfriend is played by a very young Carolyn Jones.
5. The Big Producer -- A very young Martin Milner (Malloy on Adam-12) peddles pornographic photos to his high school friends; Friday then has to find and arrest the producer of pornographic movies. I'm surprised this was shown on TV in 1952.
Disc 2, Side B
1. The Big Crime -- This was indeed a big crime. Two four-year-old twin girls were kidnapped and sexually molested. Again, it is amazing that this was shown on TV in the early 1950s.
2. The Big Pair (should be "The Big Housekeeping") -- A couple completely strip homes of their furnishings while the owners are on vacation.
3. The Big Bar -- A killer keeps murdering bar owners. He has the unusual habit of playing one song over and over on the juke box.
4. The Big War -- Friday tries to prevent a juvenile gang war. The episode features Natalie Masters as a doting mother who refuses to believe her darling son could be up to any trouble. This is a role she would repeat in the 1960s Dragnet series.
5. The Big Oskar -- A man comes into the police station claiming that he knows where stolen goods are and who stole them.
This is a great deal. I only wish they would bring out all the black and white episodes on DVD, season by season.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2010
This is Sgt. Friday in living color in 1950s form before the middle age paunch of the 1960s. It's Sergeant Friday in a show that mixes Dragnet with the fast-paced Noir writing that made Webb's Private Detective show, Pat Novak for Hire (written by screenwriter Richard Breen,) a classic.
1) Picture Quality was superb: I've seen this on an old rental VHS and the difference is night and day. The color is crisp and stunning. This is a good print that Universal used.
2) The Story is not your ordinary Dragnet. This film would be considered a minor noir classic if it weren't based on a TV show. In many ways it deviates with a fist fight in a bridge hall and the lack of banter between Friday and Smith. As well, Friday is a little more aggressive and on-edge than normally written. This is because Breen didn't write for Dragnet. It's very similar to the normal Dragnet, but with a greater hard boiled punch to it that makes it interesting. It also fits that Friday would be a little tougher as he's dealing with underworld hoods throughout the whole thing, and not Mrs. Garrity, the grey-haired landlady. Just because it's different, doesn't make it bad or unfitting for the canon. It's actually a well-made and distinct film.
3) The Dialogue is a Work of Art. This is Friday at his toughest, delivering lines such as, "Unless you're growin', Sit down! " to a hood trying to start something.
Friday is tough and ready for action in a forgotten classic that is a must see for fans of Dragnet, NOIR, or detective fiction.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2010
Kudos to Universal Vault series for their bringing this 1954 Warner Bros. movie classic to DVD. I had an old BETA(!)copy that was poorly transferred with washed-out colors. The DVD corrects all that and makes available a classic "police-action" concept from the '50s enjoyable to watch, with all its dated dialog and action intact. Great fun!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2010
Ignore any reviews dated before 2010 as Amazon has, at least as of this date, mistakenly assigned them to this product, which was not issued until Jan. 10, 2010. As jrc "jrcasey" has already pointed out, those old reviews are for public-domain compilations of episodes of the "Dragnet" TV series. I agree with his comments about the quality of this DVD of the 1954 feature film. Appears to be a recent transfer from an excellent-quality film element. Even the opticals (fade-ins, fade-outs and dissolves between scenes, accomplished by re-photographing the original negative) are in better shape than is often seen in films of this vintage. While the film itself isn't quite all I'd hoped it would be - for one thing, I was wishing for less back lot photography and more on location - there's plenty to drink in if you appreciate time-capsule looks into early-fifties culture: the clothes, the cars, the technology, all in color. And you can't beat that rapid-fire, hardboiled Dragnet dialog.Dragnet (1954) (Amazon.com Exclusive)
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2005
An excellent set and worth the price. The set has two, two-sided DVDs in a rather cheap package, but the episodes themselves play well, with reasonably presentable transfer of image and sound. The episode list is in other reviews. This set is a good starting place if you've considered looking into classic Dragnet.
If you're new to Classic Dragnet, Amazon also sells a set called DRAGNET (25 EPISODES) -- The best and most complete collection of the many first-run Dragnet sets available. The set features 25 Dragnet episodes on 5 one-sided DVDs in a fold-out package with an attractive slipcase. Start there for to begin your collection.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2004
I found this 2 disc set of 20 Dragnet episodes very enjoyable. The quality ranges from fair to very good, as some episodes show more wear and tear, grain, and scratches than others, especially "The Big Show", which has some print damage early on in the show. All the episodes are watchable and most of them are in very good shape, showing crystal clear images, but as in good shape as some of these episodes are, I doubt these were remastered, "in Virtual 5.1", as it states on the back of the DVD. However, for $11.66 + tax (which is what I paid for it at Wal-Mart) it's more than worth the money, as 20 divided by the price comes out to 58 cents an episode!. The stories, while somewhat dated today, are very entertaining, all the more so because they are based on true cases. Jack Webb's direction is excellent and his actors were very natural in their performances. Check out some very famous people in some of these episodes, among them Martin Milner in "The Big Producer", Leonard Nimoy in "The Big Boys" Carolyn Jones, later Mortica on "The Addams Family", in "The Big Girl", "The Big Frame" and "The Big Producer", and finally, Dennis Weaver shows up in "The Big Bar" as a forensic pathologist!. By the way, the episode "The Big Trunk" was mislabelled on the DVD and menu actually is "The Big Bird". Despite all of this though, I would still highly recommend this DVD to others with an interest in Dragnet and how crime was fought in the 1950's. Finally, I feel that these Dragnet episodes should be digitally restored as Dragnet was a landmark TV series which inspired shows like "Adam 12" and "Emergency", (both created by Jack Webb) as well as "Hill Street Blues" and "Law & Order" .
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2004
DVD set was actually good if not great. Episodes: Big September; Big Seventeen, Big Show; Big Break; Big Hands; Big Betty; Big Thief; Big Little Jesus; Big Trunk; Big boys; Big Shoplift; Big Girl; Big Frame; Big Producer; Big Crime; Big Pair; Big Bar; Big War and Big Oskar. Be advised that some of the episodes go by other names on other collections. Overall though, I found 14 episodes that I didn't previously have and this is an excellent value.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2010
Based on the early Dragnet years, Joe Friday and Ben Alexander investigate a professional hit. Good supporting cast (Richard Boone and Dennis Weaver -- with a brief appearance by William Boyette). By the book, but nice to have.
Here's hoping the late '60s colour film based on the series when Harry Morgan was the partner shows up soon.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 1999
When a two bit bookie is murdered by his associates, Sgt. Joe Friday and his partner Frank Smith go after the bad guys in a methodic manner that exemplifies "Dragnet". With the help of an undercover policewoman (who, contrary to a lot of reviews I've read, is not killed; Friday comes to her rescue when she finds solid evidence against the bad guys) our detectives are able to solve the crime, only to have the perpretrators die before they can be brought to justice. The ending will be out of the ordinary for you, but still it is a good film. "Dum de dum dum!"