Dragnet (1954)

6.61 h 29 min1954ALL
A mysterious gangland slaying has taken place and it is up to Joe Friday and the Los Angeles Police Department to put together the pieces. They enlist the services of a pretty and daring police woman to trap the devious mobsters and bring them to justice. Friday gets his man with help from his partner, Officer Frank Smith (Ben Alexander), in a crime caper so tough it could only be called Dragnet.
Jack Webb
Jack WebbBen AlexanderRichard Boone
English [CC]
Audio languages
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4.5 out of 5 stars

215 global ratings

  1. 73% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 14% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 7% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 1% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 4% of reviews have 1 stars
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William de LayReviewed in the United States on May 12, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
Not Nearly As Good As I Remembered
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I used to watch this movie on TV as a kid, and I thought it was great. Now, many years later, I'm not nearly as impressed.
Don't get me wrong: It's still a fairly fun film to watch, but the weaknesses stick out like a sore thumb.
First of all, the acting is almost terrible. It is extremely heavy handed, almost Kabuki in style and manner, and gets to be a true headache after a while. Almost everyone WAY overacts -- and almost all of the gestures are outrageously overplayed. Richard Boone doesn't just put a book down on the table; oh no, he SLAMS the book on the TABLE!! And Jack Webb doesn't just remove a page -- no, he TEARS all the pages out of his NOTEBOOK!! And Ben Alexander RIPS a poster off the WALL!! And other characters STUB out their cigarettes in the ASHTRAY!! And they WHAM the coffee pot down on the COUNTER!! It's almost a parody -- almost like a skit on Saturday Night Live. Needless to say, I found all this hamming it up to be distracting, and occasionally really irritating. In fact, the only person who does NOT shamelessly overact is Ann Robinson as the undercover police officer. She's a real relief for the viewer.
Also, the portrayals are ridiculously, almost absurdly, black and white: The cops are all macho super-dudes, who do all the right things, all the time; and the criminals are all slimy, vicious, scum of the earth, sewer rats -- even the criminal's wives and girlfriends are evil, ball-busting, nasty vipers. It's all just WAY too much. Too over the top. And too one-dimensional and crude.
That being said, some of the camera work is clever, and the editing is quite skillful. Scenes of Los Angeles in the mid-1950s are fun and nostalgic to watch, as well.
And since this is a 1954 production, maybe some of the heavy-handedness, and the almost fascist portrayals of "good" and "evil", are manifestations of that time period. Maybe that was an appropriate style and tone for that particular moment in cinema. But it can get pretty tiresome and excessive to have to sit through, from the vantage point of the 21st century.
And I haven't even addressed the countless protocol violations in the film. Even back in 1954, you couldn't lock suspects up in a motel room for days on end, endlessly interrogating and browbeating them, denying them prescription medication, and forcing them to stub their cigarette ashes out into their own hands (!!!), and all without any legal counsel! Absolutely not. No way.
Anyway, I guess this is an interesting time-capsule of a film -- and it's not boring. But it can be painful to watch.
But if you want to see a film noir with LOTS of subtlety, great acting, brilliant suspense, and a crackerjack plot, try He Walked By Night (1948), with Richard Baseheart, Whit Bissell, Scott Brady, and James Cardwell. Now that's a truly fine film.
3 people found this helpful
Mary UreReviewed in the United States on October 1, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Beware of what episodes you are ordering
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This collection of Dragnet episodes is just like you might have remembered they were, and the quality is as you would expect. The reason I wanted to comment about this, is to basically inform you of what these marketing people are doing with this type of subject matter where it is a series of multiple episodes.

In the case of Dragnet, there were over 200 episodes in the series with several partners for Sgt. Friday. The marketing folks are putting out different DVD's with a mixture of the episodes, so if you were to order this DVD, and another DVD in order to get different episodes, you might be disappointed when you discover you now have two DVD's with a duplication of episodes.

The best advice I can give you is to look carefully at the DVD advertisement, and see if they list the episodes you are getting, and if they don't, do not buy the DVD. Sometimes you might be able to contact someone who is selling the item, and ask them to tell you the list of episodes, but it is sometimes difficult to find a supplier who will do this.

Actually, I consider this type of marketing quite underhanded, since they know they are not being 100% truthful with the public by leaving out what episodes they are selling. Some companies, as you know, will proclaim they are giving the best customer service, but in actuality, they are giving the worst.

So please make sure what you are ordering before you do so.
One person found this helpful
MollyReviewed in the United States on May 8, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
The Mob kills it's own pay off man and Joe Friday digs to find the reason~ 5 stars~
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PLOT: the mob's "pay off man" is gunned down by a mob killer in a field.

When the mob's pay off man /the collector of the mob money is found "executed" with 4 shot gun rounds in his body Joe Friday (JACK WEBB) & Jack Smith (BEN ALEXANDER) delve into the dregs of the underworld to find clues. Friday and Smith find the clues all point to Gangster Max Troy. When the lack of clues do not allow an arrest. Friday and Smith lean on Troy 24/7 in the hope the case will break open. This is in Warner Color and very well done. Jack Webb also directed it and he did his best to have angles and shadows add to the feel and movement of the movie. The plot is first rate. Added bonus are the Gangsters who are very dislikable and need to get what is coming to them. This moves pretty well. You have to pay attention to the plot because every suspect is a career criminal. 5 STARS~ Look for Richard Boone as the Captain of Police and in a very minor role Dennis Weaver as detective.
3 people found this helpful
orvuusReviewed in the United States on November 24, 2015
3.0 out of 5 stars
Police procedural -- you know the drill
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This is a review of the 1954 movie, not the TV series. This is a "vault series" disc, much like the Warner collection "on demand" discs, there are no extras and worst of all no subtitles. Luckily if you blast the sound up you can hear the dialogue since in those days actors spoke clearly. It starts with a brutal killing (of an uncredited Dub Taylor) and then the police procedural begins. This is not real exciting, but if you've seen the TV series you know what to expect. The most bizarre scene to me is when Friday and a partner talk to a "hip" cat who looks to be over 40, and I suppose represents a beatnik. There is an extended fight scene which becomes almost comical. Friday is abused by criminal suspects, but never beats them up. In short, it is good, but rather dull. This was directed by Jack Webb --- I recommend watching his other self-directed movie, the D.I. instead.
One person found this helpful
tom4jeanReviewed in the United States on January 29, 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
Dragnet (1954) Full length feature movie prime video
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Not sure why the reviews for this Dragnet (1954) full length feature movie are all about a DVD with multiple episodes of the TV show?
Anyway, I just rented and watched "Dragnet (1954)" instant video. This is the full length feature movie that was released in 1954 in color and what this review is written about. (that is the movie which is listed above). [[ASIN:B000I9TY00 Dragnet (1954)]]

I am not sure but I would guess that this movie was released in theaters and also on TV at the same time to coincide with the new color TV's that were just introduced that same year in March of 1954 by Westinghouse with model H840CK15 and April 1954 by RCA with model CT-100. I would guess that this was also released in theaters as well as TV because at the time color TV was brand new and very expensive with a small audience. The new Westinghouse H840CK15 retailed for $1,295 and the RCA CT-100 was $1000, that is 1954 dollars!

I mention all that to put the release of this movie in perspective and to say that is what makes watching this movie so great! I am a big fan of Dragnet and have seen every original black and white TV episode that is in the public domain on the internet archive as well as listened to many of the over 300 original radio series episodes also available free on the internet archive.
Seeing everything in color including; the cars, neon lights and signs, city hall police department, and all the clothing including suits (grey or tweed with colored ties) and women's dresses made me feel like I was in a time capsule seeing what life was really like in the 1950's, and more importantly what things really looked like in the original Dragnet series, if it had been in color.
Boy, people knew how to dress then, and we have surly lost something.

I won't put in any spoilers and tell the story but the story has an emphasis on "pounding the pavement" and following up many dead end leads highlighting the hard police work that Jack Webb always wanted to convey to his watchers. It is not at all a cut and dry case, and at first I was a little surprised Jack picked this story to make into a full length film. There were TV episodes that were far more dramatic and climactic that he could have used, but the more I thought about Jack Webb and how he loved to promote the hard work of the police to the public without all the glamour it really makes sense he chose this story.

It is well worth watching and I would highly recommend it to any Dragnet fan, if not only just to see it in color!
6 people found this helpful
John J. PocsikReviewed in the United States on October 29, 2012
3.0 out of 5 stars
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I saw this full length DRAGNET movie in Denver
in 1954. It was a big deal - not
because I really liked DRAGNET all that much (I didn't),
but because I'd read there was a good
fight scene in it.

Sitting in that cavernous theater, dwarfed
by all those Jack Webb fans surrounding me,
I found myself caught up from the very first when
the shotgun killer rose up from behind a low hill
and blasted some guy into manburger at point blank range.

This was a different, more brutal DRAGNET.
Detective Joe Friday was unrestrained, obsessive.
This being long before the Miranda directive
re how supposed criminals were to be treated by the police,
Friday's deliberate persecution of the
main bad guy was amazing. Civil liberties? What civil liberties?

His companion Ben Alexander didn't have much to do;
policewoman Ann Robinson(WAR OF THE WORLDS) survived being placed in harm's way.
And smooth-faced Richard Boone - Friday's agreeable, soft-spoken
boss - didn't seem too worried about "excessive" police

A cool procedural about early 50s cops doing their
stuff, directed by Jack Webb in a "no nonsense pantyhose" style.
And yes! the fight scene at an upstairs card game was great, if brief.

For diehard fans and early DRAGNET television/radio enthusiasts. Those were
the good old days?
4 people found this helpful
Adam GrahamReviewed in the United States on May 27, 2010
5.0 out of 5 stars
Unless you're growin', Sit down!
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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.
22 people found this helpful
Christopher J. MartinReviewed in the United States on October 26, 2012
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great Movie for a Dragnet Fan
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I've loved Dragnet ever since I saw re-runs of the 1960s early 70s color version many years ago on television. Technology's allowed me to watch many (maybe all?) of the black & white versions and I've listened to almost all of the available radio episodes. I love this show but I hadn't seen the 1954 movie. In fact I didn't even know about it until recently.

The plot is much like the Dragnet episodes but strung out longer to be able to comprise a full movie rather than just a 30-minute TV episode. There's a killing of a "small time hood" in an LA park so Friday and Smith have to investigate and find the killer. The dialogue is what you'd expect from the 50s black & white version. Jack Webb's character Joe Friday narrates and has a few rants against suspects too. The movie makes use of technology like a mini tape recorder that was probably very new to movie goers in the 1950s. Seeing how they used technology that was brand new 60 years ago but is hopelessly outdated now is fun.

Overall, a very good movie and one that all Dragnet fans should see.
3 people found this helpful
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