Awesomely independent The Film Detective continues to live up to its name and strong reputation by (almost literally) unearthing and expertly restoring the "lost and forgotten" 1959-61 syndicated anthology series "Deadline." This cousin of hit series from that era "Dragnet," which depicts "true crime" stories, uses real news stories and the men (no women at least in the first 9 episodes) as the basis for compelling tales of murder and corruption.
An overall theme is the dedication of the real-life reporters in this period in which these heroes support truth, justice, and the American way. This dedication to "art over commerce" is refreshing in the "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality of the 21st-century and in which most cities have one reputable newspaper and a tabloid-style rag.
The "Dragnet" (and later "The F.B.I.") similarity extends to an epilogue in which the viewer learns "the rest of the story" as to the fates of the principal players and the newshound who always gets his man or woman.
Wonderful context comes via an included booklet that shares series trivia, episode synopses and the fascinating and intriguing real backstory of each episode, and the Society of Professional Journalist Code of Ethics.
Veteran character actor Paul Stewart, whose 114 credits include a guest-role on the newspaper-centric drama "Lou Grant," hosts and occasionally plays a role in these 39 episodes. A melange of his narrator and a depiction of the incidents that lead up the front-page events set the stage for the investigative journalism that follows. One spoiler is that each story has a Code-era Hollywood ending in which the "innocent" obtains the best possible outcome and the malfeasor literally or figuratively ends up in the ground or as a guest of the state.
Copious pre-viewing jokes (complete with mob slang) about gangsters are prophetic as to the pilot episode "The Victor Riesel Story." Riesel is a good union man who loses his livelihood due to standing up to a corrupt takeover of his organization. Riesel continuing to speak out earns him a beatdown and threats of worse directed at both him and his nuclear family. Inadvertent humor relates to the reporter covering the story being emboldened as to a code that protects a journalist against physical harm in doing his or her job.
The aptly titled "State Scandal" further proves that the "Deadline" stories remain highly relevant in 2019. This one involves a whistleblower claim that an attractive and charming Illinois state auditor is embezzling funds via padding the state payroll. The highlights of this one include the discovered facts and the conflicted loyalties of the investigative reporter who wants to provide inquiring minds the truth.
Two other still-timely early episodes, "Mass Murder" and "Charm Boy," have awesome shade of both "Dragnet" and fellow anthology series of the era "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." The common theme here is of an outwardly upstanding citizen committing a heinous crime for a motive as old as time.
"Murder" centers around a family man whose mother is on a flight on which the explosion of a planted bomb kills everyone. The rest of this story is that this man seemingly has a loving relationship with his mother, whose generosity includes providing seed money and sweat equity as to his drive-in restaurant. Like his "Deadline" colleagues, the reporter follows the Sherlock Holmes principle of going where the evidence leads him.
"Charm Boy" is as engaging as the titular newlywed around whom this story is centered. The undisputed facts are that this man, who lives with his mother-law and runs the butcher shop of his deceased father-in-law, and his wife are followed from a movie theater to their home. It also is known that the transient (a.k.a. bum) who follows the wife onto the front porch while the husband tends to the trash cans is armed (but not necessarily dangerous).
Increasing doubt remains to the subsequent events that lead to both the bum and the pretty young spouse ending up dead. Meanwhile, the new widower is the subject of copious sympathy and admiration.
The broadest appeal of this series relates to the human-nature aspects of the stories and the concept that truth often is stranger than fiction. This set also reflects the Unreal TV principle that the best series to own are those that are not heavily syndicated.
Detective supplements all this with a 25-minute DVD special-feature in which broadcast journalism professor Joe Alicastro discusses how the news business has changed in the decades between the airing of "Deadline" and 2019. We also get a series trailer.