The long history of Shout! Factory rescuing TV Land favorites from oblivion by releasing then on DVD after their primary studios abandon that effort makes Shout! a good home for the October 30, 2018 Collector's Edition Blu-ray of the 1987 comedy film "Dragnet." The love that Shout! Select shows pop culture gems (such as the recently reviewed "City Slickers" and "Get Shorty") provides further proof that this is a match made in Heaven,
Watching the DVD version of "Dragnet" a few weeks before getting the Shout! Blu-ray allows verifying that the L.A. scenery, epic settings, and audio all are tremendously enhanced in this remastered version; it truly is like watching an entirely different film.
The bigger picture this time is that "Dragnet" reflects Hollywood bringing versions of (primarily '60s) television series to the silver screen in the mid-80s to mid-90s and to a lesser extent today. The first "Addams Family" and "Brady Bunch" films are among the greatest commercial and artistic successes. "The Beverly Hillbillies" and the live-action "The Flintstones" are at the other end of the spectrum.
The strong pedigree of "Dragnet" helps earn a slot near the top. "SNL"/"Blues Brothers"/"Ghostbusters" veteran Dan Aykroyd stars as straight-laced Los Angeles police detective Joe Friday, who is the nephew of equally rigid Friday (Jack Webb) of the series, Rising star (including "Splash") Tom Hanks plays laid-back goofball partner Streebek. Harry Morgan ("M*A*S*H) returns to his "Dragnet" role of (now) Captain Gannon.
Director Tom Mankiewicz is the son of famed director Joseph L. Mankiewicz. "SNL" and "Its Garry Shandling's Show" veteran Alan Zweibel and Aykroyd team up to write the script.
In addition to changing the tone of "Dragnet" from stoic drama to broad farce, the film plot that revolves around radical activists who identify themselves as P.A.G.A.N. diverts from the series basing episodes about real cases. All of this males the movie more "Naked Gun" than "Dirty Harry."
Friday gets new partner Streebek to literally and figuratively clean up before they are assigned to investigate the theft of the entire run of an issue of the fictional equivalent of Playboy magazine. However, this does not prevent the impish charm and immature side of Streebek from peeking out on visiting a fictional Playboy mansion where fictional version of Hugh Hefner Jerry Caesar ('80s star Dabney Coleman) resides.
The intrigue continues with a heist at a zoo and other bizarre thefts regarding which P.A.G.A.N openly admits; this coinciding with the '80s stereotype of an outrageous televangelist Rev. Whirley (Christopher Plummer) showing up helps put the pieces together.
The hilarity that ensues throughout includes Friday and Streebek crashing a P.A.G.A.N. ritual that leads to them wrestling a giant snake in an effort to rescue sacrificial virgin Connie Swall (Alexandra Paul of "Baywatch"). We also get the boys in plainclothes dressing up as leather-clad punks and a raid that disproves the theory that there is no reason to cry over spilled milk. This is not to mention Hanks putting his comedic talent to good use in a twofer "Meet the Parents" sequence,
Surprises include Friday, rather than Streebek, being the one to go rogue (and of course being proven right) to the extent of having to turn in his badge and gun. The subsequent unexpected change in Streebek shows the extent to which he wants to vindicate his partner.
Aykroyd and Zweibel particularly shine in writing a climax that nicely ties in every element of the film; centering it around a large event is predictable. Creating somewhat elaborate events that show that there is a reason for every bit of madness goes above and beyond.
The equally inevitable final showdown that pits Friday against the bad guy who evades capture during the big raid likely is sublime to younger visitors and ridiculous from the perspective of everyone of voting age. The absurdity of this is true to the spirit of the television series regarding Friday doing everything necessary to capture criminals..
The special features that make Select releases worthy buying begins with an interview with Paul that is filmed for this release; she is particularly adorable when repeatedly mentioning watching "Dragnet" for the first time in 35 years to prepare for the discussion,
Children of the '70s and '80s can relate to the awe of 23 year-old Paul being cast to star with Hanks and Aykroyd. Learning that Paul first learns of one of the best scenes in "Dragnet" on watching the film at the premiere is another highlight of the interview.
"Just the Facts!" is pure Shout! in that it is a 1987 hour-long infomercial in which Hanks and Aykroyd first show how "Dragnet" comes to be a radio program, a 1950s TV show, and a reboot in 1967. Much of the this focus is on comparing and contrasting star Jack Webb with Friday.
The second-half of "Facts" is on the making-of the film; they save the best for last in showing the stars recording the rap that serves as the theme for the film.
The final fact regarding "Dragnet" is that it perfectly illustrates the value of both '80s film comedies and the reason to add collector's edition of these films to your video library. The movie was a huge hit back in the day and gets better with age. Releases that include insights from folks who were there enhances watching a movie that merely was a diversion (and perhaps a chance to sit in a cool space for a few hours) when it was released.
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