The Visual Entertainment Inc. DVD release (under a contract with CBS Home Entertainment) of the complete series of the 1993-94 version of "The Untouchables" further establishes VEI as the go-to source for vintage cult-classic TV series. The historic context of these reel adventures about the battles between real-life gangster Al Capone and golden boy fed Eliot Ness goes beyond it being set in the Prohibition era; it is a strong example of remakes of classic series to meet the need for content in the era of expanding cable service.
The two-part pilot provides exposition in a manner that gets right down to the action; the story of imposing Prohibition allowing Capone to greatly enhance his criminal empire and the proportional response of forming the titular task force to bring him down is interspersed with scenes from the parallel childhoods and early adult lives of Capone and Ness. The clear preachy message is that raising a boy (or girl) right makes a huge difference.
Another early two-parter with the wonderfully pulpy title "Murder Ink" has every great element of an "Untouchables" episode. Ness feeds an untrusted reporter false information regarding a raid to see that fake news reaches Ness. It does, and the subsequent killing of the news hound creates more drama that includes an innocent person willing to take the fall.
Even better pulp exists regarding an episode in which the pure and innocent in every sense sister of a member of Team Ness moves to the big city of Chicago to pursue a career and to be near her brother. Things quickly go wrong when allowing herself to be duped ends up with the out-of-towner being heavily and repeatedly drugged and raped until she comes to like the former so much that she willingly becomes a prostitute. The focus of her brother on rescuing her greatly works to the advantage of Capone.
Another "ripped from the '30s headlines" change-of-pace morality play has pathetic boxer "Pretty Boy Tommy Irish" buying the hype that that Capone organization feeds him and enjoy the lavish lifestyle that it provides. The scam is to make this pugilist believe that he can be a contender only to set him up to lose big in many senses so that Capone can make a fortune betting on the underdog opponent. The role of Ness this time mostly is to help the nice kid avoid what may be the final beating of his young life.
A strong contender for most creepy episode of this two-season series goes to another early two-parter that largely focuses on the separate campaigns of Capone and Ness to capture a (presumably) man who is preying on young children. This plot goes beyond the two nemeses cooperating toward a shared goal to a frantic rush by Ness to prevent Capone from delivering vigilante justice.
The cat-and-mouse game that is central to the series continues throughout the run of the program as Ness typically becomes aware of a scheme by Capone and typically foils to it at least to some degree; much of the drama relates to the collateral damage on both sides.
The audience and the artistic successes of "Untouchables" relate to the folks in front of and behind the camera taking the proper tone; there is no exaggerated humor regarding the historic elements of the series or overacting regarding the central casting characters of the ruthless gangster, the stoic fed, or the typical '30s era women and other stock types in their world. Everyone playing their roles as if they are real nicely draws the audience into the action.
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