The latest is the seemingly endless string of irresistible DVD collections comes from the good folks at Timeless Video, who have distinguished themselves with some first-class releases of vintage TV series. The latest is their most impressive yet: the 1950s crime series M Squad which helped groom Lee Marvin from supporting actor to leading man presence. Marvin is the stalwart Lt. Frank Ballinger, a Chicago cop who is so unrelentingly serious that he makes Jack Webb look like Richard Simmons. The series was part of the wave of crime shows that flooded the networks during this era, and M Squad was one of the best. The show ran three seasons and was compromised only by the half-hour time running time which made for some abbreviated storylines. The series is a gem in terms of the kinds of cornball cliches that have become part of our pop culture. I always assumed the Frank Drebin character played by Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun films had been inspired by Joe Friday of Dragnet. However, one glimpse at M Squad proves this series was the real inspiration. It's hard not to think of Nielsen when Marvin is rousting the bad guys. I confess to only having sampled the set, because it includes a staggering 117 episodes. The video quality varies but Timeless acknowledges it was a Herculean task to track down original film elements, so we have to be grateful that the show has been made available in its entirety. There is also a cool bonus extra: a full soundtrack CD of Stanley Wilson's great jazz score. M Squad is arresting entertainment (I can't believe I wrote that!) and you should make sure the series has a prominent place in your video library.- Lee Pfeiffer
The series is available exclusively from Timeless Media. Click here to order.
Here is the official press release:
One of the most memorable of the early television police dramas, M Squad debuted in 1957 running for three seasons on NBC.
There were many black and white crime dramas competing for viewers in the late fifties, notably Dragnet, Arrest and Trial, and Checkmate. M Squad stands
apart because of its unique combination of story, production values,
musical score and a great cast portraying crime fighters getting down
and dirty on the mean streets.
Lee Marvin, a decorated WW II
Marine veteran of the South Pacific, where he received the Purple Heart
in the Battle of Saipan, stars as Lt. Frank Ballinger, a no-nonsense
Chicago plainclothes cop in the elite M Squad
Division. The Squad's (M-for Murder) task is to root out organized
crime and corruption in Americas Second City. Marvin's portrayal of a
tough undercover officer, whose perseverance and potential for
violence, but with utter cool, permeates each gritty episode, gave
Marvin name recognition with the public, and did much to make him a
star. He would go on to many starring roles (The Dirty Dozen, Cat Ballou) and to win a coveted Oscar for Best Actor.
Ballinger's boss, Captain Grey, is played by Paul Newlan, a fine actor
who brings weight and substance to the role of running the M-Squad. It
is perhaps his most memorable role.
addition to the regular cast, a who's who of television luminaries and
stars-to-be made guest appearances on the show. Among the guest stars
were Angie Dickinson, Charles Bronson, Janice Rule, Leonard Nimoy, Ed
Nelson, DeForest Kelley, H.M. Wynant and a young Burt Reynolds.
But it wasn't just the crisp, taut story lines and great cast that made M Squad memorable.
it was shot in gritty, film-noire style black and white. The excellent
high contrast cinematography brings Chicago to life, with all of its
easily recognizable landmarks, swanky penthouses on Lake Michigan, and
the seedy darker side of the city. In fact, M Squad did for Chicago what the Naked City did for New York
Second was the musical score.
keeping with the film noir look of the series, the producers enlisted
conductor Stanley Wilson to lead the orchestra in arrangements by
legendary jazz men Benny Carter, and a
young John Williams, (Star Wars). For the second season, the great jazz artist Count Basie wrote the enduring "M Squad Theme".
It was a perfect marriage of image and sound. Lee Marvin, who wrote the liner notes for the RCA Victor release of the 'Music From M Squad 'album in 1959, put it this way:
am…constantly amazed at the manner in which our characterizations and
situations are supported, highlighted and intensified by the fine
musical score…I love the great beat, the exciting solos and the clean,
crisp section work of the trumpets and trombones. As I listen, my
imagination paints thumbnail sketches of the Loop, Bayshore Drive, the
South Side, and the other localities which set Chicago apart from other
cities. It's sort of like an armchair tour of America's second largest
city." Lee Marvin
resulting television series is hard to match for its intensity and its
humanity. Marvin's hard-nosed Frank Ballinger is the archetype of all
the tough guy-big hearted crime fighters, from Raymond Chandler's
Philip Marlowe and Hammett's Sam Spade, to later incarnations portrayed
by Jack Nicholson and Harvey Keitel. In sum, M Squad
is that rare television series that has it all. It is about time long
time fans and newcomers have a chance to experience high quality DVD's
of this great show.
An unproduced James Bond screenplay written by Sean Connery and mystery writer Len Deighton titled Warhead sold last week for $68,000 at a Christies pop culture auction. The script had been the brainchild of Kevin McClory, who served as a producer on the 1965 screen version of Thunderball. McClory had been granted remake rights to the film as the result of an early 1960's legal settlement with Ian Fleming, who he accused of stealing some of his ideas for his novel Thunderball. However, when McClory tried to get the Warhead project off the ground in the mid 1970s, he was kept in a legal stalemate by Eon Productions, the makers of the "genuine" Bond films. As the legal process dragged on, financing for the project dried up, though McClory and producer Jack Schwartzman did manage to eventually get a different script made into a remake of Thunderball in 1983. That film, Never Say Never Again, starred Sean Connery, who had said he had no intention of starring in Warhead. For more click here
Producer Richard D. Zanuck has confirmed to Collider's web site that Tim Burton's next film will indeed be a big screen adaptation of the cult 1960s TV series Dark Shadows. Johnny Depp will play the role of vampire Barnabas Collins, played in the TV show by Jonathan Frid. Filming will begin in London next summer. For a video interview with Zanuck click here