Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures
When Jack Webb’s timeless cop action drama series Dragnet first aired Dec. 16, 1951, likely no one at the time thought it would be a timeless franchise that would go on to transcend generations of audiences. Now 67 years later, it has become one of the most beloved and important properties in the worlds of television and movies. That is proven as the series would go on to have its own extensive life on television – a life which is still very vibrant through and even turned into a big screen adaptation in 1987 in the form of Universal Pictures’ Dragnet. The movie, which flopped in its opening weekend – according to information from Internet Movie Database (IMDB), it grossed $10.5 million, just over half of its $20 million budget – did end up going on to success both domestically and globally, ultimately grossing $53 million nationwide and more than $66 million overseas before ending its theatrical run. Now more than 31 years after it made its initial debut, the movie – which has since gone on to be a cult favorite – has seen the light of day once again thanks to Shout! Factory. The home entertainment company re-issued the modern classic on Blu-ray Oct. 30 as part of its ongoing Shout! Select series. This latest re-issue is an overall welcome new addition to that series, too. This statement is supported in part through the story’s writing. This will be discussed shortly. The bonus material included with the movie’s new re-issue strengthens that foundation even more. It will be discussed a little later. The movie’s average price range rounds out its most important elements. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Dragnet’s re-issue. All things considered, the whole of Dragnet makes this re-issue another welcome addition to Shout! Factory’s Shout! Select series and to the library of any classic movie buff.
Shout! Factory’s new Blu-ray re-issue of Universal Pictures’ 1987 cinematic adaptation of Jack Webb’s Dragnet franchise is another good addition to the Shout! Select series. It is just as welcome in the libraries of any of the movie’s fans. That is proven in part through the movie’s writing. The script finds Joe Friday’s nephew (played here by Dan Akroyd, and also named Joe) continuing in his uncle’s footsteps. He is joined in this adventure by Pep Streebek (Tom Hanks – The Polar Express, Philadelphia, The Burbs). This in itself is a tribute to the radio and television series that preceded this movie, as Friday notes his previous partners, and even includes a pack of Chesterfield cigarettes and a picture of Webb. Where Webb’s original radio and TV series were serious, action-packed presentations, this incarnation has a much more light-hearted feel, yet does not sacrifice the action of those series. The use of an evil cult that aims to take over the city throws back maybe not so much to the old Dragnet radio and TV series, but to old-time radio and TV in general. To that it, it actually generates its own welcome sense of nostalgia. The balance of the comedic elements to the action elements is a surprisingly welcome addition to the writing. That is not to say that the serious side of Dragnet, which is more prevalent in the classic TV and movie series, is not welcome. As a matter of fact, there is some of that seriousness here, but the more light-hearted approach set alongside that seriousness makes for a good balance of hard and soft at the same time. The writing also is proven positive in the movie’s pacing. From start to finish, the script never once loses focus or momentum, ensuring even more, viewers’ engagement and entertainment. Between this factor, the balance of the script’s comedic and serious elements and the homage paid both to the original Dragnet series (and other classic radio and TV dramas), audiences get in the writing, an element that in whole, that forms a solid foundation for the movie’s new presentation. While the combined writing elements go a long way toward making Dragnet engaging and enjoyable, that foundation is strengthened even more through the bonus content included with the movie’s presentation.
The bonus content featured with Dragnet’s new re-issue is important to note because of the insight and entertainment that it adds to the movie’s overall presentation. The new audio commentary from famed pop culture historian Russell Dyball is one item that supports that statement. Dyball’s commentary is loaded with plenty of interesting tidbits throughout the story. He shares discussions early on, of a former Los Angeles Police Chief. He also offers commentary about Friday reciting LAPD dress code, noting that it is factual, as Friday and Streebek first meet, which is interesting in its own right. As the story progresses, Dyball, who has provided commentary for various other movies’ home releases, also shares commentary about workings behind the camera connected to director Tom Mankiewicz and Akroyd, as well as notes of Akroyd’s refusal to use teleprompters, unlike that of Webb in the original series, the joke of Orange County residents’ conservative nature and that tie to Connie’s character and the subtlety of Friday’s transition from a grey suit to a brown suit. That commentary is intriguing in its own right. Between all of this and so much more that Dyball discusses over the course of the movie’s nearly two-hour run time (one hour, 46 minutes to be exact), audiences get so much to appreciate from that commentary. It is yet another way in which bonus material proves to be just as important to a movie’s home release as the movie itself. If any one thing can be said to the negative of Dyball’s commentary, it is that at times, Dyball comes across as he is reading from his own script than actually getting into the movie. That is inferred through his delivery. Of course at other times, he does seem to be involved in the movie, so maybe those other moments in which he seems disconnected are just misinterpretations. Keeping this in mind, audiences will agree that Dyball’s commentary is, in the end, a crucial addition to the movie’s whole.
Dyball’s commentary is just one of the key bonuses included with Dragnet’s new re-issue. The previously released bonus featurette “Just The Facts!: A Promotional Look At Dragnet With Dan Akroyd and Tom Hanks, adds even more for audiences to appreciate. Given that this roughly 45-minute featurette (probably stretched to an hour for television at the time) was clearly released with the movie to help its ticket sales, many of today’s audiences likely have not seen it, or have not seen it in many years. To that end, it is its own crucial addition to the presentation. Audiences learn through the featurette, which is in fact hosted by Hanks and Akroyd, quite a bit of interesting information. Viewers learn that Akroyd and Hanks were two very different types of actors off-screen for starters. It is revealed that Akroyd apparently was very much the method actor, using old Jack Webb tapes between takes to get into the role of Friday’s nephew, while Hanks was more of an “act-as-you-go type of actor. Additionally, viewers learn quite a bit about Webb the man, the director and the actor through this presentation. It is revealed that Webb had a wonderful sense of humor as a person, but as a director, he was very strict. According to the information in the featurette, Webb took very few takes and allowed for the use of very few suits by himself and his cast mates, thus cutting costs. Another interesting note in this featurette is the respect that Webb had for the Los Angeles Police Department, and in turn the respect that the agency had for him. There was so much respect in both directions, that the LAPD even held a very special memorial for Webb upon his untimely death in 1959 from a heart attack. As if all of this is not enough, the featurette also delves into the history of Dragnet’s music, adding even more interest for audiences. Add in brief discussions comparing the original Dragnet series to the 1987 movie in terms of dialogue and action, talks on the shows created through Webb’s Mark VIII Productions Studio and more, and the whole of this featurette strengthens the overall presentation of Dragnet’s even more.
The interview with co-star Alexandra Paul adds a little bit more to the experience. She notes fondly her interactions with Hanks and Akroyd on-set, noting that both men were very wonderful figures. She laughs happily as she recalls Akroyd’s gentlemanly nature both on and off-screen, and Hanks’ more happy-go-lucky yet professional manner. It shows even more the distinctly different personalities that the actors brought to the set, and how it played into their on-screen chemistry. Paul also offers an interesting note about her own innocence coming into the movie, and how that played into her portrayal of Connie that viewers will appreciate learning. That revelation indeed succeeds in making for more appreciation for Paul’s acting. Additionally, Paul also laughs as she recalls that prior to her interview, which was recorded especially for the movie’s Blu-ray re-issue, she had seen the movie only once prior to her review, and that was in its debut way back in 1987. She never says if that avoidance of the movie was intentional, which in itself creates plenty of discussion. When all of these discussions are considered along with the information shared in Dyball’s commentary and the information shared in the vintage featurette, it becomes fully evident why the bonus content included with Dragnet’s new Blu-ray re-issue is so important to the movie’s overall presentation. It strengthens the Blu-ray’s presentation quite a bit. The bonus material is not the last of the Blu-ray’s most important elements. The movie’s average price point rounds out those elements.
The average price point of Dragnet’s new Blu-ray re-issue is $24.99. that price is found using prices from Shout! Factory’s store, Amazon and Walmart. The movie’s new Blu-ray re-issue is not listed at the sites of Target, Best Buy, Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble at the time of this review. Considering just the amount of entertainment and insight that audiences get just through the bonus material included in Dragnet’s new Blu-ray re-issue, that price point is relatively affordable. It gives audiences almost three hours – if not more – of entertainment and engagement when considered along with all of the entertainment and insight offered through the movie itself. When all of this is considered together, audiences will agree that the Blu-ray’s affordable pricing and the entertainment and engagement offered throughout this Blu-ray makes the package in whole one that classic movie buffs and Dragnet fans alike will agree is a wonderful new addition to Shout! Factory’s Shout! Select series, and to any movie lover’s library.
Shout! Factory’s recent addition of Dragnet to its ongoing Shout! Select series is a wonderful new addition to that series. Classic movie buffs and fans of the movie (and maybe even fans of the original TV and radio series) will agree to that, especially after watching the movie – some for the first time and others for the first time again. The movie pays a great homage to its source material with its script and acting while the bonus content gives viewers even more to appreciate. The average price point certainly will not break anyone’s bank, either. Each item is important in its own right to the whole of Dragnet’s new Blu-ray presentation. All things considered, they make this re-issue another welcome addition to Shout! Factory’s Shout! Select series and to any viewer’s home movie library. It is available now. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:
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