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JACK WEBB IN DRAGNET 1967: EISENHOWER ON ACID

Jack Webb & Harry Morgan drive into a "future" where they just don't fit
This continuation of the famous 1950's Film Noir detective series DRAGNET 1967 (followed by DRAGNET 1968, DRAGNET 1969 and DRAGNET 1970) seems like a science-fiction tale of two time-traveling Eisenhower era cops thrust into the late 1960's where they have absolutely no place to be and yet, with the law on their side, both see fit to fight not only crime but drugs and Nazis whilst crossing paths with other such counter-culture topics including protests and whatever else was relevant and worthy of exploiting: And so, we begin with our two well-suited lawmen, Joe Friday and Frank Gannon, up against the effects of a very popular drug, used beyond-recreationally during that time, the Summer of Love… "This is the city," Webb, as Joe Friday, narrates in his usual dry fashion, but about an entirely new generation. "Los Angeles, California... It's a fine place to enjoy life... There are places reserved just for kids when they're young, and feel young. Places they go when they're young and feel old... Beginning the big search for something that often doesn't exist in the places when they look for it... Their search might end with a college degree... One thing's sure, whatever they're looking for cannot be found inside a number five capsule... When they try, that's where I come in... I carry a badge!"

Heather Menzies frowns on DRAGNET
THE LSD STORY: There is a phenomenon called LSD, a drug that makes young men bury their painted faces in the sand and literally eat dirt after chewing the bark off a tree… Turns out the guy Joe Friday and Frank Gannon arrested is a drug dealer known as Blue Boy… Two young girls, one played by SOUND OF MUSIC ingénue Heather Menzies, later to become a b-movie scream queen in SSSSSSS and PIRANHA, come down off what’s called a “bad trip” in a polite interrogation… Friday assumes bad trips are common with LSD, and there is no such thing as a good one… The girls provide clues, and the cop partners venture to find Blue Boy to stop this drug craze, which is probably just a fad that won’t last long – that’s if Friday can help it… Only he doesn’t realize that popular bands like The Beatles use this stuff to write music. But why deal with the facts when you have a job to do? This episode, the REEFER MADNESS of acid, is as sublime as drug culture camp value gets.

Friday does not see what's to this flag
THE BIG EXPLOSION: Friday and Gannon happen upon a nostalgic group of lowlifes who, unlike hippies, were quite familiar in their War Days, that being, Nazis… And these are American Neo Nazis, one in particular a blond-haired smart ass who has set up a bomb somewhere, and the boys have to hang around his pad, waiting to find out where the bomb was planted… The punk eats sandwiches and mouths off his political rants while the cops wait, and wait… During this time, Friday tries his best to defend “negroes” from this racist who loathes integration in schools, and, after dawn breaks, Joe, with little patience left, must find a way to get the Nazi to fess up before something out there explodes. Perhaps this was a way to separate Joe from being what the hippies at that time thought he was, or something. Kent McCord plays a cop in a cameo walk-on, but not the same character that would make him famous in ADAM-12. And that’s not the last we’ll see of McCord...

Our first complete dud episode
THE KIDNAPPING: A mousy, fitfully uptight woman is being blackmailed to transfer bank money to a kidnapper… For the first half of this subpar episode, the woman sits in the pea-green-walled police headquarters, where standard desks seemed like they were rolled in minutes before the cameras rolled, actually reminiscent to Film Noir flicks. She spouts information to Friday and Gannon, who then, in the second half, take to the road while Joe talks on the radio, and we hear the words “IK-80,” referring to their squad car, about a thousand times… Like watching paint dry on your eyelids, this one reeks, big time.

Pre Adam-12 Smoking
THE INTERROGATION: Kent McCord returns in different form, the opposite of a uniformed cop: a cigarette-smoking thug with a leather jacket and ski cap rested on his head… But wait… he is a cop… Undercover narcotics… And he's being blamed for a liquor store knockoff, with an eyewitness laying the rap on him, so half the episode an irritated McCord defends his innocence, followed by Joe Friday’s five-minute diatribe about the downfalls of being a police officer in the "modern" era… Seems more propaganda than an actual story but has moments, and provides Webb this brass tack monologue where he shows actual emotion, like when he was actually a hyper-active movie actor in SUNSET BLVD and THE MEN... but not that energetic, just a little more than his usual comatose. And McCord, who would star in the failed BATTLESTAR GALACTICA 1980 after his long stint on ADAM-12, was the leading candidate to "replace" MASH contract (soon to star in the HEAVEN'S GATE of spinoffs, AFTERMASH) Harry Morgan on a 1980's DRAGNET reboot, that was suspended permanently due to Webb's death.

"Who is this character?"
THE MASKED BANDITS: Episode begins with a jazzy beat rather than the usual hard-nosed score as we’re dealing with cocktail lounge bandits, out there somewhere, poised for another score… The music between scenes ranges from breezy surfy chorus peddle guitar to hard fuzz electric bass, and it’s nice to be outdoors again, rolling through various locations instead of stuck inside like the last few claustrophobic cases… Friday and Gannon question a homely 30-something cougar, wife of a 17-year-old reformed delinquent, or is he actually reformed? This woman is a bit creepy yet Friday is sympathetic… But the real cutie is the moll of the snarky lead villain (pictured) turning up at the eleventh hour… And this is the first time we get what borders on fun-jokey interplay between Friday and Gannon having to do with a decked-out sandwich (that would continue through the entire four-season run, lasting every year till DRAGNET 1970)… In fact the episode ends with the joke being revisited as jovial sit-com style music leads us out, making this particular episode more about music than the facts, ma’am. And this was but a taste of a show that, while some episodes are better than others, and others are just plain crapola, you can enjoy experiencing worlds collide but alas, since Netflix decided to stop streaming this bizarre masterpiece, perhaps resort to the Shout Factory DVDs, not a bad deal: so hopefully this write-up got your beak wet. And now A BONUS REVIEW OF...

YEAR: 1987 RATING: ***
DRAGNET PARODY FILM: Dan Aykroyd was born to parody a man that was so deadpan, he made Richard Nixon sound like James Brown... Imagining Aykroyd, who was really the most effective on the original SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE because he tried so hard, beyond just being himself, putting everything into his characters, either based on true life, like Tom Snyder, or fictional, and this 1987 movie, while very flawed, isn't too shabby, really, with the help of Tom Hanks and a plot that overrides the fact it's not altogether hilarious: Involving a group called P.A.G.A.N. who worship the devil and burn buildings and then leave their business cards behind after each scorching. Dan not only gets to ramble in his monotone to hip "modern" partner Tom Hank's chagrin, but also, like the famous TV series, provides the straight-forward narration throughout: It's a little bit painful for a while; Aykroyd playing the character as someone as annoying as the original Friday seemed to baby boomers, at least until the story really comes together, and our stiff hero gets a love interest (Alexandra Paull), then you actually feel something for the characters as Hanks lands a couple funnier lines than what Dan holds back on purpose, the character being unfunny which is supposed to be funny and, when the bad guys become revealed the car chases aren't too bad for brainless viewing, so, in no way is this an endorsement to rent or buy this flick, but if you accidentally happen on it on cable, it won't kill you like other Aykroyd ventures such as LOOSE CANNONS and the worst film ever made, ever, NOTHING BUT TROUBLE.
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