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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Detective > Drama > Action > Crime > British TV > The 4 Just Men – The Complete Series (1959 – 1960/Network U.K./PAL/Region Two/2/DVD Import Set)

The 4 Just Men – The Complete Series (1959 – 1960/Network U.K./PAL/Region Two/2/DVD Import Set)

 

Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Episodes: B-

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: This DVD set can only be operated on machines capable of playing back DVDs that can handle Region Two/2 PAL format software and can be ordered from our friends at Network U.K. at the website addresses provided at the end of the review.

 

 

Imagine an action detective series with a different detective every week and you might think of the leads in the rotating NBC Mystery Movie series with the likes of Columbo, McCloud, McMillan & Wife and others, but what if it was rotating detectives within the same series?  Universal had tried that with Name Of The Game in 1968 with three loosely related leads battling crime related to the same publisher (Gene Barry of Burke’s Law and The Adventurer), but Edgar Wallace had written a book several decades before (in 1905) called 4 Just Men and after a 1921 silent film version (!), made as a TV series in 1959.

 

But it was not just any other TV series and that is because of the actors playing the four men.  Imagine a show with Dan Dailey (Ziegfeld Girl) as Tim Collier, Richard Conte (The Big Combo, The Brothers Rico, Godfather, Part One) as Jeff Ryder, Jack Hawkins (Fallen Idol, Bridge On The River Kwai, Ben-Hur (1959)) as Ben Manfred and the legendary director (The Bicycle Thief) and actor Vittorio De Sica (It Started In Naples, A Farewell To Arms) as Ricco Poccari.  You would think that would be a huge international hit, but amazingly, this high quality half-hour action/mystery series only lasted a single season!

 

Why?  Who knows.  Writers included no less that Ring Lardner, Jr., Ian McLellan Hunter and Leon Griffiths, while directors included Don Chaffey and Basil Dearden, so you had top rate talent behind the camera (backed by ITC) and other fine actors in front including Honor Blackman, Andrew Keir, Donald Plesence, Charles Gray, Frank Thornton, Patrick Thoughton, Eric Pohlmann and other solid performers.  The leads (all in the pilot) would occasionally show up in the other’s investigation. 

 

But it simply did not work out, though the idea that four men would sign a contract to battle evil was not a bad idea and had this lasted, it could have moved into hour-long shows and even color filming.  The idea obviously worked later as Name Of The Game lasted three seasons and the series on NBC Mystery Movie longer, so it is a surprise that 4 Just Men has beat Name Of The Game onto DVD.  Oh, and Conte was later on an episode of Name Of The Game.

 

But this show proved that Lord Lew Grade and ITC were serious about large-scale international TV productions and we can now see this as the precursor to The Saint, The Persuaders and so many classy action shows they would produce for the next 20 years.  It has aged pretty well and if you like upscale smart action/mystery TV, you’ll really enjoy discovering and rediscovering 4 Just Men, one of the best adaptations I have seen of Edgar Wallace material to date.

 

 

The 1.33 X 1 image was shot in black and white 35mm film and despite some softness here, the prints are in great shape (save a few moments of wear and dirt at times) and the show looks like some money was spent on it.  Ken Hodges (Medak’s Negatives and The Ruling Class, The Giant Behemoth, Star Maidens, Baffled!) was the first of the Directors of Photography who are the reason the show holds up.  Others include Harry Waxman (Day The Earth Caught Fire, Pink Panther Strikes Again), Peter Hennessy (The Savage Innocents) and Gerald Moss (Randal & Hopkirk (Deceased)).  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is mixed, with some audio sounding fine for its age and other parts showing the expected wear.  The only extras are stills on all the DVDs.

 

 

As noted above, you can order this DVD import set exclusively from Network U.K. at:

 

http://www.networkdvd.net/

 

or

 

www.networkdvd.co.uk

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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