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Category:    Home > Reviews > Crime > Drama > Murder > Mystery > Police > Anthology > TV > Police Story – Season One (1973 – 1974/Shout! Factory DVD Set)

Police Story – Season One (1973 – 1974/Shout! Factory DVD Set)


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



Starting in the late 1960s, several companies started producing classic hit TV shows about police cases and detectives.  Universal had Dragnet and Columbo, Paramount had Mannix and Quinn Martin had Barnaby Jones and Cannon among the many hits of the time.  Columbia/Screen Gems was no slouch either surprising viewers, critics and the industry with a cutting-edge anthology series that was considered as breakthrough as Hill Street Blues and proves U.S. TV was more than on time with the U.K. hit The Sweeney.  Police Story debuted in 1973 and was an immediate hit, including with actual police nationally who loved the character study, depth and new realism never seen on TV before.


Shout! Factory has issued Season One and it is yet another classic TV series long overdue to arrive on DVD, but here it is.  The six DVD set has all 21 episodes (counting the telefilm pilot) and offers one of the widest ranging list of new talents, guest stars and big name stars in any TV series you can name.  Likely the best since another classic anthology series, Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone, which is high praise indeed.


You could do a book on this show and I hope someone does, but instead of repeating the episode guide inside the DVD’s paper pullout, I want to highlight some of the best shows.  I should say in advance that the show holds up remarkably well, it is stunning it was out of circulation for so long and the way it handles social issues is still impressive almost 40 years later.  Except for mixed results on handling ethnic minorities, the show is a landmark that needs to be reconsidered as such again.


The Slow Boy pilot sports Vic Morrow in the lead when he was a red hot property joined by Ed Asner, Diane Baker, Harry Guardino, Ralph Meeker, Mel Scott, Kim Hamilton, Barbara Rhodes, David Doyle and Chuck Connors in the title role of this gangster crime tale.  Collision Course has Sue Ane Langdon in a great dramatic turn (she was usual thought of as a comic actress) as one of the first female cops, handling the stress of the job as well as discrimination and comments from all sides, but things get serious when a pair of psychotic killers (the brilliant casting of a young Dean Stockwell with infamous music legend and giant Jerry Lee Lewis) makes this a real classic show.  Murray Hamilton, Rosemary DeCamp, Joy Bang and Hugh O’Brian also star.


Man On A Rack has Marin Balsam as a cop accused of going too far and getting in trouble with internal affairs in this ace of a show with Kim Hunter as his wife, A Martinez (not getting high enough billing) as his partner and great support from Jack Carter, Henry Beckman and Sally Kirkland in this honest story about how the police really operate.  Very impressive and Balsam was always underrated.


Up and coming actors Kurt Russell (Country Boy), Jan-Michael Vincent (Line Of Fire) and even (definitely hot at the time) Angie Dickinson (The Gamble) turn up in exceptionally strong shows, but it is Dickinson’s work as a new female undercover cop that eventually led to the spin-off Police Woman, but she plays a different character here than in that later show.


Boldest of all is a serial killer episode with many twists and turns that is the most ahead of its time.  It is called The Ripper and has Darren McGavin (Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Mike Hammer) as a really good, smart, clever cop trying to juggle his relationship at home (real life wife Kathie Browne plays her) with work, which gets ugly when brutally murdered and mutilated homosexual men turn up dead all over the city.  His Detective character has to battle homophobia and a serious lack of information to track down the killer, but his partner is more uncomfortable about gay men than how brutal the killings are and this is maybe the darkest episode of the many here.  Way ahead of its time, it pushes this landmark season over the top as a classic debut show and this one especially still has the power to stun today.  Leslie Parrish, Donnelly Rhodes (Soap), Michael Cole, Peter Mark Richman, Pat Carroll (in a serious turn that is very convincing), John Fiedler, Barry Atwater, Virginia Gregg, Lloyd Gough, Ray Young and Marcia Strassman (Welcome Back, Kotter) also star.



Any of these shows could have served as pilots, but more on that in future reviews of the show, which ran for five seasons.  Hope some of those spin-offs hit DVD too.



The 1.33 X 1 image throughout all the episodes and telefilms are really good, though some prints are softer than most and some have flaws, but color and detail often impress considering the shows age.  All was shot in 35mm film.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also good for its age with limited distortion and the music and sound effects sounding good too.  This is the best the show has ever looked and a Blu-ray set should be considered down the line.


Extras include a new interview with creator and former LAPD Detective Sergeant Joseph Wambaugh that is worth seeing, but the package also includes the Slow Boy pilot telefilm and Big John Morrison compilation telefilm (it is here in its original two-part episode as well), but I would only lean towards the second due to its repetition in the set, but a nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text in inside the DVD case.  Can’t wait for the next sets!



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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