1950's Dragnet DVD question

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by DSmith1984, Nov 30, 2011.

  1. DSmith1984

    DSmith1984 Stunt Coordinator

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    If this has been brought up before, I apologize up front. Anyway I have two questions.
    1. Does anyone have a master list of all the 1950's Dragnet episodes that have been released to DVD? I've seen at least a dozen different DVD sets all claiming to have most of the available episodes but I don't want to buy before I know what all is out there.
    2. Kind of a two part question. Firstly, who owns the rights to the show and why has there been no season releases or at the very least, any substantial high quality releases(that I'm aware of anyway)? Do all of the original shows even still exist?
     
  2. Neil Brock

    Neil Brock Cinematographer

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    [quote name="DSmith1984" url="/t/316600/1950s-dragnet-dvd-question#post_3875253"
    2. Kind of a two part question. Firstly, who owns the rights to the show and why has there been no season releases or at the very least, any substantial high quality releases(that I'm aware of anyway)? Do all of the original shows even still exist?[/quote]


    Don't know about your first question but I can tackle this one. Universal owns the show as they bought it from Jack Webb in the 60s when they decided to produce the color revival series. Why nothing has ever been done with it requires a multi-part answer. First problem is the copyright issue. The first 100 shows fell into public domain. The next 100 are copyrighted. Then the rest of the episodes, some are and some aren't renewed. As to a release, you know Universal isn't going to do anything with a show from the 50s so another company would have to license it out. There aren't any tape elements since the show has sat on the shelf for over 45 years. Who knows if there is even a full set of 16s anywhere. As to whether they all exist, unknown, although Universal likely has the 35mm negatives in their vaults somewhere.
     
  3. Jack P

    Jack P Producer

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    Universal I think took one 35mm episode out of the vault for a TV Land showing once. But you're right, the biggest stumbling block is that the show disappeared too early from syndication for there to be as many good 16mm prints out there for a release on the order of "M Squad" or something like that.
    Another show from the 50s in the "Dragnet" mold that I wish could make it to DVD is the San Francisco based "The Lineup" which also disappeared from syndication long ago (though I have a boot set of episodes that aired on a SF station in the 80s). If anything, "The Lineup" with its location shooting tended to work better on TV than I felt "Dragnet" did in the 50s (which IMO was a superior radio show in the 50s than a TV show)
     
  4. Neil Brock

    Neil Brock Cinematographer

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    Here's a little more detailed info on the 1950s Dragnet that I saw posted in a 16mm forum:

    The original 1950s DRAGNET is only partially in Public Domain Hell, but an official release is unlikely at this point.In December 1953, MCA purchased the DRAGNET property from Jack Webb, for a cool $5 million, which Webb had to split between himself and two partners: Mike Meshekoff and Stanley Meyer (they each got 25% and Webb got 50%). In 1962, MCA acquired Universal, so that is how Universal came to own DRAGNET.Universal - as I've been told - deliberately allowed the first 100 episodes, which were produced PRIOR to MCA's purchase of the property, to lapse into public domain. They were (nearly) all based on radio scripts, and the radio versions were floating around on tapes among Old Time Radio hobbyists. Copyrights on the following 98 episodes, produced between 1954-57, were renewed. In the fall of '57, NBC renewed DRAGNET for another two seasons, so Webb produced 78 more episodes within 9 months (Aug '57 - May '58). Of these, Uni renewed copyrights on 7, the other 71 lapsed into p.d.So, this is Uni's problem: they really AREN'T sure what they own, even among the episodes they renewed. There are music issues; the same music shows up on radio as on TV. Same problem with the scripts. (By comparison, only 2 episodes of the color DRAGNET are based on old scripts, and the music is all new.)
     
  5. JoeDoakes

    JoeDoakes Cinematographer
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    If anyone is interested in Dragnet, they should really try to check out Michael Hayde's book My Name's Friday, which tells the complete Jack Webb story with lots and lots on Dragnet. Also, check out those radio episodes, there are a couple hundred of them and They're GREAT!
     
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  6. Silverking

    Silverking Stunt Coordinator

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    To the best of my knowledge there are 62 episodes of Dragnet that have appeared on PD releases including video. Some are harder to find than others ( in bold) just to confuse it some companies have incorrect titles or made up ones.If anyone can add to it , I am happy to be corrected.
    Here's the list -

    Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4 Season 5
    The Human Bomb Big Jump Big Betty The Big Producer Big No Rain
    Big Actor Big Sorrow Big Will Big Fraud Big Lift
    Big Mother Big Seventeen Big Thief Big Crime Big Gap
    Big Cast 22.Rifle for Christmas Big Little Jesus Big Pair Big Look
    Big September Man Big Grandma Big Trunk Big Bar Big Glasses
    Big Phone Call Big Show Big Boys Big Present Big Bird
    Big Casing Big Hate Big Ham Big New Year Big Bounce
    Big Lamp Big Break Big Winchester Big Rod Big Deal
    Big Frank Big Shoplift Big Family Big Wish
    Big Light Big Hit & Run Killer Big TV
    Big Lease Big Girl Big Tar Baby
    Big Hands Big Frame Big Number
    Big Barette Big Threat
    Big Dance Big False Make

    Season 6 Season 7 Season 8

    Big Net The Big War The Big Oskar
    Big Switch The Big Counterfeit

    Also, 1 episode from S5 'Big Smoke' appears on one of the box sets of the colour episodes released by Shout.

    I don't think there is a PD release with all the episodes though you may find some enterprising individual on Ebay may have put them all together.
     
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  7. Neil Brock

    Neil Brock Cinematographer

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    Obviously, to someone who is a huge fan of the show, having fewer than 25% of the run would be insufficient. But, for the rest of us, I would think that having a decent enough sized sampler, plus almost the full run of radio shows, should be enough. Of the 373 radio shows that are out there, don't you get a high portion of the TV shows out of that as well? Having watched a few of the black and whites, they seem to be not much more than televised radio anyway. What I mean is that there doesn't seem to be that much going on that is enhanced all that much by video.
     
  8. Jack P

    Jack P Producer

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    Most of the early seasons are recycled from the radio scripts. In later seasons, mostly in response to viewer mail, Webb did shake up part of the production aspects by dropping the more monotone delivery in the scripts and then in the final season you had the gimmick of Friday being promoted to Lieutenant (which was purposefully forgotten when the show was revived in the late 60s; Webb remembered it only as a gimmick that hadn't worked and considered it more authentic for Friday to be a sergeant).

    I do agree that the shows adapted from radio scripts in the early seasons which are available on PD video don't play as well mostly because Webb's obsession with the tight close-ups I think cramps the storytelling compared to how on radio you could envision a broader canvas.
     
  9. Peter M Fitzgerald

    Peter M Fitzgerald Screenwriter

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    Any opinions on what the overall best DVD collection of public domain Dragnet episodes out there is? I know they're all sourced from rather rough-looking 16mm prints, but are any better than others in terms of minimal splices, no substituted music and/or video compression? The 25-episode Dragnet tin from Madacy, maybe? Does any other collection trump that one?
     
  10. Silverking

    Silverking Stunt Coordinator

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    As they all copy each others output there is no real difference Peter Madacy are near the bottom of the PD releasing outfits, with a tendency for dodgy discs.

    You may as well go on EBay & find some enterprising dealer who has copied all the available episodes.
     
  11. DeWilson

    DeWilson Cinematographer

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    There's also the pd indie guys like Shokus Video and Moviecraft (who still doesn't do DVD, just VHS!) who transferred from 16mm, and most likely have has their transfers copied by the low-budget guys.
     
  12. Regulus

    Regulus Cinematographer

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  13. oldtvshowbuff

    oldtvshowbuff Second Unit

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    I think the same could be said for some of those Gunsmoke half-hours, but they were more superb than those early seasons of Dragnet IMHO.
     

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