The Untouchables: Season 3, Volume 1
Directed by Stuart Rosenburg et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 803 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Portuguese
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: August 25, 2009
Review Date: August 22, 2009
The Untouchables reached its apex in audience acceptance during its second season when it ranked as the eighth most popular series on television. By season three, the show had dropped back into the middle of the pack in terms of ratings, and it could simply have been due to the show’s very formulaic nature. There are never any surprises, and while the show continued to be well produced and featured a host of outstanding actors both in the regular cast and as guest stars, the series seemed to be going through the motions during the first half of the third season represented in this latest set.
As in the previous two seasons, Robert Stack plays Eliot Ness, clean-cut head of an incorruptible federal task force known as “The Untouchables,” and Paul Picerni plays his second-in-command Lee Hobson. The other two members of the team are performed by Abel Fernandez and Steve London. Each week, the formula remains the same: criminal bosses controlling some lucrative portion of the Chicago crime scene have early success against the cops and feds. When the Untouchables spring into action, the momentum shifts and the underworld gets desperate leading to a bringing down of the operation that was the focus for the week’s program. Whether it’s heroin, illegal gambling, or jury and witness tampering, bootleg whiskey, or book making, Ness’ no-nonsense approach to arrest or (very often) elimination keeps the streets safe for law-abiding citizens for another day.
Robert Stack earned an Emmy for his performance during the show’s first season, and he was nominated during the second, but he received no nomination for the show during its third go-round possibly due to the stolid approach he takes to the character which does not vary at all from week to week. The guest stars, however, rank among the most celebrated of any dramatic series of the period with some of the greatest character actors in the business turning up as star crooks: Peter Falk (who won an Emmy this season for a Dick Powell Theater episode but could just as clearly have won for his work here), Vincent Gardenia, Ned Glass, Albert Salmi, Wendell Corey, Carroll O’Connor, Martin Balsam, Don Gordon (in two separate episodes), Telly Savalas, Michael Constantine, Jack Klugman, Martin Landau, George Tobias, Gavin McLeod, Cloris Leachman, James Gregory, Ruth Roman, Harold J. Stone, Arthur Hill, Simon Oakland, Dabbs Greer, Hershell Bernardi, Jay C. Flippen, Herbie Faye, Victor Buono, Ed Nelson, Dyan Cannon, Bert Convey, Henry Silva, Murray Hamilton, Edward Asner, and Charles Bronson. And Bruce Gordon effectively makes several recurring appearances as mob boss Frank Nitti, perpetual thorn-in-the-side for Ness. The rat-a-tat staccato narration by Walter Winchell anchors the episodes into the 1931-1935 time period.
Here is the list of sixteen episodes contained on four discs in this first half of the third season set:
1 – The Troubleshooter
2 – Power Play
3 – Tunnel of Horrors
4 – The Genna Brothers
5 – The Matt Bass Scheme
6 – Loophole
7 – Jigsaw
8 – Man Killer
9 – City Without a Name
10 – Hammerlock
11 – The Canada Run
12 – Fall Guy
13 – The Gang War
14 – Silent Partner
15 – The Whitey Steele Story (Ness goes undercover in the best of this set’s episodes)
16 – The Death Tree
The cover art carries the usual caveat that episodes may be edited from their broadcast versions, but as the running times for all episodes seem very similar, editing would appear to be minimal if at all.
These almost fifty year-old masters are framed in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, but you’d swear they were newer than that with the snappy black and white picture that is offered with most of the episodes. Blacks are richly, impressively deep, and white never bloom. Yes, there are some occasional white specks and a bit of debris once in a while, but sharpness and contrast are very impressive. There is moiré present in some of the patterned suits the men wear, but it doesn’t diminish image quality to any great degree. Each episode has been divided into 7 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio track is decoded by Prologic into the center channel. Sound is clear for the most part though you may find you want to increase the volume level slightly. There is occasional distortion especially in “The Whitey Steele Story” and a little hiss can be heard once or twice, but neither is a persistent problem. The sound quality is very typical of the era of the series’ original production.
Apart from some trailers for such CBS/Paramount classic releases as Perry Mason, Cannon, Jake & the Fatman, Walker Texas Ranger, and Streets of San Francisco, there are no bonus features included with the set.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Fans of The Untouchables will anticipate adding another box to their collection with only one additional season left. Video quality is impressive and is sure to be welcomed.