Release Date(s)1987 (October 30, 2018)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Shout! Factory/Shout Select)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B-
Long before the trend in the 1990s of adapting TV shows into feature films with a modern day twist, Dragnet managed to do it fairly successfully in the summer of 1987. Made as both a loving tribute to the original Jack Webb TV show and a comedy bordering on the verge of parody, it was moderately profitable. Ultimately, it wound up as more of a cult comedy over the years than a beloved mainstream film, thanks in no small part to it leads.
Dan Aykroyd stars as Joe, the nephew of the late Joe Friday. As a dedicated, straight-laced, and out-of-sync with modern times police officer, he takes on a more free-wheeling, easygoing partner in Pep Streebeck (Tom Hanks). Under the leadership of captain Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan from the original show), the mismatched pair set out to investigate a series of thefts and incidents of arson, with a calling card left behind of a group known as P.A.G.A.N. (People Against Goodness and Normalcy). Specifically targeting a softcore pornographer (Dabney Coleman), Friday and Streebeck find themselves surrounded by a variety of characters, including the police commissioner (Elizabeth Ashley), a fist-throwing criminal (Jack O’Halloran), an ill-behaved priest (Christopher Plummer), and the virgin Connie Swail (Alexandra Paul).
There are many things I love about Dragnet, but chief among them is the chemistry between Aykroyd and Hanks. It’s a shame that they didn’t do more comedies together. They seem to bounce off of each other quite well and appear to be having a blast doing so. You also have the lisp-laiden, Tennesee Williams’ accent-inspired Coleman, who tends to steal every scene he’s in, as well as Christopher Plummer, whose character’s laugh is enough to tip anybody off that there’s something unusual about him. And then there’s the lovely Connie Swail, whom Friday has a growing fondness for, lightning up every scene that she appears in.
Add to that caliber of talent a barrage of funny one-liners and a hip-hop title track performed by Aykroyd and Hanks over the closing credits and you have yourself an enjoyable 80s time capsule in Dragnet. It’s not a perfect film, but its positives far outweigh any negatives you can lob at it, and I personally don’t think it’s worth the time to do so.
Shout Select’s transfer for the film appears to be an older master provided by Universal, but it’s not at all a bad one. It’s mostly sharp and colorful, although grain and texture tends to take a bit of a back seat. However, everything appears bright and clean with deep blacks and good contrast. The audio is provided in English 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. Although it’s no great stereo experience, everything comes through clearly with good separation. Some of the on-location dialogue and overdubs are a bit more obvious, as they tended to be from a lot of films from the 80s, but nothing is ever distorted. The music and score selection tends to be the most separate, sometimes feeling wider than everything else, including sound effects. It’s a fine track that doesn’t really push the limits sonically, but represents the film well.
Extras include an audio commentary with pop culture historian Russell Dyball; A Quiet Evening in the Company of Connie Swail, a 25-minute interview with actress Alexandra Paul in which she discusses working with Dan Aykroyd, having no prior knowledge of what’s revealed about her character during the film’s ending, and what her favorite line in the film is; Just the Facts, a vintage 45-minute TV special about the film and the original TV show, hosted by Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks; and the original theatrical trailer and 5 TV spots with a Play All option. Although the music video for City of Crime by Dan Akyroyd and Tom Hanks is absent, it can still be found on Youtube.
Dragnet is certainly an 80s comedies favorite. It’s produced well with good intentions and nothing ever feels out of place or over the top to the point of absurdity. It’s an enjoyable film and it’s nice to finally have it on Blu-ray, thanks to Shout Select.
– Tim Salmons