Although some of the older generations know him as an “actor,” Robert Stack will always be that guy from Airplane! and Unsolved Mysteries for the rest of us. Seeing him act seriously onscreen might come as a bit of a stunner to a lot of younger people — especially when he’s playing a real life figure like Eliot Ness. Yes, long before Kevin Costner became the official TV/Movie interpretation, Robert Stack helmed the role for four years on television in a decidedly darker, more noir-like fictionalization of one of America’s best known names in crime fighting.
Always bear in mind that “fictionalization” is a keyword here. Throughout the entire course of The Untouchables: Season 3, Volume 1, you will not see a single incident based on fact — and if you think you do, it has been stretched out and dramatized beyond recognition. But that isn’t to say The Untouchables isn’t a good show. It is! It’s damn good fun, too — with some highly impressive noir photography and scenarios right out of the classic gangster movies from the 1930s. The narration from infamous gossip columnist Walter Winchell makes for all the more fun.
Produced by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’ Desilu Studios, The Untouchables was a weekly crime drama series that followed the adventures of Ness (Stack) and his gang of untouchables as they pitted forces against some the toughest gangsters this side of a Coppola film. Among the guest stars in this set are Martin Landau, Jack Klugman, Cloris Leachman, Peter Falk, Telly Savalas, Charles Bronson, Martin Balsam, Albert Salmi, Vincent Gardenia, Victor Buono, Frank Cady, Ed Asner, Marc Lawrence (what sort of gangster series or film would be complete without him?), Roger Corman regular Antony Carbone, and even a really young Dyan Cannon. Frequent guest star Bruce Gordon returns as Frank Nitti.
CBS/Paramount brings The Untouchables back to your TV set in another half-season set. The 4-disc set features the first 16 episodes that were originally broadcast between 1961 and 1962, presented in their good ol’ standard TV (1.33:1) format. The video quality is very lovely to look at, and is on par with many of the other recent CBS/Paramount issues. The contrast between black, white, and the many shades of grey inbetween are dynamic, adding to the show’s noir look. Sound-wise, viewers get a choice of English or Spanish mono. Subtitles are provided in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
No special features are included with this release, which might bum a few people out, but is entirely conceivable when you stop and think how old the series is and that most of its cast and crew (even the guest stars) have since passed on. Besides, The Untouchables carry their own special features — in the form of Tommy guns.