Season 1 Episode 5

The Big Cast

Aired Thursday 9:00 PM Feb 14, 1952 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (2)

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  • A gripping example of the 1950s show at its best

    Although this episode comes before Ben Alexander was cast as Frank Smith, Friday's strongest partner, this is a classic episode that demonstrates how Dragnet set the norms for the police genre, and deserves a better memory than the campy squareness of the 1960s series. This episode features little more than an extended dialogue between Friday, partner Ed Jacobs, and riviting guest star Lee Marvin. The episode violates the normal mode of Dragnet's emphasis on investigative procedures leading up to finding the criminal - when it starts, Friday & Jacobs confront the accused murderer Marvin with a host of already acquired evidence. But it does show the interviewing procedures that push a criminal to confess, presaging the scenes in "the box" on shows like Homicide.

    What makes the episode stand-out is Marvin's performance as a cold-blooded killer with no motivation beyond his own ability to kill. Dragnet is caricatured as being overly black & white in its portrayal of crime and cops - but this episode shows that at its best, it understood that criminality is irrational and ultimately uncontrollable, even by cops like Friday. The system can only catch them once they commit crimes, but there's no way to prevent the irrational acts of a character like Marvin. This cynical worldview is straight out of film noir, and this episode shows the debt that Dragnet had to noir films (like He Walked By Night, which inspired the show to Webb).

    If you want to see why Dragnet was so popular in the 1950s, this is the episode to watch.
  • I've just watched this episode of dragnet - my first ever!

    I've just watched this episode of Dragnet - my first ever! It's included along with other episodes of the show on a 12 DVD Set from Mill Creek Entertainment called 'Best of the Detectives'.

    I was gripped from start to finish - the tension mounted throughout the episode with superb performances from each of the three actors.

    Lee Marvin's portrayal of the killer Henry Ross was superb - playing the killer with absolute detachment. As the evidence is presented by Sgt. Friday and Sgt. Jacobs he initially denies all knowledge of the killings and it is not until he has taken the lie detector test that he begins to recount his involvement in the killings of a dozen men.

    As the story unfolds it is eveident that he kills without emotion - it is simply something he does at the time - because it is a good idea - and apart from one nightmare where he sees faces of the dead victims there is no reaction or remorse shown.

    A brilliant episode - i look forward eagerly to others.