AMC has been showing this great movie regularly. Please check their site for possible upcoming showings. Jack Webb made a Dragnet TV movie in 1966. NBC was so pleased that they asked for a new half-hour series as well. The film was held back when the premiere of the series was pushed forward, not airing until 1969. Since then it has surfaced occasionally on cable TV but it is otherwise unavailable. Many fans consider it one of the best Dragnet works and hope that it may someday be released on DVD.
It was based on the case of Harvey Murray Glatman. For more information, please see Harvey Murray Glatman: First of the Signature Killers by Joseph Geringer.
See also Dragnet Revival in Movie-for-TV — from the New York Herald Tribune, Nov. 19, 1965; by Richard K. Doan.
This page features some more details about the film, provided by Doug Montgomery.
Air date: Sept. 27, 1969
Written by: Richard L. Breen
Directed and Produced by Jack Webb
Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday
Harry Morgan as Officer Bill Gannon
Vic Perrin as Don Negler
Virginia Gregg as Eve Kruger
Gene Evans as Capt. Hugh Brown
John Roseboro as Sgt. Dave Bradford (Roseboro was a former catcher for the L.A. Dodgers)
Bobby Troup as George Freeman
Tom Williams as Melvin Gannon
John Sebastian as Sgt. Danny Mendez
Sam Edwards as club member
Jack Rogoski as Carl Rockwell
Roger Till as William Smith
Gerald Michenaud as Claude LeBorg
Bruce Watson as Freddie (parking-lot attendant)
Herb Ellis as Ricky Martin
Eddie Firestone as Max Shelton
Elizabeth Rogers as Eve Sorensen
Friday does voice-over for prologue, including footage of woman bound and gagged; dead body tossed into vacant lot; murder scene in hotel room. He ends prologue with “I’m a cop.”
There’s big trouble upstairs in police building-at a top echelon meeting: a Soviet deputy premier is visiting and LAPD security is needed. (There’s an error here: the KGB, not the NKVD, was the Soviet secret police at the time.)
Meanwhile, Bill Gannon is going to retire: he says he’s “falling apart”–he’d sell his whole head for 10 cents. And his nephew Melvin brings him a dental bridge–that doesn’t fit!
Friday is pulled off the detail with the Russian visitor in order to investigate the disappearance of three missing young women. They talk to a man named George Freeman, the brother of one missing woman. He says he saw photographic equipment in car she got in. Joe and Bill investigate “Adam and Eve Limited,” a social club for young singles; Carol Freeman and a suspect had joined the club. But they’re going to have a hard time locating the suspect—the last name he gave was Johnson. They talk to the club owner, Eve Kruger; she refuses to give personal information about Freeman or Johnson until Joe warns her she can lose her business permit if she refuses. But Johnson gave a false address–there’s no house there. Police artists meet with Freeman and Kruger; they create composite sketches, but the two sketches are completely different. And the police cards files include 2000 people named “J. Johnson.” (This was long before computer search engines.) Joe and Bill narrow it down to 37 possibilities-still too many “with those Russians in town,” according to Sgt. Danny Mendez.
Joe and Bill decide to mingle at the Adam and Eve social; one member urges Joe to try “prune yogurt,” and Friday meets a lovesick woman named Eve Sorensen. Another guest named “Mr. Rodman” first identifies one composite (picture of Vic Perrin as “Jay Johnson”), but later changes his mind. Another woman thinks there’s a prize; then Ms. Kruger appears and bawls Friday and Gannon for questioning her guests at her social. And she says she doesn’t recognize the pictures either.
Now Friday interrogates a child molester–a crude, nasty man named Carl Rockwell, who “copped out to the investigating officers” but exploits the Miranda warning. Sgt. Dave Bradford also interrogates Rockwell with Friday present; Rockwell calls Bradford a “Nigger cop!” Friday is totally disgusted with him–says “Every time I dealt with you it took me a month to wipe off the slime!..Like every hood from Cain down to Capone you’ve learned to hid behind some quirk in the law–and one thing more–if the Department doesn’t question the color of his skin, you damn well see that you don’t!”
A personnel supervisor prods Gannon to finalize his retirement procedure. But he and Joe investigate a dead-body report in the “Dogtown” area–a man shot and stabbed. This is the man George Freeman identified. The body also had powdered hot mustard in the face. The dead man’s prints yield no clues and Freeman can’t give a positive identification. Kruger refuses even to look at a photo of the body. Joe and Bill have another clue: a matchbook on the body, from a local hotel. Not much help, because the hotel provides the matchbooks by the thousands. One hotel employee identifies the picture as a visitor from Paris named Charles LeBorg. They find he called another man with a common name—William Smith.
They visit Smith, who is LeBorg’s brother, and had legally changed his name. (Friday comments, “I used to have a partner named Smith.”) He hands Joe LeBorg’s passport. They give Smith the bad news: His brother was murdered. Smith is shocked; worse still, he has to tell Charles’ nine-year-old son Claude–who only speaks French. The kid is incredulous, then anguished; in French he implores Friday and Gannon to find the killers (“trouvez-les!”)
The goofy parking-lot attendant, Freddie [cf. Kookie Byrnes in 77 Sunset Strip] at a French restaurant, which Smith mentioned to Friday and Gannon, can describe the victim and two other men, and gives the nickname of one of the other men. Joe and Bill find a Mutt-and-Jeff pair in the files that match Freddie’s description–and he identifies them positively. Friday and Gannon locate the suspects, named Ricky Martin and Max Shelton, and bust in on them. Each officer questions one of the suspects separately, convincing each one that the other copped out. When Joe and Bill bring them back into the same room, they incriminate themselves by bawling each other out for finking to the detectives. And they show Joe and Bill the money and jewelry they stole from LeBorg before they shot and stabbed him.
Meanwhile a fourth girl has disappeared. In the missing girl’s apartment, Joe and Bill get information from other detectives about the fourth victim, but still need one more clue. And they find it: Two candy wrappers (the girl was a slender model) and a paper bag with a market cash-register receipt inside (the place was spotless). It turns out someone who was in the apartment had bought two candy bars at a store 15 miles away, the day before. They find out, at the market, where the suspect apparently lives–a nearby mobile-home park.
Meanwhile, it starts to rain hard. They get information on the suspect from the park manager–but he and his car and trailer are gone! Friday and Gannon now have all the information on their suspect, named Don Negler. Friday gets on the air for an all-units bulletin. Negler, driving the car and towing the trailer, runs a blockade and holes up on a hillside near a new development, overlooking a cliff near Mulholland Drive.
About a dozen police cars converge on the site; Friday orders Negler out with a bullhorn–and Negler fires at him! He orders the cops to leave. Friday sees Negler sneak out of the car; Negler threatens to tip the trailer over the cliff. Friday drives down to an access road at the foot of the cliff and climbs up the face of the cliff as Bill, at Joe’s urging, “tells Negler about his teeth!”
Friday scales the cliff, dodging sliding mounds of mud and huge boulders, and sliding back himself. At the very last moment–as Negler says he’s just about to push the trailer over–Friday pulls his gun and blocks the trailer with a rock under a wheel; he and Gannon subdue Negler and arrest him. They Mirandize him; he says he understands, but also says, “You’ve got that toolbox!”
He won’t say anything else. But he even gives them the key, and they trick him into telling them where the toolbox is. They get a search warrant and bring the box to Negler, and open it. Inside are photos and movie film he made of the girls he abducted and killed. He shows no remorse for the killings but doesn’t want to say why he did it. Leaving the interrogation room with Negler, Joe and Bill approach reporters, whose questions the detectives won’t answer, and photographers–who give Negler a taste of the treatment he gave his terrified victims. In private again he says why he killed them: “They’d rather be dead than be with me!” He later locates the burial sites. When Bill apologizes to the personnel supervisor for being late–it’s now early Saturday morning–he says, “There’s nothing I like better than spending the weekend here!”
Bill, who had earlier told Joe he’s moving up to Carmel, admits he’s just going to Pismo Beach to take a guard job. And his nephew once again brings the bridge–but it still doesn’t fit!
About nine months later, Joe goes to the hospital to take his physical and meets Bill again. (This whole scene is mostly just Joe and Bill’s legs and feet.) Bill’s back with the LAPD–and teamed up with Joe again. He says he’ll pass his blood test; Joe gets in one last quip: “I don’t think this place has ever run a test on pure clam juice!” At the very end, Gannon reacts with some embarrassment, but greets a passing doctor with “You’re looking well!” [My comment: “You’re looking weller!”]
Click here for full interview dialog.
(Summary by Doug Montgomery.)
For more information on the movie, check out the Internet Movie Database.