by Michael J. Hayde
(author of “My Name’s Friday: The Unauthorized but True Story of Dragnet and the Films of Jack Webb”.)

We have also added some DVD Reviews sent in by Dragnet fans.

We also have a grid tracking which 1950s episodes are available on DVD. Many thanks to Robert Huggins for creating the grid.

(Page Updated: 7/16/05) Note:

The flood of 1950’s “Dragnet” episodes on the home video market continues. To be sure, most manufacturers have released the same handful of episodes that have been on VHS for two decades. However, some new titles became available in 2004 and 2005. So once again, it’s time to update the home video guide.

The 1951-59 “Dragnet” episodes, which were syndicated under the title “Badge 714,” disappeared from television when “Dragnet 1967” made its network debut, and have rarely aired since. They’re in black & white, of course, and for the most part depict police procedures that are no longer legal. Only 57 of the 276 episodes are available on video, released by several companies specializing in public domain material. In some cases, more than one company has put out an episode, each under a different title. The episode guide corrects those errors for buyers seeking the early “Dragnet” on DVD or VHS.

The guide is arranged chronologically, and reflects episode numbers, original titles and airdates, and the names of various manufacturers offering each episode. Two mail-order companies with multiple “Dragnet” volumes, Shokus Video and Moviecraft, have websites where you can track down and order the volume(s) you want.

For sheer selection, SHOKUS VIDEO tops the list, with 48 episodes available on 13 VHS cassettes, and 43 of these also available over 11 DVDs. New-to-video episodes include “The Big Lamp” (a “CSI”-like episode in which Lt. Lee Jones of the Crime Lab actively takes part in the apprehension of the suspect), and an absolute gem: “The Big Barrette” with Stacy Harris giving the performance of a lifetime. Their most recent DVD release also includes some unique footage of Jack Webb and Ben Alexander hosting a telethon in 1953. Another plus for SHOKUS is that they don’t remove or shift the commercials from prints that have them. Episodes such as “.22 Rifle for Christmas,” “The Big Producer” and “The Big Switch” can be viewed exactly as they appeared on NBC. Picture and print quality varies, depending on their source material (I’ve marked the ‘fair to poor’ episodes below). Most of their episodes are not available elsewhere, and they’re the only source for DVD copies of the majority of 1955-59 shows. VHS tapes are recorded on SP, so you get two hours of programming per cassette/disc. At $17.95 per tape, $19.95 per DVD, it’s a good deal for the serious fan. DVD picture quality is usually superb. Best of all, there are no annoying logos to mar your viewing pleasure. Just make sure your unit will play DVD-R before ordering. (Most players manufactured after 2000 will accommodate DVD-R. The SHOKUS website has a helpful guide to these manufacturers and models.) DISCLAIMER: While I have no financial interest in the company, I have provided liner notes for most of the DVD releases.

Keeping up with the DVD companies that specialize in public domain discs for a budget price can be a daunting task. It seems like new ones crop up with each visit to Wal-Mart. Among those who have produced “Dragnet” box sets or multiple volumes are BRENTWOOD, MADACY, GOTHAM DISTRIBUTION (formerly ALPHA VIDEO), GENIUS PRODUCTS (marketing as both AMC-TV and TELEVISION CLASSICS), PLATINUM DISC CORP., CATCOMB and FRONT ROW ENTERTAINMENT. I’ve not viewed too many of these, but fortunately, Robert Huggins has scoped out many of them and his reviews appear elsewhere on this site. I have viewed the 7-episode DVD from PLATINUM DISC CORP. that is available as part of two-disc and four-disc packages called “The World’s Greatest Detectives.” Picture and sound quality are fine, but there’s a color logo at the bottom right of the screen that’s a little obnoxious. Other companies that have paired two or three “Dragnet” episodes with those of other series include NOSTALGIA VENTURES and NAVARRE CORP. A three-episode disc from MVD (mis-titled “Three Episodes from 1950” on should be avoided because the digital transfer originates from poor source material.

The contents from all these manufacturers are pretty much interchangeable… the same batch of shows, many of which originated with SHOKUS. In January 2003, MADACY introduced a 10-episode box set. That August, BRENTWOOD released a 20-episode collection on two 2-sided discs. Seven months after a SHOKUS release of five new-to-video episodes, MADACY came out with a 5-disc, 25-episode set. Guess where the additional episodes came from? (The lesson, for those who may have missed it, is to please support the company that’s financing the transfer of previously unreleased episodes, so they can afford to release more of them.) “The Big Frame” was once exclusive to BRENTWOOD; today you can also find it from MADACY and on a less expensive AMC-TV 2-disc set. Most of these can be had for anywhere between $5 and $30, depending on the retailer/disc count. If you’re really on a tight budget, you can find episodes on $1 discs from TELEVISION CLASSICS and DIGIVIEW PRODUCTIONS; however, these companies are notorious for replacing the original music with cheap, colorless midi-file compositions.

Of the VHS-only companies, the only one still easily located is MOVIECRAFT, whose video arm is called TV’S MAGIC MEMORIES. They offer eight episodes over four volumes (six are not available anywhere else), including the original pilot and one of Webb’s personal favorites, “The Big Mother.” Although there are only two episodes per $19.95 tape, they’re recorded in SP and picture quality is always excellent. However, they do include a small logo in the bottom right of the screen – either MC or TVMM – but it’s relatively discreet (and explains why their “exclusives” haven’t been cannibalized by the DVD barons). I was more than willing to overlook the logo because the episodes are so rare. “The Big Mother” even contains original SYNDICATION commercials, something you definitely don’t see every day. But if you only want one tape to start, go with THE EARLIEST EPISODES, so you can see the first two “Dragnets” ever aired (also the only two with Friday’s first partner, Sgt. Ben Romero)!

Other tapes are harder to find. TIMELESS MEDIA GROUP (aka MARATHON MUSIC & VIDEO) has discontinued selling VHS, and is not currently distributing “Dragnet” on DVD. Their 3-tape box set of b&w episodes (although the box inexplicably said “color” and Bill Gannon could be seen on it) featured six episodes in SP with excellent picture quality. The two episodes on tape one contained original commercials. The cost was $19.99 (plus shipping) for six choice episodes – a fair value, but all of the episodes can be found on DVD now. A ten-tape boxed set from MADACY is long out-of-print, but still turns up on, sometimes in an unopened state. All 20 shows are recorded in EP (SLP), and tracking can sometimes be a problem. SHOKUS and the budget DVD sets have pretty much made this package obsolete. Two-and-three-tape sets from MADACY, ALPHA and others are also gone from store shelves but may turn up on eBay.

SHOKUS and MOVIECRAFT provide plot descriptions on their websites… and of course you can find a brief synopsis for all episodes in “My Name’s Friday.”

FIRST SEASON (1951-52) (8 titles):
*001 HUMAN BOMB (12/16/51), available from MOVIECRAFT (VHS)
*002 BIG ACTOR (1/3/52), available from MOVIECRAFT (VHS)
*004 BIG MOTHER (1/31/52), available from MOVIECRAFT (VHS)
*005 BIG CAST (2/14/52), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS)
*012 BIG PHONE CALL (5/22/52), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS)
*013 BIG CASING (6/5/52), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS)
*014 BIG LAMP (6/19/52), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS)

SECOND SEASON (1952-53) (11 titles):
*021 .22 RIFLE FOR CHRISTMAS (12/19/52), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS), BRENTWOOD, MADACY (DVD)
*023 BIG GRANDMA (1/8/53), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS)
*028 BIG HATE (2/12/53), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS)
*040 BIG FRANK (5/7/53), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS)
*041 BIG LEASE (5/14/53) (aka “Big Missing”), available from MOVIECRAFT (VHS)
*042 BIG HANDS (5/21/53) (aka “Big Ante”), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS), BRENTWOOD, MADACY (DVD).
*046 BIG BARRETTE (6/18/53), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS)
*047 BIG DANCE (6/25/53) (aka “Big Kid Bandits”), available from SHOKUS (VHS)

THIRD SEASON (1953-54) (12 titles):
*058 BIG WILL (11/12/53), available from MOVIECRAFT (VHS).
*063 BIG THIEF (12/17/53) (aka “Big House Call”), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS), BRENTWOOD, MADACY (DVD).
*064 BIG LITTLE JESUS (12/24/53), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS), BRENTWOOD, AMC-TV, MADACY (DVD).
*068 BIG BOYS (1/21/54), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS), BRENTWOOD, AMC-TV, MADACY (DVD)
*074 BIG WINCHESTER (3/4/54), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS)
*081 BIG FRAME (4/22/54), available from BRENTWOOD, AMC-TV, MADACY (DVD).
*086 BIG FALSE MAKE (5/27/54) (aka “Big Make” “Big Fraud”), available from MOVIECRAFT (VHS), SHOKUS (DVD & VHS).

FOURTH SEASON (1954-55) (12 titles):
*088 BIG FRAUD (9/2/54), available from MOVIECRAFT (VHS)
*089 BIG CRIME (9/9/54) (aka “Big Family”), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS), ALPHA VIDEO, BRENTWOOD, AMC-TV, MADACY (DVD), TIMELESS (VHS).
*090 BIG PAIR (9/16/54), available from BRENTWOOD, AMC-TV, MADACY, PLATINUM DISC CORP. (DVD)
*094 BIG BAR (10/14/54), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS), BRENTWOOD, MADACY (DVD).
*095 BIG PRESENT (10/21/54) (aka “Big Milkbottle Burglar”), available from SHOKUS (VHS)
*098 BIG NEW YEARS (11/11/54), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS) (VHS=fair, DVD=good).
*104 BIG ROD (12/30/54) (aka “Big Run,” “Big Red”), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS), TIMELESS (VHS).
*106 BIG FAMILY (1/13/55) (aka “Big Threat”), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS), FRONT ROW ENTERTAINMENT (DVD).
*109 BIG TV (2/3/55) (aka “Big Sound-Off”), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS).
*115 BIG TAR BABY (3/17/55), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS).
*116 BIG NUMBER (3/24/55) (aka “Big Bank Robbery“), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS).

FIFTH SEASON (1955-56) (9 titles):
*128 BIG NO RAIN (9/15/55) (aka “Big Assault”), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS).
*129 BIG LIFT (9/22/55) (aka “Big Housecleaning”), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS).
*131 BIG GAP (10/6/55) (aka “Big Swindle”), available from SHOKUS (VHS)
*132 BIG LOOK (10/13/55) (aka “Big Thug”), available from SHOKUS (VHS & DVD)
*133 BIG GLASSES (10/20/55) (aka “Big Mother”), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS).
*134 BIG BIRD (10/27/55) (aka “Big Trunk”), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS), BRENTWOOD, MADACY (DVD).
*137 BIG BOUNCE (11/17/55), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS).
*159 BIG DEAL (4/26/56) (aka “Big Car Thieves”), available from SHOKUS, TIMELESS (VHS).
*160 BIG WISH (5/3/56) (aka “Big Bust”), available from SHOKUS (VHS) (Poor quality).

SIXTH SEASON (1956-57) (2 titles):
*168 BIG NET (10/25/56) (aka “Big Thanksgiving”), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS).
*179 BIG SWITCH (1/10/57) (aka “Big Suicide”), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS)

SEVENTH SEASON (1957-58) (1 title):
*226 BIG WAR (4/10/58) (aka “Big Juvenile Gang War”,) available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS), BRENTWOOD, MADACY (DVD).

EIGHTH SEASON (1958-59) (2 titles):
*241 BIG OSKAR, (10/14/58) available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS), BRENTWOOD, MADACY (DVD).
*275 BIG COUNTERFEIT (8/16/59), available from SHOKUS (DVD & VHS), AMC-TV (DVD), TIMELESS (VHS).

Finally, if it’s “Dragnet 1967-70” you’re seeking, the 17 episodes from Dragnet 1967 were released on DVD in June 2005. It is hoped that other seasons will follow, depending on sales of the initial set. Some other episodes from this era were available briefly on VHS. Several years ago, COLUMBIA HOUSE offered 40 of the better Friday-Gannon episodes on ten VHS volumes, via mail order only. They discontinued the series back in 2002, and now offer the Universal Dragnet 1967 release through their DVD club. The VHS volumes turn up on eBay now and then, but usually for pretty steep prices. Hopefully, Universal Home Video will release more season sets (as well as the 1954 and 1966 “Dragnet’ features) in the near future.

Happy viewing!
DVD Reviews
Many companies are releasing some of the public-domain Dragnet episodes from the 1950s on DVD. Many of the DVDs repeat episodes, and the quality can vary, so caveat emptor.

We also have a grid tracking which 1950s episodes are available on DVD. Many thanks to Robert Huggins for creating the grid.
Alpha Video Catalog #4088D
(Cover: color picture of Jack Webb wearing hat and holding ID card, and smaller B&W insert of Jack Webb and Ben Alexander)

Review by Robert Huggins

1. The Big Shoplift
2. The Big Hit-Run Killer
3. The Big Show
4. The Big Crime

DVD Extras: There are no real extras on this disc. Individual episodes can be accessed though a menu option. There is also a catalog of Alpha’s DVD releases both on the disc and in a printed insert.

DVD Quality: Though very watchable, the video presentation on some of the episodes is not quite as crisp looking as on some other public domain Dragnet DVD releases. The print used for The Big Show is very worn in spots and appears to be the same print that Catcom used for its Dragnet release. Audio is fair to very good and varies with individual episodes.

Other Comments: This single DVD is a repackaging of episodes that Alpha Video previously released on two VHS cassettes. Ben Alexander appears as Frank Smith in all four episodes, which are drawn from seasons two, three and four. Look for two of Jack Webb’s long-time associates, Virginia Gregg and Jack Kruschen, in episodes.

The Verdict: This is your basic “no frills” DVD release with no real extras. While the audio/visual quality of this DVD is certainly acceptable, there are marginally better releases available from other public domain companies. This DVD costs between $6 and $8 and is available from a number of traditional and online retailers, including Borders Books and Recommended primarily for those who are trying to fill episode gaps in their Dragnet DVD library, particularly the episode “The Big Crime,” which does not appear on most Dragnet DVD releases.
Front Row Entertainment DVD catalog #3592
(Cover: picture of Jack Webb as Joe Friday from the Fifties series)

Review by Robert Huggins

1. The Big Trunk
2. The Big Seventeen (with Herb Ellis as Frank Smith)
3. The Big Producer (with Martin Milner and Carolyn Jones in early television roles)
4. The Big Family

DVD Extras: A two-frame biography of Jack Webb, a short commercial for the 1954 Dragnet movie that appears in The Big Producer, just before the final verdict, and chapter breaks.

DVD Quality: Audio is very good; Video is generally good, certainly acceptable for a DVD that costs around $5.00 at retail. There are video generated titles for each episode that did not appear in the original broadcasts, along with a MMI (2001) copyright from Video Suenos (not sure who/what Video Suenos is … possibly the owner of the video masters from which this DVD was produced). All original music is intact.

The Verdict:While it doesn’t include any “new” public domain episodes that haven’t been released on video in the past, for someone who wants to obtain 1950s Dragnet episodes on DVD, this is an inexpensive package with decent audio/video quality and, therefore, is recommended. I checked to see if Front Row Entertainment has a web site; they do, but it’s currently under construction, so I cannot point you to a web catalog at this time.
Catcom Home Video Catalog #CAT0284-6
(Cover: colorized photo of Jack Webb standing against a brick wall on front cover; a small black & white still from each of the four episodes appears on the reverse).

Review by Robert Huggins

Episodes: Catcom has retitled all episodes. Original titles are listed first for comparison with other DVDs/video tapes followed by the Ca tcom title in parentheses.

1. The Big Show (The Missing Baby)
2. The Big September Man (A Model Prisoner)
3. The Big Seventeen (The Best Excuse)
4. The Big Break (Tales from Hoffman)

DVD Extras: Six Chesterfield cigarette commercials (including one with Jack Webb and two with George Fenneman) and two commercials for toy guns. The Chesterfield commercials are murky but true to the spirit of the show as Chesterfield was the original sponsor of Dragnet. The commercials for the toy guns appear to be from the early to mid-Sixties, after the original show went off the air. Commercials are placed between each episode rather than embedded within the episodes. Individual episodes and the commercials can be accessed through the menu.

DVD Quality: While the video is far from pristine (some film speckles and occasional scratches), it certainly is very watchable for a DVD that retails between $5 and $7. The print used for The Big Show (The Missing Baby) is very worn in a few spots. Audio for all of the episodes is generally good.

Other Comments: This DVD includes episodes with three of Joe Friday’s partners during the series’ original run, including Barney Phillips as Ed Jacobs (1952), Herb Ellis as the first Frank Smith (1952), and Ben Alexander as the second and more famous Frank Smith (1953-1959). All episodes are from the first and second seasons.

The Verdict: The Big Seventeen (The Best Excuse) appears on at least three other DVD releases (Front Row Entertainment, Madacy Entertainment, and Nostalgia Ventures). Also, Catcom DVDs are not the easiest to find (Value City Department Stores and Odd Job Closeout Stores carry them and DVD and Half Price also carry selected Catcom DVDs, including this Dragnet release). On the plus side, the episode selection is good with most of Joe Friday’s various partners from the Fifties featured, and the Chesterfield cigarette ads are a nice touch (when’s the last time you remember seeing a cigarette commercial on TV?). Audio/visual quality of the DVD is acceptable with the quality of the episodes generally superior to that of the commercials. If you don’t already own the episodes on another DVD collection and can find this disc, you may very well want to add Catcom’s Dragnet DVD to your collection. Jack Webb “completists” might want it for the Chesterfield cigarette ad alone.
Madacy Entertainment Catalog #TN9-9359
(Cover: B& W picture of Jack Webb sitting on desk, holding telephone, appears on the slipcase front & rear covers and the front & rear covers of the two DVDs that make up this set)

Review by Robert Huggins

Episodes – Disc 1:
1. The Big Producer
2. The Big Bird (Badge 714 syndication title opening)
3. The Big Show
4. The Big September Man
5. The Big Shoplift (Badge 714 syndication title opening)

Episodes – Disc 2:
1. The Big Hit-Run Killer
2. The Big Seventeen
3. The Big Break
4. The Big Trunk (mislabeled on the DVD slipcase and DVD cover as The Big Oscar)
5. The Big Little Jesus

DVD Extras: Both discs include a 5 question trivia game (based on the episodes), several old commercials, a one-frame “biography” which is nothing more than some background information on the show and a very brief, 30 second “preview” of other television releases from Madacy (The Andy Griffith Show on Disc 1 and The Beverly Hillbillies on Disc 2). Individual episodes can be accessed through a menu option. The commercials on Disc 1 include two animated spots for Carling Black Label Beer and Piels Beer (with Bert & Harry); ads on Disc 2 include Ballantine Ale, Gallo Grenache Rose Wine and, the best of the bunch, a spot for Bardahl Automotive Additives, which is an animated spoof of Dragnet. The commercials are blurry and there is noticeable audio hiss, but they are watchable.

DVD Quality: Audio/visual quality is roughly equal to other public domain releases of Dragnet, i.e., a/v ranges from fair to very good depending upon the episode. You should expect to see some film speckles and scratches, and mostly decent sound on the episodes. The Big Show episode appears to be the same print used by both Alpha and Catcom for their releases and is very worn in spots during the first five minutes of the show.

Other Comments: Like Catcom’s Dragnet release, Madacy includes episodes with three of Sgt. Joe Friday’s partners of the 1950s: Barney Phillips as Ed Jacobs, Herb Ellis as Frank Smith (I) and Ben Alexander as Frank Smith (II). Episodes are drawn from the first five seasons. Jack Webb often rehired actors that appeared in Dragnet . . . a stock company of sorts, and this collection of episodes gives viewers the opportunity to see character actors like Eddie Firestone, Allene Roberts, Clarence Cassell, Ralph Moody and others, appearing in different roles. Future TV stars Martin Milner (Route 66, Adam-12) and Carolyn Jones (The Addams Family) appear in the episode The Big Producer.

The Verdict: While the audio/visual quality of this release is about average for public domain DVD releases of Dragnet, there are a few reasons to consider this 2-disc set from Madacy for your collection. First and foremost, this is the largest release of Dragnet episodes on DVD in a single collection (as of July 2003)*. It is widely available at traditional retailers like Best Buy and Sun Coast Video stores and from online retailers like Barnes & Noble and Amazon. It is also inexpensive . . . 10 episodes of the original Dragnet series can be had for between $9 and $12. Although this set includes episodes like The Big Seventeen and The Big Producer that can be found on a number of other Dragnet DVDs, it also includes two episodes, The Big Little Jesus and The Big Bird, which are tougher to find on DVD. For someone who wants just one 1950s Dragnet collection on DVD, this is the one to get.

*Shokus Video currently has the greatest number of Dragnet episodes available on DVD-R, but they package 4 episodes on individual discs for about $20 each. There is a planned 20-episode release from Brentwood Communications as well.
Platinum Disc Corporation Catalog #06849
(Cover: picture of Badge 714 against the backdrop of a city skyline, both on the front covers of the slipcase and the Dragnet DVD)

Review by Robert Huggins

Episodes :
1. The Big Crime
2. The Big Pair
3. The Big Producer
4. The Big Break
5. The Big September Man
6. The Big Betty
7. The Big Trunk

DVD Extras: There are no extras other than a menu option that allows you to select the specific episode of your choice. On the menu screen there is a picture of Ralph Moody from The Big Producer episode . . . odd that a picture of Jack Webb is not included.

DVD Quality: The audio/visual quality of this seven episode DVD varies by episode; some episodes look and sound better than others, but all are watchable. The a/v quality of this release is on a par with other public domain releases of Dragnet. At times during the episodes, the Platinum Disc Corporation logo appears in the bottom right hand corner . . . it’s not too distracting but some viewers/collectors will be disappointed.

Other Comments: This disc is part of either a 2 or 4 disc set from Platinum titled “The World’s Greatest Detectives.” The 2-disc set includes other television detectives like Peter Gunn and Richard Diamond, Private Detective (with future “Fugitive” David Janssen). The 4-disc set includes some additional Sherlock Holmes and Dick Tracy movies. A single disc version was also spotted at Circuit City.

The Verdict: If you don’t already have Madacy’s 2-disc, 10-episode Dragnet set, this is a nice starting point . . . seven episodes on a single disc. Even if you own the Madacy set, The Big Betty and The Big Pair episodes are hard to find on DVD, making Platinum’s disc worth it for these episodes. Also, the second disc of other television detectives is a nice bonus, even if it’s not Dragnet related. This set might be a little difficult to track down, though Wal-Mart had the 2-disc set readily available in their DVD bargain bin for less than $6.00 during the Spring/Summer of 2003.

In addition to those DVDs listed by Michael J. Hayde in his original video/DVD article (Shokus, MVD, and Platinum Disc Corporation), the following companies have released episodes of the original Dragnet series on DVD: Madacy, Catcom, Front Row, Nostalgia Ventures (with Gangbusters), Alpha Video, Navarre Corporation (with Racket Squad). There are some other companies that have released a single episode of Dragnet as part of 1950s television packages, but these are not included.
Brentwood Home Video Catalog #45041-9
(Cover: large and small pictures of Jack Webb and 1950s era patrol car on front cover; pictures of Webb from various episodes on rear)

Review by Robert Huggins

Episodes – Disc 1/Side A
1. The Big September Man (listed on rear cover as The Big September)
2. The Big Seventeen
3. The Big Show
4. The Big Break
5. The Big Hands

Episodes – Disc 1/Side B
1. The Big Betty
2. The Big Thief (intro segment is repeated by mistake)
3. The Big Little Jesus
4. The Big Bird (Badge 714 syndication title opening; mislabeled incorrectly on rear cover and the disc menu as The Big Trunk)
5. The Big Boys

Episodes – Disc 2/Side A
1. The Big Shoplift
2. The Big Hit-Run Killer
3. The Big Girl
4. The Big Frame (Badge 714 syndication title opening)
5. The Big Producer

Episodes – Disc 2/Side B
1. The Big Crime
2. The Big Pair
3. The Big Bar
4. The Big War
5. The Big Oskar

DVD Extras: Individual episodes can be accessed through a menu option.

DVD Quality: Brentwood appears to have used the same prints as most other companies that have released public domain episodes of Dragnet. That means that the audio/visual quality of the episodes varies from fair to very good. The episode titled “The Big War” is of noticeably lesser video quality, while the print used for “The Big Oskar” has a light yellow tint. All episodes are watchable . . . just don’t expect pristine digital restorations.

Other Comments: Several of the episodes feature very early appearances by future television stars. The episode titled “The Big Boys” features a young Leonard Nimoy (with mustache) as a robbery suspect, while Dennis Weaver (sans mustache) appears in “The Big Bar.” “The Big Producer” episode features Martin Milner and Carolyn Jones (billed as Caroline Jones). Carolyn Jones can also be seen in the episodes “The Big Girl” and “The Big Frame.” In one of the more unusual episodes for the original Dragnet series, “The Big Thief,” Joe Friday shoots and kills a 22 year old robbery suspect. Someone at Brentwood did their homework on this release . . . with the exception of the one episode that’s mislabeled “The Big Trunk” (in actuality, “The Big Bird”), all of the other episodes are presented in the original broadcast sequence . . . a subtle, but nice touch.

The Verdict: In terms of DVD releases of public domain episodes of Dragnet, Brentwood really “ups the ante” with this 2-disc, 20-episode set. With the exception of the sixth season, every season of the series is represented by the episodes included in this set. The set is fairly easy to find at traditional retailers like Borders Books and Suncoast Video and online retailers like DVD and others. Best of all, 20 episodes of Dragnet can be had for $8 to $10, making this collection a real bargain. While a number of episodes are available on other Dragnet DVD collections, there are some episodes that are appearing on DVD for the first time (save Shokus Video’s DVD-R discs). To the best of my knowledge, the episode “The Big Frame” has not previously appeared on VHS or DVD. As such, this set is a great collection for Dragnet “newbies” as well as collectors who already have other Dragnet episodes on DVD, but are looking to include additional episodes in their collection. Highly recommended!!!
Disc Plaza Entertainment Catalog #DP2008
(Cover: Color photo of Jack Webb w/flashlight and Harry Morgan, who does not appear in any of the episodes included on the disc! Photo is a reverse of the picture on the front cover of Michael J. Hayde’s “My Name’s Friday.”)

Review by Robert Huggins

1. The Big Crime
2. The Big Family
3. The Big Bird (Badge 714 syndication title opening; mislabeled incorrectly on the DVD case and the disc menu as The Big Betty)
4. The Big Counterfeit

DVD Extras: Individual episodes can be accessed through a menu option. This disc also includes four episodes of “Sherlock Holmes,” a 1954 syndicated half-hour television series produced by an American (Sheldon Reynolds) in France with a mostly English cast (Ronald Howard stars as Holmes and H. Marion Crawford is Dr. Watson).

DVD Quality: “The Big Crime” and “The Big Bird” episodes are of lesser visual quality than other discs on the market containing these same episodes and there is noticeable audio hiss on “The Big Bird,” as well. The episode “The Big Family” is a tougher find on DVD but this version is a bit “softer” looking than the one found on Front Row Entertainment’s disc. “The Big Counterfeit” is another episode that’s tougher to find on DVD and is the best looking episode on this disc. Three of the four Sherlock Holmes episodes are satisfactory but the fourth episode, “The Case of the Neurotic Detective,” has light contrast . . . you may have to adjust the picture on your television to watch this particular episode, as I did.

Other Comments: Look for two members of Jack Webb’s “stock company,” Paul Richards and Howard Wendell, in the episodes “The Big Crime” and “The Big Bird.” The original copyright information on the episodes has been visually obscured (first time that I’ve seen this on any of the 1950s Dragnet releases). This is strange since, presumably, all of these episodes have been in the public domain for some years. There are also some factual errors on the reverse of the DVD cover . . . the notes indicate that the 1950s series had a total of 263 episodes (there were 276) and that the 1960s series had 100 episodes (there were 98). All we want are the facts, ma’am!

The Verdict: The lesser visual quality of this DVD makes this a hard one to recommend in an already crowded field of Dragnet public domain releases. Yet, the episodes “The Big Family” and “The Big Counterfeit” are both tougher-to-find on DVD and the inclusion of the Sherlock Holmes episodes is a nice bonus. I found this at K-Mart for $4.99 but have not seen it available online, though it may eventually show up on EBay.

Note: Disc Plaza Entertainment has used prints supplied by Cascadia Labs, a Canadian company that is also known as Cascadia Entertainment. Cascadia Entertainment has released single disc versions of Dragnet and Sherlock Holmes as part of their “Golden Years of Classic Television” series with the same episodes that are included on this Disc Plaza release. Buyer beware!

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