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DVD Review: The Untouchables Season 4 Volume 1

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Tonight we kick off something special, folks, the first part of the fourth season of “The Untouchables”. And when I say “The Untouchables” here, I mean, the original Untouchables. The Robert Stack Untouchables. It’s a big brimming bowl of retro television, and it’s all thanks to our friends at CBS Video who sent a copy of The Untouchables Season 4 Volume 1 for us to review.

The Untouchables Season 4 Volume 1 gives us 14 episodes from the ongoing saga between a group of Federal agents staging a war against gang violence and illegal booze in the midst of Prohibition. Dubbed the Untouchables for their nearly superhuman resistance to graft and influence, the group led by Eliot Ness will square off against thugs, hoodlums, murderers and more as they fight crime and make Chicago safe for law-abiding citizens everywhere.

For those skeptical about the look of a show shot in the 1960s–indeed, the fourth season comes all the way up from the depths of 1962, meaning the first episodes were shot in the late fifties–and how it would translate to modern viewers, be of good cheer. The fullest digital remastering has been leveled against this project, and watching this sucker on a 1080p upconverting anything will make it look pretty sweet indeed. Ignore the obvious matter of the black and white–think of it as a stylistic choice rather than necessity–and you’ll be in for a technically adept performance.

As for the show itself, sure, it’s a bit dated;  but then, it’s supposed to be. This is a show set in the 1930s. They kicked things off with an episode called “The Night They Shot Santa Claus”, and then, in the first three minutes, they actually shoot Santa Claus. Not the real Santa Claus, of course–just a guy in a suit–but considering a couple of kids saw him get shot, it’s just that little extra bit poignant.

One thing that becomes terribly clear is that there are a lot of scenery-chewers in “The Untouchables”, but the real high point of this show is easily Robert Stack. While most may remember him from his tenure on “Unsolved Mysteries”, that all too familiar voice–recognizable in any era–rings true like a bell in the night. The narration of Walter Winchell is also a treat here, not too frequently used, but every bit as strident as a radioman of the era should be.  The plot may not be really well put together–after all, this is a bit of television from the late fifties when television was still comparatively new technology, so it wasn’t hard to impress–but still, this is a nice piece of pure crime drama in no uncertain terms. Leave aside the scenery chewing, the somewhat dated look, and you’ll get a fine slice of material all the same. Additionally, since “The Untouchables” seems to be mostly episodic, there’s no need to worry too much about wandering in in the middle. Sure, you’ll be better off to start at the beginning, but starting in the middle should do no real harm.

Those who like their drama with a shot of the historical, dig Robert Stack, or just want to catch a look at what television used to look like, well, you’ll have everything you want right here with The Untouchables Season 4 Volume 1.

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