Part Two of The Big Train – Episode Review

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PART TWO OF THE BIG TRAIN

Airdate: January 12th, 1961
Written by William Spier
Directed by John Peyser
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Neville Brand
Co-starring James Westerfield
Featuring Richard Carlyle, Gavin MacLeod, Lewis Charles, Frank London, Lalo Rios, Russ Conway, William Schallert

“At 5 o’clock in the morning of August 19th, 1934, a transcontinental train journey began which was to be unique in history. Its destination was the new escape-proof prison on the island of Alcatraz, and its passengers were 54 case hardened and desperate criminals, headed by the gangster overlord whose deeds had given him the undisputed title of Public Enemy no. 1: Scarface Al Capone. With the aid of his Chicago organization and a dishonest guard named Lafferty, Capone had conceived a monumental plan, one that would affect his delivery from the train and ultimately land him safely out of the country.”

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The Tommy Karpeles Story – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2

THE TOMMY KARPELES STORY

Airdate: December 29th, 1960 and April 6th, 1961
Written by George Bellak
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
Produced by Herman Hoffman
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Joseph Wiseman
Co-starring Harold J. Stone, Murray Hamilton, Madlyn Rhue. Featuring Vic Morrow, Vladimir Sokoloff, Gage Clark, William Newel, Herman Rudin.

“May 8th, 1931. The Fast Mail Special of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, running out of Rock Island, was stopped by emergency signal flares near Hillsdale, Illinois. The Hillsdale mail robbery netted the gas-masked criminals almost a million dollars in negotiable securities. The murder of Nelson Grenhoff, postal clerk, was a dividend.
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The Otto Frick Story – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2

THE OTTO FRICK STORY

Airdate: December 22nd, 1960
Written by Leonard Kantor
Directed by John Peyser
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Jack Warden
Co-starring Francis Lederer, Richard Jaeckel. Featuring Erika Peters, Stacey Harris, Fred Numey, John Wengraf, Willis Bouchey, Joseph Mell, Molly Roden.

”At a traveling carnival thirty-five miles out of Cleveland, Ohio, Franz Eberhardt, twice convicted out of fifteen arrests for armed robbery and dope peddling, was shooting ducks with deadly precision. Eliot Ness, a squad of his Untouchables and members of the local police, took their positions for a raid.

“It was May 3rd, 1934. Eliot Ness, after seven months of investigation and raids was finally ready to move in on Otto Frick, whose thirty-seven traveling enterprises were a front for the most widely-flung, most tightly organized, most lucrative dope ring of the first half of the 20th century. Although Eliot Ness had closed off his sources south of the border and from Canada, Otto Frick was by no means out of business. He had already made arrangements for a new and even greater source of supply. Aided by his new contact, Frick and his no. 1 helper, Hans Eberhardt, lost no time in resuming their operation. For the Untouchables, the new upswing in Frick’s activities meant beginning all over again: grueling weeks of raids, round-ups, and investigations. It meant retracing old steps.”

“Acting on a new lead, Ness covered legal drug manufacturers and dealers to ascertain if there might be some way their supplies were being leaked to Frick. One such dealer in New York was Manning Loder, president of one of the largest drug importing companies in the country.”

In return for free narcotics supplies, drug king Otto Frick (Jack Warden), agrees to recruit German-Americans for the Nazi movement in the United States at the behest of a well-known roving ambassador for the Third Reich. Admonished by the State Department to exercise caution in dealing with German nationals, Eliot Ness finds his efforts to capture Frick are impeded by the directive while Frick’s operation temporarily flourishes.

But while Frick maintains no political objectives of his own, it is Franz Eberhardt (Richard Jaeckel), who takes up the cause, persuaded by lovely young Hedda Messlinger (Erika Peters), who appears to be Messingler’s niece, but is instead his wife, and used willingly as a lure. Unable to convince Frick of the importance of their goals, the three plot his removal, but Hedda’s dual identity is soon revealed to a disillusioned Hans Eberhardt who had planned to marry her. Their grandiose plans come apart when Ness arrives at a Nazi rally, but not before Frick, wounded by Eberhardt at Messlinger’s order, arrives to pay the Nazis back for double-crossing him.

“It was the end of the partnership. Hedda Messlinger told her story to the authorities. Frick and Messlinger had paid with their lives; she was deported back to Germany. Hans Eberhardt, as a three-time loser, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Aside from being the end of a vast dope ring, it was one of the first major thrusts of the Nazi Fifth Column in America and helped alert us all to the dangers ahead. Yet even now, after Hitler’s dreams of world conquest have been thwarted by a war, the totalitarian voices are not silent. You can still hear them if you listen.”

REVIEW

Although The Otto Frick Story begins quite forcefully, it wanders around and loses focus early on. 

It is the only program to address the Nazi phenomenon in its infancy. The assembly of German Nazis and American gangsters does have historical precedent, but this installment, severely underplayed with three small characters and a token assault on a Jewish-owned delicatessen, doesn’t capture the epic of the scope of the drama. Because the historical events portrayed in this episode largely took place in the late 1930s, The Otto Frick Story is one of the most alarming to students of history.

Already suffering from overexposure in the series, Jack Warden plays Frick as a small-minded, small-time hood, rather than someone clever enough to head up a national drug cartel. Francis Lederer, a Czech actor who was no stranger to film noirs and Nazi intrigue, unfortunately, embodies a consummate Nazi stereotype in his role as the aristocratic Messlinger, and today comes off funnier than it is serious. At any moment he appears ready to break into a “Ve haff vays of making you talk” routine. The amount of film given over to the seduction of Hans Eberhardt by fiercely Aryan Hedda Messlinger is unwarranted, even if it is fun to watch her at work.

Even with the potentially sensitive subject matter, very little is changed from script to screen. A scene of anti-Semitic graffiti and a swastika is awkwardly filmed and cropped to obscure the full phrase, which is written explicitly in the screenplay. Gratuitous use of “Sieg Heil baby” is left unused. The true nature of Hedda and Walter Messlinger’s relationship is not revealed until midway through the conclusion, though in the script it is revealed much sooner. 

The script also specifically notes a location as being on Desilu’s 40 Acres backlot and the name of a book store is changed in the script to match that of one shown in stock footage.

Speaking of stock footage, this episode features an excellent (and seemingly rare) use of double exposure and rear projection when Ness arrives at Lange’s Book Shop.


First, the establishing shot is taken from a mid-1940s source (as evidenced by the visible automobile in the lower right-hand corner). 

Second, the passing trolley helps the transition from an establishing shot to a medium shot of a window that says Lange’s Book Shop. 


As Ness, Hobson, and Rico walk past the window, they can see inside the book store. The interior footage of the book store is from a separate source. Meanwhile, the reflection in the window shows a second source, with a streetcar passing to match the establishing shot.

This subtle trick passes by in a brief moment and is not the only clever use of stock footage in the hour. The insertion of actual archival footage from the Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden, where Hans’ taunts to “Sieg Heil!” are synced to the rally’s actual audio track.

As part of The Untouchables Retrospective, we’re pleased to present this August draft of Leonard Kantor’s The Otto Frick Story. 

READ THE SCRIPT

QUOTES

MESSLINGER: Are you placing me under arrest?
NESS: Unfortunately, it’s my duty to try and save your life.

OBSERVATIONS

In this episode, Eliot Ness is a known entity to the Nazis both international and domestic – but history shows that the Nazis may have actually known who Eliot Ness was.

This episode begins with the Untouchables in Cleveland, Ohio where the real Eliot Ness would become Safety Director in 1935 (one year after this episode takes place).

During Ness’ time as Safety Director, a grisly series of murders known as the Torso Murders or the Kingsbury Run Murders weighed heavily on his career in Cleveland. As part of its anti-American propaganda, the German press mocked the police’s inability to solve the killings.

HISTORICAL NOTES

While the episode lacks punch, its closing narration is notable for many reasons.

Narrator Walter Winchell, like many among Desilu’s creative time, was Jewish. In his career as a radio correspondent, Winchell eagerly assailed pro-fascists, pro-Nazi, and their enablers throughout the 1930s including the German American Bund and Charles Lindbergh. Winchell’s real-life crusade in the press against the Nazis gives extra gravitas to his finely written concluding narration,

The Nazis did in fact host a rally at New York’s Madison Square Garden on February 20th, 1939 and this is the rally seen in the episode’s archival footage. (There was a similar rally held a few months later in Chicago, though the footage from Madison Square Garden is better known.) It is the use of this footage and the attempt to intertwine the story of the Nazi Fifth Column and gangsterdom that perhaps best illustrates the show’s growing tendency to stretch historical credibility, making it seem almost Twilight Zone-esque that Ness would ever fight the Nazis.

However, the National Socialist German Party was alive in well in Chicago in the late 1920s and early 1930s, where immigrant Fritz Gissebl would later graduate from organizing fellow countrymen in the German-American “Free Society of Teutonia” organization to goosestepping with Hitler’s SS in Poland years later. The first major gathering of Nazis in Chicago was the Friends of New Germany convention and by 1934 had grown to 500 members. In 1932, Teutonia become the Friends of the Hitler Movement.

It’s too bad we never see Ness spoiling Fritz’s schnitzel, instead of Frick’s.

Actual Illinois Nazis in front of the Chicago Field Museum in the 1930s.

GALLERY

The Larry Fay Story – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2

THE LARRY FAY STORY

Airdate: December 15th, 1960
Written by Harry Essex
Directed by Walter E. Grauman
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star June Havoc
Co-starring Sam Levene, Larry Gates, Robert Emhardt.
Featuring Robert Karnes, Tommy Cook, Francis De Sales, Allen Jaffe, Jay Adler.

“1931. Business, racketeer style. The business: milk. The tycoon: Capone student Larry Fay. He matriculated from cabs to beer to milk, which had been selling at ten cents a quart. Although on those dark depression days even that was a high price. Fay succeeded by organizing certain unscrupulous milk companies into a monopoly and raising the price of milk as much as three cents a quart. Two of those cents went to Fay. Stores that refused to deal with the new monopoly were shown the Capone method. For the majority of respectable milk companies who stuck to fair prices, in spite of threats and warnings from Fay, disasters piled up one on top of another in actions that threatened the highways off our states. The style was Al Capone, but the signature was Larry Fay. One of those who refused to tremble before Fay was Wayne Owens, whose family had headed a small but successful dairy company for 100 years. “
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Kiss of Death Girl – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2

KISS OF DEATH GIRL

Airdate: December 8th, 1960
Written by Harry Kronman
Directed by John Peyser
Produced by Alan Armer
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Jan Sterling
Co-starring Mickey Shaughnessy, Robert H. Harris, and David J. Stewart. Featuring John Conte, Lester Miller, Joseph Ferrante, Celia Lovsky, Baruch Lumet, Wesley Lau

“On the night of September 8th, 1932, four trucks crossed the Canadian border at a remote spot and headed for Chicago. They carried a thousand cases of scotch, the McCoy. Value: over one hundred thousand dollars. Acting on word from a Canadian agent, Eliot Ness and the Untouchables were covering the highway outside of town. And seven or eight miles up ahead of Ness, someone else was waiting: Phil Corbin, owner of Chicago’s Club Continental. A man with ambition, tonight, he was expanding his operation. In charge of the convoy was a small-time mobster, Whitey Barrows, running the whiskey in for his boss, Lou ‘the Rooster’ Scalisi. Scalisi was a new power in Chicago. During the past year, he had cut himself a juicy slice of what used to be Capone’s personal pie.”

Convinced he can corner the market in high quality imported Scotch, small-time club Phil Corbin (Robert H. Harris) owner hijacks a shipment intended for his supplier, Lou “The Rooster” Scalese (David J. Stewart), and attempts to win the affections of a Francie McKay (Jan Sterling) who is known to frequently lose boyfriends to underworld catfights.

“Henny Combs did make it. Two months later, he was well enough to open a small cleaning establishment with Francie; Francie McKay, who used to be called the kiss of death girl.”

REVIEW

Jan Sterling would seem like the perfect actress to grace The Untouchables, but she is wasted by a first-draft screenplay.

Jan Sterling guest stars in this wannabe heart breaker in which she roams sadly about, losing boyfriends as fast as they can be shot up for one reason or another, complaining how her men are only interested in her for her pretty face while displaying one seriously without charm. It is the eternal double-cross that does in the principle characters who, apart from Lou “The Rooster” Scalisi, are not particularly enthralling.

This episode feels like a first draft badly in need of a rewrite and highlights that it doesn’t matter how many hoods are running around if none of them are particularly interesting, dramatic, or cunning. This episode completely wastes the award-winning Sterling, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in The High in the Mighty (1954) and appeared in numerous film noirs a decade earlier as “cheap floozies, hard-bitten dames, and lethal schemers.”

While there are a few good lines in Harry Kronman’s script (Ness duping Scalese in his phone call is hilarious), this is the only one-star episode in the entire Second Season. Nonetheless, Kronman will quickly adapt to The Untouchables and author 17 episodes. Apart from Kiss of Death Girl, the rest of Kronman’s scripts are exceedingly memorable. His ultimate contribution will come in the form of the Second Season’s powerhouse season finale 90-Proof Dame.

QUOTES

CORBIN: You got no respect for the dead.
NESS: Sometimes even less than the living.

OBSERVATIONS

At the conclusion of each hour, The Untouchables teased each new episode with exciting trailers. These expensive little previews had their own theme music, often featured alternate takes of scenes, and sadly were completely absent in the so-called Columbia House’s “Collectors Edition” of The Untouchables on VHS and the subsequent DVD releases. Here, Stuart Fanning has preserved the ending of The Untouchables as it originally aired, complete with bumpers, commercials, and the trailer for “The Larry Fay Story.”

As a part of The Untouchables Retrospective, we’ll be archiving and publishing the trailers we can locate from the remaining 16mm prints of The Untouchables.

HISTORICAL NOTES

While there’s no record of a “Kiss of Death Girl” in American crime, the title was bestowed to a woman named Nellie Cameron, an Australian prostitute who consorted with various undesirables in Sydney in the 1920s and 30s, five of whom were targeted for assassination. What a heartbreaker.

GALLERY

The Purple Gang – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2

THE PURPLE GANG

Airdates: December 1st, 1960 and July 27th, 1961 
Written by John Mantley
Directed by Walter E. Grauman
Produced by Lloyd Richards
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Co-starring Bruce Gordon, Werner Klemperer, Ilka Windish
Special Guest Star Steve Cochran
Featuring Carl Milletaire, Paul Lambert, Steven Geray, James Flavin, Rayford Barnes

“By early 1932, with the increasing pressure of law enforcement agencies against their liquor outlets and sources of supply and the repeal of prohibition imminent, the underworld began to look for new ways of exploiting the age-old principles of extortion and murder. Inspiration was not long in coming. 

“Emboldened by the amateurish but successful kidnapping of the Lindbergh child, the underworld moved swiftly to put the ugly crime of kidnapping on a professional basis. Detroit’s blood-stained Purple Gang, long a synonym for terrorism in beer, booze, labor, and prostitution, quietly avowed their own version of the snatch racket. Their victims were other members of the underworld who could hardly go to police for help. By late August 1932, the Purple Gang had completed nine successful kidnappings for a total take of almost one hundred thousand dollars. 

“The brains behind the Purple Gang’s long record of successful operation: Eddie Fletcher, ex-bank robber, murderer. A man who had proven himself so shrewd and so ruthless that even the powerful Capone organization had left him strictly alone. “
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A Seat On The Fence – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2

A SEAT ON THE FENCE

Airdate: November 24th, 1960
Written by William Templeton
Produced and Directed by Walter E. Grauman
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Co-starring Joseph Anthony, Gene Lyons, Frank Silvera
Special Guest Star John McIntire
Featuring Val Avery, Frank Salinas, Olan Soule, Dan Barton, John Anderson, Arlene Sax, Len Lesser

“In late summer 1932, the underworld organized to compensate for the stemming of its supply of narcotics from Asia and southern Europe. Greedy for revenue derived from Chicago’s more than five thousand dope addicts, the syndicate had turned to the systematic robbery of retail druggists, doctor’s offices, and wholesale drug houses for its source of narcotics. The thefts were increasing ominously and becoming more daring. Though Eliot Ness was able to recognize the signatures of most of Chicago’s mobster leaders, he was not familiar with the technique of the mastermind behind this new outbreak of evil.”

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The Mark of Cain – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2

THE MARK OF CAIN

Airdates: November 17th, 1960
Written by David Z. Goodman
Directed by Walter E. Grauman
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Co-starring Will Kaluva, Conrad Janis, Eduardo Cianelli. Special Guest Star Henry Silva. Featuring Joyce Taylor, Vic Perrin, and Paula Raymond.

“In the late Spring of 1932, it became evident through the protest of irate citizens whose families had become victimized that drug addiction in Chicago was reaching alarming proportions. Prior to the Spring of 1932,  the distribution of narcotics had been a haphazard affair, a small-time business, in the hands of unorganized, small-time thugs. But under the cunning leadership of Little Charlie Sabastino, the narcotics racket had been amalgamated into one organized empire, with Little Charlie as its emperor.”

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The Waxey Gordon Story – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2

THE WAXEY GORDON STORY

Airdates: November 10th, 1960 and June 22nd, 1961
Written by Joseph Petracca
Directed by John Peyser
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Co-starring Frank De Kova. Special Guest Star Nehemiah Persoff. Featuring Elizabeth Hush, Terry Huntington, Sam Gilman, Adam Becker, Walter Reed, Edgar Stehli.

“On the night of April 16th, 1931, Waxey Gordon, public enemy number one, the unchallenged beer boss of New York, began his campaign to take over the illegal beer traffic in the entire State of New Jersey. It was controlled by Frankie Dunn, Bugs Donovan, and Roger Wyden.”

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Nicky – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2

NICKY

Airdates: November 3rd, 1960 and January 25th, 1962
Story by Joseph Petracca
Teleplay by Joseph Petracca and Harry Essex
Directed by Walter E. Grauman
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Costarring Micheal Ansara, Philip Pine, Joe DeSantis. Special Guest Star Luther Adler. Featuring Mario Roccuzzo, Malcolm Atterbury, A.G. Vitanza, Renata Vanni, Vincent Barbi, George Greco, Ronnie Haran.

“By the middle of 1933, Eliot Ness and his squad of Untouchables had almost checked the manufacture and sale of Illicit whiskey in Chicago. Yet, despite their success, one of the biggest and shrewdest operators continued to elude them. Through elaborate schemes and machinations, he continued to procure alcohol and process it. His name was Gus Marco, alias Guiseppe Marconi. On the surface, running a respectable taxi garage, but below the surface, under the cement floor of the garage, Gus Marco operated the largest illegal bottling and cutting plant in the country. A former gambler, he had been ruled off several race tracks for attempting a fix, Gus Marco had carried his habits into his current business. He believed in the payoff, the schmear, Gus was always one to put out a buck to make two.”

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