The Nick Moses Story – Episode Review

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THE NICK MOSES STORY

Airdates: February 23rd, 1961 and August 10th, 1961
Written by John Mantley
Directed by Herman Hoffman
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer 
Special Guest Star Harry Guardino
Co-starring Bruce Gordon, Michael Constantine, and Joe DeSantis
Featuring Richard Bakalyan, Herman Rudin, Peter Mamakos, and Rick Marcelli

“Three weeks after the conviction of Al Capone on the ironic charge of income tax evasion, the Justice Department of the United States had called its leading law enforcers from every major city to fly to Washington to testify on behalf of an anti-racketeering bill, which would widen the jurisdiction of federal law enforcement officers, and put teeth in their fight against the underworld.” Read More

The Underground Court – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2

THE UNDERGROUND COURT

Airdates: February 16th, 1961, July 6th, 1961
Written by Leonard Kantor
Directed by Don Medford
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer 
Special Guest Star Joan Blondell
Co-starring Richard Devon, Frank De Kova
Featuring Eddie Firestone, Vic Perrin, John Duke, William Fawcett, Arthur Kendall

“September 8th, 1934, 5:15 a.m. The Morrow Castle, an American cruise liner returning from Cuba with 318 passengers and a crew of 231, was ablaze off Spring Lake, New Jersey. All efforts to curb the fire were in vain. At the same time, Eliot Ness, acting on reports from Cuban agents, was racing down the Jersey coast to the scene of the disaster, where passengers and crew were being pulled out of the sea. Ness was on his way to arrest passenger Valentine Ferrar, racketeer, gambler, disbarred lawyer and founder of the Big Syndicate. It was reported that Ferrar had collected for the Syndicate, then in control of most of the U. S. criminal world, over a million dollars from their interests in Havana.” Read More

Augie “The Banker” Ciamino – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2

AUGIE “THE BANKER” CIAMINO

Airdates: February 9th and June 29th, 1961
Written by Adrian Spies
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
Produced by Herman Hoffman
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Keenan Wynn
Co-starring Will Kaluva, Sam Jaffe, Lee Phillips
Featuring Harry Dean Stanton, Bernard Kates, Rebecca Welles, Bernie Fein

“More than anything else the war between Eliot Ness and the ganglords was a war over the Prohibition era’s most prized liquid asset: alcohol. By 1931, with a series of slashing raids on secret distilleries, it looked as though the Untouchables were actually managing to dry up the arrogant, illegal, multi-million-dollar racket. But the nimble minds of the underworld kingpins were to regroup their angry forces. With shocking speed, the underworld bosses found another way to get their whisky made. Taking advantage of the poverty and the desperation of many immigrant families during those depression days, the racketeers had devised a home still that could be put together for less than three dollars. The man picked to run this new illicit empire was Augie Ciamino, absolute boss of Chicago’s Little Italy. In a short time, his home-cooker operation was canceling out the Untouchables’ gains. Whisky flowed from a thousand tenement kitchens. Ciamino spent most of his time counting profits—until the night of August 16th, the night of a street festival on Haver Street.”
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The Jamaica Ginger Story – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2

THE JAMAICA GINGER STORY

Airdates: February 2nd, 1961 and March 15th, 1962
Written by Joseph Petracca
Directed by John Peyser
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Brian Keith
Featuring Michael Ansara, James Coburn, Alfred Ryder, June Dayton, Jane Inness, Harry Holcomb, Jr., Clegg Hoyt, Hank Patterson, Byron Morrow.
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The Organization – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2

THE ORGANIZATION

Airdate: January 26th, 1961
Written by Harry Kronman
Directed by Walter E. Grauman
Produced by Alan Armer
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Richard Conte
Co-starring Susan Oliver, Milton Selzer, Oscar Beregi
Featuring Richard Karlan, Thom Carney, Grant Richards, John Harmon, Russ Bender, Robert Beecher

“The bookies had given four-to-one against him, but on May 3rd, 1932, through the efforts of Eliot Ness and the Untouchables, Al Capone was convicted and taken out of circulation. Out of circulation, but not out of business. Frank Nitti was holding the organization together. Although the Capone mob still made a big noise, it wasn’t the same. The lion was down and the jackals were already slashing at his flanks. But there were other lions. One of the biggest was Joe Kulak, from St. Louis. Kulak, the one they called The Teacher, because he had trained so many underworld big shots. He had given them their start. He still gave them their orders. On November the 9th, 1932, alerted by federal authorities in St. Louis, the Untouchables watched Kulak arrive. Their job: to find out what he was doing in Chicago. ” 

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The Masterpiece – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2

THE MASTERPIECE

Airdates: January 19th, 1961 and August 31, 1961
Written by David Z. Goodman
Directed by Walter E. Grauman
Produced by Lloyd Richards
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Rip Torn
Co-starring Bruce Gordon, George Voskovec, Robert Middleton
Featuring Harry Shannon, Joseph Ruskin, Addison Richards, Alexander Lockwood

“With the conviction and jailing of Al Capone, the richest plum of the Capone empire, the operation of the speakeasies and the breweries in the heart of Chicago, was split into two parts. The speakeasies were acquired by Meyer Wartel. Wartel was a Capone lieutenant. Distinguishing characteristics: killer, and hypochondriac. The breweries and distilleries were acquired by Carl Positan. Positan, too, was a Capone lieutenant. Distinguishing characteristic: killer. In a bold effort to take over the entire operation, Positan had withheld the whisky and beer, which Wartel needed to run his speakeasies. As a result, the number of speakeasies flourishing in Illinois’ largest city, dropped to an all-time Prohibition low. The tremendous loss in speakeasy revenue brought Frank Nitti, Capone’s collector, face to face with Meyer Wartel.” 

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Part Two of The Big Train – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2

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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Part One of The Big Train – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2

PART ONE OF THE BIG TRAIN

Airdate: January 5th, 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 Bruce Gordon
Featuring Richard Carlyle, Gavin MacLeod, Lewis Charles, Frank London, Lalo Rios

“On October 17th, 1931, in a federal district courthouse, the trial of Scarface Al Capone, which had lasted eleven days, came to an end. The man responsible for the arrest and conviction of Capone was Eliot Ness. Ironically, the two men, opposing chiefs in a bitter warfare, had never met. And although Capone, as he was taken from the Chicago courtroom on November 24th, 1931, passed within a few yards of Ness, he did not recognize the leader of The Untouchables.”

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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