CITY WITHOUT A NAME
Airdate: December 14, 1961
Written by John Mantley
Directed by Paul Wendkos
Produced by Lloyd Richards
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Co-starring Paul Richards, Mike Kellin, Bruce Gordon
Featuring Theodore Marcuse, George Keymas, Vic Perrin, Joseph Breen, Harvey Stephens, William Boylett
“1933; the most violent era in the history of America. Chicago exploding with crime; New York, a city of terror. St. Louis, Detroit, New Orleans, Kansas City, and almost every big town across the country, corruption, and violence were reaching an all-time high. The outstanding exception: an Eastern seaboard metropolis which even now must remain unnamed. A city which had used the ballot box to blast corruption out of public office. Federal agent Arnold Weybright had managed to keep the bloody finger of organized crime out of the city without a name, but, at 9:42 AM October, 22nd…”
When a federal agent is gunned down, Ness finds himself in the middle of a power play between the Chicago syndicate and local mobster Lou Mungo (Mike Kellin), who is attempting to open up the previously organized crime-free city to bootlegging and gambling. The opportunity is grand enough to warrant Frank Nitti’s personal attention.
“The syndicate threat which had started in Chicago twelve days before ended in flames on November 4th, 1933. With the power play blocked, Eliot Ness and the Untouchables returned home.”
This otherwise typically engaging Mantley teleplay is marred by a slow narrative waltz, a talky and faux-aristocratic antagonist, and by its conclusion.
The last three minutes are lifted lock, stock, and truck crash from The King Of Champagne. It was not enough that a portion of the earliest minutes was lifted from Part 1 of The Unhired Assassin in which Svoboda’s Cafe loses many of its windows in the attempt on Mayor Cermak, but that the final minutes have been seen before as well. A rather shameless bit of thievery that was unnecessary and unwise for a series that had just won four of six Emmy nominations for its quality and originality. By this time in the Third Season, in an overt effort to cut costs, the cannibalization of footage from previous episodes was no longer constrained just to mere montages, but entire sequences.
Perhaps the high point of the hour is a minor confrontation between Ness and Mike Kellin’s Lou Mungo. Casually munching grapes in an overstuffed chair, Mungo waxes indifferent to Ness’s advances. Ness, seizing an opportunity leans down, plucks a grape, and imagines how Mungo, with the federal government on one side and Nitti on the other could get easily get squeezed, whereupon the mobster entertains an eyeful of grape juice.
Otherwise, City Without a Name is an hour without much sizzle. The narrative conceit of using the death of a fellow federal man to lure Eliot Ness to the scene will start to feel familiar. Mantley may have been onto something had the hour been about concerned citizens fighting corruption or to preserve their city’s honor and legacy and indeed, Mungo makes a great buzz about his list of names and local contacts, but the intentionally obscured name of the city is nothing more than faux sensationalism in the window dressing of a Winchell narration. As such, the city’s name – and the episode for which it is not named – are unmoving.