I was recently pointed (sorry, forgot who by) at one of my two favorite Dragnet (1969) episodes. This one concerns the theft of comic books and movie posters for a made-up character, Captain Lightning. The episode moves along at a speed as slow and even as one of those battery-powered jeeps a kid can sit in and drive. Joe and Bill banter briefly, get the call, go look at some crime scenes, ask some questions, and then they get a call that the suspect has been picked up, so they go talk to him a while, and that's about it.
The suspect is a 23-year-old with self-esteem problems who dresses up as "The Crimson Crusader" (fashion note: apart from the letters CC and a cummerbund, nothing in his costume is red) and busts in to steal posters and memorabilia of his hero. Most of the movie posters — which would all seem to have been created for this episode — are somewhat weak and lacking in design quality, but there are two good ones of Captain Lightning that would be fun to find or duplicate. "I wish I were Captain Lightning," the perpetrator sobs at the end, leaving twin tears on the face of a poster, "Any time he wanted to, he could turn invisible."
In real life, Alan White wrote about a fan in California who shared many characteristics of the Crimson Crusader, though not the costume. He would get an invitation to visit somebody with a collection — Forry Ackerman was a prominent victim — and find ways to rip him off. For instance, he was able to leave a door unlocked on a visit to the Ackermansion, and he came back in the night to pilfer collector's items. It was in a fairly early issue in the series, which I can't seem to find online.
The acting and direction in the show was typical. Nobody except Stanley Stover — the Crimson Crusader — showed emotion at any time. All seemed like they were reading or perhaps sleepwalking. Any scene where Joe spoke to a suspect or witness was mostly filmed in that trademark Dragnet style where each actor is shown all by himself, giving the impression that their lines were filmed in different states, possibly in different years.
The episode is available with limited ads at hulu
. I watched it today, at a comfortably large size and with only three brief commercial breaks within the show (and one before it). I tried to see if any of the actors in it ever went on to do any acting, but at the moment when production credits came on, it shrunk to the size of a wristwatch and would neither enlarge nor pause for me to squint at the actors' names, though I pressed buttons and tapped keys like the telegraph operator on the Titanic.
My other favorite Dragnet in that series also has a color-coordinated perp, the classic "Blue Boy" anti-drug lecture. Blue Boy is a smirking hippie dope pusher who knows they're coming for him at the end. Joe and Bill enter his smelly crash pad and have dialog with another member of his commune, and the dialog goes something like this: "It's Blue Boy, man. He just put every pill in the house into a big bowl and ate them all, and now he's like just been sitting in that corner for the last three hours. Is he flying, man? Is he way out?" "Yeah. He's way out, all right. He's so far out he'll never come back. He's... dead." (I was disappointed that they didn't come back after the break and tell us that Blue Boy's remains were serving ten to fifteen in San Quantin.) I could probably look it up as well and maybe find it, but I'll save that for another day.
All this puts me in mind of my favorite Bob and Ray quote: "The suspect apprehended at the intersection of LaBrea and Rossmore was found guilty of three counts of being apprehended and one count of being a suspect. Apprehended suspects are liable to a term of not more than ten years in the correctional institute at Soledad."
Domm da domm domm.