Wednesday, August 1, 2012

FEDERAL MEN

Since the earliest days of television, audiences have loved seeing police procedurals. Watching the forces of law and order hunt down, trap and punish the guilty has never failed to bring in big ratings. On such early program was TREASURY MEN IN ACTION, which ran for five seasons on ABC and NBC between 1950 and 1955. The show was later syndicated as FEDERAL MEN, and now, Film Chest brings a select group of these episodes to DVD in a new, three-disc "Collector's Set."

As the original title indicates, FEDERAL MEN chronicled the exploits of agents of the United States Treasury Department as they went after counterfeiters, tax evaders, bootleggers, smugglers and other nefarious felons. Essentially an anthology program, allegedly based on genuine "closed files," the show had no regular cast members aside from the unnamed Chief (Walter Greaza), and each half-hour episode was a stand-alone story.

The episodes included in this set are all from the series' final year, as no kinescope film elements from the previous seasons - which were broadcast live - appear to have survived. Despite their short length and shoestring budgets, they're all fairly entertaining little crime tales with a surprising amount of action, directed by low-budget veterans like William "One-Shot" Beaudine (BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA, BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA) and Leigh Jason. Among the actors appearing in these episodes are Carolyn Jones (THE ADDAMS FAMILY), Gloria Talbott (I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE), and George Wallace (FORBIDDEN PLANET).

Pretty much all of these particular episodes of FEDERAL MEN are available from various budget DVD labels (usually as part of those public domain "classic TV" compilations), with varying degrees of audio and visual quality. This "Collector's Edition" DVD set from Film Chest presents 16 black & white, 30-minute episodes in their original 4x3, 1.33:1 aspect ratio across three discs. Picture quality is, well, pretty poor, with each episode heavily littered with specks, scratches and other debris. Overall image quality is unnaturally smooth and devoid of texture/fine details, suggesting a fairly heavy digital noise-reduction scrubbing was applied to the source materials (a Film Chest trademark, unfortunately). Audio is 2.0 Mono, and is noisy but more-or-less adequate. No extras have been included.

If you're a fan of 50s crime series, and don't already have FEDERAL MEN in one of its other DVD incarnations, this set may be worth picking up because of the rather nice packaging and the fact that it contains most of the surviving episodes in one convenient collection. But don't go into it looking for pristine prints or a frame-by-frame digital restoration. These 60 year-old programs definitely show their age... and then some.

BUYFederal Men 3-Disc Set (16 Episodes)