Saturday, May 14, 2022


American Ozu?

Jack Webb's 1954 feature Dragnet might be the ne plus ultra of the police procedural with its rat-tat-tat voiceover that only begins by slinging down: "Monday, April 25th, 9am." Investigative obsession: nothing can shake Joe Friday from the trail: a relentless, badgering, one can even say fascistic dedication to the cause of Law and Order. His interrogation method — and he's all interrogation, a man-machine deprogrammed of human pleasantry — might be kindly characterized as "pushy," even "Aspergerian." Fast and furious does the scenario pummel out the details of the case, knocking the wind out of the image's Ozu-like objectivity (see the detail of the frame above) and the images' razor-keen découpage. Sound versus image in a duel between the told and the shown. (Did Jack Webb know of Dragnet Girl?) 

(On a_film_by in 2004, Jonathan Rosenbaum pointed out the comparison of Webb to Ozu made by Thom Andersen in Los Angeles Plays Itself, while Richard Modiano wrote: "[A] reason Dragnet was associated with the right was Jack Webb's anti-communism as expressed in the fantasy film he introduced and which was shown in schools. It was called something like "When the Communists Take Over America," and came to be regarded as low camp. Here in Los Angeles during the '50s and '60s Webb was a prominent supporter of conservative causes, for those who know this back story taints the '60s show. Be that as it may, the 1950s Dragnet has some intelligent formal ideas working for it that make it worth viewing again.")


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