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In Billy Wilder’s classic, The Apartment, a sleazy corporate exec tries to schedule an after-hours tryst with one of the company’s switchboard operators. "Thursday?" she protests. "But that’s The Untouchables with Bob Stack." "So we’ll watch it at the apartment," the exec placates her. "Big deal." As Wilder’s shout-out indicates, The Untouchables was a big deal. Hot off Robert Stack’s Emmy-winning performance as Treasury Agent Elliot Ness, The Untouchables blasted its way into the Nielsen Top Ten in its second season, which begins in a blaze of glory with the episode, "The Rusty Heller Story," featuring Elizabeth Montgomery in her Emmy-nominated role as the "no good" showgirl who plays two mobsters and a corrupt lawyer against each other (Bewitched fans will note that the lawyer with whom she gets very chummy is portrayed by David White, the future Larry Tate!). More than four decades later, with its film noir sensibility, smart-writing, hard-boiled dialogue, and plenty of what Rusty Heller calls, "boom-boom action," The Untouchables is still as potent (but not as deadly) as a bottle of ginger jake. The 16 episodes contained on this four-disc set tell some great (albeit suspect) stories of the kingpins, criminals, and hoodlums who thought they had "the guts" to move in on Al Capone’s tottering empire. Among the most arresting are "The Big Train," a gripping two-parter featuring Neville Brand reprising his role as Capone, who plots his escape while en route to Alcatraz, "Jamaica Ginger," featuring James Coburn and Brian Keith as a couple of "torpedoes" hired by a gangster to kill his rival, a plan complicated when one falls in love with a schoolteacher, and "The Purple Gang," about Detroit’s feared gang that kidnaps an underling (Werner "Colonel Klink" Klemperer) with Capone ties. Joining Ness’s incorruptible squad this season is Paul Picerni as Agent Lee Hobson, but it’s Stack’s show all the way. He gets to slap wiseguys around ("Answer the question, punk") and deliver the best lines. When one goon tells him he has no respect for the dead, Ness replies, "Sometimes, even less for the living." His relentless war against the underworld sometimes comes at a terrible price. When one innocent woman is gunned down, the killers taunt, "Satisfied, Mr. Ness?" But, of course, that just steels his resolve. As for this set, we’re satisfied, even without any bonus features, and the now common (and criminal) practice of season splitting.

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PA131944 Untouchables, The Season 2 Volume 1 DVD (1961/Robert Stack) $16.99