Thursday, December 15, 2016


Hokay, you've seen many a tee-vee show like LAWBREAKER o'er the years whether it be via one of those AMERIGA'S MOST WANTED and COPS on-the-scene-as-it-happens reality programs that have cluttered up the cathodes these past thirtysome years...series that were part documentary and part drama with everyone from the victims and arresting ossifers to the crimnuls themselves taking part in the on-screen festivities. But LAWBREAKER was way better  'n any of these if only because it came out during the fab '63-'64 tee-vee season (first year for THE OUTER LIMITS and FIREBALL XL-5, last year for THE TWILIGHT ZONE) which was just as good as '62-'63 and '64-'65 and even better'n '75-'76 which was the last good season with regards to the kinda tee-vee we all like! Yeah, back then tee-vee really was attuned to the fun and action-addled minds of people like us, and a show like this really kept up glued to the boob tube when we could have been doing less culturally dutiful things like our homework, singing folk songs, going on freedom rides and all of those noble activities that I guess people in 1963 were doing which in the long run look pretty silly if you ask me!

's kinda hard to describe this ' and narrator Lee Marvin (who had a pretty busy time during the '63-'64 season what with not only here but with appearances on THE TWILIGHT ZONE and GREAT ADVENTURE) spends the entire series in what looks like a stripped down television control booth describing to us the criminals and acts at hand while the story is being played out before our very eyes, sometimes by the actual victims and officers themselves doing some of the best one-D stiff acting imaginable. (Sheesh, you'd at least think that those teenage gals in Pittsburgh who were kidnapped woulda shown some real emote on-screen like they obviously must've in real life!!!)  Many times Marvin interviews the criminals themselves from the prison where they always seem to be so contrite and embarrassed by it can only wonder if it is because they are that contrite or because these killers and thieves think that if they put up a good front their sentences are gonna be reduced. Whatever, when you put the re-enactments, interviews and Marvin's hard-edged hosting abilities together you get one of them shows that really woulda hooked ya to the point where you'd most definitely quit the bowling league if this just happened to be on the same night in those pre-VCR days.

Most of LAWBREAKER does have that raw DRAGNET-styled sense of urgency. Marvin plays it his natural cool and tough self throughout (I guess he hadda do something to counterbalance the at-times grade-zilchville acting from the real-life participants) whether talking about the search for a rare blood type donor or high school kids stabbing each other just for kicks. The stories are seat-gluing and at times unbelievably gruesome like the one from Rochester where some teenage gal was molested and murdered by some kiddie diddler who just hadda remark that there's one like him in every town! Sheesh, no wonder the neighbors keep eyeing me like that!

Even creepier is the one from Long Beach California where these always on the move criminals are running an abortion racket with one dead victim getting bagged and tossed in a viaduct and an actual woman who had one talking behind a screen about her experience. Since this woman is identified as being an actress I kinda wonder just who the gal who slipped the sucker is hard to discern because her face is hidden and the voice can't be placed and as usual so trying to put the sparse clues together is just driving me crazy! Just hope it ain't someone I used to like such as that lady who used to give out Hostess cakes to the kids from a Dutch door that used to run when I was but a mere turdler!

But what really is striking about this particular episode is that, years later, none other'n Marvin was called out by former palimony squeeze Michele Triola because back when the two were an item he allegedly forced her into getting a couple of uterine slurpers! During the palimony trial Triola was crying and moaning to the press about her shame and guilt over them, and after watching this 'un I woulda kinda thought that Marvin mighta learned something about the emotional effects abortions can have on those who get 'em. But obviously...he didn't.

Well, it still is kinda hard to get through my bean that the actor on the screen is playing a role and that a certain role most certainly will differ from movie to tee-vee show, totally forgetting that real life most certainly ain't acting one bit. After all, I remember the Skipper talking to Gilligan in that RESCUE FROM GILLIGAN'S ISLAND special about how there actually are good movies being made and they don't need to have any nudity in them to succeed, explaining this with all of the solemn heartfelt emote that Hardy must have used when explaining the facts of life to Laurel. The funny thing is that Alan Hale Jr. previously acted in the recommended modern-western update THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN which had some boob flashes innit, and that single role seems to have blown the fambly-type entertainment roles Hale was known for right out the porthole of the Minnow ifyaknowaddamean... Sheesh, ya can't trust even yer faves anymore!

And, of course, at the end of each LAWBREAKER the chief of police of whatever town the show takes place in appears from his desk to read a pre-prepared encapsulation about the crime and the police work that was done with all the conviction of a fourth grader standing in front of the class with a report on the tapioca crop in Guyana. What better way could you think of capping a show that goes from hard-knuckled narration to drama to documentary without you even realizing it???

1 comment:

Bill S. said...

Chris, Glad you are bringing attention to this amazing series. I didn't remember it AT ALL (although it before I was even in Kindergarten, so my parents would probably have kept me away from it), but I did get this DVD set as you did, and it was mind-blowing. Did Lee Marvin have a huge divorce settlement to pay off? Did he have big gambling debts? Hard to believe that a major star would appear in something this cheesy. It is certainly an extension of his M SQUAD and general tough-guy persona, and anyone who loves Lee Marvin, will go ape-shit over this show!
There are so many appealing things about this show...I don't know where to start.
First of all, that odd TV screen "frame" through which parts of the show are seen...and the odd "control room" where Marvin does his narrations from.
I also love the way that some of the police officials and characters pretend to be talking to Lee Marvin.
Of course, Lee Marvin could read the phone book and be convincing and entertaining, and this kind of gruff hard-boiled crime content is made-to-order for Marvin's delivery.
This show is SO MUCH better than the reality-tv crime things that have been on for the last 25 years. It's kind of like a low-budget hard boiled crime film, but directed by Larry Buchanan and hosted by Lee Marvin.
BTC fans should run, not walk, to their computer and do an online order for this show ASAP. It's provided me with hours and hours of hard-boiled "real people" entertainment from a period when REAL old-school crime films and TV shows were still being made. It's as uncomfortable and awkward and tawdry as real life!