TV Review: The Man Behind the Badge
It’s back to the big box set of old TV shows with this anthology series that ran 1953-55, with Charles Bickford as the host. This one is interesting because it didn’t concentrate on one law enforcement agency or type of crime, instead featuring public servants of all kinds.
The stories are based on actual events, with all names except that of the civil servant himself changed to protect the innocent. My DVD had six episodes:
- “The Case of the Dying Past” A district attorney for a small city in Vermont receives anonymous complaints that a harness shop owner is engaging in loan sharking. When he investigates, the shop owner engages in a rant about how people these days don’t appreciate hard work and craftsmanship, like this here horsewhip. They’re lazy whiners who want handouts. Not that he’s admitting to the loan sharking. Before the DA can find enough evidence to move ahead, the loan shark is murdered and the DA must solve the crime. Notable for the first suspect telling what appears to be a cock and bull story, but is actually true.
- “The Case of the Priceless Passport” Foreign nationals have been entering the United States with really good fake American passports. Two men from the immigration service go undercover in Mexico to track down the forgers. Some tense scenes in an abandoned warehouse, and particularly good performances by the villains’ actors. An interesting time capsule from when Mexicans weren’t the people we were worried about coming in from Mexico.
- “The Case of the Capital Crime” Security guards at a department store in Washington, D.C. are murdered during a robbery. The police detective assigned to the case is able to determine the killer must have worked at the store within the last six months and be over six feet tall. That narrows the list of suspects considerably, but actually catching the killer is another matter. The case is resolved when an act of kindness by the detective has an unexpected dividend.
- “The Case of the Hot Stock” A man from the Bureau of Securities based in Lincoln, Nebraska, tracks down a conman who selling fake oil well ownership certificates. This one was very painful to watch, as most of the episode was dedicated to the conman romancing a lonely spinster to take her money. The government man is finally moved to crush her romantic dreams by the most direct demonstration of the criminal’s perfidy he can manage.
- “The Case of the Hunted Hobo” Young couples are being robbed on Chicago’s Lover’s Lane. After one victim gives a important clue to where the robber hides, a police officer goes undercover as a hobo to track him down. Aaron Spelling(!) has a bit part as a Lover’s Lane Romeo.
- “The Case of Operation Sabotage” A B-47 Aircraft Commander at a base near Riverside, California notices some odd behavior on the part of one of his crew’s wife. As there’s a big training mission coming up, tensions are heightened, and he’s not sure if there’s really something going on or if she’s naturally curious. The episode touches a bit on the strain military secrecy can cause in a marriage, and there’s a huge twist at the end.
Some nice writing and the variety of public servants profiled make this an interesting find. Some episodes are online.