It’s 2:20 am
One of my favorite shows of all time is the classic cop show “Dragnet”. I watched both TV series and listened to the radio show as well. Webb’s Sgt Joe Friday will always be credited for helping put law enforcement in a positive light. Because of the hard work Webb put into “Dragnet”,it led to two other classic shows being created that influenced America’s, “Adam-12″ and of course,”Emergency!”.
What is less known and talked about is Jack Webb on the big screen. He actually made a few big screen movies as well and thanks to our streetwise informant at Warner Brothers Archive,the cheetah and I get to check out one of Webb’s more interesting films,”The D.I.”.
Webb plays T/Sgt Jim Moore,the toughest Drill Instructor on Parris Island. His job is to train and shape young men into fine Marines. His latest group is rounding out fine except for Private Owens (Don Dubbins) who is always looking for a way to get discharged. That would ruin Moore’s spotless record of never having a boot drop out.
Moore knows Owens has what it takes but can’t seem to find the secret to unlock the young man’s potential. Moore’s company commander,Captain Anderson (Lin McCarthy) is growing weary of Owens and is inclined to give him his wish and discharge him. Moore goes to bat for Owens and tells the Captain to give him some more time. Anderson agrees but reminds Moore his patience is running low.
As far as the platoon goes,Moore is one tough instructor,he is loud and abrasive but always with purpose,to keep these young men alive in combat. The drills are tough,the exercises are long and tiring but Moore is relentless,he is not a friend but when he is by himself or other drill instructors,he lets on he is proud of his boots.
Moore and his friend Nelson head off base for a little R & R at little off the books roadhouse that caters to the military. He clashes with a fellow young instructor named Joey who makes fun of Moore’s “fruit salad” on his uniform. Things get a little tense but Moore and Nelson walk away from it. They take in a rowdy little rockabilly singer named Burt’s (Monica Lewis) risque number and enjoy a drink.
Moore then tries to talking to a pretty girl but it doesn’t go so well,he has a hard time turning off the Marine and he is awkward in social settings. The girl,Anne (Jackie Loughery),then sits with Joey to share a drink. Moore walks over to apologize but when Joey spouts off a little too much,Moore pops him one and leaves.
Anne is a little surprised that Joey is smiling more then he is upset,while he has been needling Moore,it turns out that Joey was a boot under him and he has nothing but respect for Moore. Anne is now curious about Moore…
During a exercise,Owens fouls up again when the platoon is ordered to drop and not move. When a sand flea bites him on the face,Owens reacts and kills it,giving away the platoon’s position. Moore instantly jumps on him and asks him why he moved and that would have equaled several dead Marines,including Owens.
As punishment,Moore orders the platoon to march out in full gear to find the dead sand flea and give it a proper burial. This in turn starts to turn several of the boots against Owens and he decides to “go over the hill”,to desert. A few of his fellows boots try and talk him down but he goes anyways….but Moore finds him and talks to him,he learns about Owens losing two brothers in Korea. He sends him to the barracks.
Meanwhile Moore goes to Anne’s work and once again is put in awkward position with Anne,including kissing her in the backroom of her job before leaving in frustration because Anne won’t leave work to be with him.
With Captain Anderson giving him three days to straightened out Owens and his very rocky attempt at romance with Anne going nowhere,Moore gets some unexpected help from two very different people in order to save Owens and to show Moore there is a life outside his beloved Marine Corp. What becomes a rescue mission for one turns into a mission for two lives to be saved….
This was a very interesting little movie. In a famous training incident at Parris Island count the Marines six recruits on a night time forced march,the Corp was taking a beating in the public’s eye. Concerns and charges about the rough training was on everyone’s mind and the Marine’s needed a little help in burnishing its battered reputation. Not only did Webb get much needed support but his platoon was made of real Marines in active service. It’s a nice added touch.
Jack Webb was growing tired of playing Joe Friday and he wanted to make movies.
His last attempt,”Pete Kelly’s Blues” has received mixed reviews and he wanted to try again. He decided he wanted to make a armed forces picture. He saw a show on TV,a story called “The Murder of a Sand Flea” by James Lee Barrett and decided to film it as a movie. He made the movie for Warner Brothers and the Marine Corp threw their total support to Webb,who produced and directed “The D.I.”.
Is the movie good? Personally,I think the story was a little on the thin side,it really didn’t like anything was happening at the base. There wasn’t very much interaction between Webb’s Moore and Dubbin’s Owen…and showing Moore constantly on Owens never leads to wondering how Moore knows Owens will make a good soldier.
But the biggest quirk is watching Jack Webb act with a woman,it is completely uncomfortable and that includes Dragnet. His Moore is a brute,grabbing Anne in the backroom when he kisses her,a later confrontation when she gets on him about not having a life outside the Corps and he raises his hand to strike her. You could argue that was the “time period” but go back to the Dragnet revival and watch Webb’s interactions,he wasn’t married 4 times for nothing,including a hitch with his co-star of this film,Jackie Loughery It’s unsettling to watch. His Moore as a Drill Instructor is quite good and it is a highlight but a thin plot and questionable morals sink this one for me.
“The D.I.” has a run time of 91 minutes and has no special features. While unrated,I would consider a PG-13 for themes.
You can buy this film by going to the Warner Brothers Archive page.
What are your thoughts? Are you a big Jack Webb fan? What was your favorite episode of “Dragnet”? Leave a comment below!!