This is a major find for connoisseurs of adult-oriented classic TV, a tough-minded noir-style cop show from the 1950s that was naturalistic and hard-nosed and featured evocative black-and-white cinematography and on-location urban settings. It also had mean-street stories without sentimentality or kitsch.
M Squad starred one of the best actors possible for its subject: no-nonsense, prematurely gray ex-Marine Lee Marvin as Lt. Frank Ballinger of an elite Chicago investigative police squad. Marvin went on to be the star of such tough films as The Dirty Dozen, Point Blank and The Big Red One.
(He also won an Oscar for a comic turn in Cat Ballou.)
Unlike the stiffly one-dimensional Jack Webb of Dragnet, which aired during the same era as M Squad, Marvin was a strong actor who could play the heavy with enough humor and wryness to show his humanity. Like Bogart. It’s a treat just watching his eyes wander or his head tilt as he scours Chicago for criminals. He also provides the narration.
M Squad lasted for three seasons, 1957-1960, on NBC and didn’t shy away from depicting the sordid side of urban life. In the very first episode, a robber’s getaway car crashes into an innocent driver, killing a father and son. The mother attempts suicide after identifying the bodies.
This 15-disc set contains all 117 episodes of the series. Besides Marvin, there are such guests as Angie Dickinson, Burt Reynolds and Leonard Nimoy and a brash, jazzy score. Grade: A