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Gang Busters

Gang Busters(1955)

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The film's opening title card reads: "Visual Drama, Inc. in association with Terry Turner presents Gang Busters." The rest of the film's onscreen credits appear at the conclusion of the picture. Although the credits indicate that Visual Drama, Inc. copyrighted the picture in 1955, the film is not included in the Copyright Catalog. The film opens with voice-over narration (by Gabriel Heatter) describing the deplorable prison conditions that have often led to jailbreaks and riots, but claims that "through the successful efforts of Governor Paul Patterson and Warden Clarence Gladden, citizens of Oregon no longer live in fear of escapes." The narration continues that Gang Busters brings the audience the story of John Omar Pinson in the hope that "the focus of our nation will be brought on penal institutions." Don Harvey, as "Detective Walsh," is then shown sitting at his desk and introduces himself as the host of the Gang Busters case. The film is presented in a semi-documentary format, with voice-over narration by Harvey heard intermittently throughout. A written statement at the end of the credits reads: "Occasionally names and places are changed to protect the innocent."
       The film is loosely based on the crimes of Omar August Pinson, also known as John Omar Pinson. Although the film states that he was the FBI's "Public Enemy No. 4," the FBI has never had a "Public Enemy" list. Pinson was number five on the bureau's first "ten most wanted" list, however. In 1936, Pinson was first arrested and jailed, and after serving several more prison terms, continued to commit burglaries. On April 15, 1947, Pinson murdered Oregon State Police Officer Delmond Rondeau and was sentenced to life imprisonment in the state penitentiary. On May 30, 1949, Pinson escaped from the prison, and, as depicted in the film, was buried alive by his fellow escapee, who believed that he had died from gunshot wounds. Pinson was re-captured in August 1950 and returned to the Oregon State Penitentiary, from which he was paroled in 1959. Pinson was also the subject of a show on the radio series Wanted. Airing in 1950 on the NBC network, "The Cop Killer of the West" gave a description of Pinson, who was still at large at the time of the broadcast, and was directed by Walter McGraw.
       Production of a feature-length film of Gang Busters was announced in November 1954. The film was based on Phillips H. Lord's long-running radio series of the same name. The radio series, featuring narrators such as Lord and H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the superintendent of the New Jersey State Police during the investigation of the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, ran from 1935 to 1957 on various networks. It was first known as G-Men and changed its name to Gang Busters shortly after its debut. The radio show spawned a popular but short-lived television series, called Gangbusters, which ran on the NBC network in 1952 and featured Lord as the narrator. The series presented purportedly "authentic police case histories" "in cooperation with police and federal law enforcement departments throughout the United States." The radio show was credited with aiding in the capture of several hundred criminals through the airing of their descriptions.
       A thirteen-chapter movie serial, entitled Gang Busters, was released by Universal in 1942. The serial was directed by Ray Taylor and Noel Smith and starred Kent Taylor. According to the Variety review, portions of the 1955 picture were shot on location in Oregon. The review also reported that the film, the first produced by General Teleradio, had already "had some striking successes in New England," where it was being distributed on a states-rights basis with support from television advertisments that "were heavy on the lurid violence aspect." In a negative review of the picture, the Los Angeles Examiner critic speculated that "this supposedly new movie has been enlarged to feature length from a shorter TV production." Although Visual Drama, Inc., a subsidiary of General Teleradio, was listed in Hollywood Reporter's television production charts as producing a number of half-hour episodes of Gang Busters, only the feature film was released.