(Frightfully) Good Monsters
Definitely Everything I Need, Maybe, I Think

(A Very Good) Crime Story

Cap008"When this is over, I'm gonna find what you love the most and I'm gonna kill it."  (Chicago Detective Mike Torello, to bad-guy/weasel Pauli Taglia, in the Pilot for the TV series Crime Story.)

That kind of comment from Lt. Torello is par for the course in this gritty two-season cop drama from 1986-1988.  I remember it well, from the opening music, "Runaway," sung by Del Shannon, to the good acting by all concerned, to the music soundtrack from Todd Rundgren. 

Cap006Crime Story was set in the Chicago of 1963 and pits the boys of the Chicago PD's Major Crime Unit, headed by Lt. Mike Torello (played by Dennis Farina who, before his acting days, had actually been a Chicago cop for 18 years!) against a young, ruthless rising mobster, Ray Luca (played by Anthony John Denison).  It's good versus evil, and yet these cops do things good cops now don't generally do.  A few examples from the Pilot episode will give you the gist of it:  Torello lies on the stand in a courtroom hearing, roughs up a thug (an uncharged thug, that is), kidnaps another mobster and ties him to a water tower high above the city, and beats down doors and searches house sans warrant.  And these are the good guys!

Then again, it's 1963 and its Chicago, where judges can be bribed, the mob runs much of the city, and we did not yet know all that the Constitution really meant (that is, the Supreme Court, headed by Earl Warren, enlightened us).  And evil is so plainly evil here.  In the Pilot alone, Ray Luca whacks (that is, cold-bloodedly murders) no less than four people, even people who thought him a friend and partner (like Johnny O'Donnell, played by the red-haired Danny Caruso, who would go on to play in the first seasons of NYPD Blue).

But, for all the gritty realism, I like the show.  The characters seem real to me, and besides, I love period pieces and cop stories.  Indeed, the actor who played mobster Pauli Taglia, John Santucci, had actually been one of Chicago's most notorious criminals in the 1960s!)  I recommend Crime Story, now available on DVD, for any fan of NYPD Blue, Homicide, Law and Order, or their forerunner, Hill Street Blues.  When good prevails, we can applaud.

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