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my inner flag was at half-mast last year when nick at nite pulled " dragnet " reruns off the air .
sure , i'd seen them all at least once , but i could always count on at least a few inadvertent laughs from ultra-serious jack webb when there was nothing else on tv .
even though " dragnet " is out of circulation at the moment , we webb anti-fans still have the d . i . , a 50's propaganda piece for the military that is almost as hilarious as the famous " blue boy " episode of " dragnet . "
for anyone like me who got laughs out of webb's rapid-fire speeches and straight-faced seriousness , think of the d . i .
as what would happen if sgt .
joe friday ever enlisted , because he plays exactly the same character here , a no-nonsense old fart who looks with disdain at the younger generation and loves to give long- winded , melodramatic speeches on any topic .
in this election year , i'm more convinced than ever that webb and bob dole were separated at birth .
the movie opens in characteristic fashion as one recruit after another knocks on webb's office door and enters .
he gives each one a different series of cranky criticisms before the credits come up .
the " produced and directed by jack webb " card pretty much goes without saying .
this is his movie all the way , and after the first twenty minutes of him chewing out his recruits for no reason , i was wondering if there would even be a plot .
i certainly would have been entertained by an hour and a half of trademark webb rants , but the d . i .
gives us more -- much more .
webb's mission is to make a man out of private owens , the local screw-up .
the captain gives webb three days to convert owens into marine material or , the captain will " personally cut the lace off his panties and ship him out myself . "
( whether the " lace panties " part refers to webb or owens remains unanswered . )
this , of course , gives webb an excuse to focus all his crotchety energy on making owens' life a living hell .
for those of you who haven't been indoctrinated into the pleasures of webb watching , here's a reprint of a typical monologue of his .
i can't duplicate his hilarious delivery on paper , but the words should at least partially convey what i'm talking about . . .
" now you listen to me , youngster .
someday you'll wake up fighting on a beach and you'll pray to god somebody doesn't get killed because of your foolishness . . .
i've got a headline for you : every time you make one of those little mistakes of yours , you're gonna turn around and i'll be standing right there . "
i couldn't write down all the reprintable dialogue from the d . i .
( nearly all of it belongs in the bad movie hall of fame ) , but i tried to include some of the more noteworthy lines , like one from the scene where webb unwinds from a hard day's work by going to the local bar ( where he orders a tomato juice ) .
he meets a woman who , coincidentally , also orders tomato juice but walks away from a typically-stimulating conversation with webb to flirt with his arch-rival , another marine d . i .
webb marches over to the table , gets up in her face and says , " just what kind of a dame do you think you are ? "
bogart he ain't .
the other d . i .
gets one of the few memorable non-webb lines when he confesses to the girl , " he's a damn good d . i .
. . .
i guess i'm just a little jealous . "
join the club , we're all jealous of jack webb's way with women , which is showcased even more amusingly in a later scene , as webb finds his way to the woman's place of employment , a lingerie store , and stands around looking incredibly flustered at the negligees on display .
" you expect me to talk to you . . .
in _here_ ? ! " he exclaims , no doubt intimidated by the barrage of bras .
the woman goes off to help a customer , leaving webb to fend for himself once again in this palace of estrogen .
a little girl spots him in the store and demands , " what are you doing in here . . . you're a man , aren't you ? "
he doesn't reply , but you know he's thinking in his head , " what an odd species of human -- so small .
must be one of those children everyone's been talking about . "
this poor girl , scarred for life by her early encounter with jack webb , would later swear off the male gender entirely , just one of the many lesbian conversions he's responsible for .
the movie doesn't focus too closely on webb's romance , it also continues the owens subplot with probably the most memorable scene in the entire movie , where webb forces his platoon to spend the entire night searching the ground for a flea owens killed during one of their drills .
after two privates hatch a scheme to present webb with the wrong dead flea , webb asks owens , " was that flea you killed a male or female ? "
owens replies , " a male , sir . "
webb yells to the platoon , " this ain't the one ! "
that such a scene ( along with the rest of the movie ) was intended to be taken seriously defies comment .
but we know it was all presented with the utmost seriousness when a title card at the end thanks the marines not only for their cooperation in the making of the d . i . , but for iwo jima , guadalcanal and every other major battle of the first half of the 20th century .
webb held the military in such high esteem that all the soldiers in the movie ( with the exception of owens ) were played by actual marines .
someone wanting to parody this movie couldn't do a more comical job than webb did .
it makes it all the more ironic ( like raeeyain on your wedding day ) that the man had no sense of humor himself .
there's a scene in the movie where the guys are on their break time discussing something and one of them breaks into laughter .
webb bursts in the room and shouts , " what did i tell you about laughing ? ! "
to which the private replies , " sir , only nine-year-old girls laugh , sir ! "
and let me tell you , i was as happy as a nine-year- old girl while watching this movie .