Code Three at M Squad

Posted on September 7, 2008
Filed Under Culture, Main, Television | Leave a Comment

leemarvin.jpgThe long wait is over for fans of classic television and crime drama, as one of the groundbreaking programs from the golden age of television finally arrives on DVD.  “M Squad,” starring Oscar-winning actor Lee Marvin, comes home with all 117 episodes in a definitive 15-disc collector’s set, “M Squad: The Complete Series.”

“M Squad” stared the 33-year old Marvin (with his distinguished and distinctive premature white hair) as Lt. Frank Ballinger, a no-nonsense plainclothes cop working in the elite M-Squad division of the Chicago Police Department.  Marvin’s portrayal of the cool tough-guy character with a big heart gave him instant name recognition, and launched his career.

The show debuted on NBC in 1957 and aired for three seasons. “M-Squad” stood apart from other police series with its coarse, film noir look, unique story lines and first-rate musical score. Filmed in Chicago, the high-contrast cinematography brought the city to life — from the easily recognizable landmarks and swanky lake front penthouses to the seedy, darker side of the city. “M Squad” (M stands for Murder) was inspired by actual Chicago crime-fighter Joseph Morris, and the series retained a sense of realism and intensity lost among the othemsquad3d.jpgr dramas of its era. As a credit to its realism, after an episode of “M Squad” depicted a Chicago police officer accepting a bribe, Mayor Richard Daley banned any other television or film production in the city of Chicago.  (The ban was eventually lifted with the filming of “The Blues Brothers” in 1980.)

Long time character actor Paul Newlan played Ballinger’s boss, Captain Grey. The rest of the cast featured a revolving door of television luminaries and stars-to-be; guest actors included, most notably, Angie Dickinson, Charles Bronson, a very young Burt Reynolds, and Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley of “Star Trek”.

Also playing a starring “role” in M Squad was the extraordinary musical score. For the first season, the producers enlisted long-time conductor and music supervisor Stanley Wilson to lead the orchestra in moody arrangements by legendary jazz man Benny Carter and a new composer on the scene, 25-year old jazz pianist John Williams.  For the second season, jazz great Count Basie wrote the “M Squad Theme.”  It was a perfect marriage of image and sound.   Because of the importance of the musical score to the series, Timeless Media has included the CD version of the original 1959 soundtrack, “The Music From M Squad,” in “M Squad” collection.

“M Squad” will be released November 11 by Timeless Media for $119.98 (available at  Amazon and via


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