Four men who fought together during war time band together to fight injustice on a weekly basis in this latest release from Network, and no, it’s not another repackaged A-Team DVD set: it’s The 4 Just Men, which first aired on UK TV in 1959.
Jack Hawkins, Dan Dailey, Richard Conte and Vittorio De Sica are the Just Men of the title, each with their own unique place in society: Dawkins is London MP Ben Manfred; Dailey is Paris-based US reporter Tom Collier; Conte is lawyer Jeff Ryder and De Sica is Italian hotelier Ricco Poccari.
Introduced in the pilot episode, in which their ex-commanding officer gathers them together to recall their first encounter and send them on their mission as the 4 Just Men, each episode features a different adventure for one of the heroes. Rather than have them in a group every week, we see them take off on their own, only interacting by telephone if things get really tough, though occasionally two actors are allowed to meet.
With episodes only running at 25 minutes each, there’s little time for padding or exposition, and we’re off and running in no time. The problem of this format is clear in the first handful of stories, with a couple almost identical in their plots, and it takes a short while for the writers to get the pacing right. Thankfully, with a whopping 39 episodes on this set, there’s a chance to see things develop, and if you don’t like one story just hand around and another will be along in a little while.
Whether they’re getting involved in the uncovering of Nazi traitors, recovering stolen diamonds, getting involved in prison riots or saving children from death-by-radiation, nothing is too much for these chaps. Of the four, De Sica appears to be having the most fun, though Conte gets his fair share of intrigue. Hawkins never appears too taxed by events while Dailey is perhaps the most faceless of the quartet.
With guest roles for Judi Dench, Jane Asher and a mustachioed Patrick Troughton, as well as regular appearances from Honor Blackman and Andrew Keir, there’s usually something to pique classic TV fans interest. The series also looks good, with interiors of European and American building well recreated in English studios.
The precursor to many of ITC’s 1960s adventure series, 4 Just Men paved the way for bigger and glossier shows, but there’s a charm in these weekly mini-movies that makes them important for anyone trying to complete their espionage collections.
At present the set is only available as an exclusive from the Network website at www.networkdvd.net