Mike Barnett (Man Against Crime)

Created by Lawrence Klee

Featured on both radio and television, MIKE BARNETT was a New York private eye so tough he didn’t need a gun. Take that, Hammer!

Along with Martin Kane, which made its debut only a few weeks earlier, Man Against Crime (1949-54) was part of a one-two punch that set the scene for a long, long string of television eyes. And Mike got around, popping up in New Orleans, Stockholm, Vienna, and Lisbon, among other locations.

The New York Times described him as “an average fellow, not too bright and not too dumb, quick-fisted, amiable and something of a modern Sir Galahad.” Whatever, the show was a hit, especially on the tube, where it won a national popularity poll as best mystery on television for its third year. The shows were done live for its first three seasons (good luck finding any of thodse episodes!), with all the usual problems that entailed–such as not quite fitting into its allotted time. They solved this by writing in an elastic “search scene” near the end of each episode, that could be stretched out or shortened to fit.

But eventually the big switch was made to film n the fall of 1952, giving the fight and chase scenes an added touch of authenticity.

In fact, action was the keyword. According to Television: A History, by Francis Wheen (London: Century Publishing, 1985), writers on the show were told that “somebody must be murdered, preferably early, with the threat of more violence to come…Bellamy must be menaced early and often.”

Bellamy looked the part — he was a tall, beefy guy, but he just came off as altogether too genial. Still, in the early days of television, just a little hard-boiled went a long way, and Man Against Crime was considered one of the most violent TV shows of its time.

And even today, the opening credits for the syndicated version, Follow That Man, can raise a few eyebrows. The noirish sequence featured a man being pursued down the empty mean streets of New York City, only to wind up at Barnett’s door–where he’s machine gunned by an unknown assailant off camera. Barnett opens the bullet-riddled door, puzzled, and then jumps back, just as the killer lets off another burst.

Ralph Bellamy played Barnett on both radio and television, and, in fact, played Barnett through its entire initial television run, giving it a consistency that Martin Kane lacked. The sole exception was the summer of 1951, when Robert Preston stepped in (on both radio and television) to play Barnett’s brother, Pat, who manned the fort while Bellamy was away on vacation.

The show was also more popular, both critically and commercially, than Martin Kane, and even inspired a tie-in comic book. When it left CBS in 1953, it made some sort of television history when it became a regularly scheduled show on two different networks, NBC and Dumont, occupying the same time-slot on both.

In 1956, two years after it left the airwaves, the producers tried to revive the show as a summer replacement for the Loretta Young Show, bringing in Frank Lovejoy to play Barnett, who carried a gun, but not the show. It only lasted a short while.

Undeterred, ABC supposedly tried again in 1958, this time with Darren McGavin in the role for a pilot, although I’m not completely sure the internet’s not pulling my leg–that was also the year Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer made its debut, with McGavin in the title role. Was the actor double-dipping, or were there two P.I. shows starring McGavin making the rounds simultaneously?

TRIVIA

  • That guy that got killed in the opening credits of the reruns? Good God, it’s Jack Lord!

RADIO

  • MAN AGAINST CRIME
    (1947-51, CBS)
    30 minute episodes
    Writers: Lawrence Klee
    Directors: Paul Nickell,
    Starring Ralph Bellamy as MIKE BARNETT
    Robert Preston subbed for Bellamy from June 29 to August 3, 1951. He also played Barnett’s brother, Pat, in a five-week replacement series on television that same summer.

TELEVISION

  • MIKE BARNETT: MAN AGAINST CRIME
    (1949-54, CBS, Dumont)
    (Syndicated as Follow That Man)
    122 30-minute episodes
    Debut: October 7, 1949
    Writers: Lawrence Klee, Max Ehrlich, Vincent Bogert, Burt Benjamin,
    Directors: Melville Burke, Paul Nickell, Edward J. Montagne, Frank McDonald, William Berke
    Produced by Frank Maker and Edward J. Montague, Paul Nickell
    Theme song by Fred Steiner
    Starring Ralph Bellamy as MIKE BARNETT
    with Robert Preston as Pat Barnett (Summer 1951)
    Guest stars: Martin Balsam, Lewis Charles, Margaret Hamilton, Irene Champlin, Nita Talbot, Jack Warden, Dorothy Hart, Dolores Sutton, Scott McKay, Henry Lascoe

    • SEASON ONE (live)
    • “Night Club Murder” (October 7, 1949)
    • “Duel for a Jewel”
    • “Bigamy and Bullets”
    • “A Medium For Murder”
    • SEASON TWO (live)
    • “Episode #2.1” (September 8, 1950)
    • “The Jackal” (February 17, 1951)
    • SEASON THREE (live)
    • “Episode #3.1” (August 10, 1951)
    • SEASON FOUR
    • “Phobia” (October 1, 1952)
    • “Murder in Rhyme” (October 8, 1952)
    • “Baker Grandee” (October 15, 1952)
    • “Joy Ride” (October 22, 1952)
    • “Carpathia” (October 29, 1952)
    • “Paradise Lost” (November 5, 1952) | Watch it now!
    • “The Victim Is Venus” (November 12, 1952)
    • “Get Out of Town” (November 19, 1952)
    • “Fuller’s Folly” (November 26, 1952)
    • “Women’s Reformatory” (December 3, 1952)
    • “Killer Cat” (December 10, 1952)
    • “Bartholdi” (December 17, 1952)
    • “The Day They Kidnapped Santa Claus” (December 24, 1952)
    • “Dragon’s Blood” (December 31, 1952)
    • “Breaking Point” (January 7, 1953)
    • “Ferry Boat” (January 14, 1953)
    • “Murder in the Studio” (January 21, 1953)
    • “The Silken Touch” (January 28, 1953)
    • “Third Rail” (February 4, 1953) | Watch it now!
    • “Exclusive” (February 11, 1953)
    • “The Midnight Express” (February 18, 1953)
    • “A Bottle of Death” (February 25, 1953)
    • “The Iceman” (March 4, 1953)
    • “Death Takes a Partner” (March 11, 1953) | Watch it now!
    • “Sic Transit Gloria” (March 18, 1953) | Watch it now!
    • “Family Affair” (March 25, 1953)
    • “The Hitch Heisters” (April 1, 1953)
    • “Free Ride” (April 8, 1953)
    • “Death Below Decks” (April 15, 1953)
    • “High Ambush” (April 22, 1953)
    • “The Cocoanut’s Eye” (May 6, 1953)
    • “Room 505” (May 13, 1953) | Watch it now!
    • “The Day Man” (May 20, 1953)
    • “Hot Fur” (May 27, 1953)
    • “The Doll Bandit” (June 10, 1953)
    • “Washington Story” (June 17, 1953)
    • “Black Leg – White Tie” (June 24, 1953)
    • “Fraternity of Five” (July 1, 1953)
    • “Death on the Diamond” (July 17, 1953)
    • “The Polecat Shakedown” (July 24, 1953) | Watch it now!
    • “Hide and Seek” (August 7, 1953)
    • “The Wire Tappers” (August 14, 1953) | Watch it now!
    • “The Missing Cadet” ( (August 28, 1953)
    • SEASON FIVE
    • “Death Wears Lead Shoes (Part 1)” (October 11, 1953)
    • “Death Wears Lead Shoes (Part 2)” (October 18, 1953)
    • “Three Cents Worth of Murder”October 25, 1953)
    • “Time Keepers” (November 1, 1953)
    • “Murder in the Rough” (November 8, 1953)
    • “Main Bout Is Murder” (November 15, 1953)
    • “Thirty Dimes” (November 22, 1953)
    • “Cube Root of Murder” (November 29, 1953)
    • “Murder Mountain” (December 6, 1953)
    • “A Very Dead Ringer” (December 13, 1953)
    • “Petite Larceny” (December 20, 1953) | Watch it now!
    • “Going, Going Gone” (December 27, 1953)
    • “Don’t Feed the Animals” (January 3, 1954)
    • “Danger for Duffy” (January 10, 1954)
    • “Terror 12 Stories High” (January 17, 1954)
    • “Holler Uncle” (January 24, 1954)
    • “Beauty and the Beasts” (January 31, 1954)
    • “Little Boy Blues” (February 7, 1954)
    • “Target with Two Ts” (February 14, 1954)
    • “Mike’s Missing Marbles” (February 21, 1954)
    • “U.F.O.” (February 28, 1954)
    • “Will o’ the Wisp” (March 7, 1954)
    • “Rigged for Murder” (March 14, 1954)
    • “Hit and Run” (March 21, 1954)
    • “Canary Yellow” (March 28, 1954)
    • “The Plugged Shilling” (April 4, 1954)
    • “The Chinese Dolls” (April 11, 1954)
    • “Barometer Falling” (April 18, 1954)
    • “The Man from Dannemora” (April 25, 1954)
    • “The Man in the Iron Car” (May 2, 1954)
    • “The Sunset Farm” (May 9, 1954)
    • “Where’s Mimi?” (May 16, 1954)
    • “Hot as Three Pistols” (May 23, 1954)
    • “Concrete Jungle” (May 30, 1954)
    • “The Young Hoods” (June 6, 1954)
    • “Next to Closing” (June 13, 1954)
    • “No Place to Hide” (June 20, 1954)
    • “Connecticut State Police” (June 27, 1954)
  • MAN AGAINST CRIME
    (1956, NBC)
    9 30-minute episodes
    Premiere: July 1, 1956
    Writers: Lawrence Klee, Vin Bogert
    Starring Frank Lovejoy as MIKE BARNETT
    Guest stars: Ralph Bellamy

    • “Episode #1.1” (July 1, 1956)
    • “Badger Game” (July 8, 1956)
    • “Shipboard Murder” (July 15, 1956)
    • “Episode #1.4” (July 22, 1956)
    • “Episode #1.5” (July 29, 1956)
    • “Algiers Caper” (July 5, 1956)
    • “Episode #1.7” (July 12, 1956)
    • “Episode #1.8” (July 19, 1956)
    • “Episode #1.9” (July 26, 1956)
  • MAN AGAINST CRIME
    (1958, ABC)
    I episode
    Pilot
    Starring Darren McGavin as MIKE BARNETT

    • “Pilot” (September 21, 1958)

COMICS

  • MIKE BARNETT, MAN AGAINST CRIME
    (1951-52, Fawcett Publications)
    “Based on Television’s Outstanding Crime Program”
    6 issues
    Writers:
    Artists: Pete Riss, Martin O’Hearn, Carl Pfeufer
    At least a few of the Mike Barnett stories were reprinted as Mike Danger stories, after Charlton Comics purchased Fawcett’s comics line in 1953.

    • “Kill the Umpire” and “The Mint of Dr. Dionysos!” (December 1951, #1)
    • “The Mystery of the Blue Madonna!” and “The Lead Poison Cure” (February 1952, #2)
    • “Death Goes to the Races” and “Revenge Holds the Torch!” (April 1952, #3)
    • “The Case of the Old Hobo!” and “Special Delivery!” (June 1952, #4)
    • “Dishonor Among Thieves” and “Market for Morphine!” (August 1952, #5)
    • “Accident on Purpose” and “The Knife From Nowhere!” (October 1952, #6)

DVDs

Man Against Crime seems to have slipped into the grey area of public domain, and as a result, there are no “official” DVD releases, but several budget-priced, hit-and-run collections of assorted episodes of occasionally dubious technical quality. But the charms of this early example of the genre still come shining through…Here are a few:

  • MAN AGAINST CRIME | Buy the DVD
    Includes three full-length episodes: “The Day Man,” “The Doll Bandit” and “Death Takes A Partner.”
  • FOLLOW THAT MAN, VOLUME 1 | Buy the DVD
    Includes “Petite Larceny,” “Wire Trappers,” “Third Rail” and “Death Takes A Partner.”
  • FOLLOW THAT MAN, VOLUME 2 | Buy the DVD
    Includes “Paradise Lost,” “Polecat Shakedown,” “Room 505” and “Sic Transit Gloria.”
  • FOLLOW THAT MAN, VOLUME 3 | Buy the DVD
    Includes “Murder In The Rough,” “Murder Mountain,” “Washington Story” and “Missing Cadet.”
  • FOLLOW THAT MAN, VOLUME 4 | Buy the DVD
    Includes “Fuller’s Folly,” “Hot Fur,” “Killer Cat” and Main Bout Is Murder”
  • FOLLOW THAT MAN, VOLUME 5 | Buy the DVD
    Includes “Black Leg, White Tie,” “Doll Bandit,” “Hitch Heister” and “The Iceman.”
  • FOLLOW THAT MAN, VOLUME 6 | Buy the DVD
    Includes “The Cube Root of Evil,” “A Family Affair,” “Day Man” and “Get Out of Town.”
  • FOLLOW THAT MAN, VOLUME 7 | Buy the DVD
    Includes “Cocoanut’s Eye,” “Ferry Boat,” “Free Ride” and “The Silken Touch.”
  • FOLLOW THAT MAN: VOLUMES 1-7 | Buy the DVD
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. And a tip of the fedora to Betsy Bogert Mölders for getting my head straight.

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