Deadlock, shown as a 1969 NBC made-for-TV movie, introduces the two protagonists: ambitious African-American district attorney Leslie Washburn (Hari Rhodes) and hard-nosed police lieutenant Sam Danforth (Leslie Nielsen). Racial tensions are running high in San Sebastian, a West Coast metropolis, after a white newspaper reporter is murdered in possible retaliation for a black youth killed by a cop. Washburn, who is running for the Senate, is tagged to head a special task force to investigate the journalist's death. That pairs him with Danforth and their strong personalities clash immediately.
|Hari Rhodes as D.A. Washburn.|
Meanwhile, Danforth has little success with the investigation, since none of the ghetto eyewitnesses are willing to talk with the police. (His inquiries do lead to one of the film's best scenes, with the marvelous Ruby Dee playing a prostitute who uses Danforth's presence to frighten away children spying on her.)
|Leslie Nielsen as Lt. Danforth.|
Film buffs will no doubt appreciate the impressive visuals which bring the city to life, especially at night. This was one of the earliest films credited to cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who would later gain prominence for his collaborations with directors such as Robert Altman, Steven Spielberg, and Brian De Palma. In a 2012 survey by the International Cinematographers Guild, Zsigmond was ranked among the ten all-time most influential cinematographers.
The Protectors TV series--which premiered in the fall of 1969--carried over the pilot film's strongest attributes, namely the actors and the emphasis on societal themes. Episodes dealt with corruption within city hall and the police department as well as the church's right to harbor a wanted fugitive. Attorney Washburn and detective Danforth (who has been promoted to deputy chief of police) remain at odds occasionally, but their mutual respect has evolved into a friendship.
|Guest star Robert Drivas.|
The Protectors rotated with the The New Doctors and The Lawyers during the first season of The Bold Ones. It was replaced by a better show, The Senator starring Hal Holbrook, the following year. The inability of The Protectors to find a viewing audience can be attributed, in part, to its sporadic scheduling and lack of episodes. Only six episodes were produced and there were occasions when it wasn't on NBC's schedule for a full month.
|Rhodes and Nielsen.|
The DVD set from Timeless Media includes Deadlock and all six episodes of the TV series on two discs. There are no extras. There's a disclaimer that the DVDs were mastered from the best sources available. Given the rarity of these prints, some scratches are to be expected. Overall, the image quality is fine.
Timeless Media provided a review copy of this DVD set.