The classic Hollywood B-movie was virtually dead by the 1950s. One of the great B-movie staples had always been the B crime movie, and its place was largely taken by TV cop shows and private eye shows. One of the more successful of these TV series was Federal Men, also known as Treasury Men in Action, which ran from 1950-1955.
This series was clearly influenced by the documentary-style crime movies that had started appearing at the tail end of the 40s, movies like The Naked City (1948). It follows the adventures of a team of Treasury agents as they hunt down tax evaders and counterfeiters. Treasury agents had of course already featured in crime movies like Anthony Mann’s classic T-Men.
In the episodes I’ve watched over the last few days a certain film noir influence is also apparent, with several stories focussing on fundamentally decent guys who get caught up in crime more or less against their will. The Case of the Chartered Chiseler for example features a classic noir loser who made one dumb mistake and as a result gets dragged deeper and deeper into a noir nightmare. The Case of the Man Outside involves a prisoner who is desperately trying to steer clear of a prison racket. He’s serving a long sentence but now he’s almost eligible for parole, if he can stay out of trouble for the next few weeks. This turns out to be an almost impossible challenge. The Case of the Iron Curtain is yet another story in which an innocent man is unwittingly lured into crime.
The series was claimed to be based on actual cases.
While the photography was in the typically flat style of television the cheap sets and generally gritty atmosphere gives the series a feel not dissimilar to the average crime B-movie. An entertaining series and fairly typical of the realistic style that American TV was striving for in its early 50s cop shows.