How the Dragnet Movie Mirrored The Unabomber
If you have never seen it or it has been a while, there really is a lot of joy in watching the 1987 comedy Dragnet, based on the earlier television series. However, if you look past the jokes, you will see a plot-line that is eerily similar to the real life case of the Unabomber.
The movie’s initial investigation concerns the theft of the pornographic magazine Bait by a group of vandals known as P.A.G.A.N. (People Against Goodness and Normalcy). Why do they steal the magazines? Because porn king Jerry Ceasar will not publish their manifesto in his magazine.
Famously, the P.A.G.A.N manifesto starts with the line, “We believe that bad drugs and good sex are the cornerstone of a great democracy.” In real life however, porn and the Unabomber Manifesto did have an interaction. Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione Sr. did make a public declaration to publish the Unabomber’s Manifesto.
Jerry Caesar (played by Dabney Coleman) can be seen as either based on Guccione or Hugh Hefner, but there is at least a passing resemblance in the model between Caesar and Guccione. It can be argued that Caesar would be a more Italian name than Hefner, leading one to believe that Guccione was the actual target of the parody.
Where the movie gets really weird is in the casting of the P.A.G.A.N’s main heavy, Emil Muzz. Muzz was played by former boxer Jack O’Halloran, best known as the Phantom villain Non from the Superman series.
Where it all gets a little creepy is when you put a picture of O’Halloran as Emil Muzz against the sketch of the Unabomber, as well as an actual picture of Ted Kaczynski.
Keep in mind there is no way that Dragnet could be making fun of the Unabomber Manifesto. It was discovered nearly ten years after the movie premiered, and before the Manifesto even made news. Also there is no way that producers could have used the Unabomber sketch in order to come up with the casting or the look of Muzz.
The movie and famous sketch were both released in 1987. However, the principal photography on the movie was done in the summer of 1986. There was no possibility of it even being used as a subconscious reference point. Just something to think about if you go back and watch the movie.