- Apr 24, 2006
- Charlotte, NC
- Real Name
- Matt Hough
When the Hollywood Production Code was discarded in the late 1960s and a new ratings board was established in its place, movies were allowed a much wider variance in portraying violence and sexual situations on the screen. Among the films which took advantage of this newfound permissiveness was Gordon Douglas’ The Detective. With a lurid sex crime at its heart and a fair-minded detective operating among a pit of bigoted and in many cases crooked fellow policemen at the center, The Detective was one of the earliest of the garish crime dramas which would later saturate movie theaters in the 1970s. In retrospect, it’s naïve in places and patently absurd in others, but there are kernels of truth and interest amid the salaciousness and corruption at the movie’s core which make The Detective worth watching.
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 54 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-rayclear keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 12/08/2015
The Production Rating: 3/5
When Teddy Leikman (James Inman), the homosexual son of one of New York’s most prominent businessmen, is founded bludgeoned to death and castrated, Captain Farrell (Horace McMahon) of the NYPD knows that solving such a high profile case will mean certain promotion for his best detective Sergeant Joe Leland (Frank Sinatra). Though most of the cops in the precinct have no interest in pursuing a case involving gay men, Joe and his new rookie detective/partner Robbie (Al Freeman Jr.) get a tip on Teddy’s former bodybuilding roommate Felix Tesla (Tony Musante) and look at him for the murder as a crime of passion. Though clearly psychotic, Felix is goaded into a confession and is later electrocuted, closing the case and earning Joe his lieutenant’s badge, but a later case involving a crooked land conspiracy operation called Rainbow concerns a suicide named Colin MacIver (William Windom) which has some surprising repercussions for Joe and the department.
Oscar-winner Abby Mann’s script is based on the best-selling novel by Roderick Thorp, but there are some changes of locale and personal situations despite hewing fairly closely to the original story. The script and Gordon Douglas’ direction do after a fashion reveal aspects of the gay world which had heretofore never been shown on American movie screens (the Trucks down by the docks in New York City is most prominent though most of the movie was filmed in Los Angeles; the aftermath of a sexual encounter between two men which leads to the murder) though glimpses of men together are brief and always bathed in an atmosphere of shadowy sensationalism, and the extras used in scenes where gay men are interviewed or convene couldn’t be more stereotypical and outrageous. The brightly lit gay bar in the film with its crystal chandelier and dark pink and red color scheme seems quite over-the-top but is like Versailles compared to the dark and dingy place pictured in Otto Preminger’s Advise and Consent. Along with the sordid crime dramas which form the major part of the storytelling, there is a lengthy and particularly unsatisfying subplot (mostly shown in poorly formulated flashbacks) involving Leland’s courtship, marriage, and separation from Karen (Lee Remick) who turns out to be a nymphomaniac. Proving that sexual dysfunction could hit home as well as in his work, the Joe-Karen scenes don’t get nearly the attention such a serious situation deserves and function mainly to interrupt the main storyline as we constantly return to the domestic muddle that is Joe’s life. Gordon Douglas’ direction is rather pedestrian with too many close-ups as characters stare into the camera reciting their dialogue and a shoot-out in a garage that’s badly staged and unbelievable in its resolution.
Frank Sinatra was by now an old hand at portraying detectives with two Tony Rome adventures preceding The Detective. He’s certainly the most admirable character in the movie standing up for the downtrodden homosexuals (he punches out two different fellow policemen for their bigotry) and refusing to live a lie burying what he knows about the department by the end of the movie. He’s also more understanding of his wife’s sexual addiction than most men would have been at the time. Lee Remick does what she can with a very poorly written character. Always an intelligent actress, she simply seems out of place here as if in a completely different movie. Ralph Meeker and Robert Duvall play the most prejudiced cops on the force that Sinatra’s Joe must teach a lesson while Jack Klugman amusingly plays Dave Schoenstein, seemingly Joe’s only real friend on the force. Director Douglas allows Tony Musante to go far, far afield playing the psychotic Felix Tesla, and William Windom doesn’t offer much shading in his performance as Colin MacIver either. Horace McMahon as the police captain, Lloyd Bochner as a psychiatrist who holds some keys to the final puzzle, and Renée Taylor as the smothering wife of Klugman’s Schoenstein do fine work in small parts. In one of her earliest roles, Jacqueline Bisset (in a part Sinatra had wanted his then-wife Mia Farrow to play) as Norma MacIver is rather inexpressive and dull.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The film’s original Panavision aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness throughout is quite outstanding, and color values are true and consistent with believable skin tones. There is some inconsistency with contrast from shot to shot, and black levels aren’t always at their optimum. There is also a tiny bit of aliasing in some automobile grillwork, but it’s not a major concern. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix is very typical of the mono sound design of the era. Dialogue has been expertly recorded and meshes well with the rather mournful Jerry Goldsmith background score, and the occasional sound effects. No age-related problems with hiss, crackle, or humming mar the aural experience.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
Audio Commentary: film historians Nick Redman, Lem Dobbs, and David Del Valle have an interesting fact-based chat not only about the original novel and the film but also about many aspects to the careers of Frank Sinatra, Gordon Douglas, and many other participants in the film and other related matters in the movie business.
Isolated Score Track: Jerry Goldsmith’s score is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.
Theatrical Trailers (3:16, 2:23, SD)
Six-Page Booklet: contains some interesting color and black and white stills from the movie, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s adept analysis of the movie’s virtues and shortcomings.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
The Detective offers a fine central performance from Frank Sinatra even if the movie shows its age in other areas of its makeup. The Blu-ray release from Twilight Time offers the film in its best possible condition. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via their website at www.twilighttimemovies.com or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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