Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Detective

The Detective (Gordon Douglas, 1968) You spend a lot of time looking into the wearily dead blue eyes of Frank Sinatra in this one, as he tries to come to grips with a world he no longer understands, driving in the rain, looking for the clue to
where it all went wrong.

This film hasn't aged well.  What was daring and "adult" at the time of the film's release (the forced underground homosexual culture, along with nymphomania) now seems dated and "quaint," even.  More compelling, and ground-breaking is the police procedural in the foreground—a murder investigation that has a ritual aspect to it.  The victim's house-mate (Tony Musante) is noticeably absent, and Leland leads the investigation to track the man down, leading to his arrest, trial and execution.  Textbook, it's thought. 

But, later, he's approached by Norma McIver (Jacqueline Bisset) the wife of a prominent suicide (William Windom), who committed the act very publicly, and Leland's investigation leads him to question his earlier actions and those of his authorities.  All this, while reconciling his difficulties with his wife (Lee Remick).  The fallibility of the cops to follow their prejudices, and pressure from corrupt superiors was something new to the genre.  These cops had flatfeet of clay.

The director, Gordon Douglas, was a favorite of star Sinatra, shooting quickly and efficiently, letting Sinatra do his set-up's in the minimal number of takes that he preferred.  The cast also has prominent roles for Ralph Meeker, Jack Klugman, Al Freeman Jr. and Robert Duvall as other detectives in Leland's squad.

There were other novels in the "Leland" series by Roderick Thorp, including one, "Nothing Lasts Forever,"in which The Detective tries to save his family from terrorists in a high-rise professional building.  That's right, it's the book on which Die Hard was based. Now, just imagine if John McLaine had said "Dooby-dooby-doo" instead of "Yippie-Kye-yay..."

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