|Index||8 reviews in total|
One thing that surprised me in this film was the amount of scientific documentation it exhibits. A female scientist is assigned to the police department in a forensics position. I was also surprised at how little controversy was shown about that fact. But during the course of the movie, comparison of materials (from a single source or not), ballistics evidence, weapon edge evidence and more are all showcased. Not quite a commercial for police as scientific marvels, seeing as how another part of the main story involves whether or not police ought to be able to rough up criminals or not, but considering how far before the Miranda ruling this movie was made, it now comes across as an interesting look at the state of forensics in the late 1930s. For true devotees of The New Detectives (and maybe CSI, though it has little to do with crime scenes per se), this is certainly an interesting title.
HOMICIDE BUREAU is a nifty little police "B" melodrama from 1939 of
interest mainly for the very beautiful (and very young, age 20) Rita
Hayworth in the female lead as a forensics expert who replaces a police
department's veteran (aged 60 and forced into mandatory retirement!).
Across town, ex-felon Marc Lawrence trails a man into a pool hall and
shoots him down in the presumably empty hall. The bartender happens
onto the scene and (in an astonishingly incredible scene) the ex-con
(gun still in his hand) is startled and darts away - the bartender then
spots the murder victim's gun (he had been beaten to the draw) picks it
up and chases out into the street where he spots the murderer driving
away and then begins to shoot up his car but the man gets away. He is
later able to identify the man but the man insists he has gone straight
and is now a junk dealer and when his gang members replace the
windshield with a new, broken windshield and plant a gun in the car
that was not the murder weapon, he is released much to "copper" Bruce
Cabot's disgust. The man is in fact in the salvage business - but is
part of a ring that is selling black market scrap metal to foreign
countries to make munitions. There are two more murders, close calls
for several cops including the chief, and lots of action before a
predictable finale in this 58-minute little pistol with a hard-line
"once a crook, always a crook" mentality.
Rita is absolutely gorgeous and to her credit, does suggest a woman with the intellect to handle her position although her role is quite secondary. I've never been particularly impressed with Bruce Cabot before but he is sensational here as a cop so hard he makes many more famous film noir tough-guy movie policemen seem like milquetoast. Marc Lawrence is very good too but the movie is stolen by Norman Willis as the gang leader. Willis, looking like a tougher Ricardo Cortez and sounding like a scarier Edward G. Robinson, played a ton of henchmen in films during this era (usually in small roles) but I don't think he ever had such a major menacing role to rival his gang leader/businessman here. I'm not quite sure who Richard Fiske plays in this movie, a cop or a crook, his role is quite small despite his billing, but he later became a real-life WWII hero, dying in action in 1944. This Columbia "B" may be long forgotten but it's a remarkably successful venture into Warner Bros. mean streets territory.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With the US just about to enter the war, Hollywood started to bend
toward the mission. This is a rather interesting and peculiar case.
Its an ordinary police procedural, with a tough cop, someone who yearns for what in movieland was "the good old days" when he could just beat crooks up. But the world is different now, presumably because the characters have to rise to the moral challenge. That's the first striking change we see.
But there are two others, and the way they are spliced in makes it easy to imagine the script planning discussions.
Early in the war, planners thought it would be short and determined by the ability to manufacture things fast. Since the pipeline for steel was longer than they thought the war would last, and had other problems, the idea was to call in the nation's scrap. So this plot has evil profiteers diverting scrap to enemies. This plot point is screwed a bit when we learn there is more deadly cargo included, but I suppose they thought it sufficient to just mention scrap and its importance.
The other change is the movement of women into men's jobs. In this story there's a completely inessential line about Rita Hayworth taking over the job of chief forensic scientist and proving her mettle. Naturally, she still is a romantic interest who gets won by the tough cop.
Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
Bruce Cabot is a detective who is angry that so often gangsters get
away with their crimes because of stupid things like the Bill of
Rights! When time and again the cops are thwarted, he suggests
pretending these civil rights no longer exist (or at least temporarily
put on hold). At one point, he says basically "just let me beat the
truth out of him" to the Captain! However, despite this start, the film
is actually NOT a "let's beat the gangsters to a bloody pulp" film, but
excels at showing the forensic work the police and police labs (headed
by Rita Hayworth in a bit of unusual casting) do in order to catch
criminals. Plus, in order to keep the film from being too cerebral and
low-key, there is some dandy action as well--particularly during the
While so often the term "B-movie" has come to mean a cheap or badly made film, HOMICIDE BUREAU is evidence that just because the production values are lower than a big-budget film doesn't mean the film is second-rate. Sure, Bruce Cabot and the then unknown Rita Hayworth were not particularly famous at the time, but they were good actors and the writing is far better than a typical crime film. In fact, compared to the gangster and cop films being made by rival (and bigger budget) studio, Warner Brothers, this Columbia picture seems far more realistic and less formulaic. One reason the film worked so well is that I THOUGHT by introducing Miss Hayworth that the film would become a clichéd "women have no place in a man's world" diatribe, but the fact that she was a woman (and a beautiful one at that) was not an important part of the film--the police came to accept her very quickly and the film centered instead on good old fashioned police work. The bottom line is that the film still holds up well today and held my interest throughout.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Police Captain Haines(Moroni Olsen)is fed up with the public's lack of
approval on the way a crime epidemic is being handled. He orders his
men to clear up their investigations without violating the
constitutional rights of the arrested criminals. This will please the
newly appointed head of the Police Department Lab and internal affairs.
Detective Jim Logan(Bruce Cabot)is of the old school opinion...a little
pushing and thumping is OK in making an arrest. Haines is forced to
demote him, but Logan doesn't really care. He discovers that some local
junk dealers are enabling crime bosses in the accumulation of scrap
metal to send to foreign powers(not clearly identified) to manufacture
munitions in aiding their war efforts.
After this movie, Miss Hayworth will be on her way to major stardom. At times Cabot seems one-dimensional and pedestrian to the script. Other players include: Marc Lawrence, Norman Willis, Richard Fiske and Stanley Andrews.
Homicide Bureau (1939)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Fun and fast paced Columbia 'B' film has Bruce Cabot playing a homicide detective who wants to use force to get confessions from some gangsters trying to take the city over. If you're a fan of 'B' films then you should get a kick out of this one since there's never a dull moment within its 57-minute running time. There's plenty of fast action as well as a nice shoot out at the end that makes this one a tad bit better than most in its field. Cabot is always worth watching and he does a nice job here. Rita Hayworth has a small supporting role as a forensic expert.
Political ironies abound as hopelessly right wing L.A.P.D. investigator
Bruce Cabot bridles under foolish legal restraints conflicting with his
tried and true police state methods such as breaking and entering,
unlawful searches and seizures, and beating up suspects.
Particularly frustrating are naïve wealthy liberal matrons who misguidedly protest violations of evildoers' constitutional guarantees.
The pre-Patriot Act bad guys are colluding with warring foreign powers (read 1930s Japan and Germany) wanting American scrap metal for munitions.
Youthful lab chemist Rita Hayworth (modernly called a forensic investigator) does precise scientific sleuthing with her amazing Spectrograph, a wondrous device that tells all, even resulting in a marriage proposal from callous cop Cabot whose police brutality contributes to the gang's downfall.
A laughably bad film, concluding with the police commissioner apologizing for hampering his "coppers" with "too many kid gloves." Clearly illegal police procedures win the day keeping America's junkyards safe from hostile foreign dictatorships.
Demonstrating versatility, actor Marc Lawrence, later blacklisted in the anti-Communist 1950s, plays a fascist thug.
With all the criminal forensics displayed on television these days it's
a surprise to see a late version thirties version of it. Avoiding the
autopsy part, RIta Hayworth playing a forensic expert examines murder
weapons and other physical evidence. Nobody makes a big deal about her
gender except at first. I was expecting to see her quit and get married
by the end of the film but surprisingly she never even comes close to
thinking about it. While a major part of the movie, the forensics is
second to the main topic of the movie, police brutality.
The police force is under new rules passed by the city council preventing the police from roughing up the suspects. The officers chafe under the restrictions just hoping for a chance to torment the apparent villains into a confession. The brutality isn't shown, just alluded to, except in a scene where the hero cop breaks into a crook's apartment and throws him around until an accident nearly kills the crook. There's also a scene where the city politicians react to a dragnet that the police do in a desperate attempt to solve a murder.
It actually interesting until the point where the standard B movie plot dynamics take over and the film reverts to typical matinée cops and robbers complete with a kidnapping, a silly shootout and eventual redemption for the tough guy hero. The police brutality topic is, unfortunately, dropped.
Pretty good except for the standard ending.
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