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The early 50's were the era of Jack Webb, police procedure, and the docu-drama, where law enforcement was portrayed in the best possible professional light. After all, there was an emerging Cold War to fight. On the other hand, this late 50's movie, adapted from an Ed McBain novel, is edging away from that ideal toward a more realistic portrayal of policing in a city precinct. Dragnet, it ain't.
Too bad that the result comes across as something of a trashy, exploitation flick because there's a good story with several interesting passages plus a neat twist ending buried beneath the tacky titillation. Someone's knocking off cops for no apparent reason, a psycho the detectives figure. So the heat at the precinct is really on with no real suspects. Nonetheless, much of what follows is pretty muddled and hard to follow. It's not an A-grade adaptation or narrative, to say the least.
The way the cops are portrayed is interesting for the time. They knock people around, drink a lot (maybe on duty), and seem sex-starved much of the rest of the time. In short, the detectives appear not that different from most young American males. Given today's relaxed standards, colorful episodes like rousting a street gang or ogling a nude woman in a towel may seem tame, but in 1958, such scenes were quite daring.
The trouble is that too much of the drama and suspense is sacrificed to a lot of cheesecake scenes, which may have sold tickets but do little to advance the story. Too bad, because the acting from a New York cast comes across as unforced and natural, plus the main characters don't look like typical Hollywood types. Even the girls, though sexy, aren't tinsel town perfect.
With a better structured, less exploitative script, the film could have risen above the drive-in level. As the results stand, however, there's not much beyond an historical interest in the evolution of the cop film. Besides, guys can get more titillation by just switching over to the Playboy channel.
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