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In this film done one year before the Stonewall Riots we get a picture
of corruption and homophobia in the NYPD. The Detective should be
required viewing for those who want to know about the days before
Stonewall when as a people we were subject to routine abuse and
A nude man is found murdered in his apartment which usually spells one thing, a homicide with gay overtones. Such an occurrence allows the police to be more brutal than usual all in the pursuit of a killer.
Back in those days it's hard for people today to believe how bars that catered to gay people were the subject of random police raids, usually because the cops didn't get their payoffs. In those days just being in one of those places could constitute an arrest for disorderly conduct and if you touched a member of the same sex and not necessarily in a sexual way that could land you in jail for some time, unless you had the money to pay your way out.
A man's been killed and suspicion falls on a street punk played by Tony Musante. Frank Sinatra plays a cop who has a specialty in extracting confessions and he does it the hard way, without the rubber hose. Miranda was new at the time, so they can't beat it out of Musante as per normal. Musante confesses he gets convicted and he gets the still operative electric chair.
But right after Musante is killed, prominent citizen William Windom jumps to his death from the roof at Aqueduct racetrack. Sinatra is again the detective and connections are established with the two deaths. Sinatra's investigations are opening a lot of doors powerful folks just don't want opened. In this he has the support of Windom's widow Jacqueline Bisset.
Sinatra's dealing with some personal problems at the same time. His marriage is breaking up because it turns out his wife, Lee Remick is a nymphomaniac. Still it's the story of the two gay related deaths that dominate the film.
The Detective boasts one of Frank Sinatra's best latter film performances. Sinatra eschews the hipster mannerisms and delivers a straightforward performance as an honest Serpico like cop in the midst of big town corruption.
In the supporting cast I liked Ralph Meeker as a sleazy cop on the take who's quite willing to stop Sinatra any way he can. Also Jack Klugman as Frank's honest sidekick and Renee Taylor as his wife.
Forty years after The Detective came out who would have thought in 1968 that we would have something called the Gay Officers Action League among the police fraternal societies in New York and many other metropolitan police forces. Their organized presence in police departments have gone a long way in bringing a sensitivity and awareness for the GLBT community.
And this review is dedicated to two out police officers now retired from the job that I knew and worked with in New York City when I was at Crime Victims Board. To Detectives Vanessa Ferro and Mark Caruso who are the finest of the finest in New York and to all the other out gay law enforcement officials.
Made at a time when the cinema was exploring new freedoms in language, violence and sex, this is a somewhat tough character study which is tame now, but had to be pretty gritty then. Sinatra is the title cop, a man who bucks the system at times, but has an innate core of fairness. When a wealthy homosexual is found slain and mutilated, Sinatra and his partner Freeman set out to find the culprit. Meanwhile, Sinatra reflects on his troubled marriage to sophisticated, but oversexed Remick. He arrests thuggish Musante for the crime and wins a promotion for his trouble, but, soon after, a young woman (Bisset) comes forth with a case that may be tied into the original one. Sinatra gives an assured and believable performance, though it is jarring at first to hear him bandying about terms like "penis" and "queer", etc... Remick is attractive and effortlessly sophisticated as his wife who can't seem to keep her knickers on. The supporting cast is made up of great pros who offer a lot. Meeker is a jaded, slimy fellow detective. Klugman does well as a family man cop who helps Sinatra crack cases. Duvall is menacing as a hard-nosed and prejudicial policeman. Musante is so over-the-top it is unbelievable! His interrogation scene is a lesson in extremes (and helped sideline his US career for a while.) Bisset is lovely, as usual, but was shoehorned in (costumes and all!) at the eleventh hour for Sinatra's estranged wife Mia Farrow and the part doesn't fit her as well. She's meant to be a slightly boyish type and that's a tad easier to do on Farrow than it was on Bisset. Bochner is a little too cartoon-campy as a vaguely sinister psychiatrist. Though today's audience will likely find many things to pick apart with the story, it is nonetheless a fascinating glimpse into what Hollywood's depiction of gays was at the time. One unintentionally funny scene involves a dockside parking lot in which scores of gay men crowd into the back of cargo trucks and snuggle - fully clothed! There's also a groovy trip into a velvety gay bar. The film's chief flaws are its overuse of LENGTHY flashbacks and a hugely distracting habit of having Sinatra and Remick deliver lines directly into the camera, a big no-no except in comedies or quirky dramas. The flashbacks are necessary in order to flush out the romantic story, but they tend to be disjointed and overlong. The issue of speaking to the camera could have been easily solved by just having the actors act opposite each other. This was an experiment that just doesn't work. But the film has a fair share of interesting dialogue, situations and visual appeal. One amusing line has a forensic specialist telling Sinatra that the victim was a homosexual. Sinatra looks around the overdone apartment and says, "Looks like he was a leader!" Moss Mabry got quite a workout coming up with outfits for Remick, less so for Bisset.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ol' Blue Eyes plays a tortured detective burdened with a liberal conscience, a cheating wife, and a bunch of time-servers and corrupt fascist bully-boys as colleagues in this interesting and complex character study. Joe Leland is an anomaly in his precinct - a career cop from a long line of cops who's read sociology, is tolerant of gays and minorities and compassionate towards the social detritus of the permissive society that litters the streets of New York City at the fag end of the 1960s. Inevitably, he runs up against complacent hierarchies and corrupt power elites, and along the way makes some deep compromises that cause him to question his role as a police officer. Sinatra paints an admirably restrained and nuanced portrait of a man deeply ambivalent about the kind of authority he represents. The film refuses to offer any easy answers to the social, sexual and political issues it raises, and steers well clear of the cartoon heroics of contemporaneous cop films like Bullit and Coogan's Bluff that also dabbled with the mores of the swinging 60s. The Detective was marketed as titillating and sensational 'adult' fare that exploited the recent demise of the Production Code to offer audiences a new frankness about an America in the throes of the sexual revolution. But beneath these rather opportunistic trappings it's a serious-minded exploration of the meaning of authority and deviance in a post-authoritarian age. While burdened with some now rather outdated representations of homosexuality (what plot there is revolves around the homophobic murder of a gay man), the film's heart is nevertheless in the right place. It's a kind of liberal precursor to the crypto-fascist and authoritarian Dirty Harry. That the heroes of both films reach the same final decision, but for very different reasons, is fascinating, especially given that Sinatra was himself due to play Harry Callahan in the later movie until fate - in the form of a broken wrist - intervened. I guess Joe Leland is Ying to Harry Callahan's Yang. Anyway, The Detective is certainly worth watching, not least as it represents one of Sinatra's last meaningful dramatic screen roles.
*****WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD***** Tough gritty crime drama with Frank
Sinatra giving his best performance since his role in "The Manchurian
Candidate" in 1962 as NYC detective Joe Leland. A cop with a
consciences that turns out to be his own worst enemy.
Det. Leland is assigned to a case where the son of a major contributor and political king-maker in NYC was murdered in what is thought to be a crime of passion. It seems that Teddy Leikman, James Inman, was killed in his upper East-Side bachelor apartment by his gay roommate the night before and there's an all-out manhunt to catch the killer. The police check out places that Leikman usually went to like bars waterfront piers and gyms and come up with someone that was seen hanging out with Teddy most of the time a young street hustler named Felix Tesla, Tony Musante.
Tracked down to Coney Island in a boardwalk hotel Felix is apprehended and taken into the police station for questioning. A the police station Det. Leland's skillful interrogation of Felix gets him to break down and confess to Leikman's murder. Later convicted of murder and sentenced to death we see Felix strapped down in the electric chair and being executed. Det.Leland is one of the witnesses to Felix's execution.
Some time later a young woman Norma Maciver, Jacqueline Bisset, sees Det. Leland at the police station about the death of her husband Colin, William Windon. Colin was killed when he jumped or fell to his death from the roof of the grandstand of a racetrack and his death was determined by he police to be a suicide, Norma says that Colin was murdered and wants Det. Leland to re-open the case.
Det. Leland agrees to look into Colins death thinking that it would just be a routine matter for him to confirm the original police report and put the thoughts out of Norma's mind that her husband was murdered to rest once in for all. As Det. Leland begins to investigate Colin Maciver's death he starts to realize that he was wrong, shockingly wrong, about what happened to Colin Macvier! Even worse towards the end of the movie Det. Leland sees that in some way, in Colin Macivers suicide, he had a connection to his death that goes back to the Liekman/Tesla case that he solved some time ago!
A good and well rounder story with very good acting especially from Mr.Sinatra makes "The Detective" stand out today above the scores of crime and police movies made back in the 1960's and even much later. The film really hits the mark with a ground-breaking script about issues, like closet homosexually and police and political corruption, that just weren't addressed in motion pictures back then. there's also in the film a good supporting cast, with future stars, that's just too numerous to mention here.
Not to be overlooked is Llyod Bochner, Dr. Wendell Roberts, who in a small but important role reveals the truth about Norma's husbands, Colin Maciver's, tragic death that leaves Det. Joe Leland almost speechless! The shocking revelations that Dr. Roberts brings out has Let. Leland wonder if being a cop is worth all the dangers risks as well as surprises that the Teddy Leikman/Filex Tesla case eventually brought for him! And most of all it has Det. Leland also wonder if police work is what he's really cut out to do!
Based on the 1966 novel by Roderick Thorp, THE DETECTIVE was among the
highest grossing films of both 1968 and one of the most popular of
Frank Sinatra's film career. At the time it was considered remarkably
honest in its portrait of a no-nonsense cop who finds himself trapped
between a series of compromises and his own sense of integrity. Today,
however, it chiefly notable for its unintentional window onto 1960s
Joe Leland (Frank Sinatra) is a third generation New York City police officer who begins the film with two victories: in his private life, he has wooed and won a remarkably beautiful wife, Karen (Lee Remick); in his professional life, he is assigned to a particularly notorious murder case that he quickly solves and which results in a major promotion. But both explode in his face in particularly unsavory ways. Although flawless on the surface, Karen is a distinctly disturbed woman who shatters their marriage through a series of compulsive affairs. And although it seems solved, the case on which Joe's promotion rests may not be nearly as simple as every one thought at the time.
The case involves the brutal murder of a gay man who is found with his head battered in and sexually mutilated--a circumstance that leads Joe and his co-workers to prowl 'known homosexual hangouts' such as gyms and the waterfront. In the process, the film creates a portrait of the gay community that says considerably less about the gay community than the way in which heterosexual America thought of it at the time. The gay men themselves are improbable, being pulled out of group gropes from the back of cargo trucks, flexing muscles in tawny-colored gyms, frequenting bars notable for satin and velvet, and lounging about in silk robes. They come in two basic varieties, victim and predator. They are weak and are routinely brutalized by both each other and the police, the latter of which positively delight in knocking them around.
This is not particularly unusual for films of the 1960s and the 1970s; it is much the same portrait presented by such diverse films as ADVISE AND CONSENT and CRUISING. What is unusual is Joe's attitude toward them: unlike his co-workers, he dislikes seeing them mistreated and prefers to see them (and indeed all other suspects) accorded a certain basic respect as human beings. It was a very, very bold stance for a film to take at the time. Even so, it does not counterbalance the portrait itself, which is intrinsically demeaning, or the story, which ultimately pivots on a version of "gay panic"--a heterosexual myth used here with a slight spin.
The chief grace of the film is the performances of Sinatra and Remick. Today Sinatra is best recalled as a singer, but he had some significant acting chops, and he proves more than able to over the shortcomings of the script. Lee Remick, a much-admired actress, is flawlessly cast as the perfidious wife Karen, a woman who superficial qualities conceal an unraveling personality. The supporting cast, which features Jacqueline Bissett, Jack Klugman, and Robert Duvall, is also quite fine. But the script is weak, the story choppy, the film is a shade too glossy for its subject--and its incredibly naive portrait of gay men tends to overpower everything.
All films must be considered in the context of their eras, but even so a good film can transcend its era. THE DETECTIVE doesn't manage to do that: sometimes ridiculous to the point of being amusing, sometimes so grotesque that it becomes a bit embarrassing. All the same, it remains interesting primarily because it offers a window on what mainstream Americans of the 1960s thought homosexuals were like. The DVD offers the film in original widescreen format; the transfer, however, is merely acceptable. Recommended primarily to Sinatra fans and film historians interested in Hollywood's frequently off-the-wall portray of gay men.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
The nineteen fifties were a time of adaption for many police departments throughout the United States. The rubber hoses, the brutal interrogations, bright lights and smoke filled rooms were commonplace. So too were the results. Few guilty men escaped punishment and fewer still were the innocents who got away. During the next few decades, so much brutality became prevalent, a new force took on the cops. In this film, "The Detective" the audience witnesses the early seeds of Law Enforcement Officers and the evolution of Miranda rights. It is the story (written by Roderick Thorp) of an idealistic officer named Det. Sgt. Joe Leland (Frank Sinatra). He is the son of a policeman and believes in his work. The victim is the son of a prominent politician, who has been is brutally murdered. What Leland discovers in his investigation is far more than the murdered man's sexual preference, but rather the lengths others will go to cover it up. With Dave Schoenstein (Jack Klugman) as his partner, they inadvertently discover a powerful and ruthless organization called 'Rainbo'. Key to the murder, a puzzling suicide and to Rainbo are Dr. Wendell Roberts (Lloyd Bochner) and William Windom. If you'll look closely, you see a young Robert Duvall and Tony Musante. The importance of this film are the taboo subjects explored as the investigation continues. Unlike today, such subjects did not warrant prominence and yet this film offers them up raw and unfettered. Lee Remick gives a stirring performance as Karen Leland. All in all, an excellent film from a changing time. ****
Forty years on, it's all too easy to pick holes in the naïve depiction
of gays in this movie. Given its otherwise honest and sometimes brutal
portrayal, I'm quite sure it was dictated, at least in part, by what
the producers thought could be shown without alienating the majority
who might watch.
Aforementioned aside, this is a gritty, adult story of an intelligent, upright cop battling marriage problems and a sleazy murder, in addition to the bigots and small minds in his own department.
Frank Sinatra, in one of his best roles, plays the world-weary lead with deceptive ease, ably backed by a good script and fine supporting cast, including Lee Remick (one of my favourite actresses) as his soon-to-be ex-wife, battling problems of her own, dealt with in flashbacks (again, probably simplistically, but at least with some style and intelligence); and Lloyd Bochner as the doctor with the high-price clientele and secrets he'd rather not share. Not to mention an outstanding (and sadly forgotten) theme by Jerry Goldsmith.
Yes, it's very sixties, but it's *good* sixties; and in the best traditions of film noir too. All in all, it reminds me of a quote from Lee Remick herself: "I make movies for grownups. When Hollywood starts making them again, I'll start acting in them again".
An old fashioned, sometimes silly, but altogether decent and moral
little film. The isolated accusation of homophobia present elsewhere in
the list of reviews is not accurate. This assumption might be made from
watching only the first few minutes of the film, when certain
suspicions arise, but as the film develops those suspicions turn out to
be quite ungrounded and in fact the Sinatra character openly defends
gay characters from a homophobic cop, and so on.
Throughout this movie the hero has actual moral integrity and refuses to abandon it, most of the time, and if he does it is not glorified. This in itself makes it worth watching just the once, given the general state of other films in the genre.
A surprisingly subversive film, detailing a "rainbow" of conspiracies that affect all aspects of urban sixties society. The homosexual "other," along with the mysogynistic undercurrent of testosterone-controlled society is played to powerfully ironic and symbolic effect, from the closeted bisexuality of the mysterious spouse of Jaqueline Bissett, to the triumphantly cynical reasoning of the lone "colored" Detective who strips his suspect as a paean to Nazi interrogation tactics ( many Nazis were avowed closeted homosexuals). The establishment is skewered for "not facing responsibility" as Det. Joe would say. Slums, inadequate housing, homophobia, the death penalty ( the last execution in New York had taken place five years prior to the movie's release), marital infidelity, mental illness, political patronage, police corruption, and establishment hypocrisy ( "rainbow"-- come on, how blatant!)are all taken on by the man with old-fashioned, starch-shirted integrity. Thank God for "The Detective."
An honest cop gets caught up in a web of corruption as he investigates the murder of a prominent gay socialite. Frank Sinatra plays Detective Joe Leland, a beacon of decency and stability in his own unhinged world. His wife (Lee Remick) is practically a nymphomaniac, unable to control her sexual appetite, while his fellow detectives (Ralph Meeker and Robert Duvall) are involved in a widespread real estate corruption scandal known as Rainbow. The investigation of the murder takes place after the prime suspect is wrongly executed for the crime, and leads into the underground New York homosexual world of the late 60's, with some fascinating scenes shot at one of the bars, with a few faces that have been seen in other films, and a surreal atmosphere. Some have called this gay-bashing, though it seems more to be a portrayal of the secretive and closeted world of that time. In any event, the threat of being outed is an essential part of the story, and that element is quite dramatic and well done, with William Windom quite believable as the closeted and married gay man at the center of Rainbow. A tough movie of a detective caught up in a weird world of public corruption and personal crisis, catch it if you can.
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