Jim McLeod is a hard-nosed and cynical detective. He believes in a strict interpretation of the law and doesn't believe in turning the other cheek. The current object of his zealousness is Karl Schneider, an abortionist responsible for the death of several young women. Schneider's lawyer tells the precinct lieutenant that McLeod has his own personal reasons for going after his client. It turns out that his wife was a patient before they met, although Jim knew nothing of it. His world suddenly turned upside down, McLeod is too late in re-evaluating his priorities.Written by
Kirk Douglas has always excelled in roles where he plays the maverick loner, walking the fine line between anger and insanity. Thus his role as Det. Jim McLeod in "Detective Story" is a real showcase for his acting talents. This is not a crime drama in the conventional sense where there is any real action or crime to solve, even though you have a room full of New York City police detectives on screen for just about the whole movie. Instead it is a character study of Jim McLeod, played by Kirk Douglas. McLeod's motivation in his work is not to solve crimes or even protect the innocent. Instead, he is motivated by a desire to root out evil by his definition of the word. Evil is something McLeod claims that anyone can easily spot. McLeod's world view doesn't differentiate between the one-time bad act of a basically good person, such as Arthur Kindred (Craig Hill), a young man who impulsively stole from his employer in a last ditch attempt to impress a girl he believed he loved, versus the misdeeds of a lifetime criminal, such as the homicidal maniac Charlie (Arthur Kindred), that has also been apprehended by the detective squad that same day.
When confronted by a mistake in the past of the person nearest to him, his own wife, McLeod is equally unforgiving. His rage and disgust is so great, you're not sure what bothers him more - the discovery of his wife's past or the failure of his own nose to sniff out the misdeed prior to this. By the time McLeod realizes his own inflexibility and lack of empathy have cost him what he loves the most, it is too late to undo the damage, and this leads to one last tragedy.
This is Douglas in an early fine if not huggable role, and is recommended viewing for that reason alone. William Bendix makes up for the lack of likability in Douglas' character as Detective Lou Brady, who likes to temper the letter of the law with a little humanity. Then there's a very young Lee Grant as a shoplifter who just can't stop babbling. Finally, there's Horace McMahon as Lieutenant Monaghan, head of the detective squad and the kind of boss we'd all like to have.
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