6.4/10
2,083
36 user 28 critic

The Laughing Policeman (1973)

In San Francisco, California, one victim in a mass murder is a police detective. His partner and a new partner investigate in the city's seamy side.

Director:

Stuart Rosenberg

Writers:

Thomas Rickman (screenplay), Per Wahlöö (novel) (as Per Wahlhoo) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Walter Matthau ... Jake Martin
Bruce Dern ... Larsen
Louis Gossett Jr. ... Larrimore (as Lou Gossett)
Albert Paulsen ... Camerero
Anthony Zerbe ... Steiner
Val Avery ... Pappas
Cathy Lee Crosby ... Kay
Mario Gallo ... Bobby Mow
Joanna Cassidy ... Monica
Shirley Ballard Shirley Ballard ... Grace
William Hansen William Hansen ... Schwermer
Don Borisenko Don Borisenko ... Collins (as Jonas Wolfe)
Paul Koslo ... Haygood
Louis Guss Louis Guss ... Gus Niles
Frances Lee McCain ... Prostitute (as Lee McCain)
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Storyline

A policeman is among the victims when the passengers of a late-night bus are machine-gunned. With only one semi- conscious survivor and no other witnesses, the detectives try to learn from the identities of the dead why this happened and who the killer could be. Climax includes excellent chase. Written by David Carroll <davidc@atom.ansto.gov.au>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

This movie is so real it makes every other movie in this town look like a movie. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

23 January 1974 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

An Investigation of a Murder See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,280,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to Bruce Dern's autobiography, it was Walter Matthau's idea to have Dern, known mainly as a character actor, share top billing with him for this film, a gesture, for which, Dern was most grateful. See more »

Goofs

The actual gun used in the film is a Smith & Wesson M76 9mm machine gun without the barrel shroud and not an M3 .45 caliber "Grease Gun" made by GM Guide Lamp Division for WWII use. The omission of the barrel shroud gives the appearance of an M3. If one sticks to the story line, the M3 magazine held 30 rounds .45 ACP and cycled around 450 rpm. This is sufficient to inflict the damage and wounds shown in the film. See more »

Quotes

Sgt. Jake Martin SFPD: I want you to help me follow Henry Camarero for a few days, that's all.
Insp. Leo Larsen SFPD: Why?
Sgt. Jake Martin SFPD: Well he knows me from the original Teresa investigation...
Insp. Leo Larsen SFPD: [cutting off Jake] No, I mean why do you suddenly need me for anything? You've been doing this all by yourself all along. I've seen you. You never even bothered to show me the picture you showed the man upstairs just now.
Sgt. Jake Martin SFPD: Evans was following Gus Niles, right? Well I think Niles wanted Evans to follow him.
Insp. Leo Larsen SFPD: You mean you think he was setting the kid up?
Sgt. Jake Martin SFPD: That's ...
[...]
See more »


Soundtracks

Blue Moon
(uncredited)
Music by Richard Rodgers
Played on the stereo at home
See more »

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User Reviews

Long-time San Franciscan looks at the city in this movie.
30 July 2001 | by empSee all my reviews

I saw this movie today for the Xth time. As usual, I liked it a lot. So I looked this movie up on imdb.com, to see what they had to say, and was surprised at their Summary for this movie: `Dreary, Empty-Headed Crime Drama.'

I beg to differ. I have always loved this movie. It was released in 1973. It is a perfect picture of San Francisco in the mid-70's. I was there and I recognize everything in it--people, places, and attitudes. This is the pre-AIDS, pre-Yuppie, free-wheeling, getting-used-to-it San Francisco that I loved.

The director (Jack Sommersby) has taken the usual poetic license with the locations, so that the No. 14 Mission bus miraculously goes to Chinatown, and the Transamerica Pyramid is a good view from the Transbay Bus Terminal, but never mind. Any long-time San Franciscan will recognize the sights.

Further, and even better, this is a movie of subtleties--perhaps that is why the IMDB reviewer found it dreary. We are not hit in the face with expository material. The dialogue is not used to describe what can be shown. Early in the movie, the police are confronted with a bus of dead people. Getting on the bus, nobody says `It stinks in here.' Instead, one of the policemen says to the medical examiner, who is smoking a cigar, `Blow some of that smoke over here.' And, without comment, the ME does so. That is how we know it stinks in the bus.

As the policemen look closely at the dead people on the bus, they find that one of them is a policeman. It is, in fact, Matthau's partner. But they never say to each other (and therefore to us) that this victim is a policeman. They show it only in their reactions. Someone says, `My God! It's Hansen!' or words to that effect. `What is he doing on a bus?' and other dialogue let us know that this man is a policeman.

This is a happy change from the tedious obviousness of movies that are full of lines like, `You know, Jack, you are a happy-go-lucky person. Your face shows it.' Jack sits there like the lump he is, looking neither happy nor unhappy. We have to believe the speaker, because the acting isn't going to give us this information. A good director would eliminate this line, and get some happy-face acting from Jack.

It is good to see a movie directed by someone who thinks we are smart enough to get the point without being hit over the head with it. The advice usually given to beginning writers is also good for experienced directors: Don't tell us. Show us.

The laughing policeman is Bruce Dern--new to homicide investigations, and without subtleties. He laughs a lot. Matthau is the old-timer, who never laughs. He is also not a subtle person, but he is at least cautious. They are the beagle puppy and experienced retriever of the world of murder. They are oil and water, definitely not blending.

The plot is absurd, but it hardly matters. It is the chase. It is the location. It is the ambience (dreadful, overused word, but there it is; it is the right word) that counts in this movie.

Finding it on TV is hard these days. I found it recently on Black Starz TV. Fortunately for us all, Lou Gossett, Jr. is in it, so it will show up on channels catering to African Americans. Hunt for it. It's worth it.

IMDB.com uses the 10-star rating system. Following their lead, I give it 5 stars for plot, and 9 stars for faithful depiction of a time and place.


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