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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:

When will the killer strike again? 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

In the original screenplay, Martin was supposed to laugh at the end, true to the film's title. This idea was abandoned, either by Director Stuart Rosenberg or Walter Matthau during shooting. See more »

Goofs

In the morgue scene, early in the film, there are a few "corpses" breathing. On one corpse, the toes curl. See more »

Quotes

Bartender: What are you drinking?
Insp. Leo Larsen SFPD: I'm looking for a certain little scumbag, you know what I mean?
Bartender: Can you narrow it down a little bit?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Horror Business (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

You'll Never Know
(uncredited)
Music by Harry Warren
Played on the radio in the car
See more »

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User Reviews

Unjustly obscure police depiction
5 November 2003 | by Poseidon-3See all my reviews

For some reason, this crime drama is almost completely overlooked. Even though it has it's faults, it is mostly a terrific examination of a police investigation. (In fact, in Australia, it was titled "Investigation of a Murder" which is far more apt a title than what it is here.) Matthau plays a police detective whose partner has been gunned down in a mass murder aboard a city bus. He is paired with Dern to find out if there's a connection between the massacre and the policeman's presence on the bus. They form an uneasy alliance (due to their clashing personalities and styles of working) and attempt to solve the baffling case. Gossett makes a strong impression as a fellow detective, though his character sort of drifts out of the picture at some point. Crosby and Cassidy have small, early roles as women who were affected by the murders. What's brilliant about the film is the wondrous verisimilitude and almost complete authenticity of the settings and performances. Only occasionally, can someone be caught "acting". Most of the time, the camera acts in an almost documentary fashion, eavesdropping on the various events and conversations. This type of gritty, realistic, matter-of-fact film is simply not made anymore today. The comparatively simple bus massacre is more striking and vivid than any of the overdone action scenes that litter all of today's films. There's a stark quality to the production that fits it well. Where the film strays is in it's endless cop vignettes which don't always have anything to do with the plot and which distract from, rather than enhance, the story. It's as if the writers tried to include too much from the source novel and wound up muddying the waters of the primary story. This also makes the film hard to follow at times. What's priceless is the display of the unmistakably tacky clothes and furnishings of the 1970's. There are also amusing glimpses into the San Francisco gay bar scene with real patrons displaying their faces (sometimes made up in drag) before the camera. Matthau says little in the film, but holds the attention with his various personal demons and conflicts. He chews gum incessantly and listens to standards on his radio to keep his emotions in check. Dern, as a more lively sort, is a great counterpoint and holds his own nicely. The mystery winds up being not all that big a mystery at all, but there's still a decent payoff with a "French Connection-esquire" car chase through San Francisco.


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