A San Francisco city bus, with eight passengers and the driver, pulls out of a downtown bus station and moves through the city stopping once for a new passenger. The passenger, unseen above the chest, walks to the back of the bus pulls the pieces of a sub-machine gun from a tote bag, assembles them, and massacres the eight passenger and the driver. The bus crashes and the killer walks away. Driving onto the scene are homicide detectives Jake Martin (Walter Matthau), Leo Larsen (Bruce Dern) and James Larrinore (Lou Gosset). As they search the bus they find one of the bodies is that of Dave Evans (Anthony Costello), Martin's police partner. It is the search for the murderer and the reason for Evans' presence on the bus that pairs detective Martin and Larsen together. With the help of Evan's girlfriend Kay Butler (Cathy Lee Crosby), they determine that Evans was following leads to close a murder case which Martin, sixteen years on the force, was unable to solve two years previous. Thed ...Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When Larsen (Bruce Dern) and Martin (Walter Matthau) are on the way to pick up explosives from the Hell's Angels, the tune "Big Noise From Winnetka" plays in the background. Dern went to New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois. See more »
When Larsen follows Henry Camerero into the back door of a gay bar, the sign outside it says "The Ramrod". However, when Camerero exits the bar through the front door a few minutes later, the sign above the door says "The Frolic Room". See more »
You Make Me Feel So Young
Music by Josef Myrow
Played on the radio in the car See more »
An absorbing 70s crime drama.
Admittedly, the pace of "The Laughing Policeman" is pretty slow, but this is a well plotted murder mystery that gets a lot of juice from the marvelous chemistry between investigating detectives Walter Matthau (as Jake Martin) and Bruce Dern (as Leo Larsen). The supporting cast is likewise excellent and full of familiar faces. Producer / director / uncredited screenwriter Stuart Rosenberg makes great use of San Francisco locations, and keeps viewers intrigued with the police procedural aspect to the tale. The violence is pretty potent, and there's a certain amusement in seeing detectives Martin and Larsen work their way through the seedier environments of SF.
As the movie opens, a cop named Evans (Anthony Costello) follows a man named Niles (Louis Guss) onto a city bus; soon, a character known to Niles gets on board and pumps several passengers full of holes, including Evans and Niles. Martin, who happened to be Evans' partner, gets newly paired up with Larsen to work the case as their superior (Anthony Zerbe) demands results.
What's a joy here is seeing this cast at work. Matthau and Dern contrast nicely; what we come to know about Martin is that despite having a home and family, he's pretty much devoted to his job. Louis Gossett Jr. is fun as one of their colleagues; also making appearances are Val Avery, Cathy Lee Crosby, Mario Gallo, Joanna Cassidy, Paul Koslo, Frances Lee McCain, Clifton James, Gregory Sierra, Warren Finnerty, Matt Clark, and Wayne Grace. Albert Paulsen ("The Manchurian Candidate") has the most interesting role seeing that he actually has next to nothing in the way of dialogue.
The movie may get a little repetitive as it comes full circle at the end, but taking everything into consideration it's a good and solid example of its genre.
Based on the novel "Den Skrattande Polisen" by authors Per Wahloo & Maj Sjowall.
Seven out of 10.
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