Review: The Detective

the_detective_1968

The Detective is a neo-noir from 1968 starring Frank Sinatra. This film is based on a book by Roderick Thorp by the same name. The book is the first book by Thorp based on his P.I. character Joe Leland. In this film the character Joe Leland is changed from a private investigator to a New York Police Detective. This book isn’t as popular as Thorp’s second Joe Leland book,  Nothing Lasts Forever. Nothing Lasts Forever was also adapted for the big screen. In this film, the Joe Leland character is also changed from a P.I. to a Police Detective, but his name was also changed from Joe Leland to Officer John McClane. Yup, Nothing Lasts Forever was adapted to a little film called Die Hard.

book-cover-nothing-lasts-forever

So…in the literary world Die Hard is a sequel to The Detective…and Frank Sinatra played a younger version of Bruce Willis’ John McClane or Willis played an older version of Sinatra’s Joe Leland? I have not read either of these books, and find the movies have very little to nothing in common, but find this knowledge fascinating.

The Detective was directed by Gordon Douglas, due to Sinatra’s request. The film revolves around Sinatra’s Joe Leland who is a hardboiled detective and is at the top of his game. Leland is a bit displaced as he seems to be a detective stuck in the 1950’s and sometimes comes across as a man who doesn’t fit in to the late 1960’s changing world. When confronted with drugs, open relationships, and homosexuals, you get the feeling he wishes he was back in simpler times, when this stuff was not openly paraded in front of his face.

ocrimesemperdaothedetective1968franksinatra011

The film starts out with a prominent businessman’s son found dead and Leland is brought to the crime scene. The son is brutally murdered by somebody and the police force is under pressure to find the killer fast. The film then flashes back to Leland remembering how he meet his wife, played by Lee Remick. This flashback shows his wife as a damaged soul that is self destructive.  When we return to the present, Leland helps solve the case and sees his suspect go to the electric chair. He also gets a promotion due to this case, but did he send the wrong guy to death?

tumblr_nxesuavoai1tmo3ejo1_1280

As the film continues Leland is approached for help from Norma MacIver played by Jacqueline Bisset. Her husband has committed suicide, but Norma doesn’t think this is the whole picture. Is this second case tied to the first? Is it just part of a bigger conspiracy?

91609647_o

Look for Robert Duvall and Jack Klugman in small roles as police detectives.

This may not be Sinatra’s best work, but it is an intriguing film that is well worth watching for Sinatra fans. This film is a good bridge for the classic film noir of the late 1950’s to the classic neo noir’s to come in the 1970’s.

1968thedetectiveg

Favorite Tidbit: At the time of this film Sinatra was married to Mia Farrow who was filming the now classic Rosemary’s Baby. Farrow was scheduled to play the role that eventually went to Jacqueline Bisset. When Rosemary’s Baby went over schedule, Sinatra tried to get Farrow pulled from the production. When Farrow was not pulled from the production and did not make it to the filming of The Detective, Sinatra sent her divorce papers to the set of Rosemary’s Baby.

 

Advertisements

Re-watching the Classics: The Conversation

The Conversation is a neo noir film from Writer and Director Francis Ford Coppola.  This film may get lost in the mix of great Coppola films, but it is right up there with his best.  Honestly, the first time I seen this, I didn’t get what all the fuss was about, but after re-watching it, I think I get it now.  This is more of a slow burn that continues to turn up the heat as we go.

The cast is amazing with the movie revolving around Gene Hackman who plays somebody totally different than our hardboiled detective role we looked at in The French Connection and Night Moves earlier on this site.  He plays a surveillance expert, who happens to be a little paranoid, maybe he should be.  He is the best at what he does, but soon wonders if he should be doing it.  He also sees how easy somebody can do the same to him and this I feel drives his paranoia more.

The rest of the cast play small parts, but Coppola seems to have a knack of getting high level talent for these parts.  One stand out is Harrison Ford, this is one year after his break out performance in American Graffiti, but he wasn’t quite the biggest star on the planet yet, Star Wars was still 5 years away.  We also have John Cazale, Cazale only appeared in 5 films, all in the 1970’s, before his untimely death.  They just happen to be 5 of the best films of the decade.  We also have a young Frederic Forrest and Cindy Williams as our targets of the surveillance.  We see Terri Garr in an important scene and Robert Duvall and Billy Dee Williams in such small roles they went uncredited and didn’t even have lines!

Our story starts with Forrest and Williams in a square having what seems to be an innocent conversation on their lunch hour.  We soon see Hackman and his team at different posts around the square, using different recording devices to record the conversation.  We then have a scene where Hackman comes home, he has a number of locks and an alarm on his apartment and when he opens the door, there is a bottle of wine for his birthday.  You see how this drives Hackman crazy, even with all this security the land lord easily gets into his apartment to drop off the wine.  The next day he goes to his warehouse and starts working on piecing his recording together to get the whole conversation.  Once he is finished, he sets up an appointment to deliver the final product to the man who hired him.  That man is not in and his assistant, played by Ford, tries to pay Hackman for the tapes.  Hackman feeling paranoid again decides to wait to deliver it to the man who hired him.  The story takes off from there, as we meet some of Hackman’s competitors at a convention and he tries to figure out what is on the tape exactly and why do people want it so bad?

This movie is a statement on how technology is not always the best thing and can cause more trouble then it is worth.  I can’t imagine what Coppola would have to say if this film was made today, but I would love to see it.  Though the technology is primitive by today’s standards it still has something to say about our world.  Is too much information a good thing?  Are we becoming paranoid as a society?  Should we be?

This film should be seen by any film buff, whether you are a noir fan or not.  If you didn’t see why it is so great on your first viewing, give it a second chance.  I did and I’m glad I did.  This is a film that could be watched multiple times as little nuances can be found each time.

Re-Watching the Classics: Bullitt

bullitt+tryptich

Bullitt is a movie based on the book Mute Witness by Robert L Fish.  Even though this movie is based on a book, it does not have an over whelming plot.  Luckily this movie stars the king of cool, Steve McQueen as Bullitt.  This film is definitely more style then story. The story starts out with Bullitt assigned to protect a witness, his team doesn’t do so well.  This turns Bullitt into a rogue detective, breaking some of the rules to find the people responsible.  The cars and the city of San Francisco are just as big of stars as the actors in this film. Peter Yates does a great job of making this film look interesting and real.  The editing flows well and won Frank P. Keller an Oscar.

Of course this movie is best known for its great car chase scene with McQueen in his Mustang and the bad guys running a Dodge Charger.  The scene has no music, just the sound of 2 American Big Blocks roaring through the streets.  Steve McQueen was known as a great driver and did some of his own driving in the scene.  If you’re a car nut you will love this car chase, maybe the most famous in cinema history.  I’m a Porsche guy so I personally love seeing Jacqueline Bisset drive McQueen down the highway in her yellow Porsche 356 Cabriolet.  For those that didn’t already know, Steve McQueen was a motorhead, he loved cars and motorbikes.  He owned many interesting vehicles, and Porsches where a big part of that collection.

Election Movie one

Interesting trivia on this film is McQueen was inspired by real life San Francisco Detective Dave Toschi for his character.  Toschi is most famous for being the lead detective on the Zodiac Killer Case.  He was portrayed by Mark Ruffalo in David Fincher’s Zodiac(We will review this movie in the future).  He was also the inspiration for Dirty Harry, one of Clint Eastwood’s most famous characters.

Besides McQueen, Bisset who plays Cathy, Bullitt’s girlfriend also stars.  I do wish she had more screen time in this movie, she is a very minor sub-plot.  We also see Robert Vaughn as a possible corrupt politician.  Some of the supporting cast highlights are Norman Fell as the police captain and my favorite, Robert Duvall as a taxi driver.

Bullitt is required viewing for noir buffs, car buffs, and movie buffs in general.