The Detective (1968)

GORDON DOUGLAS

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5

USA, 1968, Screenplay by , based on the novel by .   Cinematography by .   Produced by Music by .   Production Design by , Costume Design by , .   Film Editing by .   Podcast: Bad Gay Movies.  

Frank Sinatra plays a hard-boiled cop who is always at odds with his colleagues, disagreeing with their brutal treatment of the citizens of New York City while unable to make things work at home with his sexually compulsive wife (Lee Remick).  The brutal murder of a gay man who is also the son of one of the city’s most prominent citizens leads him into Manhattan’s gay underworld where he has as much trouble keeping his cops (including Robert Duvall) in line as he does tracking down suspects.  When someone confesses to the crime and the case is solved, Sinatra is promoted and his career soars, but his next case, investigating the suicide of a businessman whose wife () insists that he was murdered, ends up tying back to the first and threatens to undo his own success.  While its treatment of the procedural aspects of police work is sober and detailed, the film is a slog to get through thanks to Gordon Douglas’s slow direction and, most disappointing, Sinatra’s uninspired performance in the lead.  Gone is the vulnerability of The Man With The Golden Arm or From Here To Eternity, the Rat-Pack-era Sinatra is obsessed with his own physical and psychological invulnerability and spends the whole film determined to not be affected by anything, treating his wife’s infidelity, a murder case and the social injustices of his fellow cops with an unchanged, sanguine attitude that robs the film of any noticeable stakes.   Remick gives a great deal to a subplot that the film doesn’t really need, but the connection between Sinatra’s two cases takes too long to be established and halfway through the film you feel like you have switched channels.  Author Roderick Thorp wrote a sequel novel to the novel that this film is based on called Nothing Lasts Forever, which was later made into the film Die Hard.

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