This is one of those 1960s cop movies that kind of faded away over the years, but holds up nice as a very kool slice of life from the time. With plenty of shots of NYC in the late 60s, cars, slums, fancy hotels, police precincts inside and out, this film is an hour and forty-one minute time capsule.
Starring Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Harry Guardino, James Whitmore and Inger Stevens.
Set in the present of 1968, this movie is an old-fashioned crime drama with a gritty edge. The detectives are all tough guys with short-brimmed fedoras, the cops look like they could have stepped out of a 1930’s flick, the cars are all big American sedans and there’s litter everywhere. The director managed to help capture the era for all posterity by grabbing plenty of shots of food joints, bars, commercial signage, and even a nice shot of the Coney Island boardwalk. Hard-swingin’ crime drama music by Don Costa and a lines like “he needs a hair cut” and “aw, the hell with these (bullet proof) vests, let’s go” juice this goody up but good.
The story: Madigan and his partner get suckered into losing up their rods to a hood during a routine check. They spend the next couple of days tracking the guy down, while he uses the heisted rods to kill cops. Meanwhile the commish is dealing with police corruption that goes all the way up to the top. Bad news all around.
I’m sure audiences in 1968 who were expecting an old-fashioned crime drama were surprised (maybe appalled) by the split-second female nudity, the few curse words peppered around and the mean-street violence, even by the cops themselves. By today’s standards it’s practically a Disney flick. But still fun to watch, especially for the images of 43 years ago.
Food & Booze: These are hard-drinking tough-guy cops. Drinking anything less than 100 proof rye whiskey would be crime. Wash down a dirty-water dog or a Rubin on rye with a pickle and you’re all set.
My take: The thing I found really interesting about this flick was the offices inside the police station. Dull green walls, wooden desks, steel grating over dirty windows and everything covered in a film of nicotine is exactly what you see, and exactly what I envisioned when I wrote my murder mystery book Murder on Tiki Island, where Detective Bill Riggins has a desk, a phone and a chair to conduct his investigating. Now, I may have seen this movie when I was a kid, say, 35 years ago on TV. Don’t remember it. But it seems my imagination has a pretty good handle on what police stations looked like in the middle of the last century. Kookie, huh?
Here are the opening titles, with lots of cool 1968 shots of New York and some swingin’ crime drama riffs by Don Costa…
Man, they just don’t write movie music like that anymore, huh? Swingin’, rockin’, crazy stuff.
-Tiki Chris Pinto reporting from the screening room at Pirate’s Cove Tiki Lounge, Fort Lauderdale, Florida