'The Detective' DVD Review ** 080605

The Work = **
I think the chief reason that 'The Detective' didn’t work for me is just couldn’t go gritty enough. It is one of a few movies that Frank Sinatra made with director Gordon Douglas in the late 60s. The film follows detective Joe Leland. Sinatra handles the role well and is supported by a mostly strong cast. Even someone like Robert Duvall pops up as an abusive cop. He is effective despite his character being pretty one note.

Leland is successful cop that is rising through the ranks of the police force. The trouble is he questions some of the police forces convictions. As Leland begins to uncover intertwining crimes and cover ups he runs the risk of sacrificing his career. Much of the films deals with then underground homosexual culture. The problem is, homosexual culture was still taboo and while 'The Detective' tries to break through those taboo’s it doesn’t do so entirely successfully.

Much of the police force in the film is shown to be homophobic. Leland is not so bigoted as his counterparts are and is concerned with finding out the truth behind crimes, homosexual or not. He is a detective at a time when the public was going through a social revolution, youth culture was exploding. He has to deal with the sliding perception of the police force at work where the department seems ridged and certainly not open to change.

To make matters worse things are exasperated for Leland on the home front. Leland’s marriage has dissolved and much of the tension that lead to it seems to have come from his wife’s liberal friends and their attitudes. He seemed to be under some sort of pressure everywhere he went. Sinatra never missteps in his performance and he shows he really was a much better actor than he gets credit for.

I mentioned that I thought the film didn’t go gritty enough at the beginning of the review and I am not sure if that is the correct term. 'Dirty Harry', 'The French Connection' and 'Serpico' had all not come out yet but they would be able capitalize on different aspects of the police force and struggle of the police officer. Whether it was the new freedoms that filmmakers had to show more adult content onscreen or just luck those films were all able to bring dark gripping portraits to the screen that have held up better than 'The Detective'. (Ironically at one point Sinatra was going to be in 'Dirty Harry'.) Those films may owe a debt to earlier flics like 'The Detective' and there are those that will definitely dig this film more than I did.

DVD = ***

The Look
'The Detective' looks pretty darn good on DVD. For a movie that seems to have been pretty low budget and was made some forty years ago it looks great. 'The Detective' is present in anamorphic widescreen in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

The Sound
There is a Dolby Digital stereo and mono English track, as well as mono French and Spanish tracks. The DVD also has Subtitles in English and Spanish. I only listened to the English mono and it sounded good to me. There wasn’t any loud hiss or other damage that I heard and the effects, dialogue and music sounded clear.

The Bonus
Yeah, well poop. All Fox put on the DVD is a collection of trailers. There trailers are for the Sinatra Tony Rome flics and for some Raquel Welch flics that Fox has released. Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining, after all this movie still got a good transfer. Still, I think a commentary from a Sinatra biographer or film critic would be in order. Sinatra worked with Douglas three times and it would be interesting to hear about their working relationship.

All Together = **
For me, I prefer 'Tony Rome' and 'Lady in Cement' to 'The Detective'. Sinatra made all three with Douglas and while the first two were sort of fun private eye flics’, The Detective tries to be a tough, gritty, detective story and doesn’t quite do it for me. Too much of the “shocking” homosexual elements aren’t shocking anymore and the crimes depicted in the film don’t ring true and seem closer to exploitation to me. Maybe I just wanted more Tony Rome films, I’m not sure. I can’t help but wonder if this film had been made even just three or four years later it might have been able to be a stronger film. Fox is to be given credit for giving a great transfer to this film but I still wish there were some extra features. I can’t recommend this one but you know it may just be me. Fans of Sinatra may want to give it a try but fair warning it is not a happy film. Curious viewers may want to try renting first.


'The Detective' Links:


'Tony Rome' Review

'Lady in Cement' Review

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