Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Cop Hater (1958) 87th Precinct Noir

The new MGM DVD of March 15, 2011 has dictated an updated review.

A police procedural Film Noir, based on the 1956 novel "Cop Hater" by Ed McBain. It was the first in a series of books and films about the 87th Precinct in New York City. The film was produced and directed by William Berke (Shoot to Kill (1947), FBI Girl (1951)). The film was written by Henry Kane. Cinematography was by J. Burgi Contner.

The film stars Robert Loggia (Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), The Garment Jungle (1957), Scarface (1983), Lost Highway (1997)) as Detective Steve Carelli, Gerald S. O'Loughlin as Detective Mike Maguire, Ellen Parker (Mike Hammer (TV Series)) as Teddy Franklin,
Shirley Ballard (The Second Woman (1950), Scandal Sheet (1952), The Laughing Policeman (1973)) as Alice Maguire, Russell Hardie (Fail-Safe (1964)) as Detective Lieutenant Peter Byrnes, Gene Miller as Hank Miller, reporter, John Gerstad (No Way to Treat a Lady (1968)) as Forensics Lieutenant, Hal Riddle as Mercer, Vincent Gardenia (Murder, Inc. (1960), Mad Dog Coll (1961), The Hustler (1961), Hickey & Boggs (1972)) as Danny the Gimp, Steve Franken, and Jerry Orbach (Mad Dog Coll (1961), Delusion (1991)) as Gang Leader Mumzer.

The murder of three detectives in quick succession in the 87th Precinct leads Detective Steve Carella (Loggia) on a search that takes him into the city's underworld. Written by Evan Hunter using the name Ed McBain, the book was inspired by a television show he greatly admired, Dragnet. McBain chose to set his 87th Precinct series in the fictional city of Isola though for all intents and purposes it's Manhattan.

Plainclothes detective Mike Reardon is awakened by an alarm clock. He's got graveyard shift. He is on the way to work when he is shot to death from behind with a .45. Detective Steve Carella and his colleagues from the 87th Precinct are obsessed with looking for their friend's killer, and they have no real clues nor any idea that this is just the beginning of a series of police murders.

Mike Reardon (Alan Bergnan)

NYC street murder scene

David Foster Reardon's partner is the next victim, in an alley near the entrance of his apartment. There the killer has left behind a footprint and some .45 shell cases at the crime scene. All the footprint provides is a make of shoe, an identifying bent nail on the heel, and a possible weight of the murderer that, one of the detectives jokes, narrows it down to three million suspects.

Carelli (Loggia) & Maguire (O'Loughlin)

Detctive Lieutenant Byrnes (Hardie) and Maguire
The city is in the grips of a heat wave in July 1956, it's hot and humid, not many buildings have air-conditioning. Most citizens seek relief from fans, or open windows, some resourceful denizens will even drag their mattresses out on firescapes.

Heat Wave

Alice Maguire (Shirley Ballard) cooling off.

Steve Carella and Maguire (O'Loughlin) question all the likely leads. A few nights later the unknown killer ambushes and murders Maguire. Maguire  though was able to get a shot off and scratch the killer's face. A blood drip trail gives the detectives an idea as to the severity of the killers wound. From the evidence supplied from under the fingernails they get more clues. Steve Carella fears he will be the next target if he fails to stop him. A young Vince Gardenia plays a junky stoolie. Jerry Orbach is a teen gang leader who's crew gets mixed up in the proceedings.

Danny The Gimp (Gardenia)

Mumzer (Orbach)
Teddy (Parker) is Carella's mute gal pal, she is a cutie and becomes part of the final confrontation after she has just emerged from the tub wearing only a bath towel and the proceedings get on the very brink of kinky as Teddy is backed onto a table while the killer is seated before her, you wonder which gun he may use. Alice Maguire (Ballard) is equally toothsome parading around in her bra and panties for a good majority of her scenes.

The films biggest problem is that the investigation sequences seem a bit too rushed in spots and very detailed in others making the film uneven, and there seem to be hardly any location shots which gives the film a cheap production feel on the whole. At least you do actually see the actors and some of New York City in the same shots, unlike the recently reviewed The Case Against Brooklyn.  Cop Hater is not very noir visually, it's cafe au lait - Noir Lite,  but it has an excellent femme fatale. 6.5- 7/10 with the new DVD.

Original review here: Cop Hater original review

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