Wow, police procedure has changed since this movie was made. We'll not get into the police brutality aspect of things, which is the subject of much debate as to how much it's improved since then. But these guys don't seem to have holding cells. The ending would be completely different if they did. But no, everyone's just sort of sitting on benches, handcuffed in the front, not behind the back. (I am given to understand it's easier to escape with your hands fastened in front of you than behind you.) This one detective division seems to handle everything, and there's not much "everything" to handle. We have one shoplifter and three larger thieves of varying degrees. Who knows--maybe there actually is a homicide department, and I just don't know about, but there is evidence against it. And certainly it's possible that this is more how Hollywood envisioned police than how police actually were, but you figure [i]someone[/i] would have noticed, and that this movie wouldn't've been terribly successful if it were that bad.
Okay, it's not actually a bad movie. It's just a bit overblown. Kirk Douglas is acting circles around everyone else, but it's worth noting that he wasn't nominated for an Oscar for this; two of the four women in it were. One is the shoplifter (Lee Grant) we see appear at the beginning, to settle us into the story. The other is Eleanor Parker, who played Mary McLeod, Kirk Douglas's character's wife. It is really about their story. Kirk Douglas has been fighting crime his whole life so that he will not be like his father. He beats an abortion doctor--really, and in 1951!--nearly to death. He threatens to beat one of the witnesses who was one of his patients when he realizes that the rich fur she's wearing was a payoff. He refuses to let a first-time thief go and spends his time trying to convince the thief's girlfriend to ditch him.
Actually, it kind of amazes me that this film got made in the first place. We have Schneider the abortion doctor (George Macready). We have cops beating up just about everybody except the shoplifter. We have Lou Brody (William Bendix) trying to let Arthur Kindred (Craig Hill) go despite his theft from his employer, and his girl, Susan Charmichael (Cathy O'Donnell--and why she gets such higher billing than he I don't know), sticking by him. In short, quite a lot of this seems against the Code to me, but here we are.
And then, there's Douglas as Detective McLeod. He's not evil, but he's definitely scarred, and he inflicts similar scar tissue on just about everyone within range. He's confident that he's better than the crooks he puts in jail, but his wife knows different. She sees the darkness within him--and, really, does it matter if you're a cop when you hit people with sticks? You're still hitting someone with a stick. Indeed, it's possible that he could have killed someone, and he simply doesn't care.
Finally, let's talk hypocrisy. "Tramp" is the word I'd like to focus on. Not "adulterer," mind; the woman is the one to blame in this situation. The woman is expected to be pure and chaste, to be the one making sacrifices. We were talking, over on BAUT, about turning off movies that offend your sensibilities. This one offends mine. But just turning it off would've been too easy. This is something you need to watch, if for no other reason than to contemplate whether you're closer to Brody or McLeod.