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Detective Story Reviews

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Super Reviewer

September 5, 2010
My second favourite Kirk Douglas movie. He plays a detective perfectly, the dialogue is great, the rest of the cast is great, the story is exciting, and it all takes place in one day. One of my favourite movies.
Conner R

Super Reviewer

July 22, 2010
Truly a performance based movie that really shouldn't be treated as anything else. While it lacks powerful direction and style, I don't think there was ever any intent to have either of those. You stay involved for the larger than life performance from Kirk Douglas as the most black and white cop to ever roam the streets of New York. You can clearly see this is better suited as a play and didn't necessarily need to make the jump to screen, but I'm pleased anyway.

Super Reviewer

July 24, 2008
Good solid film, somewhat dated. Eleanor Parker gives a lovely, delicate performance.
John B

Super Reviewer

July 26, 2013
Kirk Douglas succeeds in embodying all the strengths and fatal flaws of detective on the beat. It is an average day at the police station but one that is tremendously filled with drama.
Henrik S

Super Reviewer

October 29, 2009
A very good "chamber" movie, with the setting being limited to a small locale (a police station) this case, the movie evolves around the dense relationships and small events turning into big one in the blink of an eye. The movie boasts an golden era cast, with a brisk Kirk Douglas in the lead. Yet, the movie comes alive through the smaller roles which are effectively casted as well, Joseph Wiseman (deceased only recently) shows off his lunatic repertoire while Cathy O' Donnell walks a fine line as slighlty disturbed woman under the influence. The movie tackles a very critical topic, considering it is an American (!) move from the 50ies (!), two thumbs up. With isses so un-canonical and an ending so unexpected, the movie stands apart from the usual Hollywood porridge of mediocricy and you by the time the film has finished, you can tell that it is based on play. The ambiguity of characters, the multidude of stories and the non-sensationalist ending feel fresh and entertaining.

Good one,

Super Reviewer

December 17, 2006
One day in a New York City police precinct where all kinds of people intersect. Kirk Douglas is the tough detective who is dealing with a case involving an abortionist. It also has a shoplifter, two dangerous burglars, and an embezzler. A taut in your face crime drama that features a strong performance by Mr. Douglas and another good one by Eleanor Parker who plays his wife. One of the best of the detective movies from the 1950's.

Detective McLeod: "Take a couple of drop dead pills".
October 27, 2007
My favorite movie since I was 8 years old. I am not sure what that says about me, but, good or bad, it says something. lol
March 17, 2014
The most impressive part of this film is the multiple overlapping story's big and small that end up being effected by the main one. Billy wilder is spinning plates and he keeps them all in the air on this one. He also tactfully deals with some delicate subjects (especially for the time) without it feeling over the top of gimmicky. Very clearly based on a play making the downside almost the whole story taking place inside the police station short from one angle and the upside being its filled with well written and clever dialogue. Kurt Douglass is great but a little over the top and times. Ambitiously tackling a whole range of intersecting moral dilemmas the whole time and not one plate touches the ground.
January 18, 2014
Set in a NYC detective's room, a big open space with a bunch of desks and a bunch of character actors playing detectives (not unlike the old Barney Miller TV show). Perpetrators are brought in and out. The Lieutenant has his own adjacent room where private conversations can take place. But this movie is all about grandstanding Kirk Douglas who plays a Dirty Harry type who fights crime based on a moral principle and who is happy to take the law into his own hands. He shows no mercy, even to the young kid who made a mistake taking money from his boss. Things get complicated when he runs up against a suspected abortionist and his slick lawyer. Somewhat stagebound (it used to be a play) and uncertain about the psychology motivating Douglas's unforgiving jerk, but enthralling nevertheless.
September 3, 2012
Thanks to Kirk Douglas' memorable performance, this film adaptation of the Broadway play is entertaining and worth a watch, but only for the impressive acting and nothing else.
May 18, 2012
James McLeod (Douglas) is a no-nonsense cop whose life, other than the fact that people don't like him, is pretty good-- he has a beautiful, loving wife (Parker), he has a lot of money, and things are getting even better when he and his wife make plans to have a baby. All that changes when a young man with a minor offense shows up and claims that he and James' wife knew each other way back-- and it turns out she might not be as clean-cut as he thought. "Detective Story" is one of those very good vintage dramas that is high quality in every way but somehow falls deeply through the cracks. Although dated in more than a few ways (one of the main issues is something that society today wouldn't mind), overall this is a great movie that is entertaining, smart, and well-done. Filmed in real time, the film chronicles a day-in-the-life of a policeman, and we get to see every aspect, from the relationships with the other staff members, to the adults ready to be charged. Wyler does a great job making this world into a movie without turning it into a stinky, old fashioned melodrama. Instead, he keeps us entertained-- every character's fascinating and has a story, and considering the film doesn't have anything besides acting and a great script to show us a good time, it's easy to say that's quite impressive. As usual, Douglas gives a tour-de-force performance: but shockingly enough this time he's upstaged by Parker, who plays his long-suffering wife perfectly, and Grant (in her film debut) as the smart-mouthed thief. "Detective Story" succeeds at everything it tries, and fans of any of these actors will find that these are their best performances. Recommended.
February 1, 2007
Harry Lime
May 27, 2011
Play based movie set in a camped New York precinct, pitting the viewer in the shoes of Detective Jim McLeod, as he obsessively tries to convict a doctor accused of killing his young female patients.

Kirk Douglas delivers an intense performance, portraying the highly emotional, tough as nails cop who see's everything in black and white. Another excellent performance from him. The ending was over the top and took away from the film but strong performances and characterisations make this a must watch.

On another note, I was shocked by Joseph Wiseman's performance in this, it was dreadful! Based on the evidence in this film you would never guess he went on to give a great, subtle performance as Dr. No later in his career.
April 12, 2008
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.
August 6, 2006
More superb stuff from Wyler. In all honesty, a must see.
July 30, 2006
Its one day in a police headquarters. Thats pretty much the store, but its so well acted and well written that the premise actually ends up being pretty ingenious.
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