The Laughing Policeman (1973)

The Laughing Policeman (1973)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Laughing Policeman Photos

Movie Info

Cops Walter Matthau and Bruce Dern stalk a serial killer with a lust for bus riders in this thriller also called An Investigation of Murder.
Drama , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
20th Century Fox Film Corporation


Walter Matthau
as Sgt. Jake Martin
Bruce Dern
as Insp. Leo Larsen
Louis Gossett Jr
as Insp. James Larrimore
Albert Paulsen
as Henry Camerero
Anthony Zerbe
as Lt. Steiner
Val Avery
as Pappas
Cathy Lee Crosby
as Kay Butler
Mario Gallo
as Bobby Mow
Shirley Ballard
as Grace Martin
William Hansen
as Schwermer
Jonas Wolfe
as Collins
Paul Koslo
as Havgood
Louis Guss
as Gus Niles
Frances Lee McCain
as Prostitute
Ivan Bookman
as Rodney
Clifton James
as Maloney
Gregory Sierra
as Vickery
Lavelle Roby
as Receptionist
Matt Clark
as Coroner
Joe Bernard
as Avakian's Brother
Joseph E. Bernard
as Avakian's Brother
Leigh French
as Porno Cashier
Jim Clawin
as Fowler
Anthony Costello
as Dave Evans
Wayne Grace
as Brennan
Dave Belrose
as Ralph Martin
Dawn Frame
as Debbie Martin
Ellen Nance
as Receptionist
Lavelle Robey
as Receptionist
Hobart Nelson
as Jail Guard
Gus Bruneman
as Squad Captain
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for The Laughing Policeman

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (5)

It loses a great deal in the translation from Stockholm to San Francisco's Dirty Harry country. Gloomy authenticity, for one thing; pace and a genuine sense of puzzlement, for others.

Full Review… | October 27, 2015
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

After an extremely overdone prolog of violent mass murder on a bus, The Laughing Policeman becomes a handsomely made manhunt actioner.

Full Review… | July 21, 2008
Top Critic

By the end, complete with car chase and split-second shooting, the film has become indistinguishable from all those movies it's trying so hard to disown.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Though an essentially familiar amalgam of murder, manhunt and dogged police work in that scenic city, this Policeman stands a good deal taller than the norm because of the expert guidance of Stuart Rosenberg

Full Review… | May 8, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

The Laughing Policeman is an awfully good police movie: taut, off-key, filled with laconic performances. It provides the special delight we get from gradually unraveling a complicated case.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Much of the film is crude, full of "Visit San Francisco" photography and Matthau isn't on the same great form as he was as the transit cop in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.

Full Review… | October 27, 2015
Radio Times

Audience Reviews for The Laughing Policeman

Stuart Rosenberg's solid, tense crime drama based on a Swedish award winning novel by Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall, the story is transplanted from Stockholm to San Francisco. The late great Walter Matthau delivers one of his most accomplished, detailed performances, as a tough police lieutenant investigating a grisly massacre on board a city bus by a madman, who opened up with a machine gun and murdered eight people. He discovers that his former partner, a detective is one of the victims, Matthau uncovers unsavory things about his ex-partner, and that many of the victims had shady lives, which shrouds the killer's identity even more. But Matthau and his current partner, played superbly by Bruce Dern, are running out of time because the killer is getting ready to attack another city bus. Astute direction by Stuart Rosenberg, fine supporting performances by Louis Gossett Jr, Albert Paulsen, Anthony Zerbe, Anthony Costello, Val Avery, Joanna Cassidy, and Cathy Lee Crosby. Good suspense and plot twists, outstanding cinematography by David M. Walsh. A gritty period piece, and accurate 70's police procedural from the golden age of urban American films. Highly Recommended.

Danny Rovira
Danny Rovira

Super Reviewer


Great SF in the '70s police procedural. Lots of small details to make it human. A little slow and Bruce Dern is purposely obnoxious. All in all, worth watching.

Amanda Peterson
Amanda Peterson

Police procedural based on the Swedish novel reset to San Francisco. I have read the original book, from a series of Detective fiction by Maj Sjowali & Per Whaloo, and some details work others dont (in the book, it is explained easily how the bad guy obtained a machinegun: a leftover WW2 Suomi gun used by anti-Nazi resistance fighters, in the movie, the villian just happens to have one. There is some mumbling about a Korean War era .45 Cal. "Grease Gun" but the one used is a 9mm Smith & Wesson copy of the Danish Madsen 9mm SMG). Some scenes are filmed in the actual real SFPD locations (In fact, the real SFPD SWAT team is used in one scene), such as the Homicide Bureau at the main Police HQ at 850 Bryaant St.; In the film, it accurately, and creepily, refers to the shady still-then-shocking pre-AIDS underground Gay culture, including Male "Go-Go-Dancers" and Beautiful "Lipstick Lesbians', in San Francisco as part of the story, again, something not in the original novel. Great second unit stuff showing location shots of 70's San Francisco (the no longer existing Embarko Freeway, Enrico's on Broadway which was also used in "Bullitt" for the scene with McQueen & "Rat Patrol" actor Justin Tarr; the Mission & 3rd St East Bay Terminal station with the cheap plastic pay mini-televisions and the old Green & white Muni Bus colors are memorable), and the story is interesting enough to make it worth some time with a jug of popcorn for fans of gritty Police Procedurals, just don't expect the action found in "Bullitt" or a "Dirty Harry" yarn, but this one ranks high up there with them as an SFPD set piece whodunnit'. Solid cast, with vets like Anthony Zerbe, and then newcomer and future Oscar winner Louis Gossett. I have never understood the appeal of the nasal-talking Bruce Dern, but he dons the big moustached 70's sexist Cop persona and lets his acting skills take up the slack. Matthau is as expected, excellent. The Babe Quotient is extremely high here, with drop dead-gorgeous bow to the Goddess auburn haired Joanna Cassidy flashing those high cheekbones & big baby blues and is still as fine as frog hairs, unlike the then Blonde beautiful & not well kept now skanishk Cathy Lee Crosby in the mix...The music holds up well also, not coming off as too dated...

Black Snake
Black Snake

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