Another week and another batch of my favorite classic dramas. This time I chose the theme of cop/detective dramas. So let's get started shall we.
UNION STATION (1950) Exciting thriller set in LA, about a train station policeman named Lt. Willie Calhoun (super performance by William Holden) chasing down a ruthless kidnapper. The bad guy has taken the blind daughter of a millionaire and holds her for ransom. The kidnapping is seen by the rich man's secretary (a solid Nancy Olson). Calhoun swears that he will find the girl and put the kidnapper down, and everyone believes him because Calhoun is one hell of a cop. A very short film at about 80 minutes long, but it is packed with riveting drama and some terrific action. Holden is top notch as the policeman, this being one of his best performances ever. And Lyle Bettger is memorable as bad guy Joe Beacon, the kind you love to hate. Union Station is one of those little films that not too many people have heard about, much less seen, but it is one terrific movie. One of my personal favorites.
Marge Wrighter: Gonna send that kid home, aren't you, Joe? I mean after we collect?
Joe Beacom: She'll go home...they ever fish her out of the river. Let's have the coffee, huh?
Detective McLeod: "Take a couple of drop dead pills".
DETECTIVE STORY (1951)
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.
Steve McQueen is San Francisco cop Lt. Frank Bullitt who becomes embroiled in a complicated case involving a witness who was murdered under his protection. The witness was a Chicago mobster who was going to turn evidence against his organization. Making things difficult for Frank is an ambitious congressman named Chalmers (played by Robert Vaughn) who wants to make a name for himself by taking on the mob in this high profile case. Bullitt is definitely a police procedural with scenes of collecting evidence and discussing cases and shaking down informants. But it is an excellent police procedural which benefits from a stellar turn by McQueen. He is so perfect in the role there is no doubt that this is his movie. But he gets outstanding support from Vaughn, Robert Fell, George Sanford Brown, Robert Duvall (as a wily cab driver) and the breath-taking Jacqueline Bissett as Frank's girlfriend. And let's not forget that awesome car chase sequence involving Frank's Shelby mustang and the bad guys Dodge Charger. It is arguably one of the greatest car chases on film ever made. And it's cool seeing McQueen doing most of his own driving. Bullitt is one of my favorite films of all time. It's awesome! Plus it has that cool jazzy music score!
THE BIG HEAT (1953)
Top notch drama centering on dedicated cop Dave Bannion (superb performance by Glenn Ford) who takes on police corruption after a fellow officer commits suicide and his wife is killed. All that happens in the opening 30 minutes btw. Once Bannion figures out what gangster is involved he wants payback. Gritty and violent drama directed by Fritz Lang and co-starring Gloria Grahame and Lee Marvin. This is one excellent film.
IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967)
Awesome cop drama set in a small Mississippi town where a murder has taken place. Police Chief Bill Gillespie (played by Rod Steiger) is a good officer with some racial prejudices. So when Philadelphia detective Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) is waiting at the train station to leave town, he is actually arrested as a suspect. Once matters are cleared up and Tibb's captain tells him to offer his assistance to the local law in help with the murder, he and the chief begrudgingly work together. Masterful film that is even more impressive when you consider it was made at the time of civil unrest of the 60's. Steiger and Poitier make a potent team and it's great seeing their characters getting past their racial differences to work together to solve this crime. Winner of Best Picture Oscar as well as a Best Actor Oscar for Steiger. And followed by a long tv series in the late 80's thru the mid 90's.