16 May 2008 | bkoganbing
Big Town Corruption
In this film done one year before the Stonewall Riots we get a picture of corruption and homophobia in the NYPD. The Detective should be required viewing for those who want to know about the days before Stonewall when as a people we were subject to routine abuse and violence.
A nude man is found murdered in his apartment which usually spells one thing, a homicide with gay overtones. Such an occurrence allows the police to be more brutal than usual all in the pursuit of a killer.
Back in those days it's hard for people today to believe how bars that catered to gay people were the subject of random police raids, usually because the cops didn't get their payoffs. In those days just being in one of those places could constitute an arrest for disorderly conduct and if you touched a member of the same sex and not necessarily in a sexual way that could land you in jail for some time, unless you had the money to pay your way out.
A man's been killed and suspicion falls on a street punk played by Tony Musante. Frank Sinatra plays a cop who has a specialty in extracting confessions and he does it the hard way, without the rubber hose. Miranda was new at the time, so they can't beat it out of Musante as per normal. Musante confesses he gets convicted and he gets the still operative electric chair.
But right after Musante is killed, prominent citizen William Windom jumps to his death from the roof at Aqueduct racetrack. Sinatra is again the detective and connections are established with the two deaths. Sinatra's investigations are opening a lot of doors powerful folks just don't want opened. In this he has the support of Windom's widow Jacqueline Bisset.
Sinatra's dealing with some personal problems at the same time. His marriage is breaking up because it turns out his wife, Lee Remick is a nymphomaniac. Still it's the story of the two gay related deaths that dominate the film.
The Detective boasts one of Frank Sinatra's best latter film performances. Sinatra eschews the hipster mannerisms and delivers a straightforward performance as an honest Serpico like cop in the midst of big town corruption.
In the supporting cast I liked Ralph Meeker as a sleazy cop on the take who's quite willing to stop Sinatra any way he can. Also Jack Klugman as Frank's honest sidekick and Renee Taylor as his wife.
Forty years after The Detective came out who would have thought in 1968 that we would have something called the Gay Officers Action League among the police fraternal societies in New York and many other metropolitan police forces. Their organized presence in police departments have gone a long way in bringing a sensitivity and awareness for the GLBT community.
And this review is dedicated to two out police officers now retired from the job that I knew and worked with in New York City when I was at Crime Victims Board. To Detectives Vanessa Ferro and Mark Caruso who are the finest of the finest in New York and to all the other out gay law enforcement officials.