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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
The Detective (1968)

The Detective (1968)

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Released 2-Aug-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Web Links
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1968
Running Time 109:08
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (53:53) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Gordon Douglas

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Frank Sinatra
Lee Remick
Ralph Meeker
Jack Klugman
Horace McMahon
Lloyd Bochner
William Windom
Tony Musante
Al Freeman Jr.
Robert Duvall
Case ?
RPI Box Music Jerry Goldsmith

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Police sergeant Joe Leland (Frank Sinatra) investigates the murder of a homosexual man who was battered to death and then mutilated for extra measure. He has to deal not only with the seeming lack of knowledge about the homosexual community and the homophobic attitudes of his colleagues, but also with the interference of a local councilman and the effects of the break-up of his marriage to Karen (Lee Remick). In flashback we see the highlights of the relationship, including the reasons for its demise.

    Some time passes and Leland has been promoted to lieutenant. The widow (Jacqueline Bisset) of a local accountant who apparently committed suicide doesn't believe that verdict and convinces Leland to look into the case. As soon as he does so, pressure is applied to Leland to drop his investigation. Of course he persists and soon uncovers some unsavoury facts.

    Based on a novel by Roderick Thorpe (a follow-up book with the same lead character was adapted as Die Hard), The Detective was one of the earlier American movies to deal openly with the homosexual community, rather than using it as a revelation about a character in a political drama (Advise and Consent, The Best Man) or treating homosexuality as comedy relief. As you might expect the attitudes on display are quite different from those of 2006. The portrayal is not particularly sympathetic and is somewhat overwrought. As such the movie says more about the prevailing cultural attitudes towards homosexuality that it does about gay life in New York, 1968. Even then, this part of the movie takes up just over half the running time.

    While some critics have heaped praise upon this movie it doesn't quite stand up in many respects. It is reasonably well directed by veteran Gordon Douglas and is possibly his best work. However the pacing is sometimes pedestrian and the tone of the film, intended to be downbeat, often seems forced. So do some scenes and the screenplay is such an amalgam of clichés (the grumpy police captain, the tormented homosexual, the good cops and the bad cops) and self-conscious attempts to be shocking (the profanity and the subject matter) that it seems like the cast are acting out a scenario rather than portraying flesh and blood characters. The clichés extend to having an ambitious black cop (Al Freeman Jr), a trustworthy Jewish cop (Jack Klugman) with his stereotypical Jewish wife, a redneck cop (Robert Duvall) and a platitude-speaking psychiatrist (Lloyd Bochner). These downsides are a pity as many of the performances are very good, especially Lee Remick as a woman driven by inner demons that she doesn't understand. Sinatra is good as the detective but not quite so impressive in the romantic scenes. It's difficult to understand what she sees in him, though if ex-wife Ava Gardner was to be believed, Sinatra had a certain special something (not something I can discuss in a family-oriented website though).

    Most of the smaller roles are well done, though I think a better director might have toned down the performances of Tony Musante and William Windom. Despite his third billing in the cast Ralph Meeker is rarely in the movie, and when he is he isn't very convincing as a cop on the take. Veteran Horace MacMahon pays the stereotypical gruff police captain, and boxing legend Sugar Ray Robinson is also in the film.

    Although it looks more like a relic than a classic nowadays it does represent a brave attempt to push the boundaries of what was able to be shown and said on the American cinema screen in the 1960s. I couldn't help wondering if Otto Preminger might have made a better fist of it; it certainly seems up his alley.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, close to the original 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    While the original film material seems to be in good condition, the transfer to DVD is a little disappointing in terms of the level of detail shown. Close-ups are okay but do not have fine detail, and when the cast are shown in medium or long shot they look a little out of focus.

    Colour is quite good albeit with reds being a little oversaturated and bringing out showing instances of chroma noise. Flesh tones are realistic. Black levels are also strong, with no issues with shadow detail. Sinatra's blue eyes are clear here.

    Disappointingly, in addition to the lack of fine detail there is also visible edge enhancement throughout. In fact, if you watch the first two minutes of the movie you will see all bar one of the film to video artefacts that are present in this transfer, with aliasing on a car grille, visible noise around the lettering of the opening credits and edge enhancement as a halo around Sinatra when he first appears (and he was not particularly saintly). The one exception is some moiré which appears on his tie at 80:52.

    Film artefacts appear regularly, though they are limited to small flecks of damage and dirt and are not severe. There is a process shot of Sinatra driving a car at night - he is obviously in a studio with back projection - where there are numerous thick vertical scratches. These scratches are not part of the back projection as they can be seen across the interior of the vehicle and on the actor himself. These are out of place with the rest of the movie and so I would think that the damage occurred to the original negative and the producers decided not to bother reshooting these brief sequences. The trailer also shows this same shot with the same damage, which tends to confirm my suspicions.

    Optional English hard-of-hearing subtitles are provided. Aside from the omission of superfluous phrases the subtitles for the dialogue are verbatim from the script. They are presented in clear white font and are easy to read.

    The disc is RSDL formatted, the layer change occurring at 53:53, annoyingly placed during a close-up on Remick as she pauses during a speech. However it is barely noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 and appears to be the original mono soundtrack.

    I say "appears to be" as the equivalent Region 1 disc has a stereo transfer which is reported not to have much in the way of stereo separation and from the review descriptions sounds like it has similar issues to the Region 4 audio.

    I did not notice anything in the way of stereo separation with the Region 4 soundtrack. There is some hiss but it does not intrude. There is a noticeable edginess to the sound caused by the loss of some of the higher frequencies. Dialogue is sometimes difficult to understand. I suspect that this is mainly due to the conditions under which it was recorded, some of the sets being very reverberant and some plainly not very well designed for audio recording. They look like actual locations for the most part, not purpose-built sets. I had to use the subtitles to help understand some of the dialogue.

    A lot of Horace McMahon's dialogue seems to be looped, with slight discrepancies in audio sync.

    The music score by Jerry Goldsmith appears only intermittently, and is in various styles with a moody jazz feel at times and some twangy Sixties guitar at others. Sonically it doesn't seem to sound as edgy as the dialogue.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer (3:07)

    An original trailer which is basically the entire film in a nutshell, presented in 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced.

Web Links

    Links to Fox's Australian and UK websites are provided on the main menu.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The US Region 1 release has some features not present on the Region 4:

    Otherwise it appears to be the same transfer, and the Region 4 has nothing the Region 1 lacks.

    The Region 1 is also available as a stand-alone release, while the Region 4 only comes in a box set called Sinatra: Chairman of the Board. This set also includes Tony Rome, Lady In Cement and Von Ryan's Express. Fox have not provided review copies of these last two films, which have been previously released separately on DVD in Region 4. I would assume that they are the same transfers as the earlier releases, but cannot be certain. So if you want only this movie the cheapest option is to shop overseas.


    An interesting movie which is one of Sinatra's best, aside from The Manchurian Candidate, though some may find aspects of it dated.

    The video quality is good enough for a small display but blow it up to a large size and the problems become visible.

    The audio quality is average and there are issues of clarity which may be due to the original recording.

    No extras of note.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-HS60 LCD Projector projected to 80" screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES for surrounds, Elektra Reference power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: B&W Nautilus 800; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Tannoy Revolution R3; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

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