Friday, January 23, 2015

COP HATER (1958)

In a striking opening set at night during a big city heat wave, a shirtless man gets up from a nap, grabs a gun, gets dressed, kisses his wife, and walks out onto the street where he is immediately shot down and killed in cold blood. He was a policeman, and when his partner is shot down a couple days later, the newspapers report a cop hater on the loose. The two chief investigators are Detectives Carelli (Robert Loggia) and McGuire (Gerald O'Laughlin); as they track unpromising leads, we get a picture of their private lives: Carelli has a good relationship with Teddy (Ellen Parker), his deaf girlfriend, and McGuire has a stormy relationship with his sexpot wife Alice (Shirley Ballard). There's also a reporter who thinks that a street gang (led by a young Jerry Orbach in his first movie role) is responsible. When a third cop is killed, we are treated to a CSI-type scene of forensic investigation before Teddy winds up in danger from the killer.

Based on an Ed McBain novel which was the first in his popular 87th Precinct series, this is a short, tense, effective B-thriller which kept me guessing despite some predictable moments—as soon as you see that Teddy has an elaborate system at her apartment in which a light blinks when someone is coming, you know she's going to wind up in trouble. The summer heat is conveyed nicely, and there are some surprisingly sexy moments between the beefy O'Laughlin and the curvy Ballard (pictured at left), particularly one scene with O'Laughlin sprawled out in a chair in only his boxers and Ballard trying on a new bathing suit at his request. Even Ellen Parker plays her big menace scene dripping wet in a wraparound towel. Vincent Gardenia (Mr. Mushnik in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS) has a small role. Loggia (SCARFACE, BIG) is so young and fit, he's practically unrecognizable (pictured above to the left of O'Laughlin). O’Laughlin (Lt. Ryker in the 70s TV show The Rookies) is very good; I don't remember seeing him before but I'll keep an eye out for more of his roles. Last line, from Robert Loggia as the credits role and the cops get back to business as usual: "There’s a guy with his insides hangin' out over by the river…” Small-scale enjoyable. [DVD]

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