Starring: Frank Sinatra, Lee Remick
Director: Gordon Douglas
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Until quite recently, you could bet that any gay or lesbian character in a film would almost always collide with some hideous fate. It was rare that any of them actually survived the end credits. And so it is in The Detective, a strange, Raymond Chandleresque story starring a mature-aged Frank Sinatra as the eponymous Detective Joe Leland. To begin with, Leland arrives at the scene of a murder and dictates his findings to the rookie cop Robbie (Al Freeman Jrn.); “nude male, penis cut off, skull smashed in, fingers shredded”. The victim is the gay son of one of the most successful business men in town so the pressure is on to find his murderer.
After checking out a few gyms, the cops bust a beat on the waterfront and it’s here that the homophobic cop Nestor (Robert Duvall) lets fly with a bit of unprovoked poofter bashing. Luckily, our blue-eyed hero puts things straight by taking him aside and belting him one in return. But even he is reduced to seducing a confession out of a psychotic gay suspect and sending him off to the electric chair in order to get himself promoted. And the queer body count will rise even further when the closeted husband of Norma McIver (a childlike Jacqueline Bisset) commits suicide.
It’s a kinky kind of flick based on a pulp novel by Roderick Thorp, who went on to write a sequel called ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ which in turn provided the basis for the film Die Hard. Detective Leland has a love interest (Lee Remick) who is unable to control her nymphomaniac tendencies and hosts parties where the guest speaker is discussing the benefits of LSD. This was 1968, after all, and everyone was feelin’ groovy, except for Robbie the rookie who interrogates his suspects in the nude claiming he got the idea from newsreels of German concentration camps. Director Gordon Douglas often looses his grip on the piece but the sparse soundtrack by the late, Oscar-winning composer Garry Goldsmith pulls it right back into the classic noir genre. As does Sinatra’s undeniable gravitas in the title role.