10 September 2016

Detective Story, starring Kirk Douglas - A Movie Review

Detective Story is an hour and forty-three minute film noir and police procedural released in 1951 starring Kirk Douglas that was adapted from the play by the same name by Sidney Kingsley. Set during one eight-hour shift entirely in a New York City precinct, the story centers around one detective and the random and oftentimes unruly characters that are arrested in that timeframe.

Kirk Douglas stars as Detective James McLeod, an officer of the law who grants no wiggle room and never lives in the gray area; it is either against the law or it is not. A man of complete principle with his beautiful new wife, McLeod is at the top of his game in all areas, and one shift isn't going to get in his way, no matter what happens.

But along the way in that one shift, life dramatically  and surprisingly changes, for all characters. It's about a solid 55 minutes before the quiet pace picks up and you start to see which direction the story will take, how the characters develop and become more than surface of the stereotypical cops, criminals and 1950s housewives, but it's a movement which is sensible and clearly defined, one that matches the personality and vision of the main character and overall story. There is the young woman who is nabbed for lifting a pocketbook from a department store, the young businessman who embezzles, and you can't be a police story in New York without an arrest of a low-life mobster, Charlie Gennini. Combined with the gruff cops, everyone is just trying to get by on this steamy hot day in the city.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this somewhat dark and quiet story. You can tell it was based on a play, as the majority of the scenes take place in one setting of the police precinct. The clever twists provided a scandalous feel and I can only imagine what it must have been like when first released. I recommend this film, but would remind you that it's slow-going for almost an hour before it kicks into gear.

Favorite Quote: When McLeod's partner tells him, "You've gotta bend with the wind - or break. Don't be such a monument." I love this quote.

Favorite Takeaway: Russell Evans is an African-American patrol officer who is in charge of managing the mob man. His character is dignified and key to the precinct and, honestly, it's pretty cool to see an early film with an African-American actor as a police officer. Like the blogger at Film Noir of the Week mentioned, I also really can't think of any other movies during that time that not only have a minority actor play a fairly decent-sized role in a movie, but also never once have anyone make a comment on race. It is refreshing, especially for that time. 

I'm participating in the RIP Challenge, which is in its eleventh year. Click here for my original post, and definitely click here to visit Stainless Steel Droppings' site for more details.


  1. I love a good film noir. Especially with Kirk Douglass. I'll have to check it out. Great review

  2. I love that quote about being a monument too. And thanks for the warning that its starts of slow - then I know to stick with it as I can be really impatient.

    I'm intrigued by things that have a twist too (I sometimes wish I could watch the Usual Suspects for the first time again).

  3. Kirk Douglas! Great actor, loved him in Spartacus.

  4. Such a good actor and handsome man. Just celebrated his 100th birthday I believe, good review!

  5. Oh I love Kirk Douglas. Classic Hollywood handsome and good actor! I believe he has just celebrated his 100th birthday.


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