Detective Story

Overview

William Wyler's Detective Story (1951) never made it onto videocassette, and that fact, coupled with its billed status as "A Paramount re-release," leads one to suspect that the studio has freshly negotiated the underlying video rights to the Sidney Kingsley play. The play and the movie were so influential in their time that the Three Stooges even parodied it (they and their writers took a special pleasure in satirizing Kingsley's work, going back to their one Oscar-nominated short Men in Black); Jack Benny ...
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Overview

William Wyler's Detective Story (1951) never made it onto videocassette, and that fact, coupled with its billed status as "A Paramount re-release," leads one to suspect that the studio has freshly negotiated the underlying video rights to the Sidney Kingsley play. The play and the movie were so influential in their time that the Three Stooges even parodied it (they and their writers took a special pleasure in satirizing Kingsley's work, going back to their one Oscar-nominated short Men in Black); Jack Benny satirized it on a show with Humphrey Bogart; and Horace McMahon, who played the lieutenant, was so memorable in the part that he was chosen to succeed John McIntire as the squad chief in the television series Naked City a decade later. Apart from a certain theatricality that intrudes on some scenes (especially Joseph Wiseman's), it's very much the precursor to Don Seigel's Madigan in terms of subject matter and general approach, as well as Barney Miller and NYPD Blue on television. The movie's debut on home video helps fill a glaring gap in New York-based crime films, and one wishes that a little more had been done with it. The film and the underlying play were good enough to justify the presence of a commentary track, and there are still three primary cast members left: Lee Grant, Kirk Douglas, and Joseph Wiseman. The transfer, in full-screen (1.33-to-1), is as clean as one would hope and expect for a title new to video, without blemishes or flaws of any kind, from what looks like a pristine source. The sound is also well balanced throughout, at a somewhat low volume but with good detail; the movie is done in a realistic style that precludes the use of music, so dialogue and effects are the only real concern in the playback. The 103-minute movie has been given a generous 15 chapters that adequately map out the film's plot. There are no bonus features of any kind, but the movie is so full of fine moments -- superb direction by Wyler and excellent acting by Douglas, Grant, McMahon, William Bendix, Frank Faylen, George Macready, Michael Strong, and Bert Freed -- that no one who buys the DVD will feel cheated. The disc opens automatically to a simple two-layer menu that includes optional English and French subtitles.
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Special Features

Closed Caption; [None specified]
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
William Wyler's Detective Story was one of the more shocking and compelling dramas of its period, and a film that raised a number of issues for audiences. Anyone who thinks that Hollywood in the 1950s put out nothing but safe, unchallenging movies can start rethinking that notion with this film, whose script is filled with moral mine fields in just about every scene, along with questions about devotion to duty, the role of independent action and free will, and enough ambiguities about right and wrong to make the most rigid personalities start questioning their motives. The script, based on Sidney Kingsley's play of the same name, is potent enough, and Kirk Douglas delivers another anti-hero star turn (in a manner reminiscent of his work in Champion) as the self-destructive police detective. He gets impeccable support from a cast made up of Hollywood veterans (William Bendix, George Macready, Frank Faylen, and Horace McMahon, who landed an almost identical role in the TV version of The Naked City from his work here) and up-and-coming New York theater talent (Lee Grant, Joseph Wiseman) working at their peaks of performance. Audiences expecting a police proceedural or a clean, neat drama instead got the station house equivalent of From Here To Eternity or On The Waterfront. Detective Story's reputation has endured for decades, and it was successful enough in its time to yield a parody by The Three Stooges; it was also one of the sources of the hit TV series Barney Miller 25 years later, which transposed the same setting and dramatic material into a more comic vein.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 10/25/2005
  • UPC: 097360511147
  • Original Release: 1951
  • Rating:

  • Source: Paramount
  • Region Code: 1
  • Time: 1:43:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Kirk Douglas Detective James McLeod
Eleanor Parker Mary McLeod
William Bendix Det. Lou Brody
Lee Grant Shoplifter
Bert Freed Det. Dakis
George Macready Karl Schneider
Cathy O'Donnell Susan Carmichael
Frank Faylen Det. Gallagher
Joseph Wiseman Charley Gennini, Burglar
Grandon Rhodes Det. O'Brien
Luis Van Rooten Joe Feinson, Reporter
Craig Hill Arthur Kindred
Horace McMahon Lieutenant Monaghan
Warner Anderson Endicott Sims
Michael Strong Lewis Abbott
Russ Evans Patrolman Barnes
Gladys George Miss Hatch
Burt Mustin Janitor
James Maloney Mr. Pritchett
Gerald Mohr Tami Giacoppetti
Charles Campbell Newspaper Photographer
Edmund Cobb Ed, Detective
Ann Codee Frenchwoman
Catherine Doucet Mrs. Farragut
Pat Flaherty Desk Sergeant
Harper Goff Gallantz
Howard Joslin Patrolman Keogh
Donald Kerr Taxi Driver
Mike Mahoney Coleman
Lee Miller Policeman
Ralph Montgomery Finney
William "Bill" Phillips Det. Pat Callahan
Bob Scott Mulvey
Jack Shea Desk Sergeant
Kay Wiley Hysterical Woman
Technical Credits
William Wyler Director, Producer
Lee Garmes Cinematographer
Edith Head Costumes/Costume Designer
Earl Hedrick Art Director
Emile Kuri Set Decoration/Design
Hal Pereira Art Director
Robert Swink Editor
Wally Westmore Makeup
Robert Wyler Associate Producer, Screenwriter
Philip Yordan Screenwriter
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Detective Story
1. The Precinct [7:21]
2. Detective McLeod [7:36]
3. Interrogations [6:47]
4. Detainees [5:12]
5. Schneider Surrenders [8:03]
6. Going for a Ride [5:33]
7. Personal Motives [6:24]
8. Arthur's Story [6:19]
9. Mrs. McLeod [7:05]
10. Digging Your Own Grave [6:43]
11. Immaculate Wife [6:45]
12. Booking Arthur [8:22]
13. Compromise [4:54]
14. Vengeful Man [8:56]
15. Forgiveness [7:08]
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Menu

Disc #1 -- Detective Story
   Play
   Set Up
      Audio Options: English
      Audio Options: Fran├žais
      Subtitle Options: English
      Subtitle Options: None
   Scene Selection
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Detective Story

    This is an above-average film, well-scripted and smart, directed by William Wyler, who also directed the wonderful Desperate Hours, the first, that featured Humphrey Bogart and Spencer Tracy. This one is not quite up to that, but it's still a very good film. The banter between the policemen and the criminals is very good. This is the first and last film to feature the actress Lee Grant until she appeared In the Heat of the Night, if memory serves me, playing the wife of the murdered man. After this film, in which she does a great job playing a female shoplifter, she was blacklisted. There could be much worse ways to spend one's times then to work through Wyler's entire oeuvre, movies like Dodsworth (1936), These Three (1936), Dead End (1937), Wuthering Heights (1939), The Westerner (1940), The Letter (1941), The Little Foxes (1942) and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). In the 1950s he directed Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn, The Desperate Hours, and Ben Hur, and ended the decade with The Collector. In between he managed to squeeze in this fine little drama, which foreshadowed many subsequent television police dramas.

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