Released by: MGM Limited Edition Collection Released on: 3/15/2011 Director: William Berke Cast: Robert Loggia, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Ellen Parker, Shirley Ballard, Year: 1958 Purchase From Amazon
William Berke 1958 thriller begins when two cops, partners at the same inner city precinct, are murdered in cold blood. With no obvious motive for the killing outside of the victims’ occupations, two detectives, Steve Carelli (Robert Loggia) and Mike Maguire (Gerald S. O’Loughlin) are assigned to the case. The police department is obviously on high alert, and word around town is that the cops are going to stop at nothing to bring the killer to justice.
Things get complicated when Maguire is the next victim, shot dead in the street, which leaves Carelli to put together the pieces of the puzzle and try to figure out what could be the link to the three killings. He finds that link in the form of a woman when a discussion with his wife gets him thinking, and later meets up with a reporter named Miller (Gene Miller) who will do anything to help bust the story wide open, regardless of whose life is left on the line by his actions. When Carelli has too much to drink and spills a few beans Miller’s way, the news hits the papers faster than anyone thought and since Miller was irresponsible enough to print the address of Carelli’s deaf-mute fiancé (Ellen Parker), he finds himself in a race against the clock to get to her apartment and save her life before the cop killer makes her his next victim.
Set deep inside a large city called Isola (but obviously meant to be like New York City) during a gripping summer heat wave, Berke’s film, based on the novel by Ed McBain, is a tense and expertly played thriller that keeps our interest right through to the end. The black and white cinematography is slick, making great use of shadow and light to help build the tension while simultaneously keeping the film appropriately ‘hot’ feeling to reflect not just the temperature of the city where it’s all playing out but, metaphorically at least, the tensions rising to a boiling point between the various characters.
Performance wise, we’re in pretty good shape here. Loggia is a natural for the lead in this film, and seems very comfortable in the part. He’s got a street smart sensibility to him that works wonders for the film and makes his cop a believable one. Even in the more violent scenes, of which there are a few (this is tougher than most late fifties cop movies by a sizeable margin – note the scene where Loggia beats a perp to a pulp!) O’Loughlin is also good in his role, though due to his more limited screen time isn’t given as much to do as his partner. Ellen Parker gives an impressive physical performance, particularly in the last half hour or so, while Gene Miller is interesting in the part of the performer. Look for bit parts played by a young Vincent Gardenia and a just as young Jerry Orbach.
The picture does tend to deal in a few clichés during its quick running time but plays things straight enough that, despite some missteps along the way, it all comes together quite nicely. Fans of hardboiled cop thrillers and crime noir take note.
Cop Hater looks pretty nice in this 1.33.1 fullframe black and white transfer. There are some shots that look a bit softer than others but overall the image is clean and stable and shows both good contrast and strong black levels. It doesn’t look like a full on restoration has been done but the source materials used for this DVD-R were obviously in pretty decent shape as there is only minor print damage to note.
The English language Dolby Digital Mono track is fine. The background music sounds pretty good while the dialogue is clear and balanced properly against the score and effects. No serious issues with an inordinate amount of hiss or distortion, and if this is limited in range by the original source material, so be it. No alternate language tracks or subtitles are provided.
MGM has supplied a static menu that offers up chapter selection and the film’s theatrical trailer.
The Final Word:
Dark, suspenseful and gritty, Cop Hater is an effective and noirish thriller with style and atmosphere to spare and some rock solid acting from all involved. MGM’s made to order DVD-R looks pretty and includes a trailer – not the special edition some might have hoped for, but a decent quality release.