The Laughing Policeman (1973)

R | 111-112 mins | Mystery | December 1973

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HISTORY

Before the opening credits, the crime that is the subject of the film takes place. Off-duty police detective Dave Evans, following a lead on an old, unsolved case, boards a late-night public bus to tail a suspect. Soon, an unknown assailant boards and shoots all eight passengers, killing Evans and the suspect. Mike Moder’s credit reads: “Unit production manager and assistant director.” In the closing credits, the filmmakers give special acknowledgment for the cooperation of Lt. Charles Ellis and the Homicide Detail of the San Francisco Police Department.
       The film was based on the Swedish-language novel Den skrattande polisen by husband-and-wife writers Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, who authored a series of books about police detective "Martin Beck," the character on whom "Jake Martin" is based. Many of these mysteries were made into Swedish films. The film The Laughing Policeman was the first American feature length film based on their work. The authors received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1971 for Den skrattande polisen .
       Although the film is set in San Francisco, the novel was set in Stockholm and Malmö, Sweden. Information in the AMPAS Library file on the film noted that the film's plot follows the novel, but some of the script reflected actual incidents based on director Stuart Rosenberg's experience with the San Francisco Homicide Department. According to a 19 Dec 1973 Los Angeles Herald Examiner article, Rosenberg spent four months researching the department to prepare for the film. Information in the file also noted that all interiors were shot at actual locations in San Francisco, including bars, theaters and restaurants. Many background ... More Less

Before the opening credits, the crime that is the subject of the film takes place. Off-duty police detective Dave Evans, following a lead on an old, unsolved case, boards a late-night public bus to tail a suspect. Soon, an unknown assailant boards and shoots all eight passengers, killing Evans and the suspect. Mike Moder’s credit reads: “Unit production manager and assistant director.” In the closing credits, the filmmakers give special acknowledgment for the cooperation of Lt. Charles Ellis and the Homicide Detail of the San Francisco Police Department.
       The film was based on the Swedish-language novel Den skrattande polisen by husband-and-wife writers Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, who authored a series of books about police detective "Martin Beck," the character on whom "Jake Martin" is based. Many of these mysteries were made into Swedish films. The film The Laughing Policeman was the first American feature length film based on their work. The authors received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1971 for Den skrattande polisen .
       Although the film is set in San Francisco, the novel was set in Stockholm and Malmö, Sweden. Information in the AMPAS Library file on the film noted that the film's plot follows the novel, but some of the script reflected actual incidents based on director Stuart Rosenberg's experience with the San Francisco Homicide Department. According to a 19 Dec 1973 Los Angeles Herald Examiner article, Rosenberg spent four months researching the department to prepare for the film. Information in the file also noted that all interiors were shot at actual locations in San Francisco, including bars, theaters and restaurants. Many background actors, including the nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, coroners and San Francisco TAC force, played themselves.
       A 20 Oct 1972 HR "Rambling Reporter" article stated that John Cassavettes had been cast as the film’s star; however, Walter Matthau took on the role. Although the HR production charts add Allen Garfield to the cast, he was not in the released film. The movie marked the feature film debut for television actress Cathy Lee Crosby and the first major film role for television and movie actress Joanna Cassidy. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 Dec 1973
p. 4645.
Daily Variety
24 Jan 1972.
---
Daily Variety
14 Feb 1973.
---
Daily Variety
20 Feb 1973.
---
Daily Variety
10 Apr 1973.
---
Daily Variety
26 Nov 1973
p. 2, 9.
Films and Filming
Jul 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Oct 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Feb 1973
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Apr 1973
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 1973
p. 3, 11.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
19 Dec 1973
Section C, p. 1.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
22 Dec 1973.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Dec 1973.
---
Motion Picture Herald
12 Dec 1973.
---
New York Times
21 Dec 1973
p. 46.
New Yorker
21 Jan 1974.
---
Playboy
Mar 1974.
---
Product Digest
12 Dec 1973.
---
Rolling Stone
28 Feb 1974.
---
Time
24 Dec 1973.
---
Variety
28 Nov 1973
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Still photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Key grip
2d grip
Dolly grip
Gaffer
Best boy
Lamp op
Lamp op
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst propmaster
Prop master
COSTUMES
Men's ward
Men's ward
MUSIC
SOUND
Prod mixer
Re-rec mixer
Boom man
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Casting
Prod secy
Tech adv
Homicide Detail SFPD
Tech adv
Homicide Detail SFPD
Scr supv
Auditor
Honey wagon
Caterer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Den skrattande polisen by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (Stockholm, Sweden, 1968).
DETAILS
Release Date:
December 1973
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 20 December 1973
Production Date:
12 February--mid April 1973
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
20 December 1973
Copyright Number:
LP43263
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
DeLuxe
Duration(in mins):
111-112
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When veteran policeman Jake Martin arrives at the scene of a machine gun massacre that occurred on a bus, he discovers his young partner Dave Evans among the dead. While his superior, Lieutenant Steiner, and others are convinced the incident is the result of a homicidal maniac, Martin believes Evans was not on the bus by accident. Martin is assigned to lead the team of detectives investigating the murder and given a new partner, the affable but bigoted Leo Larsen, who is soon frustrated by Martin’s glum, gum-smacking detachment. Returning home at breakfast the next morning, Martin barely greets his silent wife Grace, daughter Debbie and fifteen-year-old son Ralph, then ponders the case alone. Later that day, Evan’s girl friend, Kay Butler, tells Martin that Evans worked every day that week on a case, but Martin knows that Evans told the department he was on vacation. At the coroner’s office, Martin and Larsen learn that one of the victims in the massacre was Avakian, an ex-convict whose brother Sammy runs a pornography theater. Soon after, Steiner orders the team to “shake up the town” for information. On Evan’s desk, Martin finds photographs of Theresa Camerero, the victim in a murder case that he was unable to solve and deduces that Evans had secretly reopened the case. He explains to Larsen that Theresa, after being raised in a convent, married wealthy Henry Camerero, who introduced her to sadomasochism. Martin suspected that Camerero murdered his wife, but was unable to convict him. When Larsen suggests that the bus killer wanted the massacre to look like a random act, but had other motives, Martin agrees, believing that the two cases are linked. ... +


When veteran policeman Jake Martin arrives at the scene of a machine gun massacre that occurred on a bus, he discovers his young partner Dave Evans among the dead. While his superior, Lieutenant Steiner, and others are convinced the incident is the result of a homicidal maniac, Martin believes Evans was not on the bus by accident. Martin is assigned to lead the team of detectives investigating the murder and given a new partner, the affable but bigoted Leo Larsen, who is soon frustrated by Martin’s glum, gum-smacking detachment. Returning home at breakfast the next morning, Martin barely greets his silent wife Grace, daughter Debbie and fifteen-year-old son Ralph, then ponders the case alone. Later that day, Evan’s girl friend, Kay Butler, tells Martin that Evans worked every day that week on a case, but Martin knows that Evans told the department he was on vacation. At the coroner’s office, Martin and Larsen learn that one of the victims in the massacre was Avakian, an ex-convict whose brother Sammy runs a pornography theater. Soon after, Steiner orders the team to “shake up the town” for information. On Evan’s desk, Martin finds photographs of Theresa Camerero, the victim in a murder case that he was unable to solve and deduces that Evans had secretly reopened the case. He explains to Larsen that Theresa, after being raised in a convent, married wealthy Henry Camerero, who introduced her to sadomasochism. Martin suspected that Camerero murdered his wife, but was unable to convict him. When Larsen suggests that the bus killer wanted the massacre to look like a random act, but had other motives, Martin agrees, believing that the two cases are linked. While other detectives comb the streets for leads, Martin and Larsen, attempting to track the machine gun, interview informant Bobby Mow, who tells them to find black radical Rodney Davis. Soon after, Martin goes to question Sammy at his pornography theater and sees Ralph watching the live show. Although he feels compelled to upbraid his son, Martin loses his nerve and leaves without approaching him. Later at home, Martin waits for Ralph to return, but is so estranged from his family that he can neither confront his son nor confide in his wife. Meanwhile, Larsen interviews Monica, the roommate of the nurse who had been sitting beside Evans on the near-empty bus. Larsen suspects that Evans and the nurse had been dating because of their seating proximity, but Monica assures him that her roommate was not interested in men. Visiting Kay again, Martin asks for an explanation about the sexually explicit and demeaning photographs of her that Evans kept in his desk. When Kay insists that they were private, Martin slaps her, provoking Kay’s bitter retort that Evans was obsessed with sex murders, especially the Camerero case. Meanwhile Steiner, desperate to satisfy the panicked public, tries to blame the bus massacre on an assailant involved in a deadly hostage situation. After a TAC squad kills the man, Martin discovers that he had a prosthetic leg and berates Steiner for accusing a man who could not have easily escaped from the wrecked bus. Frustrated by false leads, Martin orders detective Mike to find famous boxer Elder, whom the killer resembled, according to the massacre’s lone survivor, the elderly Mr. Schwermer. Meanwhile, Larsen and detective Larrimore locate Rodney, but Larsen’s racial slurs enrage the black neighborhood, making it almost impossible to bring the suspect in for questioning. Upon discovering that Rodney knows nothing about the case, Larsen calls Bobby down to the station where he shoves his face in a urinal as punishment. Following another lead, Martin and Larsen visit convicted drug dealer Haygood, who wants to trade information for a lesser sentence. Having read a newspaper article describing one of the victims, Haygood claims that the man was a junkie Gus Niles, a different identity than the one found on the body. That night Larsen and Martin visit Hells Angels ammunition and explosives dealers Vickery and Ripple, who tell them that Niles was looking for a “grease gun,” the weapon used in the massacre. Soon after, they find Niles’ girl friend dead in her apartment from a heroin overdose. On her mantle is a picture of Niles and Camerero in the military. Steiner dismisses the connection between the two men and orders Martin to follow only those leads directly connected to the bus killing. Martin, believing Niles lured Evans onto the bus so that Camerero could kill him, ignores Steiner. Because Camerero would recognize him from the murder trial, Martin asks Larsen to follow him. Larsen, excited by the change from his regular desk work and softened by Martin’s emotional plea, agrees to help. Researching military records, they discover Niles used the alias Andrew Medford, the name of Camerero’s alibi during his wife’s murder trial. Larsen watches Camerero for several days, following him into antique shops and homosexual strip bars. While Larsen is eager to press charges against Camerero for his homosexuality, Martin reminds him that the sodomy laws no longer apply. Seeking to put pressure on Camerero, Martin sends the military photo of him and Niles to Camerero’s office, but Camerero is unfazed. Desperate to force the murderer into making a mistake, Martin goes to Camerero’s office to intimidate him. Camerero flees and, in the ensuing car chase, temporarily loses Martin and Larsen, then boards a bus. Catching site of Camerero, Martin also boards the bus while Larsen follows closely behind in the car. Within minutes, Camerero assembles, loads and raises his machine gun to shoot Martin at the next stop, but Larsen shoots him through the back window first and Martin finishes the job with his revolver. Returning to the station with the case solved, Martin and Larsen ignore Mike as he rushes to introduce them to Elder, the boxer, their last lead. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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