Friday, May 3, 2024

Cop Hater (1958)

Cop Hater is a 1958 American crime B-movie based on one of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels.

Since it’s a crime movie shot in black-and-white a lot of people have succumbed to the temptation to assume it’s film noir. It isn’t. Not even close. It’s a tough police procedural, just as the Ed McBain novels are police procedurals.

It’s a hot day in the city. Apparently all it takes is a hot day and everyone goes crazy and starts killing people. A cop named Reardon gets gunned down in the street. Reardon was a paragon of virtue, almost the perfect cop. Why would anyone want to kill him?

Then another cop gets killed. He was pretty much a candidate for sainthood. It doesn’t make sense.

The police are pretty upset. Murder is an everyday occurrence and it’s no big deal but cop killing is a very big deal indeed. The lieutenant in charge gives his men a speech about how cops are symbols of everything that holds society together. Kind of like the flag, and motherhood.

The cops figure the killer could be from a teen gang. After all these crazy kids today kill for kicks. So we get some prime 50s juvenile delinquent hysteria.

The police have no real evidence. They pull in lots of suspects who are really never serious suspects to begin with and the case is going nowhere.

The lieutenant in charge is getting frustrated. He’s a bit bad-tempered by underneath he has a heart of gold. All the cops in this movie have hearts of gold.

This movie goes through the motions of being a police procedural. They do some routine police work. They do some forensic stuff and they call on a few informers. These things go nowhere in plot terms. The plot relies on the hoary old device of the hero having a sudden inspiration. So as a true police procedural it’s a bit of a non-starter.

As a murder mystery it works fine although it suffers from a lack of a sufficient number of genuinely plausible suspects.

This is certainly not film noir. In fact with its worshipful attitude towards authority and its total lack of sympathy for anyone who is in any way an outsider it’s practically the antithesis of film noir.

Interestingly the police completely ignore suspects’ legal rights and rough up suspects but the movie treats this as a good thing. It means the cops are doing their jobs. They’re great guys and they do stuff like this to protect the public.

Director William Berke spent his career making B-movies. He had a reputation for churning out movies very very quickly. The job he does here is competent but uninspired, but we can be sure he brought the movie in on time and on budget.

The screenwriter was Henry Kane. Kane was also a prolific pulp novelist, his books including the rather good Frenzy of Evil.

Cop Hater does have its strengths. We really do feel the oppressive atmosphere of a heat wave. The low budget helps give the film a seedy gritty sweaty and at times sleazy feel. The acting is B-movie standard but that helps as well. There are no “star” performances. The cast is more like the ensemble cast you’d get in a TV cop show.

Overall Cop Hater is a decent crime B-movie. It certainly has an air of toughness to it. Recommended.

The MGM Limited Edition Collection made-on-demand DVD is presented open matte and the transfer is at best acceptable. There are no extras. Overall the DVD release is a bit disappointing.

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