Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Inept law enforcement in classic films


TopBilled
 Share

Recommended Posts

This must've been my day for movies that showed officers of the law failing to apprehend fugitives.

 

1law.jpg

 

Encore aired THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS this morning. In the film (directed by Steven Spielberg), Goldie Hawn and William Atherton kidnap a cop and run from the feds. It's played for laughs but has a few serious moments. Of course, whenever we see a sheriff, it's a comedy sequence.

 

Then, I watched CRAZY MAMA on Netflix streaming. This was good fun. Jonathan Demme directs Cloris Leachman and Ann Sothern, portraying two desperate gals who go on a shooting spree across the country before they have a climactic face-off with police in Arkansas. This, too, was played for laughs. The law was seen as ineffective and silly throughout much of the movie.

 

I am sure there are plenty of other examples like this, made in the 70s after BONNIE & CLYDE, but done in a humorous vein. They typically show anti-heroes on the lam with bumbling officials unable to catch them.

 

Both SUGARLAND EXPRESS and CRAZY MAMA had me giggling at the antics of the characters and such broadly played farce, especially by such excellent comediennes like Hawn, Leachman and Sothern.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been watching the 1966 Batman series for more than 30 years. If you wan't to see inept police work that's the place to go. Comissioner Gordon, (former 30's heartthrob Neil Hamilton) more or less spend the entire show kissing Batman's purple tights.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The trigger-happy cop who fired a gun at a carousel filled with children while trying to shoot Robert Walker in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. This killed the little guy who crawled under the ride and when he fell, he hit the lever that caused it to go faster than any carousel was ever built to go. When the thing finally crashed and sent bodies flying everywhere, the cop was more concerned with a cigarette lighter than the mayhem that he caused.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dumb law enforcement has been a staple of comedy for centuries. It goes back to comedia del arte, and it includes Shakespeare's "Constible Dogberry" in *Much Ado About Nothing* (Michael Keaton played that role a couple of decades back).

 

As a plot device, the police often have to be inept in order for the vigilante (Batman) or the P.I. (Lew Archer, say) to be right.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Most of the "inept" law enforcement I've seen in classic films is usually done for comic effect, as in The Thin Man , or any one of the innumerable private detective series like The Lone Wolf or Torchy Blaine. In 99% of the serious crime dramas the police are almost always shown to be sober and intelligent. Exhibits A and B: The Sam Levene character in The Killers and the entire L.A. police department in He Walked By Night .

 

IMO what's really annoying is that in the "classic" movie era it seems as if in every single caper movie --- The Asphalt Jungle , The Killing , etc.---the thieves make such a complete botch of it so early in the movie that there's absolutely no suspense about the eventual ending. Just once I'd wish they'd give us an ending scene of the bad guys lolling in the Riviera, lighting cigars with $100 bills, while the cops are left scratching their heads and vowing to get them "the next time they try anything". It would be a nice change of pace from the usual formula.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

>Chief O'Hara is practically an idiot...one wonders why the heck Gordon let O'Hara keep his job. At times those two are like Abbott & Costello. ;)

 

Isn't it obvious? Next to O'Hara, Gordon (who's hardly an Elliott Ness, himself), looks like a genius.

 

The fact is, Mayor Linseed should can 'em both and hire, well, Elliott Ness.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Antecedent is a good word. And RAISING ARIZONA is another great example.

 

I also happened to catch MIDNIGHT RUN yesterday, with Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin. DeNiro is a bounty hunter and Grodin is the white-collar criminal he is escorting across the country. Of course, they run into their share of buffoonish cops.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Andy,

If I am not mistaken, Kathleen Turner gets away with her crimes in BODY HEAT and ends up on some beach enjoying the fruits of her labors. Also, the kidnappers in RUTHLESS PEOPLE (played by Helen Slater and Judge Reinhold) go unpunished...actually, their victim (Bette Midler) runs off with them!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

>The trigger-happy cop who fired a gun at a carousel filled with children while trying to shoot Robert Walker in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. This killed the little guy who crawled under the ride and when he fell, he hit the lever that caused it to go faster than any carousel was ever built to go. When the thing finally crashed and sent bodies flying everywhere, the cop was more concerned with a cigarette lighter than the mayhem that he caused.

 

Trigger-happy is a good word for it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Andy,

If I am not mistaken, Kathleen Turner gets away with her crimes in BODY HEAT and ends up on some beach enjoying the fruits of her labors. Also, the kidnappers in RUTHLESS PEOPLE (played by Helen Slater and Judge Reinhold) go unpunished...actually, their victim (Bette Midler) runs off with them!

 

Could be, though I haven't seen those two films. And I'm sure that there are other examples from the last 40 or 45 years as well. But my comment was directed at "classic" films, and in case I wasn't clear about the dates I assign to that genre, I use it to mean films prior to the withering away of the Breen code, or roughly prior to the mid-60's. Films after that seem to be governed by a rather (cough, cough) different code.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

*Great idea for a thread the movies are full of cops who couldn't find their butt with both hands who either frustrate us or have us rolling in the aisles. My favorite inept lawman is from one of my favorite movies "In the Heat of the Night" Rod Steiger's chief Gillespie. This guy knows his job is hanging by a thread unless he finds his killer quickly he wants justice, but he wants to protect his job even more. First its the some young guy who lifted the dead guys wallet and when Virgil shows him he wrong does he stop a moment and reflect that he was railroading an innocent kid, no sir. No he rants at raves at Virgil and only reluctantly reduces the charges.. Has the Chief learned a lesson of course no now he learns one of his deputies had recently banked several hundred dollars and that's all the evidence Gillespie needs to arrest Sam. All Gillespie has going for him is toughness and the fear he inspires in others and that's his only qualifications for his job and Virgil is making him look hard at himself and he doesn't like what he sees. When Gillespie first meets Virgil he is the stereotypical small town southern lawman determined to save his job truth and justice being incidental. The Chief does some growing while Virgil`s in town as i said one of my favorite films with knockout performances from both Steiger and Poiter .*

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Again, we have differing views on the definition of classic film. Maybe RUTHLESS PEOPLE has not yet achieved classic status, but I do think BODY HEAT, a more contemporary noir, has definitely reached the realm of classic film.

 

The tearing down of the production code is a morals issue, not a classic film issue. Many precodes are considered classics. So I feel we need to loosen up on the idea of restricting classics only to the Breen era. It's a disservice to the talented artists who worked in years prior to and after the dissolution of the code. Also, are we to say that Jimmy Stewart or John Wayne, who kept working in film after the code, were suddenly no longer classic film stars no longer making classic films? Most people would say THE SHOOTIST is a classic, made eight years after the production code ceased.

 

Going back to your comment about a villain getting away with a crime, of course that would not happen during the code years. Unless it was an imported film made on foreign soil, where their film industry guidelines were not like those found in the U.S.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=SansFin wrote:}{quote}I believe the personification of an inept police officer is James Gleason.

I was thinking more of Jackie Gleason as Sheriff Buford T. Justice in the three Smokey and The Bandit movies. THREE MOVIES, and he never caught Bandit, and his his police cars always got destroyed in the films. Same thing goes for Mike Henry as Junior Justice, the epitome of the stupid deputy.

 

blackandwhite_Buford_T_Justice_in_car.bm

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=Sprocket_Man wrote:}{quote}

> Isn't it obvious? Next to O'Hara, Gordon (who's hardly an Elliott Ness, himself), looks like a genius.

>

> The fact is, Mayor Linseed should can 'em both and hire, well, Elliott Ness.

>

That's why he keeps Gordon and O'Hara around, to make himself look good. Mayor Linseed isn't exactly the sharpest tack in the box either. Gordon is lucky his daughter (unbeknownst to him) is Batgirl to keep an eye on him.

 

mayorlinseed.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Again, we have differing views on the definition of classic film. Maybe RUTHLESS PEOPLE has not yet achieved classic status, but I do think BODY HEAT, a more contemporary noir, has definitely reached the realm of classic film.

 

Actually I wasn't trying to impose my own view of "classic", and in fact my own definition would likely be close to yours, and it would have little to do with when a film came out. I was merely using the term as I've understood that most people here have come to use it, to refer to Hollywood studio films that are at least 40 or 50 years old.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=kriegerg69 wrote:}{quote} ..... Gordon is lucky his daughter (unbeknownst to him) is Batgirl to keep an eye on him.

>

> mayorlinseed.jpg

>

 

 

 

Oooooh...YEAH! Yvonne Craig....my very first crush!!! :x

 

(...and maybe the reason I've always been more into brunettes all my life)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

In the recient movies Comissioner Gordon is , (played by Pat Hingle and Gary Oldman) is a little bit more on the ball, (and not seen as much.) Actually I don't think Chief Ohara is seen at all.

 

 

 

 

 

Even though on the series Chief O'Hara and Comissioner Gordon come of as doltish, they seem like nice guys. They've just gotten a little do dependant of Batman to do their work.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

© 2023 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...