A 20-year veteran of the Los Angeles police department, Bumper Morgan (William Holden, Sabrina) is just days away from retirement. Years patrolling the streets have left him more than a little jaded, not just by the criminals he’s sworn to protect us from, but the actions of his own, younger colleagues. As the film begins, he is called out to a case involving a murdered prostitute. Having walked the area streets for years, he can immediately identify the young woman. However, he has little interest in helping young homicide detective Charlie Bronski (Sam Elliott, A Star is Born) who keeps peppering him with questions. Bumper resolves to find her killer before turning in his badge.
Based on the novel of the same name by former cop Joseph Wambaugh, The Blue Knight was originally broadcast on NBC over four consecutive evenings, beginning on November 11, 1973. A hit in the ratings, the feeling of authenticity (for the time), is a definite asset. Morgan patrols his beat, dealing with familiar pimps, drug dealers, and petty thieves. Ad tired of it as he is, it’s in his blood; he’s drawn to it. He’d rather walk a beat than patrol in a car because, as he puts it, “all the good busts come from walking and talking and looking.”
The only reason Bumper has agreed to retirement is because his college professor fiancée Cassie (the perennially underrated Lee Remick) wants him off the streets. It’s in his scenes with Cassie that we see Bumper’s softer side. He lets his guard down with her; looks less weary. At age 49, Bumper isn’t really old, but the job, the stress, the disrespect has taken its toll. In one scene, Bumper joins Cassie at a gathering of her students. They pepper him with questions. A law student asks about police brutality, drugs. (“What about marijuana?” “Do you have any?,” he replies. On the street, he wouldn’t be nearly as diplomatic.
William Holden, who won a Best Actor Emmy, is perfect for the role. Fifty-five at the time, his grizzled features and no-nonsense attitude is realistic. His Bumper Morgan is just an ordinary guy. Worn down after twenty years in trenches, he’s not going to save the world, he just wants to have a hand in solving one more case. After that, life with Cassie sounds pretty good. Through all this, Holden radiates the screen presence that first made him a star in 1939’s Golden Boy.
While Lee Remick isn’t given much screen time, she does a wonderful job with the material and earned a Best Actress Emmy nomination. Aside from Sam Elliott, the cast is filled out by a solid roster of actors, including Anne Archer (Fatal Attraction), Eileen Brennan, Vic Tayback (Alice) and Joe Santos. It is also worth noting, director Robert Butler (Hill Street Blues) won an Emmy for his work.
Presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Warner Archive has provided a top notch 1080p transfer. The colors are surprisingly vivid for a TV movie more than forty years old. Only a few shots here and there, look a bit yellow. A nice layer of grain gives the proceedings a filmic appearance, and there’s no image damage to mention. Viewers should be very pleased.
The mono 2.0 soundtrack is standard for the era, but provides clean, clear and concise dialogue throughout. Some ambient effects sound a bit low, but it’s nothing significant. The score by Nelson Riddle comes through nicely, and there are no pops, clicks, or other audio distortions to report.
English SDH subtitles are included.
There are no extras available
The Blue Knight (1973)
Movie title: The Blue Knight
Director(s): Robert Butler
Actor(s): William Holden, Lee Remick , Joe Santos , Sam Elliott, Eileen Brennan , Vic Tayback
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama