Following the success of Tony Rome, Frank Sinatra returned to the role of hard boiled investigator with The Detective. Based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Roderick Thorp, The Detective is far more serious and adult in tone than Tony Rome, but touched on some surprising themes for the era and saw Frank Sinatra deliver one of the best acting performances of his career.

Hardened New York City police detective Joe Leland (Sinatra) finds himself assigned to a particularly gruesome murder case. Theodore Leikman Jr.’s beaten and mutilated body is found in his apartment. Given the vile nature of the attack and subsequent information regarding the victim’s sexuality, its quickly presumed that the murder is the result of a dispute between homosexual lovers. Unlike most of his colleagues, Leland attempts to be fair and respectful, rounding up suspects from the gay community and trying to get ‘real’ answers, rather than making assumptions.

But even as Leland appears to have it all together in his work life, the film offers up a couple of long flashback sequences that detail the troubled relationship between him and his estranged wife Karen (Lee Remick). The two of them clearly love each other and have a sexually charged relationship, but she has difficulty staying faithful. Even so, Leland can’t quite remove her from his life completely. Meanwhile, Leland and his newbie devotee Robbie Loughlin (Al Freeman, Jr.) think they’ve solved the murder when they arrest the victim’s roommate, an obviously insane guy named Felix Tesla (Tony Musante). By the time Leland has doubts, Tesla is on his way to the electric chair which occurs around the hour mark in the film. That alone is a pretty good indication that he’s the wrong man.

In the second half of the film. a man jumps off the rooftop of a racetrack to his death. The case is quickly ruled a suicide and largely ignored, until the victim’s widow (Jacqueline Bisset) comes to Leland’s office claiming a conspiracy. Leland agrees to reopen the case and discovers that Theodore Leikman Jr.’s murder is far more complex than he could have ever imagined and the justice system is far more corrupt than he would have ever believed.

A dark and rather unpleasant film, The Detective delves into the issue of homosexuality in a way that few, if any, films had before 1968, but it’s also a pretty bitter look at heterosexual marriage. A man who built an emotional wall, Karen had been the one person Leland believed he could really get close to, the one who believed in him matter what. Even though their marriage is clearly hanging by a thread when the movie starts, the flashbacks clearly show Leland is searching for where it all went wrong. Perhaps even looking for that one word or thing that would make the marriage great again.

A great deal of credit goes to Frank Sinatra for putting away the kind of ‘Las Vegas’ cool persona he had but trademarked by the late sixties and instead allowing himself to show a darker, slightly less self-assured side of himself to movie audiences.

Presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this is a very solid 1080p transfer. Sharpness is excellent throughout, colors are stable and skin tones look natural. While contrast can vary slightly, contrast remains fairly steady.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix is typical of the era. Dialogue is well recorded and mixes well with Jerry Goldsmith’s rather downbeat score and minimal sound effects. There are no age related crackles, hums, or otherwise.

English SDH subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Audio Commentary with Film historians Nick Redman, Lem Dobbs, and David Del Valle: The three have and informative discussion chat about the film as well as the novel it’s based on. They also touch on the varied career of Frank Sinatra, the other actors in the film, and director Gordon Douglas, who worked with Sinatra on four films.
  • Isolated Score Track: Jerry Goldsmith’s score is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer 1 (SD, 3:16)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer 2 (SD, 2:23)
  • Six-Page Booklet: contains color and black and white stills from the movie, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s expert analysis of the film.


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