Saturday, April 21, 2018


A couple of weeks ago TCM ran a double feature of Don Siegel movies, which gave me the chance to get Madigan of my list of movies I'd wanted to see.

Madigan, played by Richard Widmark, is a New York City police detective accompanied by his partner Bonaro (Harry Guardino). We know it's New York already from the opening credits, which have some really nice photography of New York, set against some music that sounds more like it's suited for one of those TV cop shows of the 1970s than a big-screen movie. Anyhow, Madigan and his partner show up one morning at the apartment of Barney Benesch (Steve Ihnat), who is wanted for questioning about some small matter or another. However, the two detectives are just incompetent enough that Barney is able to get their guns and force them up on to the roof, leaving Barney to make his escape.

The two detectives then discover that they've got a much bigger problem then they thought. While they believed they were only picking up Benesch on a routine matter. It turns out he knew, and the folks back at headquarters know, the Benesch was actually wanted in connection with a murder. Police Commissioner Anthony Russell (Henry Fonda) is none too pleased. So Russell gives the two detectives 72 hours to find Benesch, who could be anywhere in the city, or else.

Russell, for his part, has a bunch of other stuff on his plate. There's stuff like the Police Athletic League and, more interestingly, an alleged police brutality case in which a local minister, Dr. Taylor, claims that his son was mistreated by two of Russell's policemen, while Russell claims the circumstantial evidence made Taylor's son a valid suspect. The problem, of course, is that Taylor is black, and this is the late 60s, you can probably connect the dots.

Back to Madigan, he's also got problems at home. He's got a long-suffering wife (Inger Stevens) who is sick of having to spend nights alone, and now is even worrying that he won't be able to take her to the upcoming Policemen's Ball since he's going to be busy trying to find Benesch. Still, the search must go on....

In many ways, Madigan felt like two movies. This is in part because, as Ben Mankiewicz explained in the intro, there was a clash between the director and producer over whether more of the focus should have been on Madigan, or on Russell. The result is that we get some parts that don't quite fit together. Not that Madigan was bad. It's good enough, and with Widmark and Fonda you know you're going to get good performances. It's just that it could have been better.

Madigan is available on DVD if you want to see for yourself.

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