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The Laughing Policeman

After an extremely overdone prolog of violent mass murder on a bus, The Laughing Policeman becomes a handsomely made manhunt actioner, starring Walter Matthau and Bruce Dern in excellent performances as two San Francisco detectives.

After an extremely overdone prolog of violent mass murder on a bus, The Laughing Policeman becomes a handsomely made manhunt actioner, starring Walter Matthau and Bruce Dern in excellent performances as two San Francisco detectives.

The title comes from a book by the Swedish team of Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall, which has been adapted by Thomas Rickman with a shift from the Stockholm and Malmo environment to SF.

Pre-title action sees Anthony Costello tailing Louis Guss aboard a bus, all of whose passengers are brutally massacred by an unseen rider’s shotgun. Matthau, who was Costello’s senior partner, is assigned to the case, along with Dern. Lou Gossett is another detective on the puzzling case, where lack of clear motive, disparity in backgrounds of all the dead people, and absence of clues, sends detective-lieutenant Anthony Zerbe up the wall in frustration. Matthau in time abandons normal procedure to search by instinct.

Matthau’s character is developed and played with low key irony. Dern is superbly cast as a callous cop, herein the quintessential Yahoo pig who berates any and all minorities.

The Laughing Policeman

  • Production: 20th Century-Fox. Director Stuart Rosenberg; Producer Stuart Rosenberg; Screenplay Thomas Rickman; Camera David Walsh; Editor Robert Wyman; Music Charles Fox; Art Director Doug Von Koss
  • Crew: (Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1973. Running time: 111 MIN.
  • With: Walter Matthau Bruce Dern Lou Gossett Albert Paulsen Anthony Zerbe Anthony Costello