Cop Shop: Siegel Crafts a Template with Widmark in Dated Cop Drama “Madigan” (1968) | Blu-ray Review
Kino Lorber refurbishes two B-side tracks from the filmography of Don Siegel, exemplifying both the highs and lows of his penchant for contemporary crime dramas. In the latter category is 1968’s Madigan, featuring Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda, a film which would later become a limited television series in the early 70s with Widmark returning as the titular character, a rebellious cop who never came across a rule he didn’t want to bend or break (Kino Lorber’s other recent Siegel release is the superior 1973 feature Charley Varrick).
In the late 60’s, Siegel was transitioning from the B-films he was known for in the 1950s (namely the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers) clearly on the hunt for something more extravagant, as evidenced by his 1964 race-car remake of Richard Siodmak’s noir classic The Killers (read review). At the end of the decade, one sees him developing both the prototype and star power he eventually needed for his string of iconic 1970s title which would star Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry was just around the corner in 1971).
Widmark, however, is no Eastwood as an inscrutable but surly cop on a high wire (the actor’s reunion with Siegel would be the ill-fated Death of a Gunfighter featuring Lena Horne, released as an Alan Smithee film). Siegel aims for a documentary style with Widmark as Madigan, but the film and its provocative politics are steeped in the essence of the swinging 60s (as evidenced by its soundtrack) and falter considerably in its achievements when compared to other period films, such as the Frank Sinatra led The Detective (1968) or the later, considerably underrated Report to the Commissioner (1975) from Milton Katselas.
Detective Madigan and his sycophantic partner (a one-note Harry Guardino, who would appear in Dirty Harry) accidentally stumble onto the trail of a killer (Steve Ihnat), only to lose their weapons in an embarrassing altercation, sparking the ire of their non-plussed commissioner (a well-cast Henry Fonda as a world weary man involved in a dwindling extra-marital affair). Inger Stevens (who appear in a string of titles this year, including the Eastwood led Hang ‘Em High, shortly before her death in 1970) portrays Madigan’s unsatisfied wife and James Whitmore as a sympathizing Chief Inspector.
Film Review: ★★/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc Review: ★★★/☆☆☆☆☆