Sunday, January 22, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Warning Shot (1967) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

David Janssen stars as an LAPD sergeant in a bad spot in WARNING SHOT (1967), just released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

I've been curious to see this one since reading a review by Colin at Riding the High Country a few years ago, and I was glad to finally catch up with it. It's an interesting procedural with a great cast, although in the end I think Colin was correct that while it's entertaining, the movie also has shortcomings.

Janssen plays Sgt. Tom Valens, who late one night is on a stakeout at an apartment building with Sgt. Musso (Keenan Wynn).

Valens spots a man acting suspiciously and orders him to stop, only to have a gun pulled on him; Valens kills the man in self-defense.

Two problems ensue: The dead man (Donald Curtis) was a doctor most people think was a saint, and there's no gun found at the scene, seriously complicating Valens' claim of self-defense.

D.A. Frank Sanderman (Sam Wanamaker) has a chip on his shoulder against cops and takes satisfaction in charging Valens with manslaughter. With 10 days until his court hearing and no help coming from the police department, Valens attempts to find the truth about the doctor's life, hoping it will in turn lead him to the missing gun.

The movie was written by Mann Rubin based on a novel by Whit Masterson; it plays rather like a high-class episode of something like DRAGNET, closer to a movie of the week than a theatrical film.

Instead of the character actors who were DRAGNET regulars, WARNING SHOT gives us an all-star parade of brief cameos by the likes of Walter Pidgeon, George Sanders, and Eleanor Parker, with Lillian Gish having a slightly more substantive role.

The casting is simultaneously a strength and a drawback for the film; the actors are all great fun to see, especially for classic film fans, but their brief appearances prevent the film from having much depth.

Joan Collins has a slightly larger part as Tom's soon-to-be ex-wife, who thinks she might win him back if he's forced out of his job; ironically, though, her character has fairly little to do with the mystery at hand. She serves to flesh out Tom's background a bit, but the time might have been better spent trying to deepen the characters surrounding the crime.

Janssen and Ed Begley Sr., playing Valens' captain, have the most screen time and character shadings, and Janssen is compelling enough to keep things interesting.

The film's portrayal of Los Angeles in the late '60s is also quite enjoyable, including not only a handful of location shots but Valens' boss wanting to go to Philippe's for a sandwich. (Alas, he never actually gets there.) I would have liked to see even more of the city in the movie, but the film's general "look" reminded me of the Los Angeles of my '70s childhood.

The presence of longtime L.A. news anchor Jerry Dunphy early in the film added to the authenticity. The cast also includes Stefanie Powers, Steve Allen, George Grizzard, John Garfield Jr., and John Mitchum in a bit part.

A fun note of cast trivia: Donald Curtis, who briefly plays the murder victim, played the doctor who treats Tootie on Halloween in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) over two decades previously.

An additional angle which interested me was that themes raised regarding police shootings and media railroading underscore that some of today's "hot button issues" actually go back for many decades. The media issue, in particular, is something it would have been interesting to see explored in greater depth as it related to Valens' predicament.

In the end, WARNING SHOT is an entertaining 100 minutes which I suspect many of my readers will also enjoy, with the caution that when it ends the viewer will feel a tad as though the film has been a lightweight, star-packed LOVE BOAT of police procedurals rather than something more substantial.

The behind-the-scenes talent included direction by Buzz Kulik, cinematography by Joseph Biroc, costumes by Edith Head, and a score by Jerry Goldsmith.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray used a new HD master from a 2K scan of the 35mm interpositive. There's nothing particularly noteworthy about Biroc's color photography, but the disc itself looks and sounds great.

Disc extras include a commentary track by Steve Mitchell and Howard S. Berger along with a gallery of trailers for nine additional films also available from Kino Lorber.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Sam said...

Laura, I read your review and it was very nice. Good work!I had never heard of this film but will check it out.
Sam Archer

9:01 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you, Sam! I appreciate you reading - glad I could share info on a new-to-you movie.

Best wishes,

7:24 PM  
Blogger Glen said...

I love this film more than you do, Laura, but I'm also hugged by nostalgia having seen it in a theater in 1967 when I was a kid. I would say "first run," but it was actually at a third run show after it played a downtown Chicago loop palace, then moved to the nicer suburban screens and finally down to the "All Seats 50 cents theater" near my home. I was lucky to have movie loving parents and brothers growing up (and ongoing!) so we basically saw A LOT, sometimes going all the way downtown and sometimes having to wait until their last gasp at the local double feature joint.

I make that preface not to discuss WARNING SHOT, but to just briefly retell this story. While we all loved David Janssen from THE FUGITIVE at that time, circumstances prevented us from seeing WARNING SHOT before it nearly vanished. My parents skipped this one, but dropped off my two older bros and me to see it on a double bill and told them to call when we were done, whether we stayed for both movies or not. WARNING SHOT ended and we all felt a bit disappointed that it wasn't more like THE FUGITIVE or something and we sat in the theater talking and wondering if we should stay for the second movie, which we had not heard of at all. I didn't even know the title, so I asked my brother Bill he said "I think it's some western," We ultimately decided to stay because of that, figuring any western is worthwhile just by being a western. Well, all I can say is that a couple of hours later we were absolutely speechless. We walked out of the theater talking about nothing else, with WARNING SHOT a very distant memory already. And all week we couldn't stop talking about that "some western" and so began a lifelong embrace that wrapped up our imaginations into whole new ideas of, well, ideas. Like having seen GOLDFINGER two years before and BONNIE AND CLYDE not long after, we were never the same again and that's a great thing. What was the "some western?" A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS.

2:54 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much for your comments! I love hearing about you seeing it as a kid, stories like that are great. How fabulous that you almost accidentally saw A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS with it!

Best wishes,

2:35 PM  

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