Rogue Cop (1954)

Rogue Cop (1954) opens with no fanfares and no music at all in fact. Clearly the producers were going for the music of the streets.

And what is the music of the streets? 

It's the footsetp of a crooked cop, the whispering of a stool pigeon, the gasp for life of a man stabbed to death in a penny arcade, and its the sirens which open and close this film noir police procedural tale of coppers on the take.

To commence with, a grumbling burlesque dancer wanders into a penny arcade and why didn’t she know this was going to cheapen her day further, is beyond us. 

But a murder quickly turns things on their tails, and the story of Rogue Cop begins.

So much of film noir takes place inside police procedural. Desks, ID parades, arguments with the boss, locker rooms, stool pigeons and bad cop / bad cop routines abound.


Some of it takes place in studio lots, realistic street scenes which are studio shot and lack the atmosphere of a proper city, but which suffice to load the screen with their own flavour, their own special claustrophobic taste.

Most of the rest of it takes place in poorly dressed apartments, the flat board walls of film noir. There are other domestic scenes too  ― because film noir is also often very domestic.

In Rogue Cop, the bent copper himself lives reasonably ―his brother lives in the old family house ― the gangsters have a spacious modern apartment with balcony ―and the younbg lovers dream of that elusive marital bliss. In Rogue Cop, that bliss will never come to pass, and through no fault of their own.

The rogue cop of the title is wickedly played by Robert Taylor, in one of his best roles. He does I feel it should be said suffer at times from appearing in too much make-up ―at least that is the impression that Rogue Cop gives.

Marriage is tough on sixty five a week, as the movie says however, and here the roguery begins. Rogue Cop is also the story of two brothers, an honest one and a crooked one, and that doesn't play out as entirely expected either. It's film noir, so the good sometimes perish.

Steve Forrest (Eddie) and Robert Taylor (Chris) in Rogue Cop (1954)

Golden brother Eddie, played by Steve Forrest is pretty keen to do everything right ― the way 'Pop' would have. 

Wicked brother Chris, Robert Taylor complete with blackened widow's peak hasn't given morality a lot of thought it appears. Note that the movie is called Rogue Cop in the singular. We are not quite ready yet for the full on accusations against entire police departments, although one or two film noirs do present this.

Janet leigh is the songer with a secret in her past and she is the least safe of all, from Rogue Cop. Looked at one way, the personal story of Rogue Cop is one driving bully and his effects.

Even amid this the battle is between morality and domesticity. The parental home of the two boys, Eddie’s desire to marry, and the lurking threat of a home life create an aura of panic. And it’s still all about a man falling out with his father.

Gloriously, nearky everyone in this world is corrupt ― the cop, the mobsters, their girlfriends, even the sweet brother’s girlfriend is running from a dark past ― so it's one big filthy rotten-appled barrel, with only one good apple spoiling things for everybody else.

There is a also a good selection of hard-boiled dialogue in Rogue Cop, although there is no reason why there should not be. This film appears late in the canon, and the form should have been mastered by 1954. 

George Raft in Rogue Cop (1954)

So even if Rogue Cop is low on atmospheric lighting and paranoia, and lacks any psychological subtelty, seeking only to force home the story of its own driving bully and his effects, it still features many snappy lines:

Kelvaney: I know who you are and what league you played in... you were Frankie Nemo's girl weren't you?

Karen: Yes.

Kelvaney: [Sarcastically] Yass, yass... that all you have to say? Where's the cute story? Didn't he hold a mortgage on the old plantation... Wasn't he threatening the virtue of your little sister... That kind of routine? I go for cute stories.


Detective Myers: Do me a favor will ya crud? When homicide questions ya get stuffed ... show 'em how tough ya are: make em beat it outta ya, eh?

This last throwaway comment is made upon the arrest of one resistant young punk, and is one of many verbal slingshots in Rogue Cop.

Janet Leigh is brilliant in Rogue Cop, largely delicate and often indignant, usually demure and sometimes even shrinking, hiding her past and standing very prettily a lot of the time, as Robert Taylor looms. She is pretty much the victim, even oddly portrayed with a sympathetic limp, and while hoping for an ideal and super-sensitive love interest, generally ending up captive.

It's not easy to say if the role is right for her, and it seems sometimes that Janet Leigh didn't quite fit into any roles ― up until the day she played Marion Crane.

Rogue Cop is perhaps a tough movie to like at the start. However, once it is rolling, with all engines rocking nicely, and once you have begun to marvel at and appreicate just how much makeup Robert Taylor appears to be wearing, it becomes more enjoyable.

Taylor may have been better suited to the Westerns, and may also have fared better in the Sir Walter Scott historical films he did, Ivanhoe (1951) and The Adventures of Quentin Durward (1955).

But he is a top-notch villain in Rogue Cop, and even survives long enough to try and set his villainy right, by finally going to war with the 'real criminals' who are supposedly worse than him.

Live CCTV in the police station! Rogue Cop (1954)

By 1954, film noir had already showed most of this in much better detail: the crooked cop with the good-as-gold younger brother  even appears in The Man Who Cheated Himself. The chanteus with a past in Gilda, Dead Reckoning and The Last Crooked Mile. The slick as a snake mobster beyond the reach of the law with his alcoholic mistress ― as in Key Largo, Railroaded and The Big Heat. It even features a street-savvy old dear who passes on scuttlebutt for a price ― as in Pickup on South Street

Robert Taylor isn't the sour type of crooked cop, like the the homicidal Edmond O'Brien in the same year's Shield For Murder.

Shoot Out! Rogue Cop (1954)

Both films were adapted from books by William McGivern, as was Fritz Lang's The Big Heat.  They are like a rotten urban trio –of brutal and sometimes sadistic action, and it is a great success that good guy Robert Taylor pulls it all off, and remains tough to the core.

Janet Leigh on Wikipedia

Rogue Cop on Wikipedia

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