The Tarnished Badge: Bad Cop Noir

Film noir is a narrative that follows the fall of a good man who makes bad choices. He is often tempted by money, sex, or the opportunity to take matters into his own hands. He is led to the precipice by his desires before he makes his leap to transgress societal mores, to break the law. But what if those choices are being made by someone who is charged with upholding that law, appointed to protect the society from the evil that men do? Who can we trust when the motives of the man behind the badge are unclear?

As the cynicism of cinema advanced from postwar to midcentury, a cycle of films investigating this very idea appeared in theaters. We call them Bad Cop Noir. Suddenly, there were policemen onscreen as protagonists that would cover up their violence, stalk unsuspecting women, plot to steal money from thieves, and offer their services to mobsters. This was the new breed of noir cop: a natural progression from the damaged veterans that provided the bulk of noir protagonists in the 1940s and the shady PIs who worked in the shadow world between good and evil.

Far from just B-movie staples, these films were financed by major studios and directed both by established masters like Otto Preminger (Where the Sidewalk Ends), Fritz Lang (The Big Heat), and Orson Welles (Touch of Evil), as well as by vibrant newcomers such as Joseph Losey (The Prowler) and Don Siegel (Private Hell 36). The repercussions of these films can be felt in films and television from Chinatown to The Shield, and indeed, in our own modern society.

Date:
Saturday, March 3, 2018
Time:
7:30 p.m.
Location:
Dryden Theatre
The Tarnished Badge. In a nightmarish noir scenario, Dana Andrews plays a brutal New York cop who accidentally kills someone while investigating a murder and then proceeds to cover his tracks.
Date:
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Time:
7:30 p.m.
Location:
Dryden Theatre
The Tarnished Badge. Set in a shadowy postwar Los Angeles, The Prowler focuses on a wealthy but neglected housewife (Evelyn Keyes) who spends her evenings alone, with only her husband’s voice on the radio for company. When she’s spooked by a peeping tom, a calculating cop (Van Heflin) answers the call, turning her ordered life upside down.
Date:
Friday, March 16, 2018
Time:
7:30 p.m.
Location:
Dryden Theatre
The Tarnished Badge. After his wife’s murder at the hands of the mob, honest cop Glenn Ford seeks revenge and will stop at nothing to get it.
Date:
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Time:
7:30 p.m.
Location:
Dryden Theatre
The Tarnished Badge. In a variation on his character in Double Indemnity, Fred MacMurray plays a potentially crooked cop who gets mixed up with an irresistibly alluring gangster’s girl (Kim Novak in her first leading role).
Date:
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Time:
7:30 p.m.
Location:
Dryden Theatre
The Tarnished Badge. Christopher and Eddie Kelvaney are both cops, Christopher a detective and Eddie on the beat. Christopher has been on the take for years, reporting to gangster Dan Beaumonte, but when Eddie catches a killer, Beaumonte tells Christopher that Eddie must not testify, and Christopher is caught between his shady past and an honest cop, his own brother.
Date:
Saturday, March 31, 2018
Time:
7:30 p.m.
Location:
Dryden Theatre
The Tarnished Badge. Beginning with a masterfully complex opening shot, screenwriter and director Orson Welles plunges headlong into this tale of violence and deceit with all the baroque visual decadence of a cinematic genius.
Date:
Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Time:
7:30 p.m.
Location:
Dryden Theatre
The Tarnished Badge. Written by and starring Ida Lupino, for her independent company the Filmmakers, and featuring direction by genre masters Don Siegel and Sam Peckinpah, this may be the darkest of the Bad Cop cycle.
Date:
Thursday, April 5, 2018
Time:
7:30 p.m.
Location:
Dryden Theatre
The Tarnished Badge. Beginning with a masterfully complex opening shot, screenwriter and director Orson Welles plunges headlong into this tale of violence and deceit with all the baroque visual decadence of a cinematic genius.