Vice Squad (1953) Arnold Laven

This is a reprint of a short review from my Weekly Wrap column that I have been doing over at  the “Watching Shadows on the Wall” blog, which frankly does not get much traffic. Susequently, I thought I would repost some of the short reviews I have written over there that fit into the scope of 24frames.


Vice Squad – Arnold Laven (***) standard cops and criminal “B” film. Made in 1953, it is the kind of routine movie that the advent of television killed off. Edward G. Robinson past his heydays but still big enough to command the lead in this kind of film stars as a police captain who does not mind bending the law if it means capturing two cop killers. Co-starring is the beautiful Paulette Goddard as  madam  who helps police Captain Robinson out. Though she received second billing her role is essentially a cameo. The cast is filled with some good character actors including Porter Hall as the funeral director and Lee Van Cleef as one of the cop killers ( I don’t think I am giving anything away here. A decent script by Lawrence Roman, with some exceptional dialogue between Robinson and Goddard, and some excellent shadowy photography by Joseph Biroc who worked with Sam Fuller a few times in the 1950’s. Definitely worth a look for those who like crime films from this period.


8 comments on “Vice Squad (1953) Arnold Laven

  1. I’m a big fan of WordPress and film noir. I’ll definitely be checking out your blog. In fact I’ve added it to my own blogroll.

    My favorite vintage detective films are “Laura” and “The Postman Always Rings Twice”.


  2. David R. Crosby says:

    Having just closed Donald Spoto’s new book “Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and his Leading Ladies,” I was pleased to read your review of “Vice Squad,” not that it has anything to do with Hitchcock but merely because I love reading about film and filmmakers. To my chagrin, however, I could not find this Edward G. Robinson crime drama in Leonard Maltin’s 2006 movie guide.

    I love crime films of this sort and will keep looking for it. And, by the way, I would recommend the Spoto book to anyone interested in Hitchcock. While I am ambivalent about learning of ever darker secrets of artists and believe that most often such material reveals little about the art, nonetheless I admit that knowing more fully about Hitchcock’s tortured inner life and the way in which late in life he lost control of his repressed urges and hurt so many people helps us understand the largely overlooked subtleties in a number of his films.

    And the book goes a long way to more accurately understanding the collaborative nature of Hitchcock’s filmmaking. We can better see how from the very beginning he carefully constructed his own reputation as a master by claiming that he did everything in the process of creating his films.

    One odd note: Spoto no longer defends “Topaz.” He says it is generally regarded “(except by the most defensive Hitchcock aficianados)” as “cold and remote, an almost embarrassingly bad movie.” I showed this film to a group recently and later to a friend of keen intelligence who does not particularly care for the subject matter “Topaz” takes up and he and the others found the film highly engrossing. My friend liked the tight script and the use of colors to highlight relationships and loyalties. Yes, there are faults, but he also found the narrative inventive, suspenseful and truly entertaining. An “embarrassingly bad movie?”


    • John Greco says:

      David, I caught VICE SQUAD on TCM so if you have access to that channel keep[ an eye out for it. I am also a big fan of crime films of this type.

      I read the Hitchcock book a while back and I agree with what you say. It is always distressing to learn the darker side of someone you admire and it was unsettling reading about his obsession and treatment of Tippi Hedren along with his schoolboy pranks he engaged in with on some of the other less powerful actresses.

      I have not seen TOPAZ since its original release so I cannot comment. I do remember thinking it a lesser Hitchcock at the time. I really need to watch it again. Sounds like it is a film that should be reevaluated.


  3. Sam Juliano says:

    The Spoto book recommended above by Mr. Crosby is the actually a recent release. Spoto’s first Hitchcock volume THE ART OF HITCHCOCK rivals Robin Wood’s HITCHCOCK’S FILMS as the best book on the director that I have read. (I own both). Spoto was actually a favorite writer of Hitchcock’s, and the director often made claim that he (Spoto) understood his work as well as anybody. I still see TOPAZ as a “lesser” Hitchcock, though I once felt that way about FRENZY, which has subsequently risen in my estimation.
    Yeah, I’ll agree that VICE SQUAD is somewhat of a conventional crime drama that was better suited to the television of that time. Of course, it’s always a treat to have Edward G. at any time!


    • John Greco says:

      I have read all three of Spoto’s books on Hitch and still have my orginal paperback copy of the Art of Alfred Hitchcock. I did read Wood’s book also mnay years ago and I am not actually sure what happened to it. Probably got “lost” in one of my many moves. Anyway, I agree both Spoto and Wood’s books are essential reading.

      The link below is to my review of Spellbound by Beauty,


  4. Sam Juliano says:

    Incidentally, Spoto’s excellent consideration of STANLEY KUBRICK is an essential work as well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s