Promoted for its psychedelic aspects (as seemingly all youth-driven films of the late 1960s were), the crime thriller "Cop-Out" also bears a completely meaningless title that was designed to bring the mod crowd into theaters. (Please do not confuse this "Cop-Out" with director Kevin Smith horrendous 2010 sleaze fest "Cop Out".) Yet, despite the emphasis on exploitation, the film is actually a tightly-scripted, highly intelligent drama that boasts an especially impressive performance by the generally impressive James Mason. He plays John Sawyer, a once-esteemed lawyer who has fallen on hard times. His vivacious wife has left him because of his sexual inattention to her, as well as his love affair with booze. With her departure, Sawyer putters around a decaying mansion that, like himself, was once quite impressive. Sawyer's house is also a home to his daughter Angela (Geraldine Chaplin), but the two are barely on speaking terms. She resents his disinterest in her well-being and he resents what he believes is her misspent youth. Angela hangs out with a group of upper crust, spoiled rotten modders who spend their time drinking, smoking and screwing with shameless abandon. The odd man out in the group is Jo (Paul Bertoya), a struggling Greek immigrant who is tolerated in the group of snobs primarily because Angela is his girlfriend. The restless modders end up surreptitiously boarding a docked freighter and wreaking havoc before they are caught out by a crew member, Barney Teale (Bobby Darrin), a fast-talking American hipster who befriends the group and sets about manipulating them. He moves into their motley secret hideaway in an abandoned local theater and begins to make use of the premises to indulge in doing drugs and entertaining strippers and prostitutes. He's got a Jekyll and Hyde-like personality: one minute he's charming and funny, the next he's cruel and violent. When Barney suffers injuries due to an accident, Angela allows him to recuperate in her room, safe in the assumption that her disengaged father would never find out about his presence. However, during the night, a gunshot rings out and Barney turns up dead in Angela's bed. The prime suspect is Jo, who is accused of being jealous of Angela's proximity to the sex-crazed Barney. However, Angela insists he's being framed. The question is: by who? She imposes upon her father to return to his profession and take up Jo's defense. He agrees to do so but his appearance before the court is a disaster, leading to Angela to believe that Jo will inevitably be convicted. However, her father rallies, lays off the bottle and begins to play detective. In Agatha Christie fashion, he confronts the man he suspects of being the real murderer at a posh dinner party where the suspect is being honored on his birthday.
"Cop-Out" is rather striking for its blunt depiction of the open sexuality that was inherent in the youth revolution of the Sixties. There are few noble characters among the sleazebags but Sawyer's rise from the ash heap of humanity serves as a precursor for Paul Newman's character in "The Verdict" in that both men regain meaning in the lives by combating what they feel is a social injustice. The film was directed by Pierre Rouve, and it marks his only turn helming a film. (He major credits were as producer, including Antonioni's "Blow-Up".) Rouve is quite impressive, too, and doesn't allow the sexual and violent aspects of the film to overshadow the intelligent screenplay, which is based on the novel "Strangers in the House" by Georges Simenon. There's a very able supporting cast, with young Ian Ogilvy in what turns out to be a key role. The script deftly makes some biting observations about British class structure and delves into other areas such as sexual harassment, impotence and homosexuality (which was still an imprisonable offence at the time in England!). Chaplin performs well, as does the supporting cast, with Bobby Darin somewhat mesmerizing in an off-the-wall performance. The main recommendation for seeing the movie, however, is Mason's outstanding performance as the world-weary, worn-out shadow of a man who still has the ability to slay his social adversaries with his rapier wit. There's also some good location scenery (it was filmed in Southampton) and retro movie lovers will enjoy Mason glimpsing at some skin magazines including one promoting Molly Peters in "Thunderball". As an added treat, there are occasional vocals by Eric Burden and the Animals.
Kino Lorber has rescued yet another obscure gem of a film and given it a fine presentation on Blu-ray. The original trailer is included as are trailers from other KL releases including "Coming Home", "The Crucible" and others.