[Originally published in Movietone News 64-65, March 1980]
The second of his books that he has personally seen to the screen, Joseph Wambaughâ€™s The Black Marble might have been a better movie if Wambaugh & co. had not so assiduously aimed for a PG rating, and included more of the novelâ€™s amusing raunch, verbal and sexual. The Wambaugh copâ€™s-instinct for the earthy and profane supplies a good deal of his writingâ€™s sharpness; certainly his sense of characterization is not especially deep, and his inveterate inclination to sermonize about the policemanâ€™s professional and personal lot in society could make for overbearing selfrighteousness without the piss-and-vinegar zest of his copsâ€™ language and behavioral style. Some of this gets into the movie version of The Black Marble (which is faithful to the book in all essentials), but not nearly enough of it; and what there is tends to be robbed of its bracing pungency by Harold Beckerâ€™s direction. Only John Hancock as Clarence, the canny, sardonic black sergeant who really runs the Hollywood burglary division, credibly gets into the mode; the other actors are fairly popeyed with the effort to be street-funny folks.