Uncredited writer John Milius was thinking of Kurosawa's detective movies, and of outrageous antagonists differentiated only by the badge one wears; director Siegel was thinking of bigotry and, as ever, in terms of questions rather than answers. Critics were immediately thinking of effects ('Every frame votes Nixon'). Siegel's ambiguity wins out, as it had done with Invasion of the Body Snatchers (anti-Red? anti-McCarthy?). Seminal law-and-order cinema, and the site of revival for the oldest cine-political argument of all: does an articulated theme necessarily constitute an ideological position, especially when it's so transparent (cop Callahan's fascism) that it's noticed by everyone who's ever written about the film? It's more than a little embarrassing when critics trust audiences less than film-makers do.