Skipping ahead to the end of Aldrich's career this time, to The Choirboys from 1977 (which also saw the release of Twilight's Last Gleaming). Aldrich only made two more movies after this one. There's no getting around the fact that The Choirboys is a pretty unpleasant movie. Based on Joseph Wambaugh's novel, this lets Aldrich's anti-authoritarianism loose without any restraint. Wambaugh famously disowned the movie, and speaks ill of it to this very day. I get the feeling that Aldrich approached the book the same way he approached Spillane's Kiss Me Deadly, which he is known to have hated. I think he saw in it a hagiography for authoritarianism, which is totally against his nature. The resulting movie tears down the veils that hid the fault lines in American culture in the post-Vietnam/post-Watergate era. To some extent, those fault lines are still there. This is a racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic morass, in which all of these impulses are given complete license. This is the cop movie crossed with Salo. It's all id.
The story here follows a precinct full of rowdy LA cops. The members of this precinct hold "choir practice" after hours, in which they drink, womanize, and play vicious pranks on each other. There's not much plot at first, just a rambling series of episodes. It's a picaresque. It acquires a plot in the second half, in which Vietnam vet Don Stroud freaks out and kills a gay teen in the park. His fellow cops then feel obliged to cover the crime. This is only the most extreme of the private failings on display here, but it's all of a piece with the cop who's into kink, the cop who thinks he's Dracula, the lieutenant who dabbles in hookers, the drunks, the lechers, et cetera. Aldrich doesn't paint a pleasant picture of cops. The main trouble with the movie is that he doesn't provide a means of entry into this world. There is no characteristic anti-hero railing against authority here, no individual railing against the system. I get the feeling that Charles Durning's retiring cop is intended as the sympathetic protagonist, but he's not on screen enough to work in this capacity. Like many of Aldrich's anti-heroes, Durning is compromised by his own moral outrage, then unconvincingly redeemed in the end. It doesn't really work. At only one point does the misanthropic mask slip, when Burt Young's grungy sergeant books a scared gay teen. This one moment informs the nastiness of the film's last act, given that the gay teen is Stroud's victim. This is played against a troubling taste for gay baiting elsewhere in the movie, with a stereotyped flaming gay, complete with pink poodle.
From my own theoretical point of view, this has a lot in common with the Gothic elements of The Dirty Dozen. It's an all male film--all of the female characters are bit parts--and one gets the feeling that the crucible of masculinity has driven these characters insane. This is certainly suggested in the homophobia manifested on screen. It's an even more extreme version than The Dirty Dozen, though, because it spreads the psychosexual manias among multiple characters rather than confining it to one sex maniac. It should be noted that there are some interesting actresses in the background of this movie, including Blair Brown and exploitation goddess Cheryl 'Rainbeaux' Smith.
In any event, it would be a horrifying movie to watch if it weren't so willfully goofy. On the one hand, the antics of the cops in the first half of the movie are juvenile and unfunny. On the other, the actions of the cops in the back half of the movie are reprehensible. It's an irreconcilable tension that the movie simply cannot resolve. It's also one of Aldrich's grottiest movies (he made a lot of grotty movies during the 1970s), one that still manages to look a bit like it was made for television, though the content of the movie would never play in prime time (this was a staple in the early days of HBO). It would be easy to count this film as evidence of the director in decline. Certainly, his days of masterpieces were over by this time, but this is still not without interest. It's just not very good.
Post script: The Choirboys has been out of print for years and has never been on DVD, so far as I know. It is, however, available for streaming on Netflix. This may be the wave of the future for deep catalogue movies where the rights-holders don't see a financial upside of pressing a disc.