Film Review – THE DROWNING POOL (1975)

Image result for the drowning pool 1975THE DROWNING POOL (USA, 1975) ***½
      Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Production Company: First Artists / Coleytown / Turman-Foster Company / David Foster Productions; Release Date: 25 June 1975 (USA), 14 September 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: began 16 October 1974; Running Time: 108m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Stuart Rosenberg; Writer: Tracy Keenan Wynn, Lorenzo Semple Jr., Walter Hill (based on the novel by Ross Macdonald); Producer: David Foster, Lawrence Turman; Associate Producer: Hawk Koch; Director of Photography: Gordon Willis; Music Composer: Michael Small; Film Editor: John C. Howard; Casting Director: Alan Shayne; Production Designer: Paul Sylbert; Art Director: Edwin O’Donovan; Costumes: Richard Bruno, Donald Brooks; Make-up: Monty Westmore; Sound: Larry Jost; Special Effects: Chuck Gaspar, Henry Millar.
      Cast: Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Joanne Woodward (Iris Devereaux), Anthony Franciosa (Broussard), Murray Hamilton (J.J. Kilbourne), Gail Strickland (Mavis Kilbourne), Melanie Griffith (Schuyler Devreaux), Linda Haynes (Gretchen), Richard Jaeckel (Franks), Paul Koslo (Candy), Joe Canutt (Glo), Andrew Robinson (Pat Reavis), Coral Browne (Olivia Devereaux), Richard Derr (James Devereaux), Helena Kallianiotes (Elaine Reavis), Leigh French (Red Head), Peter Dassinger (Peter), James Fontenot (Bartender), Tommy McLain (Nightclub Band), Martin Ahrens (Cajun Heavy #1), Philippe Blenet (Cajun Heavy #2), Jerome Greene (Butler), Cecil Elliott (Motel Switchboard Operator).
      Synopsis: Sequel to HARPER (1966), in which the big-city private detective travels to the Deep South to help out an old girlfriend who is being blackmailed.
      Comment: Newman returns to the role that fit him like a glove nine years earlier. This new case has more depth to the plot and also benefits from a strong supporting cast – with Hamilton’s sleazy oil magnate the most notable. A young Griffith takes on the role of rich couple’s spoilt daughter. The overall set-up may be familiar to noir fans and certainly to fans of Macdonald’s novel – despite the switch of setting – so it packs few surprises. Rosenberg’s direction is a little flat at times, but overall this is an enjoyable mystery.
      Notes: During post-production, director Stuart Rosenberg hired Composer Charles Fox to do additional scoring, integrating the composer’s melody “Killing Me Softly With His Song”, into the movie.

Film Review – HARPER (1966)

Image result for harper 1966HARPER (USA, 1966) ***
      Distributor: Warner Bros. (USA), Warner-Pathé Distributors (UK); Production Company: Gershwin-Kastner Productions; Release Date: 23 February 1966 (USA), 1 July 1966 (UK); Filming Dates: 7 June 1965 – 20 August 1965; Running Time: 121m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Jack Smight; Writer: William Goldman (based on the novel “The Moving Target” by Ross Macdonald); Producer: Jerry Gershwin, Elliott Kastner; Director of Photography: Conrad L. Hall; Music Composer: Johnny Mandel; Film Editor: Stefan Arnsten; Art Director: Alfred Sweeney; Set Decorator: Claude E. Carpenter; Costumes: William Smith; Make-up: Gordon Bau; Sound: Stanley Jones.
      Cast: Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Lauren Bacall (Mrs. Sampson), Julie Harris (Betty Fraley), Arthur Hill (Albert Graves), Janet Leigh (Susan Harper), Pamela Tiffin (Miranda Sampson), Robert Wagner (Allan Taggert), Robert Webber (Dwight Troy), Shelley Winters (Fay Estabrook), Harold Gould (Sheriff), Roy Jenson (Puddler), Strother Martin (Claude), Martin West (Deputy), Jacqueline deWit (Mrs. Kronberg), Eugene Iglesias (Felix), Richard Carlyle (Fred Platt).
      Synopsis: Lew Harper, a cool private investigator, is hired by a wealthy California matron to locate her kidnapped husband.
      Comment: Smight’s adaptation of Ross Macdonald’s classic mystery is a product of the period in which it was made as the free spirit of the 1960s threatens to drown the plot. Newman layers his charm onto Macdonald’s detective and it is his performance that is the main draw. The kidnapping plot involves a strong cast of eccentric characters but fails to invest any with significant depth. The dialogue, however, is smarter as Goldman captures the spirit of the wisecracking down on his luck PI genre, if not the mood.
      Notes: The title of Ross Macdonald’s source novel “The Moving Target” was this picture’s title in Great Britain. The lead character was changed from Lew Archer to Harper because the producers had only bought the rights to the first book in the series. Followed by THE DROWNING POOL (1975), again with Newman.

Book Review – THE GOODBYE LOOK (1969) by Ross MacDonald

THE GOODBYE LOOK  by ROSS MACDONALD (1969, Penguin, 282pp) ∗∗∗∗

16386132Blurb: Lew Archer, world-weary private investigator, is hired by Larry and Irene Chalmers when they suspect that their troubled son Nick is involved in their own burglary. But when a fellow investigator – one who’s been working with Nick – turns up dead, Archer soon realizes this isn’t simply about some stolen loot. To help their son, Archer must uncover the truth about a kidnap years ago, and discover why the handgun from a decades-old killing apparently turns up at every new and terrible murder.

Ross MacDonald is one of three writers considered to be the pinnacle fo the private eye genre – the other two being Raymond Chandler and Dashell Hammet. His Lew Archer novels and stories build on Chandler’s cynical view of Los Angeles and the flawed characters who inhabit it. This is the fifteenth of eighteen novels MacDonald wrote featuring the character and is typical of the later entries in the series. Archer becomes embroiled in a case revolving around a small group of families – all of whom are disfunctional. The mystery plot is cleverly unravelled as the book progresses at a good pace. With its convoluted plot, flawed characters and lone detective hero it feels as if it lives in the 40s or 50s, despite being set in a contemporary 1969. However, MacDonald was by then a master of his craft and his skill overcomes the slighly anachronistic feel. Highly recommended for scholars of the genre and fans in general.

Lew Archer novels:

  1. The Moving Target (1949)
  2. The Drowning Pool (1950)
  3. The Way Some People Die (1951)
  4. The Ivory Grin (1952) ****
  5. Find a Victim (1954)
  6. The Barbarous Coast (1956)
  7. The Doomsters (1958)
  8. The Galton Case (1959) *****
  9. The Wycherly Woman (1961)
  10. The Zebra-Striped Hearse (1962)
  11. The Chill (1964)
  12. The Far Side of the Dollar (1965)
  13. Black Money (1966) ****
  14. The Instant Enemy (1968)
  15. The Goodbye Look (1969) ****
  16. The Underground Man (1971)
  17. Sleeping Beauty (1973)
  18. The Blue Hammer (1976) ****