Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Paul Newman is Harper, a private detective. Based on the novel by Ross MacDonald, also starring Lauren Bacall, Janet Leigh and Shelley Winters, directed by Jack Smight.

I'm not sure how well the private eye genre works on film. It can be a bit repetitive - a guy walking around knocking on doors, asking questions. The story in the film seems to be a variation on The Big Sleep; Fortunately they avoid the easily parodic Chandleresque voiceover. There is nothing really original here, though. As a viewer there are certain storyelements you wait for and can cross off as they appear: the nympho trying to get the detective in bed, the old broad that needs to be fed liquor to talk, the unfriendly cop, the two tough guys sent to threaten the detective, the scene where he's knocked out and so on. With a story so familiar, it needs some style, something you find plenty of in the Chandler novels, maybe in the MacDonald novels - I haven't read any - but don't see too much of in this film.

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