The Drowning Pool is the sequel to Harper, both starring Paul Newman as our lead detective. This film was made in 1975, 9 years after the original. I recently reviewed Harper here:
Where Harper was a commercial success, The Drowning Pool was a box office failure. I’m not sure why this was, as Paul Newman was coming off of two of his biggest hits, The Sting and The Towering Inferno. Some of the reasons I would say this film didn’t do as well as Harper are:
- The supporting cast on this film are nowhere near as strong as the first. Harper had Lauren Bacall, Janet Leigh, Shelley Winters and Robert Wagner, while The Drowning Pool’s supporting cast had Newman’s wife Joanne Woodward as the only real standout at the time of release. Melanie Griffith has a pivotal role, but being only her second film after Night Moves, she wasn’t a box office draw yet.
- For some reason they moved the location to New Orleans. As the original book and first film take place in Los Angeles, I’m not sure why they moved it to New Orleans. Though I liked some aspects of the film for this reason, I miss the flash and style of Los Angeles. This may have kept some Lew Archer fans away from the film.
- 9 years may have just been too long to wait for this film for the movie going audience at that time. Now with cable, DVD, On Demand, Netflix, etc. a film can live a lot longer in the people’s conscious. Harper was probably out of circulation quite awhile after 9 years, with a possible viewing on television every few years.
Just because this film was a flop back in the 1970’s doesn’t mean neo noir fans won’t enjoy it today. Like the first film, this is also based on a Ross Macdonald book.
We also still get Paul Newman playing the same Harper we loved in the first film. The story is good and well executed. Harper is brought out to New Orleans on a case, when he is hired by an old girlfriend. She asks for his help because she is being blackmailed. She has married into a wealthy family and when her mother-in-law is found dead, the case really takes off.
Though this sequel maybe inferior to the first film in a number of ways, it is still a good film worth watching. It is a bit darker than the first film with some grittier story points, making it more interesting in some ways. I watched this and Harper back to back and feel they do make a great double feature on a weekend afternoon. This movie is worth watching for fans of Newman and fans of Harper.
Favorite Tidbit: This is Melanie Griffith’s second film at only 17. Here first film released earlier in 1975 is also a classic neo noir, Night Moves. I reviewed this film earlier here: