Review: The Drowning Pool

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:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/11/02/re-watching-the-classics-harper/

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/05/07/review-night-moves/

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Re-Watching the Classics: Body Double

Body Double is a neo noir thriller from 1984. This is written and directed by Brian De Palma. De Palma definitely has his hits and his misses, but all of his movies are entertaining. This one steals a lot of plot devices from Hitchcock, something I’ve noticed De Palma does often. This one has obvious references to Rear Window.

Think of it as Rear Window in an over sexed Los Angeles in the materialistic 1980’s. I actually really enjoyed the time capsule this film is. We have some of the great cars of the early 80’s rolling by in multiple scenes. A crazy house on the hills that some may find dated, but is interesting in it’s over the top styling. The opening shows the making of a film, a vampire film that looks like it could have been a real film that would appear at the video store between Fright Night and Lost Boys. Frankie Goes To Hollywood in an unusual music video, porno mix. We see MTV playing in the background on the television. It also has a small look at the pornography industry as VHS takes over from the adult theaters.

This story starts out with actor Jack Scully, played by Craig Wasson, starts out on a soundstage, playing a vampire in a coffin. He seems to have a case of claustrophobia, as they pull him out of the coffin, frozen in fear. He goes home to recoup and finds his girlfriend in bed with somebody else. He goes to a bar to drowned his sorrows and is looking for a place to stay. He soon finds out he lost his acting gig do to freezing up on the set the day before. He also goes to acting class where he runs into a fellow actor played by Gregg Henry. The actor offers Jack a place to stay while he goes to Seattle for an acting gig. The house belongs to a wealthy man who is in Europe and somebody needs to water the plants! As the plants need to be watered right at 6, conveniently there is a telescope pointing down the hill at another house on the hill. This telescope shows a beautiful woman doing a seductive dance that you cannot turn your eyes away from. The woman down the hill is soon abused by somebody and Jack starts to get attached to her. The next night he notices a big Native American is also watching her. He soon finds the Native American following the beautiful woman around town…as Jack is also following her. We can now see she is played by Deborah Shelton, our unknowing femme fatale for this film. This part is also pretty creepy on many levels. Our hero thinks he is doing the right thing by following and spying on this woman, to protect her from a scary looking man who is following and spying on the same woman. This story continues as our femme fatale seems to get in more trouble as Jack tries his best to keep her safe. Will he succeed in protecting her? Will he fall short? Will he be the first suspect if something does happen?

This film maybe most famous for the performance by Melanie Griffith in a supporting role as porn actress Holly Body. It is a good performance for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe.

This film was very fun to revisit and worth doing so if you have not seen it in a while. If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch it. This is not De Palma’s best work, but it is a fun movie that is one of the better sex thrillers from the 1980’s.

Review: Night Moves

“Who’s wining?”

“Nobody, one side is just losing slower than the other.”

This movie is a neo noir staring Gene Hackman in all his 1970’s glory.  It has it all, the 16-year-old Lolita, the young rebel mechanic boyfriend, the aging starlet, the Hollywood stuntman, the unhappy wife and of course the ex-football player turned hardboiled private detective.  We also have some classic film noir dialog, updated for a 1970’s audience.  How about this zinger?

“What happened to your face?”

“I won second place in a fight.”

Or this great line from one of our female leads.

“Your are kind of edgy, aren’t you?”

“It’s the heat and the low wages.”

The settings are classic film noir locations, we start out in Los Angles and then go head to the Florida Keys.  We have a young James Woods just getting his career started and a 16 year oldish Melanie Griffith making her film debut.  All directed by Arthur Penn.

So with all of this, why isn’t this picture better known?  TCM’s Ben Markowitz said “This is the best movie you have never seen.”  I’m not sure why, this film just came on my radar earlier this year, and I’m glad I got to view it.

Our story starts with our private detective played by Hackman getting hired by our aging starlet to find her step-daughter(Griffin).  He is also having problems with his marriage, his wife is played by Susan Clark.  His investigation takes him into the world of Hollywood movies and stuntmen.  The case eventually takes him to the Florida Keys and he meets our real femme fatale of the film played by Jennifer Warren.  We also find the step daughter here, us as the audience and our hero believe she is our femme fatale, but she is still just in training and doesn’t fool our hero. The three see the scary remnants of a boat wreck which scares our step-daughter and she willingly goes back to California with our hero.  Our hero thinks the case is closed, but it is only getting started.

Gene Hackman was one of the biggest stars in the 1970’s, starting the decade out with The French Connection and ending it with Superman.  Check out my review of The French Connection here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/04/11/re-watching-the-classics-the-french-connection-2/

He also was in a handful of other box office successes and classic films from the decade.  This is right up there with some of his best, but seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I think classic film noir buffs and noir fans in general will too.  If you’re fans of Hackman, it’s a must see and if you want to see a young Melanie Griffith or James Wood it’s worth a viewing.

Review: Mulholland Falls

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Mulholland Falls has one of the greatest casts from the 90’s, and all neo-noir favorites.  We got Nick Nolte at the height of his cool, Melanie Griffith as the clueless wife, Jennifer Connelly who just looks like she was made to play the femme fatale in the 1950’s, Chazz Palminteri who fits in the 1950’s just as well as anybody, and what kind of neo-noir film made in the 1990’s would be complete without Michael Madsen.  The stars go on and on including John Malkovich playing the focus of our heroes investigation and Andrew McCarthy as the openly gay photographer that may have more on his film then he wanted. The story comes from Peter Dexter who has written some well received crime novels and has one the National Book Award.  This movie goes back to one of the greatest noir stomping grounds ever,1950’s Los Angles.  We get gangsters, a murder mystery, adult movies(back when they where highly illegal) and powerful men that think they can get away with anything. This movie definitely got it’s inspiration from the “Hat Squad,” a team of detectives that were given free rein to do what they needed to keep the Mafia out of L.A..  We see the “Hat Squad” again, in 2013’s Gangster Squad and TNT’s Mob City.  Maybe it was a little bit of a let down, with a cast like this we were expecting something similar to what we got the next year with L.A. Confidential(we will definitely be looking at this amazing film in a future post) but it’s not fair to compare these two films.  Roger Ebert gave it a 3.5 stars out of 4, so he saw this as a good film that could have been great.  This is a fun neo-noir to watch if you haven’t seen it yet or would like to give it another chance I would like to here your opinion.