Category Archives: 1975

Blu-Ray Review: Harper (1966).

Directed by Jack Smight
Director: Jack Smight
Producer: Jerry Gershwin, Elliott Kastner
Screenplay by William Goldman,
based on the novel The Moving Target by Ross McDonald
Cinematography: Conrad Hall
Film Editor: Stefan Arnsten
Music by Johnny Mandel

Cast: Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Lauren Bacall (Elaine Sampson), Julie Harris (Betty Fraley), Arthur Hill (Albert Graves), Janet Leigh (Susan Harper), Shelley Winters, Robert Wagner

__________

For my money, Harper (1966) is the ultimate Paul Newman movie. He’s cool, funny and tough — and like all of his best films, his character’s got a little loser in him. He’s also got a cool car — a Porsche Speedster with the driver’s door sprayed in brown primer and the hubcaps missing. (Bet Newman had a lot of fun with that thing between takes.)

Harper is also a near-perfect 60s movie, touching on the mounting weirdness of the latter half of the decade, especially in Los Angeles, without going overboard in trying to be hip. Harper (Newman) is hired by a Lauren Bacall to locate her wealthy husband, who disappeared the night before. Harper’s investigation drags him through all sorts of stuff — kidnapping, smuggling illegal immigrants, heroin addiction, torture and crackpot religion. Along the way, he gets beaten up time and time again.

Elaine Sampson (Lauren Bacall): Los Angeles is the big leagues for religious nuts.
Lew Harper (Paul Newman): That’s because there’s nothing to do at night.

And it does all this while carrying on the tradition set by earlier private detective pictures like The Big Sleep (1946). You could say that this vibe was taken to the next level, a logical progression, by Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1971).

Strother Martin is terrific as the weirded out holy man. Shelley Winters is a hoot as the washed up actress involved in the whole mess. Arthur Hill is perfect as Harper’s nerdy lawyer friend. And as I’ve already stated, cool just oozes out of Newman in every frame.

I am deeply indebted to this movie for two things. First, it introduced me to Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer books. I’ve read them all, they’re great. Next, the shot underneath director Jack Smight’s credit — looking over Harper’s shoulder as he approaches Lauren Bacall’s house in his Porsche, it (and The Love Bug) helped kick off my fascination with Ferdinand Porsche and his vehicles.

Director Jack Smight and Paul Newman between takes.

Harper was shot in Technicolor and Panavision by the great Conrad Hall. The Blu-Ray from Warner Archive is near perfect, as good a presentation of original Technicolor as I’ve ever seen. Of course, it’s not the eye candy of something like Singing In The Rain (1950), but it shows us all exactly what the color process looked like in the 60s. Watch those reds — the cars, the waiters’ uniforms, etc. That’s dye transfer Tech — and it’s beautiful. Harper looks better than I’ve ever seen it look (and I’ve seen a 16mm IB Tech Scope print, the letterboxed laserdisc and the DVD). Essential.

At the same time, Warner Archive has brought the second Newman/Harper film, The Drowning Pool (1975), to Blu-Ray. It’s not as good — for one thing, the plot is really complex, but any movie featuring Murray Hamilton, Paul Koslo, Andy Robinson, Linda Haynes and Richard Jaeckel is worth seeing. This time, Harper winds up in Louisiana (the book kept Archer in California) to help out an old flame (Joanne Woodward) and people start winding up dead.

The scene with Newman and Gail Strickland trapped in a flooded hydrotherapy room, where the title comes from, is really cool.

The great Gordon Willis (The Godfather) shot this one, and it’s beautiful — and presently flawlessly on Blu-Ray by Warner Archive. Newman and all those character actors make The Drowning Pool worthwhile. Recommended.

Advertisements

9 Comments

Filed under 1966, 1975, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Janet Leigh, Lauren Bacall, Murray Hamilton, Paul Newman, Robert Wagner, Strother Martin, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #153: Harper (1966) And The Drowning Pool (1975).

Directed by Jack Smight
Starring Paul Newman, Lauren Bacall, Julie Harris, Arthur Hill, Janet Leigh, Pamela Tiffin, Robert Wagner, Shelley Winters, Strother Martin

Warner Archive has announced the upcoming Blu-Ray release of the two Lew Harper movies, Harper (1966) and The Drowning Pool (1975), that featured Paul Newman as the (renamed) Lew Archer of Ross Macdonald’s terrific series of novels.

Harper was based on Macdonald’s first Archer novel, The Moving Target (the film’s title in the UK). It’s terrific, bringing the private detective into 1960s LA with ease and putting Newman’s wiseass detective Lew Harper up against an array of cheaters, crooks, losers and weirdos. William Goldman wrote the script.

Lew Harper (Paul Newman): “Your husband keeps lousy company, Mrs. Sampson, as bad as there is in LA. And that’s as bad as there is.”

Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
Starring Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Anthony Franciosa, Murray Hamilton, Gail Strickland, Melanie Griffith, Linda Haynes, Richard Jaeckel, Paul Koslo

William Goldman made an attempt to adapt another Archer novel, The Chill. Newman backed out and Sam Peckinpah was attached to it for a while. Nothing happened. In 1975, Newman and Harper were back in The Drowning Pool, with things heading to New Orleans.

Paul Newman: “It’s great fun to get up in the morning and play Harper.”

And that’s exactly what makes The Drowning Pool as good as it is. Newman as Harper is a hoot, and that’s enough. Consider that Gordon Willis shot it and it features the great character actors like Murray Hamilton, Richard Jaeckel and Paul Koslo, and you’re set.

There’s no way for me to recommend Harper enough. It’s one of my favorite movies, from one of my favorite authors, and I’d love to drive a Porsche Speedstar with the driver’s door sprayed in brown primer. And while The Drowning Pool isn’t as good, the character fits Newman so well, he’s a blast to watch. Who cares if it’s any good.

A key attraction for these Blu-Rays will be the hi-def treatment given to cinematographer Conrad Hall’s work on Harper and Willis’ on The Drowning Pool. These are choice releases, folks!

Leave a comment

Filed under 1966, 1975, Andy Robinson, DVD/Blu-ray News, Janet Leigh, Murray Hamilton, Paul Newman, Strother Martin, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray Review: Night Moves (1975).

Directed by Arthur Penn
Written by Alan Sharp
Director Of Photography: Bruce Surtees
Film Editor: Dede Allen
Music by Michael Small

Cast: Gene Hackman (Harry Moseby), Jennifer Warren (Paula), Edward Binns (Joey Ziegler), Harris Yulin (Marty Heller), Kenneth Mars (Nick), Janet Ward (Arlene Iverson), James Woods (Quentin), Anthony Costello (Marv Ellman), John Crawford (Tom Iverson), Melanie Griffith (Delly Grastner), Susan Clark (Ellen Moseby)

__________

The Seventies were an interesting time for film noir and private eye movies. Surprisingly, there were plenty of them — pictures like Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973), Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), Stuart Rosenberg’s The Drowning Pool (1975) and Arthur Penn’s Night Moves (1975). They all seemed to drag the genres into a decade they seemed very much at odds with. By this time, both noir and PI movies had seen their conventions spoofed time and time again — and each director headed in a different direction.

But with the 70s a decade marked by cynicism, doesn’t it make sense that noir would emerge from the shadows?

In Penn’s case, with Night Moves, it looks like he decided to make his football-player-turned-detective (with a gorgeous 1967 Mustang), Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman), every bit as messed up as the dysfunctional family he’s hired to help sort out. He turns out to be just as lost as the young girl (Melanie Griffith) he’s trying to track down. And that’s what sets this one apart — Moseby’s investigation and introspection get all twisted together before it’s over with. Alan Sharp’s wonderful script juggles this effortlessly.

Hackman’s really terrific in this. His Moseby is a burned out guy you somehow can’t help but care about, even as you question a number of the choices he makes along the way. This is one of Hackman’s better performances, and he isn’t lacking for great performances.

You hear a lot about this being Melanie Griffith’s first movie (and that she’s naked quite a bit), but it’s Jennifer Warren that stands out to me. Paula’s a long way from the femme fatale we’re used to, but just as dangerous. Warren also played Paul Newman’s wife Francine in Slap Shot (1977). She didn’t have a tremendous amount of screen time in that one, but she was really good.

In a lot of PI movies, the plot sort of meanders along, often a bit incoherently, towards a conclusion that tries to wrap up (almost) everything. Night Moves weaves its lost girl/murder plot and character study together seamlessly, waiting for just the right moment to do so. Arthur Penn really amazes me sometimes. This is one of those times.

Night Moves didn’t do well upon its original release. Something called Jaws opened about the same time. Maybe it was too downbeat, maybe it was just too good, to be successful. Feel good hit of the year it ain’t.

But there’s plenty to feel good about with the new Blu-Ray from Warner Archive. It’s splendid. Seventies movies have a look all their own, and that’s preserved here flawlessly. This one has the added benefit of having been photographed by the great Bruce Surtees (who shot a number of my favorite films, from Dirty Harry to The Shootist). The disc includes a trailer and a production short from back in the day.

It’s easy to recommend Night Moves. And for fans of the movie, I can’t imagine you not springing for this Blu-Ray.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1975, Arthur Penn, Bruce Surtees, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Gene Hackman, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Screening: Jaws (1975).

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb
Based on the novel by Peter Benchley
Director of Photography: Bill Butler
Film Editor: Verna Fields
Music by John Williams

Cast: Roy Scheider (Brody), Robert Shaw (Quint), Richard Dreyfuss (Hooper), Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brody), Murray Hamilton (Vaughn)

I love the fact that Jaws (1975) turns up in theaters every summer. This year, it’s making the rounds as part of the Flashback Cinema series — timed perfectly for the 4th Of July.

Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton): “Martin, it’s all psychological. You yell ‘Barracuda,’ everybody says, ‘huh, what?’ You yell ‘Shark,’ we’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.”

Check the Flashback Cinema listings to see if it’s playing near you: http://www.flashbackcinema.net/schedule/

Leave a comment

Filed under 1975, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, Screenings, Steven Spielberg

Screening: Jaws (1975).

tlrJaws001

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb
Based on the novel by Peter Benchley
Director of Photography: Bill Butler
Film Editor: Verna Fields
Music by John Williams

Cast: Roy Scheider (Brody), Robert Shaw (Quint), Richard Dreyfuss (Hooper), Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brody), Murray Hamilton (Vaughn)

I love the fact that Jaws (1975) continues to make its way to theaters in the summer. Here’s one I wish I could make it to.

Thursday, June 29, 2017
The Starlight Drive-In
Christiansburg, Virginia
www.starlitedrivein.info

The show starts around dusk. They’ve got the full digital rig in place, so it should look and sound terrific.

The image up top is a faded frame from an original 35mm trailer. It in no way reflects on what you’ll see at the Starlite, which I’ve heard many good things about. Wish it wasn’t three-and-a-half hours away!

And here’s my Father’s Day present from my daughter. I love it. But why did it take forty-something years for somebody to get around to making this thing?

Leave a comment

Filed under 1975, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, Screenings, Steven Spielberg

Blu-Ray News #121: The Devil’s Rain (1975).

Directed by Robert Fuest
Starring Ernest Borgnine, Eddie Albert, Ida Lupino, William Shatner, Keenan Wynn, Tom Skerritt

I was watching The Wild, Wild West one afternoon when the trailer for The Devil’s Rain (1975) came on. As with The Legend Of Hell House (1973) a couple years before, these commercials left me really wigged out. Pretty creepy stuff.

Severin has announced an upcoming Blu-Ray release for The Devil’s Rain. So now I can pull off a perfect hi-def movie night: this and Race With The Devil (1975, available from Shout Factory) with Peter Fonda and Warren Oates. Oh man, I can’t wait.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1975, DVD/Blu-ray News, Ernest Borgnine, Ida Lupino, Peter Fonda, R.G. Armstrong, Shout/Scream Factory, Warren Oates

Blu-Ray News #114: White Line Fever (1975).

Directed by Jonathan Kaplan
Starring Jan Michael Vincent, Kay Lenz, Slim Pickens, L.Q. Jones, Don Porter, R.G. Armstrong, Dick Miller

Growing up in the South in the 70s, White Line Fever (1975) was a very big deal. It seemed like every kid I knew was crazy about either White Line Fever or Jaws (1975) — or they hated their moms for not letting them see them.

Jonathan Kaplan was clearly (and admittedly) inspired by Sam Peckinpah here, and it shows, especially in the cast: Slim Pickens, L.Q. Jones and R.G. Armstrong. This thing was a huge hit, with every redneck kid in the fifth grade wanting a Ford cabover truck like Jan Michael Vincent’s Blue Mule.

Mill Creek’s bringing it to Blu-Ray as part of its Payback Time Triple Feature. The other two are Chuck Norris in Silent Rage (1982) and Blind Fury (1989) with Rutger Hauer. I worked in a few video stores in college back in the 80s. If I had a nickel for every time someone rented Silent Rage, I’d be trying to buy that Bullitt Mustang from the previous post.

Not sure why, but the CED Videodisc seemed like the perfect image for this post.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1975, Chuck Norris, Columbia, Dick Miller, DVD/Blu-ray News, L.Q. Jones, R.G. Armstrong, Sam Peckinpah, Slim Pickens