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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Harper (1966)

A down and out L.A. private eye (Paul Newman) is hired by a wealthy if malicious woman (Lauren Bacall) to find her missing husband. But it turns out to be more than just a missing persons case as smuggling, kidnapping and murder enter the picture. Based on the Ross Macdonald novel THE MOVING TARGET with a substandard screenplay by William Goldman, HARPER is the kind of movie you wish you liked more. All the elements are in place for an entertaining faux Raymond Chandler noir-ish tale updated to the 1960s but despite some good moments, most of it provided by its talented cast who keep you glued, it can't recreate that irresistible perfume of wit and moral rot that defines the best of the genre like DOUBLE INDEMNITY or THE BIG SLEEP. Oh, it's enjoyable enough but as disposable as Kleenex. The generic direction is by Jack Smight and the jazz tinged score is by Oscar winner Johnny Mandel (THE SANDPIPER). The top notch cast includes Janet Leigh, Robert Wagner, Julie Harris, Pamela Tiffin, Robert Webber, Arthur Hill, Strother Martin, Jacqueline DeWit and Shelley Winters who just about walks away with the film as a washed up overweight ex-starlet.

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