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About the Movie
Academy Award-winner Art Carney ("The Honeymooners," "Harry & Tonto") stars as a semi-retired private eye who is drawn back into action when his longtime partner is shot to death while searching for the kidnapped cat of a kooky Los Angeles woman (Oscar-nominee Lily Tomlin, "9 to 5," "Big Business"). The fun really begins when the two team up in search of the murderer. . . and the cat. Co-starring Bill Macy (TV's "Maude"), Joanna Cassidy ("Who Framed Roger Rabbit?") and Howard Duff ("Dallas"). From an Oscar-nominated screenplay by Oscar-winner Robert Benton ("Nobody's Fool," "Places in the Heart"), who also directed. "Echoes of Chandler and Hammett resound," extols Leonard Maltin of this sleeper tribute to detective film noirs, and the "chemistry between Carney and Tomlin is perfect."
The Late Show
This is an underrated detective film showing the seedy side of Los Angeles before gentrification, cable TV, computers, cell phones, and the metrolink. This is a trip back in time to the city of Angels in the late 70's. It's slow by today's standards, but stick with it. There is a funny chase scene with Lily Tomlin at the wheel. Art Carney is excellent as a retired detective looking into the death of an old friend, forced to deal with modern life. The movie is filled with great performances by many character actors like Eugene Roche, Bill Macy and Joanna Cassidy.
A Real “Killer” B Movie (one of 237!)
This review is an excerpt from my book “Killer B’s: The 237 Best Movies On Video You’ve (Probably) Never Seen,” which is available as an ebook on iBooks. If you enjoy this review, there are 236 more like it in the book (plus a whole lot more). Check it out!
THE LATE SHOW: L.A. private eye Ira Wells (Carney) used to be one of the greats. Now he’s just a gray-haired old grouch with a limp, a hearing aid and an ulcer. But when his ex-partner Harry (Duff) shows up and dies on his doorstep, Ira vows revenge. Their mutual friend Charlie (Macy) introduces Ira to Margo (Tomlin), the “fruitcake” who hired Harry, and Ira decides to take over the case. His decision leads him into a tangled web of robbery, infidelity, double-crosses and multiple murders, all while shepherding, protecting—and enduring—his kooky client.
Discussion: It’s a twisted mystery, and not just in the convoluted plot, but in the characters as well—notably the relationship between hard-boiled, old fashioned, tough buzzard Ira and mush-brained, motor-mouthed, New Age flake Margo. Their reluctant coupling accentuates both a generation gap (“Would it kill ya to wear a dress once in a while?” he barks) and a culture clash (“You’re a slob, and I’m a Virgo,” she points out). But beneath their grousing, the ditzy “dolly” and the well-past-his-prime P.I. have much in common, like loneliness and vulnerability.
The performances are uniformly superb (including Joanna Cassidy in a small but hilarious role as the archetypal noir damsel-in-distress/femme fatale). The plot tiptoes a razor’s edge between classic a Chandleresque detective tale, full of snappy sniping and bloody bodies, and gentle sendup of the genre, with an undercurrent of wry wit. It’s Chandler with a time-capsule twist: a ‘40s hero with a ‘70s client, viewed from the present—an odd experience, but one which only accentuates the film’s sardonic and melancholy message that time makes everything obsolete, eventually and inevitably—except, perhaps, affectionate connection.
Superb 70s LA Noir
This movie is a gem. Most people have never heard of it. Carney is an old detective trying to solve the murder of an old friend. Tomlin is a kooky hippy who gets wrapped up in the case. Very well crafted, now forgotten. Raymond Chandler fans, this is your oeuvre.