Monday, May 27, 2013

File under: Schprock

Harper (1966) just seems like a movie that Mr. Schprock would like. Paul Newman plays private eye Lew Harper as a tough slob who has a lot of problems, but doesn't mind taking on yours as well. His wife has thrown him out and he just doesn't care anymore. He zooms around the cruel streets and canyon roads of LA in a Porsche and doesn't give a flip for anyone.

The story is taken from one of Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer stories, that great neo-hardboiled detective. Ross is my second favorite mystery writer in the MacDonald section of the used bookstore: John D. is my favorite, and Gregory (Fletch) is my least. However, I'll give you a tip: The twist ending to his stories is always that the mother did it, and it's all to cover up a family secret, usually incest.

The mother in this story is Lauren Bacall, paralyzed yet beautiful. She wants to find her husband, who is missing, and has requested that $500,000 be made ready for him, because he is in trouble. The characters Harper meets trying to track him down are a colorful collection of mid-60s LA types, swingers, gurus, bikini babes and junkies.

This reminded me a lot of The Long Goodbye, with Elliot Gould. The same look at the lifestyles of the LA crazies by someone who wants to be a standup guy, even if his life is falling apart. Except Gould was clearly a throwback in TLG. Newman is kind of old-fashioned but the world hasn't finished changing under him yet, and heck, he kind of likes some of this new stuff.

Also, a very funny movie - like The Long Goodbye.

In conclusion, I put off watching this because I am attached to the name Lew Archer. Changing it is like changing Victor Frankenstein's name to Henry, and Igor to Fritz. Turns out that Newman or his producers thought he had luck with movie titles where the title is the main character, and it starts with H: Hud, Hustler and later, Hombre. So, OK, I guess.


mr. schprock said...

Placing in queue now. Thanks for the tip, Mr, Beveridge.

Incidentally, "Bullitt" was on TCM last night and that reminded me to finally buy it. Great, great movie.

Mythical Monkey said...

I've read all of Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer novels and love them, but I also love this movie, from the opening sequence when Newman makes coffee from the grounds out of yesterday's trash to the twist at the end and everything in between.

It helps to think of Archer and Harper as two different detectives ... or helps me anyway.

Mythical Monkey said...

Oh, and you're right about Macdonald and the recurring incest twist. It's like D.W. Griffith and Lillian Gish's underpants -- when he's not sure what happens next, he goes running home to mama.

Mythical Monkey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mr. schprock said...

I watched the movie in installments while riding my exercise bike. Each time I resumed watching, I sort of forgot what had happened before. I don't think that mattered too much. Some good lines in it, like "you have a way of starting conversations that ends conversations." Great cast. What was it about again? Oh yeah. Rich old guy gets kidnapped and held for ransom.