“Who cares about a whore?”
A diabetic ex-boxer (Red Buttons) and his grown daughter Della (Alice Playten) investigate the mysterious murder of a hooker named Mary.
Who Killed Mary What’s “Er Name? passed under the radar of most movie-goers during its theatrical release, but gained a small following when it aired on late night television — the perfect venue for this stylish whodunit starring likeable comedian Red Buttons, baby-faced Alice Playten (whose arched eyebrows make her look perpetually astonished), and “Diff’rent Strokes”‘ Philip Drummond (Conrad Bain) in an early role. While it isn’t particularly ground-breaking or unique, this film does possess a surprising amount of suspense, charm, and atmosphere. Director Ernest Pintoff (who seems to enjoy tricky camera work) pays tribute to Antonioni’s Blowup (1966) in a subplot about an aspiring filmmaker (Sam Waterston), whose footage of Mary right before her death may provide clues to her murder. He also makes effective use of seamy New York locales and characters (check out his close-ups of odd-looking old ladies) to evoke a world where anyone may be a suspect, for any number of reasons.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Red Buttons as the do-gooding amateur sleuth
- Sylvia Miles, perfectly cast as Buttons’ whore-with-a-heart-of-gold neighbor
- An impressive array of potential suspects — including an obsessive young filmmaker (Sam Waterston), a religiously fanatic African-American landlord (Dick Anthony Williams), and a priggish John (David Doyle)
- Clever camera work
- Effective use of seamy New York locales
No, but it’s a good little thriller which deserves a remastered release onto DVD.