“My plan was to kiss her with every lip on my face.”
A private detective (Steve Martin) interacts with a host of iconic Hollywood characters while helping a sexy female client (Rachel Ward) investigate the mysterious disappearance of her father.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Carl Reiner Films
- Detectives and Private Eyes
- Satires and Spoofs
- Steve Martin Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that this “ridiculous noir parody” — about a “forties detective” who “says a lot of… stupid things, shaves his tongue, strangles anybody who says ‘cleaning lady’, makes java with about 1000 beans per cup, and dresses like a lot of women” — is, when “taken a scene at a time”, “quite amusing (and often hilarious) and genuinely clever”; but he posits that “without breaks… the novel concept becomes tiresome.” Time Out’s reviewer similarly argues that while “some amusement is derived from watching a film that so obviously had to be worked out backwards”, it occasionally feels like merely a “fairly amusing, clever exercise in editing”. However, I believe the film deserves a bit more credit than this. Given that it was made at a time when splicing “vintage footage from forties melodramas” with “newly shot black-and-white footage” was a purely mechanical (rather than digital) feat, one can’t help marveling at how masterfully this is done, with nearly every scene carefully plotted and blocked; film fanatics will be in trivia heaven as they attempt to determine which classic movie each clip is taken from, and how director Carl Reiner will manage to integrate pre-existing dialogue into the new (connective) storyline.
Meanwhile, Edith Head (in her final cinematic credit) does marvelous work crafting and matching outfits across films, and Miklos Rozsa was an inspired choice to write the appropriately atmospheric score. My main complaint is that the humor occasionally feels a bit forced and/or juvenile. For instance, the cited scene involving Martin’s inept attempt to make coffee goes on for about three times too long, and Martin’s obsession with “readjusting” Ward’s breasts simply makes one sigh. But for every groaner, there’s a clever line or interaction up ahead — and both Martin and Ward (“surprisingly funny and a good sport as Martin’s comic foil”) remain appropriately invested in their roles, never letting on that they’re actually in a parody. This one is definitely worth a look by all film fanatics.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Remarkably seamless screenwriting and editing
- Michael Chapman’s b&w cinematography
- Edith Head’s impressive “costume-matching” work
- Miklos Rozsa’s classically “generic” score
Yes, for its obvious film fanatic appeal.