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Homicide detective Mike Carter is tossed off the police force for insubordination and violating regulations. He reluctantly takes a job as bodyguard to Mrs. Gene Dysen, the owner of a local meat-packing plant. In investigating threats against her life, Carter begins unraveling the murder of a meat inspector at the plant, but not before he himself is framed for the murder of his former supervisor on the police force. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
A consensus seems to exist among commentators on Richard Fleischer's Bodyguard, based on a story by the young Robert Altman. The consensus is that, as it stands, it fails to satisfy; the background to this verdict is that somewhere there is or at least was a longer cut of the picture that probably would have been, if not a little masterpiece of film noir, a less nettlesome movie.
Feral Lawrence Tierney, a detective fired from the force for insubordination, gets offered the job of bodyguard to a old woman whose wealth comes from the meat-packing industry. At first reluctant, he accepts when shots shatter a mirror in the woman's home. Following her on a nocturnal errand, he's coshed on the head and comes to in his car parked on railway tracks; riding shotgun is the police officer who fired him, dead. Now the prime suspect, he lams up.
Assisting him in his efforts to clear himself is Priscilla Lane, his mole in police headquarters. (They devise a curious means of communication. She reads the files onto 78s and delivers them to a record store where he listens to them in a booth.) It turns out that his murdered superior investigated the death of a meat inspector at one of the plants owned by his employer....
What remains of the movie is directed with pace and even some style by Richard Fleischer (The Narrow Margin, Armored Car Robbery, The Boston Strangler; he showed a lot of sass in his early days, before he ossified into a hack.) But what we lack compromises what we have. The 13 minutes excised from the movie somewhere along the line no doubt patch up the holes in the leaky plot like, who knew Tierney was off to the optometrist's office and set up the ambush?
A fuller version would probably make, as has been remarked, for a more grisly final confrontation, a la Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, in the meat-processing plant; in the print in common circulation, it abruptly fizzles out. Certainly, that's the lack most keenly felt. What with the meat saws whining and the meat grinders rumbling, surely Fleischer did not conclude the story with the malefactor hurling an empty pistol, bootlessly, at Tierney to be followed, almost instantly, with Tierney and Lane leaving on their honeymoon. Somewhere out there, a few links of blood sausage are missing.
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