Burnt-out private dick Jacob Aloysius Spanner teams up with his brother to help an old adversary track down his one remaining loved one, his kidnapped granddaughter. But who's the hood and who's being hoodwinked?
Lee H. Katzin
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Harold Shillman was a police detective who tried to blow his brains out when he found his wife in bed with her lover. Harold is now a depressed, passive, cynical man who is sexually impotent. His detective skills have atrophied and his thought processes appear slow.
Harold Shillman is hired by Mel Ferrer to follow his wife. There is a murder. Angie Dickinson is a lovely, vulnerable suspect (and former hooker) who tries to bring Harold back to life.
William Hale's excellent direction makes the most of Felix Culver's literate screenplay of Eric Bercovici's novel. Mel Ferrer excels as both producer and actor.
Harold Shillman reminds me a lot of Harry Orwell, and it would be easy to imagine David Janssen in the role if he had still been alive.
Jose Perez is very funny as the exasperated cop-on-the-case who tells Harold to "start thinking like a detective again."
Angie Dickinson never gave a warmer, sexier, more human performance. She was irresistible, although she never brings Mitchum back to sexual life.
John Harkins was touching as a loyal friend and employee of Ferrer.
Mitchum may be slightly past his peak at this point, but that works for the character.(It had been 35 years since Mitchum played private detective Jeff Bailey in "Out of the Past".) Mitchum still makes a superb private eye.
Apparently few people think as highly of this film as I do, but to me it is a cruelly overlooked classic of the genre. At least the Mystery Writers of America gave the film an Edgar nomination. If you're partial to down-on-their-luck private eyes, give this film a try.
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