Sunday, 31 March 2013

"Harper, The Moving Target" Cool Paul Newman movie. From the Video Vault of Forgotten Films

Remember "Harper" (called "The Moving Target" in U.K.)? I saw it at the drive-in with my parents in 1966. I thought this was the coolest movie ever. It stands up pretty well today. It hasn't been on Australian television for decades. It's a pity. Paul Newman was at his peak. He plays the L.A. private eye Lew Harper (from Ross MacDonald/Kenneth Millar's novels) hired to find Lauren Bacall's missing husband. No wonder he disappeared, she is a bitch on wheels.
The opening title scene, with jazzy score by Johnny Mandell, is a treat in itself. Following Harper from his dingy office/pad along L.A. freeways to Bacall's Bel Air mansion.
I know Bogey did it better in "The Big Sleep", but look at the talent involved in this movie. Apart from Bacall (playing "Lady Macbeth" -  as her slutty daughter, Pamela Tiffin, describes her), you have Julie Harris, Janet Leigh (Harper's ex), Robert Wagner, Arthur Hill, Harold Gould and Shelley Winters (as a faded movie queen).  Shelley's seduction scene with Newman is hilarious, as well as poignant. Strother Martin plays a disturbing Californian nutbag cult leader. The L.A. locations are terrific, with Newman zooming around in his clapped out convertible (Karmann Ghia?).
William Goldman ("The Princess Bride", "Marathon Man", "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", "All the President's Men") scripted and Jack Smight ("The Illustrated Man", "No Way To Treat A Lady") directed.

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