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Author Topic: Night Moves (1975) The Deconstructed Detective  (Read 1017 times)
cigar joe
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« on: February 01, 2016, 04:15:42 AM »

Night Moves geographically spans from the classic haunts of Hammett, Chandler, and Ross Mcdonald, i.e., California, LA, Hollywood, to the aqua and coral pastels of John D. MacDonald's South Florida and it's Gulf Coast Keys. There is also a short stopover to a New Mexico film location.

Directed by Arthur Penn. Written by Alan Sharp, with cinematography by Bruce Surtees. The film stars Gene Hackman, Jennifer Warren, Susan Clark, Edward Binns, Harris Yulin, Kenneth Mars, Janet Ward, Anthony Costello, John Crawford, and it also has some outstanding early career appearances by James Woods and Melanie Griffith.



The story reboots the classic hardboiled detective story up to the contemporary 1970's.  Harry Moseby (Hackman) runs Moseby Confidential a one man detective agency, a business that seems to putter along on vapors. He drives a 1967 Ford Mustang. Instead of being the usual ex WWI, WWII, Korean or Vietnam Vet, Moseby is an ex Oakland Raider football player, who has apparently invested some of his NFL contract doe into a PI dream.

Moseby is a Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe "knight of the streets" wannabe but rather than hard boiled, Harry is soft boiled at best, he is not tough or mean, he's more easygoing and disarming,  Harry is also a bit tarnished and maybe bit afraid. He is the hero, competent and dedicated, but even as his personal world dissolves around him he is still as Chandler said "a man of honoróby instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world."


Harry Moseby (Hackman) in his office

Our tale begins when Harry get's a case referred to him by one of his wife's Ellen's (Susan Clark)
clients Nick (Kenneth Mars), a collector of Mayan antiquities. The job is to find and return the wayward daughter of a crumbling Hollywood C-list star, Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward). Iverson is a multiple marriage booze hound, getting a bit thick in the middle and living high on the hog off alimony checks in a hillside house above LA. She's specialized in banging movie stuntmen. She'll remind you of a caricature of a past the end of career Elizabeth Taylor. She comes on to Harry like a bitch in heat every time he visits her to get the details of or report his findings on her daughter Delilah "Delly" (Melanie Griffith). Arlene wants her back because Delly has a sizeable trust fund.


Iverson (Ward) Moseby (Hackman) with a smoggy LA backdrop

Harry from information he got from Arlene, confronts Delly's last boyfriend Quentin (James Woods) a movie crew mechanic who informs Harry that Delly left him in New Mexico for a stuntman pilot name of Marv (Anthony Costello).


Harry and Quentin (James Woods)

The case is the real deal to Harry, it pays more, it's better than routine divorce cases, and better than working for a large agencies which, he remarks to Ellen, are no better than data collection services. While driving back through Burbank, and feeling good about himself, Harry passes the Magnolia Theatre where his wife and her gay business associate Charles (Ben Archibek) are exiting a film. Harry makes a U-ie parks and is about to call out to Ellen when he witnesses her leave the company of Charles to take up with another man Marty (Harris Yulin). Marty walks with the aid of a cane and he escorts Ellen into a Mercedes. They drive away. Harry jumps back in the Mustang and tails them to Malibu. Seeing Ellen have an affair is like getting kicked in the guts. Harry stakes out Marty's house and confronts him about the affair.


Harry spots Ellen and Marty

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Marty and Ellen drive away



Harry tailing Marty

Leaving his personal life in tatters Harry copes by diving fully into the missing daughter case. He flies to New Mexico where he meets Delly's father stunt coordinator Joey Ziegler (Edward Binns). While at a bar with Joey, he's introduced to sleazy stuntman Marv (Anthony Costello). When Joey leaves the table momentarily Harry asks Marv about Delly. Marv says she headed for Florida to stay with her step dad Tom Iverson (John Crawford) then he offers his observation of the certain perspective a man gets when he sleeps with both the daughter (Delly) and the mother (Arlene). He snickers.


Harry and Joey Ziegler (Edward Binns)


Marv (Anthony Costello)

Harry heads to the Florida Gulf Coast to track down Delly at her step dad's grungy off the beaten track guiding, fishing, retail business MidKay Supermarket and The Gulf Shore Cabins. There he meets free-spirited Paula (Jennifer Warren) a slinky, blonde, Southern beach trash, beauty who has among other endeavors has bar tended, waitressed, stripped, etc., etc. She takes him to meet Delly. Delly is introduced to us in homage to much like Brigitte Bardot was iconically introduced in Roger Vadim's And God Created Woman, naked behind a clothesline.


MidKay Supermarket


Harry showing credentials to Paula


Paula (Jennifer Warren)


Delly (Melanie Griffith)



Delly is a 16-year-old, very in your face, out of control, round heels nymphomaniac, who gives the impression that she will screw anything with a dick. She constantly teases any man within her reach ready to strip off her clothes at the drop of a hat. As soon as Harry shows up he becomes the object of her constant attention.

Delly's step dad Tom Iverson (John Crawford) flies in on a seaplane soon after Harry arrives. When Harry tells him he's there to collect Delly and bring her back to her mother, Tom confides to Harry that she's a handful, and referring to her open sexuality states "there ought to be a law" to which Harry replies "there is."


Tom's Seaplane


Tom Iverson (John Crawford)

Continued....

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cigar joe
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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2016, 04:17:03 AM »

Continuing....

Paula, Delly, and Harry decide to take the glass bottomed boat out for a recreational night dive on the reef. They turn the underwater lights on. Delly strips and jumps in while Paula and Harry watch. While Delly is moving about she discovers the wreck of a small seaplane. When she gets close to the cockpit she sees the body of a deadman, fish are feeding on his head eating his eye sockets, she panics bursting upwards to the surface and screams.


Glass Bottomed Boat


Delly


No bottoms through the glass bottom

Seeing the dead man so disturbs Delly that she's ready to go back to California with Harry. Once back at Arlene's, Delly has a dysfunctional brouhaha with her mother, Quentin, and her mother's new lover in front of Harry as he is trying to leave after collecting his check.

Harry has misgivings, wondering if he did the right thing, a few day later his apprehensions prove out when Delly is killed in an accident on a movie set. After meeting with Joey Ziegler and seeing rushes of the crash Harry suspects Quentin was involved. Harry follows Quentin to Florida where in classic noir fashion everything unravels, and in not the way you expect.

In the old whodunnits, the detective would logically follow the clues and solve the case. In the hard boiled tales of Hammett and Chandler the detective takes the case shakes things up and sees what falls out. When Harry goes back to Florida he reaches the tipping point into full blown Noirsville.

The jazzy soundtrack is by Michael Small, screencaps are from the Warners DVD, 8/10. If the cinematography had a bit more style using Noir stylistics it would probably be higher, as is it doesn't quite match up to its potential vis a vis the story.

Noirsville










« Last Edit: February 01, 2016, 04:33:54 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2016, 04:43:00 AM »

Directed by Arthur Penn. Written by Alan Sharp, with cinematography by Bruce Surtees. The film stars Gene Hackman, Jennifer Warren, Susan Clark, Edward Binns, Harris Yulin, Kenneth Mars, Janet Ward, Anthony Costello, John Crawford, and it also has some outstanding early career appearances by James Woods and Melanie Griffith.

I would give a nod to Dede Allen too for the editing.

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« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2016, 08:30:34 AM »

Excellent job, CJ, although this is not a favorite of mine. It feels too much like TV, and not merely because of the cast (Binns, Woods and Costello all did Rockfords; Yulin did just about everything else: Kojak, Baretta, Ironside, Police Woman, et. al.). There's a general cheapness to the production, probably because of Hackman's salary. Also, I hate all the stuff with Susan Clark: wish they'd cut that.

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« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2016, 09:57:55 AM »

No, no, no, not again.

It doesn't look and feel like TV for a single second.

Who cares what the actors did in their miserable rest-life. Here they are all very convincing, very natural. And Hackman is again sensational.

Cutting the Clark scenes (like her too) would mean to destroy an important counterpart of the crime story.

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« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2016, 12:37:52 PM »

I saw it 2 or 3 times and always found it dull. I'll watch it again.


« Last Edit: February 01, 2016, 03:39:02 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2016, 03:40:08 PM »

Quote
I saw it 2 or 3 times and always found it dull. I'll watch it again.


I felt the same way originally but this go round it clicked, and I agree a bit with DJ, it seemed pedestrian in a lot of sequences of it's cinematography.

Here is a nice take on the ending from a poster on IMDb

by iamjohnsname Ľ Mon Sep 29 2008

Watched this for the first time the other night and loved it to bits.

Regarding the ending, I was under the impression that Binns' presence at the end was not villainous. When Harry explains the chess moves to Paula, he mentions that the losing player didn't see the three knight moves coming, and that he must have regretted it for the rest of his life, "I know I would," he adds.

Ultimately, Harry doesn't see Binns' move coming and is left to drift in the boat forever, regretting his inability to see it coming.
Now what he was doing there isn't especially important - whether he's a good guy or a bad guy - I like someone above's interpretation that it isn't just Harry's friend drowning, it's all the answers drowning with him.

But what I choose to believe is this: James Woods' character messed with the plane that killed Marv, and the car that killed Delly.
Harry reveals all his suspicions about the case to Binns, who is guilt-stricken, and then Harry leaves to go sort it out. Unbeknown to us, so does Binns.

Harry and Binns are now under the impression that Paula & Delly's step-father and James Woods had Delly killed in order to keep her quiet about who was in the crashed plane.
So either Binns goes out to Florida and kills James Woods, or Paula/Delly's step-father do - it doesn't really matter.

Harry and Paula go out to dive for the artifact, but Binns thinks that it's Paula and the step-father - so he shoots at him and tries to kill him with his plane, but fails, killing Paula - who Harry has strong feelings for. Then too, Binns drowns, stuck in the plane - unable to get out. Shocked to see Harry, realizing what he's done and now he truly does have a reason to regret something. So Harry loses Paula and Binns - because he didn't expect Binns to do anything about it. And he'll regret it for the rest of his life.


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« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2017, 02:38:26 PM »

stanton, heads up: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B074525PF2/

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« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2017, 11:22:51 PM »

https://www.hometheaterforum.com/community/threads/a-few-words-about-%E2%84%A2-night-moves-in-blu-ray.353559/
Robert A Harris speaketh:
Quote
As fate would have it, and fate does have its way with older film elements, when an IP for Night Moves went through an image harvest, the result was unacceptable to Warner Archive.

That meant, as there was no available back-up for the IP, Warner Archive had to go to the original camera negative, which was scanned, and finished in 4k.

A true pity for home theater enthusiasts, who will receive a Blu-ray of extraordinary visual quality.

The downside is that it makes the majority of recent transfers, especially those that have not had the love extended to WA titles, appear problematic in comparison.

Gorgeous, velvet-like grain. Wonderful blacks, rich colors, and absolutely full resolution.

Can't have everything.

Just one of the most beautiful Blu-rays you might possibly imagine.

Image - 5

Audio - 5 (DTS-HD MA 2.0 Monaural)

4k Up-rez - 5

Pass / Fail - Pass

Highly Recommended

RAH

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« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2017, 01:19:47 PM »

A buddy of mine sent me the recent blu-ray of this movie as he received it twice (one went missing, and then arrived around the same time as his replacement copy). Lucky me, I hadn't seen this one yet. I really liked it, and will definitely revisit it. Good combination of a slowburn thriller & character study and some really strong performances. Was cool to see James Woods in such an early role, I didn't even recognize him at first. The one thing I didn't like was the cinematography, it was pretty damn pedestrian looking. All in all, 8/10 and looking forward to seeing it again.

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« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2017, 05:41:28 PM »

The new blu is off-the-charts good. You will think you are watching film.

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« Reply #11 on: October 12, 2017, 04:19:30 AM »

The new blu is off-the-charts good. You will think you are watching film.

Thanks for the update.

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