Harper is a cynical private eye in the best tradition of Bogart. He even has Bogie's Baby hiring him to find her missing husband, getting involved along the way with an assortment of unsavory characters and an illegal-alien smuggling ring.
Lew Harper is a Los Angeles based private investigator whose marriage to Susan Harper, who he still loves, is ending in imminent divorce since she can't stand being second fiddle to his work, which is always taking him away at the most inopportune of times. His latest client is tough talking and physically disabled Elaine Sampson, who wants him to find her wealthy husband, Ralph Sampson, missing now for twenty-four hours, ever since he disappeared at Van Nuys Airport after having just arrived from Vegas. No one seems to like Ralph, Elaine included. She believes he is cavorting with some woman, which to her would be more a fact than a problem. Harper got the case on the recommendation of the Sampsons' lawyer and Harper's personal friend, milquetoast Albert Graves, who is unrequitedly in love with Sampson's seductive daughter, Miranda Sampson. Miranda, who Harper later states throws herself at anything "pretty in pants", also has a decidedly cold relationship with her stepmother, Elaine. As Harper begins his investigation, he is often joined by one or two new sidekicks, Miranda, and/or Allan Taggert, Sampson's private pilot who was the last person to see him before his disappearance. Living on the Sampson estate, Allan is also Miranda's casual boyfriend who Harper coins "Beauty" because of his preppy good looks. They discover that Sampson has indeed been kidnapped as they receive a ransom note. As Harper follows leads, he ends up in the underbelly of Los Angeles society, which includes encounters with Betty Fraley, a junkie lounge singer, Fay Estabrook, an ex-movie ingénue now overweight alcoholic, and Claude, a religious cult leader. At each of Harper's stops, people seem to want to beat him up or worse kill him. The case takes a slight turn after they decide to pay the $500,000 ransom to see where it leads.
What we have here is basically a Paul Newman show in a noir movie. Newman is good as the cynical , smart ass detective. I have to say that the mystery is intriguing and the answers are surprising. The dialogues are good. The movie also has some nice women to look at – Lauren Bacall ("Key largo") is quite hot despite her age , same goes for Janet Leigh ("Psycho") and Pamela Tiffin is certainly HOT.
The movie is long and unfortunately the pacing isn't always good. "Harper" does seem to drag in few places and I was wondering was it because of the direction or the length. Probably both. "Harper" doesn't have the necessary tension and doesn't really grips the viewer into the movie world. I found myself bored in few places , like the movie was wondering where to go next. Jack Smight could have done better job.
The biggest problem I have is the ending. I'm talking about the very last scene of the movie which is incredibly lame. I was like "WTF ! That's it ?!" after watching the movie. I know that old movies often have unimpressive endings , but this was unintentionally laughable.
Despite the problem with the direction and lame ending "Harper" is still a solid thriller. I give it 7/10. Typical, yet interesting, detective movie, "Harper" gives full room to Paul Newman for an interpretation that has probably set a model for Elliot Gould in "The long good-bye".
A ragged private eye gets involved in a complicated story where power, money and crime are tied one to each other. While the plot is a rather clear homage to "The big sleep", the action takes place in the late sixties and pays a little tribute to the era's clichés with the characters of "yeye girl" (played by Pamela Tiffin) and of the Californian alternative guru.
The wonderful and well exploited supporting cast makes this movie very interesting to see and a "must see" for all fans of Paul Newman and for all fans of the hard-boiled genre (with me belonging to both categories). Rated 8. By combining flamboyant suspense with a sunbaked slice of life and lots of good mean fun, Director Smight makes every clue a pleasure to follow. a5c7b9f00b
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