Posts Tagged ‘Private Detective


Lord of Illusions (1995)

Private Detectives: Nothin' but trouble.

Private Detectives: Nothin’ but trouble.

Private detectives are always getting into some sort of trouble; either they’re totally broke or they’re in way over their ignorant heads. It’s probably safe to say Clive Barker’s private detectives fare the worst of all. Just ask Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula), the gumshoe extraordinaire in Lord of Illusions. He managed to stumble his way into a freaky cult. I mean, like, freaky even for Los Angeles.

Thirteen years ago, a man named Nix (Daniel von Bargen) kidnaped a young girl with the intention of sacrificing her up to Satan (I guess?). His disciples, of course, were totally on board (I mean, that’s what disciples do, right?). Lucky for the girl, some former members

Swann and his fatefully stupid sword trick.

Swann and his fatefully stupid sword trick.

of the cult were able to shake loose of Nix’s mental grip and return just in time to save her from destruction. One of these saviors was a man named Swann, whom Nix thought of as something of a protégé. Burned by his rejection and stymied sacrifice, Nix casts a spell on Swann which causes him to see things as they truly are, or something. His friends’ faces become monstrous, the world around them liquid and terrifying. He finally snaps out of it, but never forgets the vision. He and the other good guys are able to trap Nix, put a horrifying iron mask on his face and bury him deep as hell.

Back to present day, Swann now makes his living as a famous illusionist a la David Copperfield. His beautiful wife has convinced D’Amour to help protect Swann from the cult members, whom she believes are assembling together for Nix’s resurrection. That’s all well and good, but one thing D’Amour can’t protect Swann from is his own illusions: his newest trick has failed him and he dies in front of his adoring fans. Or does he?


You know, I don’t think I liked this movie very much. It screams 1995 in some of the worst ways. Some of the characters exhibit those black and white extremes that only work if whatever you’re watching is laughably bad (I’m thinking Alien Warrior or Death Wish 3 here). The ones that don’t still manage to make decisions that you’d never make, and that left me frustrated with the movie. Furthermore, it doesn’t help that Nix, the baddest of baddies, is played by Daniel von Bargen, none-other than Seinfeld’s Kruger (if you’re not familiar, he was one of the silliest, dumbest bosses ever portrayed in television history). Now, that’s hardly Clive Barker’s fault, but nevertheless made the movie that much more ridiculous for me.

Speaking of ridiculous, can we stop it with the edgy private detectives already? Look, I like Scott Bakula as much as the next girl that grew up in the 80’s, but even he can’t make this tired stereotype interesting. Snappy comebacks and a persistent sense of curiosity in the face of satanic magic is doubtful to get you very far. Perhaps there are some better examples, but after watching this flick I get the impression that the 1990’s and Noir tendencies really shouldn’t mix. Ever. Unless it’s a comedy.

The Long Goodbye (1973)

Marlowe: a man who treats his cat right.

Marlowe: a man who treats his cat right.

I’ve never read any Raymond Chandler, and I’ve only seen a handful of noir films, but I have seen The Big Lebowski, a film largely influenced by Chandler and noir in general, and Robert Altman’s film version of Chandler’s The Long Goodbye specifically.

At first, I thought The Long Goodbye was going to be a serious crime noir drama thing. I was only three-quarters correct. Yes, it’s a crime noir drama thing, but serious is not a word I’d use to describe it – in fact, it’s got a pretty damn fine sense of humor about itself.

Elliott Gould plays Philip Marlowe, an easy-going private detective with a cat, some topless neighbors, and a friend that appears to be in some serious trouble. His pal, Terry Lennox, just wants a ride to the Tijuana border. When Marlowe returns he finds himself sucked into an intricate plot involving murder, alcoholic writers, extramarital affairs, $350,000 worth of owed money and a supposed suicide.

Mr. Alcoholic Writer fancies himself a Hemingway...

Mr. Alcoholic Writer fancies himself a Hemingway…

The cops believe Terry Lennox murdered his wife and skipped town, only to commit suicide in Tijuana a few days later. Marlowe doesn’t believe his friend would’ve done such a thing, and so vows to solve the real mystery at hand, getting himself involved with some pretty screwed-up people in the process.

I did not think I’d like this movie as much as I did. The crime drama as a genre never really appeals to me all that much, but Elliott Gould is so flipping good in this movie, he makes the whole thing worthwhile! His Marlowe might be laid-back, but he doesn’t take any shit, and at the root is a truly decent guy who believes in doing what he feels is right. In the end, Marlowe is a guy with morals trying to get by in a very amoral place: Hollywood.


Cool World (1992)

Want to see acting at its worst? Here you go. It ain't pretty.

Want to see acting at its worst? Here you go. It ain’t pretty.

Everyone makes mistakes. Mistake # 1: Ralph Bakshi made Cool World. Mistake # 2: we watched Cool World. An uglier train wreck of a movie would be hard to find. Usually, train wrecks are fascinating to watch, keeping its viewers asking the question: how bad can it be? Cool World is different. Cool World is the kind of train wreck that begs you to turn it off and forget you ever even tried watching it. I’m not sure how much of that has to do with Brad Pitt’s atrocious stab at acting, but I’m leaning towards quite a bit.

Brad Pitt, of course, is not the only reason why this movie sinks

And that dress. Really with that dress?

And that dress. Really with that dress?

like the Titanic. Cool World can’t decide what it wants to be about. There’s no focus; the plot is all over the place. We start off with young Frank Harris (Pitt) coming home from the war in the 40’s. He gets into a motorcycle accident and ends up in Cool World, the place where the doodles live, seemingly indefinitely. What the first fifteen minutes of the movie have to do with the rest is anyone’s guess. Years pass by and I guess Harris becomes a doodle detective, and he’s always finding out sneaky crap Holli Would (Kim Basinger) is up to, and I guess Holli’s penned by Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne) a guy who’s been in jail for a while. Holli’s aspiration is to end up in the real world and she keeps pulling Deebs into doodle world and WHATEVER, MAKE IT STOP!

Like I said, some of this movie looks almost kind of "cool."

Like I said, some of this movie looks almost kind of “cool.”

Undeniably, some of this movie looks cool. The sets and the “doodles” are not bad. Unfortunately, they’re not good enough to keep this movie from making its viewers want to cry. Not even a brownie sundae, which I insisted on making in the middle of this movie to survive the task of watching it, could save me from hating it. To be fair, Bakshi didn’t get to make the movie he wanted to make. He was forced to make one with more “mass appeal,” which is hilarious, because I’m pretty sure this movie appeals to absolutely no one. Filing this under THE WORST.


The Resurrected (1992)

In keeping with a certain private detective/Lovecraft theme, we chose The Resurrected as a follow-up movie (and the fourth in October’s 31 days of horror – yes, I know, I’m a little behind) to Cast a Deadly Spell. It is based on the Lovecraft story The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (which I’ve never read, because I’ve never read any Lovecraft, but as October moves along I’m starting to think I’m going to have to change that).

As so many detective stories start out, a tall, attractive blonde walks into an office (here played by Jane Sibbett, who it dawned on me

What is he building in there?

halfway through the movie is indeed the chick from Herman’s Head — how the hell I pulled that one out of my ass I’ll never know) clutching tissues and whining about some problem or other. Claire Ward’s problem is the cops are after her husband after he’d received some strange shipments to their home. Her husband, Charles (Chris Sarandon, who I am now convinced is always awesome) has disappeared. Mrs. Ward wants to know: where is he? What’s he into? What’s in those large, coffin-shaped boxes?

Eventually it comes out that Charles had recently inherited some strange articles from a long-lost relative, including a portrait of someone that looks a hell of a lot like him. Ever since, he’d been acting strange. Now hot on the trail, private dick John March, along with his assistant Lonnie Peck (Robert Romanus a.k.a. Mike Damone from Fast Times at Ridgemont High!) and Mrs. Ward and  are sucked into a supernatural sideshow with lots of secrets that I’m not about to reveal here.

I am not sure if it’s fair to say this is another fun Lovecraft interpretation, considering (as mentioned above) that I’ve never actually read any Lovecraft, but it is true. I really enjoy most of the film adaptations of his stuff, and even though this doesn’t involve Stuart Gordon, it still reminded me of a Stuart Gordon movie. That’s not to say it’s really goofy, because it’s not – though it has its moments. Perhaps the similar elements are in Lovecraft and I just don’t know it yet. I intend to find out. Regardless, this movie is well-paced, fun and scary with great special effects. And don’t forget Chris Sarandon!


Cast a Deadly Spell (1991)

For our third selection in October’s 31 Days of Horror, we chose the HBO movie Cast a Deadly Spell. The setting is 1940’s Hollywood, but it’s not the 1940’s Hollywood you and I know. This is a fantastical Hollywood where everyone uses magic to get ahead. Everyone, that is, except private dick Harry Philip Lovecraft (his friends call him Phil, which I’m told is a reference to Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe).

Lovecraft has been hired by the eccentric Amos Hackshaw (David Warner) to recover an ancient book (the Necronomicon, no less) which has been stolen from him. The trail leads him to some nasty organized criminals, a sexy singer (Julianne Moore) with whom he used to be involved, and a unicorn. Of course, Hackshaw’s virginal daughter Olivia also comes along for the ride.

This flick has a decent mystery plot, funny characters and silly surprises. It is goofy, delightful and enjoyable. If you’re looking for something light with supernatural horror and mystery/noir elements, ’tis a winner!


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