RARA-AVIS: Harper, The Drowning Pool and Twilight

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@sbcglobal.net)
Date: 01 Apr 2009

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    As Jim was quick to point out, HARPER was followed by THE DROWNING POOL (1975) which, for my money, was the more enjoyable film.

    It may have diverged even further from Macdonald than HARPER did, and it may not have been quite as "literary," but it has two of my all- time favourite scenes from P.I. movies in it.

    The first is where Harper refuses, despite numerous prompts from the boasting, evil oil baron, to turn his head and gaze upon said fat's cat's oil rigs. Harper's reply (more or less): "I saw them already."

    Thereby putting the fat cat in his place, and asserting that this is one private eye who sees and can't be swayed by wealth and power.

    The other favourite? The scene in the gigantic shower room of the abandoned asylum, of course, where they try to drown Harper and the fat cat's wife. That scene grabbed me when I first saw this probably thirty years ago-- and still does.

    It's like a scene from the old Batman show (which I loved), except Harper escapes without resorting to a utility belt.

    And you could argue (I have) that TWILIGHT (not the current vampire/ eunuch teen fantasy but the 1988 P.I. flick with Newman, Gene Hackman, James Garner and Susan Sarandon) is almost the long-lost last Lew Archer film, the conclusion to the trilogy Newman began with HARPER and THE DROWNING POOL.

    Once again, Ol' Blue Eyes is essentially Archer travelling under an assumed name (could it be that the hero's surname in this one -- Ross
    -- is a tip of the fedora to Archer's creator, Ross Macdonald?), and once again he's digging up long-buried family dirt, but this time, it's hitting a lot closer to home. Recommended.

    As for the books themselves, they're all pretty solid, but my favourite has to be THE BLUE HAMMER, possibly the most bittersweet book in the whole series, with Archer appearing old, tired and, for the first time in a long, long time, involved with someone.

    Kevin Burton Smith Thrilling Detective Web Site Any Day Now, Any Day Now Issue Coming Soon

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