Movie Critique – Peeper
Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: As bumbling and stumbling the private investigator is in the film, so is the plot, getting muddled up. Entertaining if you want to watch on a DVD or on TV, a mild spoof on the film noir doesn’t disappoint you though.
Peeper is a 1975 American comedy-mystery film starring Sir Michael Caine and Natalie Wood in the lead roles. Directed by Peter Hyams, the film was a parody on the film noir style of Hollywood film that was famous in the 1940s and 1950s.
We see one of those crazy credits in this film. Instead of being printed or typed on film, they are spoken by Humphrey Bogart impersonator Guy Marks.
In 1947, Leslie C. Tucker (portrayed by Sir Michael Caine), a British Private Investigator working in Los Angeles, is on a case to find the long lost daughter of his mysterious client. It leads him to a rich and very odd Beverly Hills family as he is bumbling and stumbling along to solve his case.
The film started of really good with timing in comedy, cheesy dialogues and continuous errors by Leslie Tucker. But the plot somewhere in between gets really muddled and the comedy of errors start to become a drag.
Caine gave an excellent Phillip Marlowe-ish impression to his Leslie Tucker role, with a comedy flair. I have watched Sir Caine in several movies in past two decades but none from prior to that. It indeed was a treat to see a young Sir Caine making a mark on the silver screen.
This was the first movie for Natalie Wood after she had taken a hiatus for seven years. Prior to this her last movie was the 1969 Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. I remember seeing her as a child artiste in the 1947 classic American Christmas comedy, Miracle on 34th Street, where she played the role of Susan Walker. It was different seeing her as a rich, spoiled brat when I remember her as a cute little kid in the old classic.
However, seeing her as an adult, she reminded me of two of the Hindi Indian Language film actresses, both who had a short career at Bollywood. One being Priya Rajvansh, Below is a picture of her from the 1973 hit film Hanste Zakhm (= Laughing Scars), courtesy of YouTube. The second one being Zaheeda Hussain. Below is a picture of her from the 1971 hit Hindi thriller Gambler, courtesy of YouTube. Although short careers in Hindi films, both actresses have left some memorable films to watch with immortal songs to hum to.
Michael Constantine who played the part of Lou Anglich, I remember from several of the TV shows from past years such as Murder, She Wrote, Perry Mason (with Raymond Burr), Twilight Zone, Remington Steele, among others. But this is the first time I am seeing him in a film.
Some of the other characters I remember seeing in old TV shows are: Thayer David who portrays the role of Frank Prendergast; while Don Calfa portraying the role of Rosie closely resembles Peter Lorre. I recently saw The Maltese Falcon and perhaps Lorre's character Joel Cairo in that film is very fresh in my mind.
Based on the, Deadfall, by Keith Laumer, which was published four years prior to this film release. This was one of the several spoofs that were made in the seventies of film noir. Unfortunately this was a major box office failure almost costing Director Hyams his career. No one wanted him after this major mishap. One of the dialogues in the film by Sir Caine is very prophetic:
You tried to drown me!
A time when guns were part of your life; a private eye called a Peeper; and murder was accepted if it did not hurt anyone other than the one who got murdered; Leslie is shoved into a case which he perhaps would find it difficult to solve even if he himself had done the murder.
As bumbling and stumbling the private investigator is in the film, so is the plot, getting muddled up. Entertaining if you want to watch on a DVD or on TV, a mild spoof on the film noir doesn’t disappoint you though.
1) Movie Trivia:
a. The film was originally titled Fat Chance and released in a small set of theaters. When it gained some talk, it was re-released with the changed title of Peeper.
b. Some of the other films in the seventies that were spoofs of film nor and targeting Humphrey Bogart were Murder by Death (1976) and The Cheap Detective (1978), both from Neil Simon, The Long Goodbye (1973), Woody Allen's Play It Again, Sam (1972), The Man with Bogart's Face (1980).
c. While looking into Caine's list of is earlier movies, I came across one from 1969 titled The Italian Job, where he portrayed the role of Charlie Croker. Funny that when I was writing review of the 2003 version of the film with the same name, I never came across this fact. There was an official Bollywood remake of the film too in 2012 called Players. Have to check out both these movies.
d. The bad guys, along with Ellen Prendergast and Leslie Tucker go into a theater that is playing a show titled "40 Beautiful Girls" hosted by Dixie Frolics, a Burlesque show.
2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:
a. When you see Leslie's detective agency door from front-face, there is no writing of "CIVIL - DOMESTIC - INDUSTRIAL - CALIFORNIA LICENSED" below the word Private Investigator. But when the view is shown from the back in reverse from the inside of the office, the sign reads "LESLEY C. TUCKER - PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR - CIVIL - DOMESTIC - INDUSTRIAL - CALIFORNIA LICENSED".
b. During the car chase between Tucker and the bad guys, we see center yellow double lines on the road. They were not adopted in United States until 1971. And the film was set in 1947
c. The car chase between Tucker and the bad guys takes them to Los Angeles Freeway. The movie was set in 1947, and the L.A. Freeway had not been constructed until after 1950.