Gumshoe (1971)

Synopsis:

Oscar-nominated British Albert Finney (Tom Jones and The Dresser) plays Eddie Ginley, a nutty private dick with a Bogart complex who inadvertently gets embroiled in a web of murder and deceit.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Funny valentine to Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon and everything Bogie. If you aren’t familiar with the hard-boiled detective melodramas of the 1940s, specifically the ones Humphrey Bogart made at the height of his popularity, you’ll have a hard time identifying the in-jokes. Gumshoe, written by Neville Smith, and directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen and Philomena), is really a film for fans and fans alone.

Smith’s script has a blast poking fun at the clichés of the genre. I actually thought that the plot was a bit too thick (a nod to The Big Sleep?), but Finney is an absolute delight — he’s in almost every scene and he doesn’t disappoint. Finney skillfully squeezes fresh jokes out of tired situations; his performance alone is worth your time. He is mostly known for his serious dramas so it is a pleasant surprise to see Finney relax and have fun with the quirky situations.

Finney is surrounded by a fabulous cast that includes Frank Finlay (Othello) as Finney’s brother and Janice Rule (The Swimmer) as a mystery woman. Billie Whitelaw (The Omen) plays Finney’s sister-in-law. George Silver (Victor/Victoria) is particularly fun as he pokes fun at the great Sydney Greenstreet (The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca).

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s (Broadway’s Cats, Evita, and Phantom of the Opera) deliberately exaggerated music score is fabulous. Photographed by Oscar-winning cameraman Chris Menges (The Killing Fields and The Mission).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Although I didn’t think it was as funny as other homages to classic detective films like Murder by Death (1976), The Cheap Detective (1978), and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982), Gumshoe is a charming parody that will delight fans of the genre. Color, 85 minutes, Rated PG.

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