Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Cheap Detective (1978)

Private dick Lou Peckinpaugh (Peter Falk) is suspected of his partner’s murder, and people stream in trying to find lost treasure, then his old flame returns with her husband looking to escape the Nazis, and … well, following the plot isn’t really the point.

This Maltese Falcon/Casablanca mashup and parody is something of a sequel in spirit of Murder by Death (1976), with the same writer, director, producer, and several actors. It showed up on a basic cable movie channel and my mom recorded it.

This film works on three levels: nostalgic references to the two source movies, seeing the parade of celebrity cameos, and watching the characters behave foolishly. While the cameos and references were amusing (and extensive), the comedy fell somewhat flat. Frequently they were obvious, unfunny, or downright dumb. And that presents a problem because there is no coherent story to tie the humor to. The jokes had to stand on their own, and for the most part, they didn’t.

Highlights were Madeline Kahn as the Mary Astor character and hottie Ann-Margret as, well, I don't know who. Odd to see the unappealing Louise Fletcher (Nurse Ratched or Kai Winn, depending on your predilection) in the Ingrid Bergman role. I found that downright distasteful. I am glad I watched it, as I’m a huge fan of Murder by Death, but it should have been funnier. Time for me to rewatch Murder by Death. AMRU 3.
“I'm using rented bullets for my gun. We all got problems.”

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