Sunday, February 22, 2009

Gumshoe on DVD

Finally on DVD, this gem from 1971. I remember Gumshoe as a 60s style romp with Albert Finney playing another working class hero, alongside his favorite mate as the working class heroine, Billie Whitlaw (most famous as a stage actress in Beckett). (That's not her in the photo, though--that's a nice set piece towards the end with the young Wendy Richard, who has also had a good long career.) But there's some other historical interest here now, in this tale of the Liverpool bingo parlor comic who puts an ad in the paper on a whim to hire himself out as a Bogart-style private eye. It turns out to be the first (or maybe second) feature directed by Stephen Frears, whose had quite a career since (My Beautiful Launderette, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, High Fidelity, etc..) I also noticed from the start of watching this again--for the first time since it disappeared from theatres-- that the music was unusually stylish. Turns out the composer was Andrew Lloyd Webber. (Surprised I liked it, actually.) The cinematography--and the print--have held up remarkably well. Sometimes going back to favorite films from the 60s isn't as striking an experience now, but this one holds up--it's a smart delight. It's funny, both in its homage to those Bogart as Philip Marlowe movies, and as a contemporary comedy, but it's got some complexities as well as wit. Check it out.
Update: A sad addendum. The Guardian reports that Wendy Richard, pictured above, just died, after a bout with cancer. She became best known for the British TV series The EastEnders, where she starred for 22 years. Her career was capped by an MBE from the Queen. She was 65.