Burt Reynolds may not be playing Philip Marlowe in this Buzz Kulik directed flick but it sure has the feel of a parallel version of The Big Sleep right down to Burt verbally sparring with a woman in a book shop. Just like Bogey did it.
This dizzying case all begins with a rather startling opening when a roof top skylight is smashed in and a flame thrower rains down on a couple in bed during the act of love making. A figure in an asbestos suit lowers himself in to hijack a safe. Cut to the credits and a real classic introduction to the Burt Reynolds that cinema goers fell in love with during his rise at the box office.
Burt’s living in a loft that is sparse when it comes to furniture. His bed is a mattress laying atop a pool table and as he stumbles out of it with a certain hang over, there’s a blonde beside him. As she stirs he has to be reminded of her name. Mustering every bit of strength he has left, he gets ready to meet the day and see a client. Not before telling her to be out by noon and let the cat in if he turns up.
Back to that Big Sleep feeling. Burt is off to what appears to be a rich man’s estate with plenty of guard dogs. He’s ushered in to the aging owners office where he is hired to learn more about the opening scenes heist. It appears to be diamonds that were lifted. The kind that nobody really wants to report stolen. This will complicate matters with Burt’s pal Joe Santos who is on the local police force.
So the trail begins with Burt chasing down various leads and using his number one stoolie Larry Block. It’s while visiting a local night club that Burt runs squarely into the film’s leading lady, Dyan Cannon. Cannon is a treat here. I say that thinking she seems to have had a great time making the film. Her scenes of flirtations with Burt have her genuinely grinning from ear to ear. No way she’s acting. I think she’s falling for the “Burt” charisma.
Along the way, Burt is going to tangle with a young John Glover and a rather hammy John P. Ryan nearer the end of his journey. Even his cat in the movie gets billing. It’s Morris the Cat from all those commercials I would see on TV as a kid. The journey is all rather confusing to me and I’m not quite sure how Burt gets from one lead to the next at times. But isn’t that what people have been saying about The Big Sleep for years. Including Bogie himself?
It’s a very physical role for Burt and seems to fit into his reputation as a one time stuntman. This includes a stunt gone awry that looks like it had to hurt when Burt jumps towards a tree branch that gives way leaving him crashing to the ground. Shades of Jackie Chan’s ill fated jump years back. His best scene though might be when he is confronted with the body of a dear friend and shows us that even the tough guys can weep. I’ve always done my best to champion the brighter side of Burt’s career and this is another title that allows him to shine as the weary private eye. Perhaps I should add it into the list of titles on the previously discussed Burt Reynolds’ Starter Kit.
The director Buzz Kulik was a familiar name to me thanks to his directing a western I frequently would watch growing up on late night TV, Villa Rides. Scripted by Sam Peckinpah, I have always thought it could have been much better and more respected had “Bloody Sam” been behind the camera as well though I still do think it’s worth a look. Kulik would direct a number of TV shows including Twilight Zone and other films including Brian’s Song and McQueen’s The Hunter.
Kind of fun in that 1970’s way so jump into a time machine and journey back to see Burt kicking some …….