Shamus Oct 17, 2010 19:37:07 GMT -5
Post by Eddie Love on Oct 17, 2010 19:37:07 GMT -5
SHAMUS is an early 70s private eye yarn that makes up in easy-going fun what it may lack in both style and substance. This isn’t a gritty re-examination of the P.I. picture through the filter of 70s cynicism ala NIGHT MOVES or THE LONG GOODBYE. It pays tribute to the genre, without being a parody or a slavish imitation or any type of bold re-imaging of it.
The movie stars Burt Reynolds before he was “Burt Reynolds”, as McCoy -- a slovenly, cigarillo smoking, Brooklyn born pool shark who has traded in his cue to become a low-rent gumshoe. Remnants of his old life remain, as his bed is a pool table and he works out of a billiard hall. His one associate is a motor-mouth, fountain of sports trivia.
McCoy is hired by a rich industrialist to track down some stolen diamonds. Or is it to find the person who killed the person who stole the diamonds? Or is it stolen ledgers. And what does illegal arms dealing have to do with it? I thought I was paying attention while I watched this, but moments after it ended, I couldn’t possibly recount the details of the plot.
What I do know is that this is one of Reynolds’ best performances. If you just know him from his 70s heyday, you may not realize what a really gifted actor he is. The film opens with him climbing off his table, having awakened with some unknown conquest from the night before. We then get a long, clichéd scene of his stumbling around his apartment in a hung-over fog that is simply laugh-out-loud funny. This is followed by a scene where he visits his rich client on their lavish estate. The two talk in a study kept very cold by the eccentric rich man, just the opposite of General Sternwood, and Burt makes no bones about shivering in his seat. He’ s funny like this throughout the picture, without sacrificing some real-world sense of danger. When, in the story, a lamb is sacrificed, Burt does get more serious, though I was taken a little aback when he’s joking around, like, two scenes later.
Dyan Cannon shows up as the sister of one of the suspects who subsequently hires McCoy. Additionally the two become lovers. Cannon was one of the absolutely sexiest stars of this era, right up there with Raquel, but she’s a much better actress. She never hits any false notes and is always ready with that unaffected, braying laugh of hers. She’s relentlessly gorgeous and has a smoldering chemistry with Burt.
McCoy’s prowess with the ladies is a cornerstone of the picture and a little odd as he’s supposed to be a bit of a sloppy, everyman. Women throw themselves at him, including a buxom bohemian in a bookstore scene that pays homage to Bogart and Dorothy Malone in THE BIG SLEEP. Burt plays these seductions pretty believably, so even if McCoy’s a wreck, I guess you have to buy him as lady-killer as well.
When I was growing up it was a big deal that Burt Reynolds “did all his own stunts”. And it is clear to see that he’s doing some admirably physical stuff throughout SHAMUS. He had one patented move where he runs straight at the camera and dives to the floor and skids right up into our faces. He does that here, and he also did it in CHARLEY WHISKEY and I definitely recall seeing it on DAN AUGUST a time or two.
However, there’s a stunt here that is supposed to be Burt that I stared at closely and rewatched a few times and couldn’t tell for sure if it was him. “McCoy” jumps from a stone wall that looks to be about 3 stories off the ground to leap onto a tree. He misses and plummets to the ground, which he hits -- hard! Cut to Burt dusting himself off. Was this really Reynolds? I highly doubt it, but I could be wrong. He does do some pretty impressive stuff elsewhere in the picture, though.
This picture might not put you in mind of classic 70s fare like THE FRENCH CONNECTION or SHAFT in terms of serving up a slice of 70s Big Apple, but is does have some nice flavor to it. Even the interiors look to have been shot on location. The scenes in the pool hall and around card tables have a lively, realistic rhythm. You won’t want to be hungry when McCoy has his sit-down with the mob as there’s lots of mouth-watering food on display. Jerry Goldsmith, as ever, supplies a good score as well. Curiously, the film does have one of the most strangely abrupt endings for any movie.
SHAMUS isn’t regarded as any kind of classic, and indeed, I’m not sure if it fell into the public domain, but is deserves better than the full-screen DVD it has now. There was a T.V. movie sequel starring Rod Taylor as McCoy – A MATTER OF WIFE AND DEATH -- that is lost to time.