Posted on November 15th, 2011 No comments
This is one of those 1960s cop movies that kind of faded away over the years, but holds up nice as a very kool slice of life from the time. With plenty of shots of NYC in the late 60s, cars, slums, fancy hotels, police precincts inside and out, this film is an hour and forty-one minute time capsule.
Starring Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Harry Guardino, James Whitmore and Inger Stevens.
Set in the present of 1968, this movie is an old-fashioned crime drama with a gritty edge. The detectives are all tough guys with short-brimmed fedoras, the cops look like they could have stepped out of a 1930’s flick, the cars are all big American sedans and there’s litter everywhere. The director managed to help capture the era for all posterity by grabbing plenty of shots of food joints, bars, commercial signage, and even a nice shot of the Coney Island boardwalk. Hard-swingin’ crime drama music by Don Costa and a lines like “he needs a hair cut” and “aw, the hell with these (bullet proof) vests, let’s go” juice this goody up but good.
The story: Madigan and his partner get suckered into losing up their rods to a hood during a routine check. They spend the next couple of days tracking the guy down, while he uses the heisted rods to kill cops. Meanwhile the commish is dealing with police corruption that goes all the way up to the top. Bad news all around.
I’m sure audiences in 1968 who were expecting an old-fashioned crime drama were surprised (maybe appalled) by the split-second female nudity, the few curse words peppered around and the mean-street violence, even by the cops themselves. By today’s standards it’s practically a Disney flick. But still fun to watch, especially for the images of 43 years ago.
Food & Booze: These are hard-drinking tough-guy cops. Drinking anything less than 100 proof rye whiskey would be crime. Wash down a dirty-water dog or a Rubin on rye with a pickle and you’re all set.
My take: The thing I found really interesting about this flick was the offices inside the police station. Dull green walls, wooden desks, steel grating over dirty windows and everything covered in a film of nicotine is exactly what you see, and exactly what I envisioned when I wrote my murder mystery book Murder on Tiki Island, where Detective Bill Riggins has a desk, a phone and a chair to conduct his investigating. Now, I may have seen this movie when I was a kid, say, 35 years ago on TV. Don’t remember it. But it seems my imagination has a pretty good handle on what police stations looked like in the middle of the last century. Kookie, huh?
Here are the opening titles, with lots of cool 1968 shots of New York and some swingin’ crime drama riffs by Don Costa…
Man, they just don’t write movie music like that anymore, huh? Swingin’, rockin’, crazy stuff.
-Tiki Chris Pinto reporting from the screening room at Pirate’s Cove Tiki Lounge, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Posted on May 2nd, 2010 1 comment
(Cue mid-tempo jazz bassline)
Lay back kats, and knock your swingin’ lobes to the riffs I’m layin’ down before thee; as this week we dance to the tune of a different bongo-ist, take a beat off the beaten path and give Mod Movie Monday a little twist – a foray into the land of the groove tube, the noise box, the all-mighty television. This week I present to you for your hippest approval, that hippest of hip private dicks,
There has never been, nor shall there ever be an equally jazzy, kool and quintessentially hip cop show on the airwaves. From the opening, pre-credit crime scene with swingin’ background bass and eerie horns, to the slick late ’50s ragtop that Gunn motorvated around in, to the sultriest if sultry atomic blonde bombshells Edie Hart as the jazz joint’s singer, Peter Gunn just oozes with dark kool.
Imagine a cop show where the PI is a tough, good-looking Rat-Pack-era swinger who’s always in total control, even when he pushes the line between legit and vigilante. Instead of driving a cop sedan, he drives a sleek convertible. He dresses sharp and hangs out at a jazz club with the musicians and has a thing going with the smokin’ girl singer, a swingin’ chick if ever there was one. Throw on top of that the fact that he’s a damned good detective, and his notoriety helps him gain the potatoes he needs to lead his swingin’ lifestyle, and you’ve got the makings of one hell of a TV series – good enough to last 114 episodes.
Thanks to our pal Blake Edwards, the style of the show holds up 50 years later. A Noir undertone driven by a jazz beat and purposely subtle acting, Peter Gunn is considered one of the best stylistic TV dramas of the time.
The Jazz, man, it’s all about that swingin’ background jazz, the musical soundtrack that very often came out of the background and coolly slid into the spotlight whenever Gunn entered Mother’s Jazz Club on the waterfront. Several scenes featured the hipster musicians getting in the groove with their sexy singer, Edie, riffing out tunes by Henry Mancini, played in the style of The Modern Jazz Quintet and Dave Brubeck. Peter Gunn is credited as being
the first TV show to have a custom designed soundtrack (all others used stock music up until then), and the resulting Peter Gunn album stayed at #1 on the charts for 10 weeks (and is still a best seller today). That unforgettable theme has been used so many times since then that even kids who never heard of the show know that krazy piano intro and those blaring horns. Oh, and by the by…that piano intro…was originally played by another kat you may have heard of, a young pup by the name of John Williams.
Style aside, the series was ahead of its time in the ’50s, and still holds up as great to watch today. The crimes were never sugar-coated…murder, drugs, all of it right out there lightened only by an occasionally funny hipster character who was so way out there you had to chuckle. In my opinion, the only thing that would have made this show better was if they didn’t have to squeeze it into a half hour. An hour would have done it much more justice.
And what beat-era libations and repast doth thou deal out during said performance? ’50s hipsters were all about trying new things…which of course, are now old things. Maybe some cucumber sandwiches, with sour cream/dill dipping sauce. Maybe some mini spinach quiches wrapped in bacon. Pretzel rods with mustard. Finger sandwiches of smoked oysters or salmon spread. Kooky stuff like that. Serve Port, or Sambucca, or Galliano over the rocks. Or if you can get your hands on it, Absinth. Top it off with fresh pineapple, mango and coconut over vanilla ice cream for dessert. And don’t forget to smoke a pack of Camels before the show ends, dig?