I'm under the weather, and so finally had a moment to watch this movie. Suh-weet! Totally dug it. This is one I knew little about, other than Ralph Meeker was in it, and I only know him because he's Captain Kinder in The Dirty Dozen. He's so very nice and unassuming in Dirty Dozen; here, 12 years younger, he's totally my type of good-looking. He reminds me of an odd cross between Bill Paxton and Vic Morrow and a dash of a young William Holden thrown in for good measure. His character is selfish, arrogant, determined, and quite vicious when pushed. I was originally wondering how he'd carry a movie, but he's just fine, and he suits the sleazy dark underworld of this movie perfectly. His half-defeated, half-desperate line, "I didn't know," followed by the lieutenant's bitter observation: "You think you'd have done anything different if you had known?" totally sums up who he is. Absolutely love it!
This is quite the dark noir film. But it gives me many of the things I do so love in noir. Detective ignoring police advice and doing his own thing, femme fatale, cool cars, more stairways than a stadium, shadows and more shadows and creepy camera angles, opera, a few fights, a few guns, a few kisses, a few deaths, more than a few drinks, a protagonist who dishevels nicely and actually spends time in a hospital when injured. And best of all? I had no idea what everyone was after the whole film! How cool is that? I had my own (wrong) ideas that revolved ultimately around similar themes, but the reality was much much cooler. I'd say more but it'd be spoilerific and might ruin the fun.
It's interesting because I was just having a debate about mysteries the other day, and about how I'd started running into books that kept things a mystery and it pissed me off. This movie was the opposite. It did the mystery right, and kept me wanting to find out what was going on, and not turn it off in frustration (as happened with the book). This rather fascinates me, the what works, what doesn't, and gave me a better idea what to avoid in my own writing.
And the ending sound effects? Freaked! Me! Out! Thank goodness I never saw this when I was young. I don't think I'd have slept for weeks. I still might not.
I'm really curious to read the book now, see if it explains a little more.