Christine A. (WriteReviseEdit) from ROCHESTER, NY Reviewed on 7/24/2014...
This is a great film for anyone who's a fan of B movies, quirky Woody Allen style comedy and anyone of the cast and crew.
Michael Caine, Natalie Wood and several others are cast against type in this funny (no, not rip-roaring hilarious, but genuinely funny) and unique twist on Film Noir in a DVD package that's full of special features which includes a nice tutorial on the Noir genre and insights from the director, film historians and lesser-infamous-but-equally-if-not-more-knowledgeable film critics.
My favorite line? "Get lost!" I won't post the comeback or tell you when to expect it. But I will say that that's one genuinely unique and hilarious scene.
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Larry N. from BEALETON, VA Reviewed on 7/6/2014...
Maybe I was tired when I watched this movie, but I liked it. Subtle humor and a decent story line along with Natalie looking as stunning as ever, made it enjoyable. Sometimes the action was predictable and the story had occasional holes as most scripts do. Video quality is very good and I think it is well worth the time to watch.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Rob | Texas | 02/07/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I am a huge Michael Caine AND Natalie Wood fan since the Mid-Sixties and I have never heard of this movie til it came out on DVD. How could such an ideal movie match-up escape me? This looks on the outset that it could rival the chemistry of Gambit. Our stars do deliver: Caine is still slim and Harry Palmerish and Natalie is stunningly beautiful. No question they work great together. But the problem about this mystery is the plot: the scenes keep going by and I don't really know what is the point. Caine is trying to solve something about which lady is the missing twin, I think, and for what purpose, I'm not sure. I lay the blame at Hyam's feet. In his interview, he admits the film tested badly, but doesn't seem to know why. Obviously, audiences were too baffled by the murky plot to fully enjoy the Caine/Wood combo. Fans of either should watch this, but don't expect the cleverness of a Gambit."
Never had a chance
L. E. Cantrell | Vancouver, British Columbia Canada | 04/07/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Every man has a wonderful idea that absolutely will not work. Judging by his track record, director Peter Hyams has had several.
As the film itself strongly implies and as the attached interviews with Hyams make explicit, "Peeper" was intended as a loving re-creation of a noir-ish hard-boiled detective film. The screenplay, originally titled "Fat Chance," was based on a Keith Laumer novel of the same name. It so happens that I have never come across that book, but I certainly know Laumer's work. He was a good, sound wordsmith. His business was telling fast-moving stories and he was good at it. I'd be willing to bet that the book version of "Fat Chance" was swift of foot, peppered with lean, mean dialogue and generally smarter than its pulpish bloodlines might suggest.
As I sit here typing these comments, I find myself coming around to believing that many of the same things might be said about the screenplay written for "Fat Chance." I can't speak about the book, but it is clear that the particular hard-boiled detective the screenwriter had in mind was Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe and the specific noir film he was channeling was "The Big Sleep." Marlowe's greatest film outing. Marlowe and "The Big Sleep" are gold standard stuff. Having chosen to be derivative, neither the screenwriter nor the director could have picked better models to rip off.
The intentions were good. The screenplay was sound. From that point, everything else went straight into the dumpster. The first appalling error was the tone chosen for the film: self-mocking and ironic. Self-mockery and irony are the very antitheses of film noir. Whatever a noir film may be, it is serious about it, deadly serious. As Edward G. Robinson's Keyes says not once but twice in "Double Indemnity," noir-ish protagonists are "on the streetcar bound straight to the cemetery." Marlowe can be ironic: "I counted seven lies in that statement and had high hopes for more" or this reply to a man who said he didn't like his manners: "Neither do I. I grieve for them." But Marlowe's irony is always verbal and never situational. Marlowe may be tattered and battered, but he's a born white knight and he knows it.
Mockery and irony are distancing; already the production team had taken one giant step away from the movie they had intended to make. The gap widened with the casting decisions. Michael Caine is a superb screen actor, as good as anyone might hope to get for a whole host of things, and he starred in the best equivalents to film noir ever shot on color stock, the Harry Palmer spy films. Nevertheless, Caine is dead wrong as a 1947 Los Angeles private eye. A few lines were interpolated into the screenplay to explain his highly unlikely presence. They only serve to make it more absurd. The effect is much the same as might be achieved by casting John Cleese as Babe Ruth: undoubtedly interesting, even fascinating, but dead wrong. Consistent with hard-boiled detective story practice, there is an ongoing patter from the detective's stream of consciousness. Words that would have emerged quite naturally from Bogart, Dick Powell or even James Garner, sound downright odd when pronounced in Caine's Alfie/Harry Palmer accent.
The casting error was compounded when Natalie Wood, of all people, was put in the Lauren Bacall/Barbara Stanwick part as the infinitely attractive, infinitely dangerous spider-lady role. Woods was a good looking woman and she could act a little, but she absolutely was not a spider-lady.
The errors were not limited to attitude and casting. The cinematographer completely missed the boat--or rather the film noir tramp steamer. Film noir is more than shadows. It is the people in those shadows and the shadows in those people. The great films noir are built of one- and two-shots. Offhand, the only wide-angle shot that comes to mind from "The Big Sleep" involve Marlowe's car arriving at the little bungalow in the Hollywood Hills. The only one I recollect from the hard-boiled "Maltese Falcon" is the hotel lobby scene where Spade calls the house dick over to point out that Wilmer the gunsel is lowering the tone of the joint.
In this film, wide-angle shots abound, in the conservatory scene, for instance. The concept is lifted straight out of "The Big Sleep." If only y had done the same thing with the camera set-ups. What was written as a claustrophobic sequence is shot widely enough to be a danger to those with agoraphobia. A standard set-piece in many a film noir is the mansion of the spider-lady and her endangered family. Here they shot at Harold Lloyd's classic movie star house. There are plenty of nice wide shots to show it off nicely and certainly enough to spoil the pace and visual style of the film. The same may be said of the sequences aboard the cruise ship.
(Let's not even bother with the fact that the concept of "cruise ship" instead of "liner" dates from a good twenty years or more after the notional 1947 date of this film. Or the fact that color film is not as contrasty as black and white stock and produces much warmer images, so that what would have been cool and crisp in a true noir film inevitably becomes, dim, unfocused and uncomfortably tepid here.)
Finally, there is the title. The studio lost faith in the picture as a noir vehicle. The self-mockery and irony triumphed with the change from "Fat Chance" to "Peeper." It didn't work. I vaguely remember the original theatrical releasee. It lasted about a week, impressed nobody at all, disappeared and was quickly forgotten.
Too bad. With rational casting and with a director who had the sense to see what actually lay within the screenplay as well as the ability to carry it out, this might have been a quietly impressive film. As it is, "Peeper" never had a chance, fat or otherwise.
EddieLove | NYC, USA | 06/23/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"There are some stylish production touches and the DVD looks good, but this is nearly unwatchable. Is it screwball or noir? The jokes fall flat and there's no real tension. Caine and Wood are okay, but everyone else is playing to the back row. (The climax's eerie foreshadowing of Wood's death doesn't exactly add to the enjoyment.)"
Not worth a peep
David Rowell | Redmond, WA United States | 07/07/2008
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I'm a great fan of Michael Caine and found myself watching two of his movies, back to back, on a recent NW flight across the Pacific - the 2007 Flawless (excellent) and this one, the little known 1975 movie, Peeper. What a contrast, and not to the benefit of Peeper.
The movie has a shambolic plot and poor acting - taking the most affected elements of 1930s/1940s style acting and hamming them up in a disfunctional manner that detracts from rather than adds to the viewer's enjoyment. The version I saw on the flight was very poor quality, cinematicographically as well (did I spell that correctly - I mean bad camera work and lighting) - almost as if the director and photographer equated 'film noir' with 'film dark and indistinct'.
As for the story line, it is impossible to enter the state of a 'willing suspension of disbelief' and the absurdities and incongruities of the plot hinder rather than help the action and entertainment (in contrast to, eg, a James Bond movie where we happily accept the impossibilities in the name of good fun, action and entertainment).
The headline billing for Michael Caine usually promises (and delivers) a good movie, but this is the exception that perhaps proves the rule. Who knows why he agreed to participate - he was in the first flush of his mature stardom, with big hits such as his Harry Palmer movies, The Italian Job and several others already under his belt, and with a busy schedule for the year, with three other movies being released that year, including the brilliant 'The Man Who Would Be King'.
For a while I wondered if the movie was attempting to be a comedy, or was just inadvertently bad. I'm still not sure. You'll save yourself time and money if you don't attempt to find out for yourself.