The first stick I picked from my magical bucket of movies was Night Moves aka #451 on the list. This is a film I have never seen or heard of before, but I’m a film buff so I am always happy to experience new ones.
IMDb Score: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
These scores gave me good hope that Night Moves would not be a movie I would have to suffer through, as I’m sure one of two of the films on the list may be for me.
There will be SPOILERS AHEAD!
(Image credit: Pixnio ‘not from actual film’)
So, my first thought was ‘Dad film’ which may me different things to all of us. But to me it’s a Sunday afternoon after a filling roast, and a man resting in an arm chair watching a film you’d rather not. What do you think?
“It’s a game where every player is a pawn. Every move is a wrong one, and the winner loses everything”
Facts Before Film
Director: Arthur Penn (The Chase ‘1966’/ Bonnie and Clyde ‘1967’/Alice’s Restaurant ‘1969’)
Screenplay By: Alan Sharp
Production Company: Hiller Productions, Ltd
Released By: Warner Bros
Critics Call It: “A seminal modern noir work from the 1970’s”
Most Quoted Line: “I saw a Rohmer film once. It was kinda like watching paint dry” (04:00)
Review By ‘C’
So, I went into watching this film with an open mind, a pen and a notepad. The film was very 70’s as soon as the opening music began and Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) appeared on screen with his moustache. Harry is and ex footballer turned PI, with his own company called ‘Moseby Confidential’.
The first moment that stood out for me was at (04:28) when there is a sudden jump cut, and Harry is in the home of Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward). Personally, it seemed a bit sudden and even though at this time we know Harry is off to see “One of the beautiful people” (03:23) it slightly comes out of nowhere, although the scene is an important one.
It is in this scene that the direction of the film is set. Arlene’s 16 year old daughter; Delly Grastner (Melanie Griffith) has gone missing, and she wants to hire Harry to find her and bring her home. When Harry asks Arlene what Delly does with her time, the Mother replies “Hangs with freaks, smokes weed, gets laid I daresay”
Another weird jump cut at (07:05) where we discover that Harry used to play American Football. He meets with Nick (Kenneth Mars) who gives him a tape with more information about Arlene Iverson and Delly.
By (09:20) a sub-plot begins. Harry catches his wife Ellen (Susan Clark) having an affair with a man named Marty Heller (Harris Yulin) as he spots them coming out of and Eric Rohmer film. Harry makes the decision to follow the car they get into, at a set of traffic lights he gets Marty’s license plate ‘SUMTOI’
At first, I thought this may take over the Delly story, or that there would be some connection between ‘SUMTOI’ and the missing girls whereabouts, but SPOILER ALERT there was not. Early on in the film I found this slightly disappointing as it seemed the whole affair subplot fizzled out rather quickly.
The next day Harry goes to visit Quentin, a friend of Delly’s. Quentin is a mechanic who “Won second place in a fight” (13:38) He appears to reflect the type of freak Arlene suggested her daughter hung out with, and is cocky and off with Harry when they first met. Until Harry gets aggressive and gets answers. I must say I do enjoy old fashioned fight sound effects on films.
We quickly find out that Quentin and Delly took a trip to New Mexico, where Quentin was doing work for a Warner Bros film (funny right?) my first and only one breath laugh in the film. When Quentin left Delly stayed after falling for stuntman Marv Ellman (Anthony Costello) Dun Dun Duuuuu PLOT TWIST!
At least that’s what I thought, or more specifically that what the film leads us to think, you receive a tick for what makes a good film when you send the audience left instead of right, right? SPOLIER ALERT Delly is not in New Mexico and his short presence in the film is not that dramatic.
20 minutes in the affair subplot is essentially over. Harry confronts Marv, they argue a little, Marv tells Harry to talk to Ellen, Ellen confronts Harry over going to see Marv before confronting her, Warner Bros film set.
The most we learn about Marv is that he has slept with both Delly and her Mother Arlene, his reasoning it “Gives you perspective” (22:16), another thing we learn from her one out the women in the film are just sexual objects. But it was the 70’s so it should be expected, I found it more amusing then anything, and that aspect of the film may not be so well received in today’s cinema.
Harry speaks to Joey Zigler (Edwards Binns), the stunt co-ordinator of the film within the film, and corroborate Marv’s information and find out more about Tom Iverson (John Crawford, not relation to Joan) who is Arlene’s ex-husband and Delly’s step-father.
Harry returns to L.A to see Arlene and find out where her ex-husband Tom is, finding Tom means finding Delly. Tom and Delly are in the Florida Keys, so that’s where Harry decides to head. Harry and Ellen have a passing ‘awkward’ moment in their driveway.
30 MINUTE TIME CHECK: I am off the belief that if you like a film within the first 30 minutes then you will most likely enjoy the rest of the film, in my experience it works. In the case of Night Moves; Better than I thought based on the trailer, not a hard watch so far.
32 minutes into the 1hr39 minute film Delly is found (32:20) where she is naked (and not for the last time). She has a flirty attitude and a childish voice, and tells Harry “I like things to change no matter what” before skipping away. Remember she’s a 16 year old.
In his short time in the Florida Keys, Harry has met two women Delly and Paula (Jennifer Warren) who lives with Tom and Delly. They both of course, are immediatley attracted to him and smile flirtatiously in the presence of the epitome of man.
40 minutes in, my usually concrete 30 minute rule waved slightly as the film seemed slow paced and not really going anywhere. Harry had found Delly, she didn’t want to go back to her Mother’s, Harry holidays in Florida. By this point I felt this movie could be dumb, but I’m on a mission so I was sticking through the next hour.
The first dramatic moment occurs finally occurs over half way through the film, when Paula, Harry and Delly take a night-time boat ride. They stop in the middle of the sea, while Delly goes for a swim (naked of course). A few moments later Delly shouts for Paula after finding a plan wreckage.
AVERT EYES IF SQUIMISH in the plane is a dead body, with a skeleton face that has been eaten by fish #nightmares. Delly is traumatised and Harry has to pull her out of the water, and Paula and Harry take her home.
At 50 minutes in I wrote ‘Odd odd odd’ on my notepad, unable to find any other words to describe the film. It could be down to the 1975 film release or the acting or the story itself but this film right now is odd.
Back at the beach shack, Paula plays music and begins to dance. Tom joins her, a traumatised Delly goes to bed and even Harry finds it odd and leaves to. Also, I felt a weird paedophile vibe from both the men towards Delly, or is that just me?
Not wanting to be outdone by her younger counterpart, Paula takes a visit to Harry’s shack later in the night. After some unimportant babble, and talk of erect nipples, Harry begins to kiss and have sex with Paula while she talks about presidents (like I said odd).
Post coitus Harry and Paula are awoken from Delly’s screams after she has a nightmare. Harry goes over to comfort her, and holds her (they both have clothes on). “I think people are shitty, but you’re okay” (59:44), Delly tells this to Harry while he is comforting her.
An hour in an I wasn’t really sure where the film was going or what it was trying to achieve.
Delly changes her mind the next day, and Harry agrees to take her back to L.A, she no longer seems close to Tom like she did earlier on in the film. Again, it made me think of something unsavoury between the two.
Harry leaves Delly with Arlene, as he drives off Harry watches Arlene get physical with Delly who is trying to leave with Quentin. Quentin has come to save Delly from her Mother. I don’t know how I feel at this point, I like the film but there’s still 39 minutes left and what could possibly fill that time.
Back in L.A Harry breaks into Marty’s apartment, and here I was thinking that subplot was done. “Harry thinks if you call him Harry one more time, he’s gonna make you eat that cat” (1hr05). I’ll be honest I just liked the line, minus the cat eating part. He tells Ellen he is quitting his job and seems like he wants her back, then leaves.
Harrys is in his office, eating ice cream. He begins to listen to a message from Delly who seems to suggest who the body in the wreak was, but before he could hear it, Ellen arrives and he switches her message off.
Harry and Ellen kiss and make-up, and she becomes the last of the women to be seen at least topless in this film.
SPOLIER ALERT: Ellen tells Harry that Delly has died (1hr12), after hearing it on the radio. Both shocking and dramatic well done! Night Moves. I did not see that one coming. She died in a stunt go wrong on the Warner Bros film set in New Mexico.
He goes to visit Joey Ziegler to watch footage of the accident, a way of grieving I suppose. In the footage he sees a student making a documentary, and Quentin working on the car shortly before the accident. Harry asks to see the footage of the student documentary, I thought for answers, but all we actually see is Delly dead and bloodied face.
Harry stares at her through the screen. Once again odd film. Once again paedophile vibe.
Harry then visits Arlene whose reaction to her daughter’s death is “I’m sorry the poor little bitch is dead” (19:06). At this point I suspected that the body in the wreckage was Marv Ellman SPOILER ALERT; I was right! (1hr20) also all that follows is SPOILERS.
Immediatley Harry accuses of murdering both Marv and Delly using his mechanical skills to mess with the car and aeroplane they died in. Harry travels back to the Florida Keys, where he finds Quentin dead in Tom’s tiny dolphin enclosure. They his suspicions turn to Tom and Paula.
Harry finds Paula and Tom trying to leave on their boat, but his arrival is very anti-climactic. Harry and Tom fight (more fun fight sound effects) until Tom is knocked unconscious, then get Paula to drive him to the marker “You mean you’re gonna solve the case, and find the booty” (1hr27)
The last 10 minutes of the film is where all the action happens. Marv was smuggling statue pieces for Tom, that fully built is worth half a million. They travel back out to the wreckage, where they left a marker when they found it. Paula told Harry the marker was for the coastguard but really it was for Tom to go and move the statue piece.
1hr32 Paula dives to the wreckage and the marker is pulled under water.
1hr33 A sea plane starts flying around and the pilot shoots harry in the leg.
1hr 35 The plane runs over Paula who has emerged, one of the floats breaks on her head and the plan starts to sink.
1hr36 Harry watches through the glass bottom of the boat as the plane sinks. He sees that the pilot is Joey Ziegler and watches him drown.
Harry tries to drive the boat but can’t get up, and has to use a net to start the boat, it fails and the films ends with a shot of the boat going around in a circle, in the middle of the ocean.
“Mr keen trailer of missing persons” said by Marty Heller to Harry Moseby (17:23)
I think the most significant scene in the film, as far as storytelling goes would be the discovery of the plane wreak. It is here the film changes into a more sinister tone, and lives up to its name as a crime thriller, as well as setting up the last 10 dramatic minutes of the film.
I’d give this film a 4/10, what do the rest of you think?
Comment below and become part of the film club, at the end of all my reviews whether you’ve seen the film before or want to watch it for the first time. I want to hear what you think.
The next film will be; #210 Billy Liar (1963)