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    Thursday, May 28, 2009

    DVD: Killshot (2008)

    The Elmore Leonard adaptation, on the shelf for years save for a brief theatrical run in Arizona in the wake of Mickey Rourke’s Oscar nod for The Wrestler, finally debuted on video this week. As was the case with another recent film based on the work of a high-profile crime writer, it deserves better.

    A feuding Michigan couple (Diane Lane and Thomas Jane) is stalked by a half-Native American hit man (Rourke) and his hair-trigger sidekick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) following an attempted crime. Not even relocation under the auspices of the Witness Security Program can help them.

    The plot ambles along in the Leonard style, with a few lapses I found hard to swallow. But the movie is admirably terse and hard-boiled, shot in great gunmetal gray locations. Rourke does some subtle work, and Gordon-Levitt channels Warren Oates. It’s a solid film that’s more interesting than most of what will be in theaters this year.

    DVD: Peter Gunn

    Henry Mancini’s soundtrack album to the vintage Blake Edwards private eye series is in regular rotation on Rhapsody’s West Coast jazz channel. After listening to it day in and day out, I finally watched the show. And now I’m hooked.

    Gunn, played by Craig Stevens, is unlike any other P.I. He doesn’t have an office, instead hanging his hat at a swinging club called Mother’s. He spends most of his time making goo-goo eyes at chanteuse girlfriend Lola Albright. Each episode is a slick noir vignette, packed with prime hipster patois and always with a killer hook. Edwards was a man who knew how to grab the attention.

    Mancini’s music figures prominently. And you occasionally glimpse other West Coast jazz legends like Shorty Rogers. The best aspect of the show, hands down, is Herschel Bernardi as Gunn’s police contact Lt. Jacoby. Bernardi, doing more with less than anyone I’ve ever seen, plays the cop as if he’s a thousand years old and has seen it all twice. Pure minimalist genius.

    There are 32 episodes on DVD. I’m rationing them out carefully. Edwards made a Peter Gunn film without Albright and Bernardi, cowritten by Exorcist author William Peter Blatty, that’s rarely screened and supposedly not very good. I still aim to track it down.

    Here’s Art of Noise’s cover of Mancini’s distinctive Gunn theme, featuring surf guitar god Duane Eddy and Rik Mayall as the shamus.

    Miscellaneous: The Rooster Crowed At Midnight

    China Miéville on the inevitable disappointment of crime novels. As for Miéville’s “only flawless” example of the form, Ray Banks offers both explanation and excerpt. My question: isn’t there an episode of M*A*S*H with the same plot?

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    I saw the Peter Gunn film when it hit the big screen. I don't remember much about it other than that I liked it quite a bit. But I was considerably younger then.


    With thirty-two episodes, it sounds to me like you managed to acquire the A&E sets, which have sixteen episodes on each. The first season actually has a total of thirty-eight episodes, and was released on a Region 2 set that was available at Amazon.co.uk at one time. The company who released them on Region 2 also released the complete second season (again, with 38 episodes) which means there are a total of seventy-six episodes available on DVD. If you can locate the Region 2 releases, you could go for an entire year with plenty of Gunn goodness.


    Vince, I think Gordon-Levitt was channelling Paul Koslo. He looks - and sometimes acts - exactly like him in many scenes.


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