COLUMBO: ANY OLD PORT IN A STORM (TV) (1973, USA) ****
Crime, Drama, Mystery
dist. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. Leo Penn; w. Stanley Ralph Ross (based on a story by Larry Cohen); pr. Robert F. O’Neill; ph. Harry L. Wolf (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Dick DeBenedictis; m sup. Hal Mooney; ed. Larry Lester, Buddy Small; ad. Archie J. Bacon; set d. John M. Dwyer; cos. Grady Hunt; sd. David H. Moriarty (Mono); rel. 7 October 1973 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 96m.
cast: Peter Falk (Columbo), Donald Pleasence (Adrian Carsini), Joyce Jillson (Joan Stacey), Gary Conway (Enrico Guiseppe Carsini), Dana Elcar (Falcon), Julie Harris (Karen Fielding), Vito Scotti (Maitre d’), Robert Donner (The Drunk), Robert Ellenstein (Stein), Robert Walden (Billy Fine), Regis Cordic (Lewis), Reid Smith (Andy Stevens), John McCann (Officer), George Gaynes (Frenchman), Monte Landis (Steward), Walker Edmiston (Auctioneer), Pamela Campbell (Cassie Marlowe).
Adrian Carsini (Pleasence) runs a California winery owned by his younger half-brother (Conway) who reveals he’s about to sell it. This enrages the older wine connoisseur who knocks the young playboy out cold and ties him up in the wine cellar. Soon Carsini has committed a murder and makes it look like a scuba diving accident. The rumpled Lt. Columbo (Falk) is on the case and is willing to harass everyone – even Carsini’s cold but devoted secretary (Harris) – until he’s discovered the truth. One of the most entertaining of the Columbo mystery movies and one of the few where the rumpled detective has a liking for the killer. The winery setting and Pleasence’s delightfully snobbish performance give this episode a playfully novel feel. Whilst the murder is hardly perfect, the way Falk unravels the case is sublime. The finale in the expensive restaurant and on the cliffs overlooking the sea are neatly staged and the final scene where the detective and the murderer share a last bottle is nicely played. The production values are standard for 1970s TV, but the light, humorous touch and the lead performances make this well worth a look.
HARPER (USA, 1966) ***
Distributor: Warner Bros. (USA), Warner-Pathé Distributors (UK); Production Company: Gershwin-Kastner Productions; Release Date: 23 February 1966 (USA), 1 July 1966 (UK); Filming Dates: 7 June 1965 – 20 August 1965; Running Time: 121m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
Director: Jack Smight; Writer: William Goldman (based on the novel “The Moving Target” by Ross Macdonald); Producer: Jerry Gershwin, Elliott Kastner; Director of Photography: Conrad L. Hall; Music Composer: Johnny Mandel; Film Editor: Stefan Arnsten; Art Director: Alfred Sweeney; Set Decorator: Claude E. Carpenter; Costumes: William Smith; Make-up: Gordon Bau; Sound: Stanley Jones.
Cast: Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Lauren Bacall (Mrs. Sampson), Julie Harris (Betty Fraley), Arthur Hill (Albert Graves), Janet Leigh (Susan Harper), Pamela Tiffin (Miranda Sampson), Robert Wagner (Allan Taggert), Robert Webber (Dwight Troy), Shelley Winters (Fay Estabrook), Harold Gould (Sheriff), Roy Jenson (Puddler), Strother Martin (Claude), Martin West (Deputy), Jacqueline deWit (Mrs. Kronberg), Eugene Iglesias (Felix), Richard Carlyle (Fred Platt).
Synopsis: Lew Harper, a cool private investigator, is hired by a wealthy California matron to locate her kidnapped husband.
Comment: Smight’s adaptation of Ross Macdonald’s classic mystery is a product of the period in which it was made as the free spirit of the 1960s threatens to drown the plot. Newman layers his charm onto Macdonald’s detective and it is his performance that is the main draw. The kidnapping plot involves a strong cast of eccentric characters but fails to invest any with significant depth. The dialogue, however, is smarter as Goldman captures the spirit of the wisecracking down on his luck PI genre, if not the mood.
Notes: The title of Ross Macdonald’s source novel “The Moving Target” was this picture’s title in Great Britain. The lead character was changed from Lew Archer to Harper because the producers had only bought the rights to the first book in the series. Followed by THE DROWNING POOL (1975), again with Newman.