Thursday, September 14, 2017

NIGHT MOVES (1975) (Warner Archive Blu-ray Review)


Label: Warner Archive 
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Arthur Penn
Cast: Gene Hackman, Jennifer Warren, Melanie Griffith, James Woods

Former pro-footballer turned low-rent L.A. private-detective Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman, The Conversation) takes on the case of a runaway teenager named Delly Grastner (Melanie Griffith, Roar) - hired by her boozer/tramp mother, Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward), a b-movie Hollywood star whose best days are far behind her at this point, she's living on her daughter's inheritance cut out of her ex's will after a nasty divorce. Harry's investigation takes him to New Mexico movie set where Delly was involved with a Hollywood stuntman who once dated her mother, it occurs to Harry that the promiscuous teen is seducing men who were once her mother's lovers - which is perverse, the girl definitely has some daddy issues, and it gets even worse. This train of thought sends Harry further East to the Florida Keys to check on Arlene's ex, Tom Iverson (John Crawford, Boogens), Delly's former stepfather, who now runs a seedy boat-tour operation out of the Keys. 

There Harry catches up with her and spends a few days in the area with her step dad and his girlfriend Paula (Jennifer Warren, Mutant), managing to get caught up in a mystery involving smuggling, and a corpse found in a submerged plane wreck, all of which is further complicated by the fact that Harry's wife Ellen (Susan Clark, Porky's) is not so secretly sleeping with another man behind Harry's back!

On just a surface level there's not that much happening here, a slow-burn suspense thriller in the 70s  neo-noir tradition about a private eye who finds himself in the middle of a mystery that turns out to be way more than it at first appeared to be, and in noir fashion our protagonist doesn't really get to the bottom of anything, the truth is revealed, but his detective skills are not necessarily what gets us to the revelation, he just gets caught up in it. 

However, if you scratch the surface and read into it there's a lot more going on, but this can we enjoyed on just a basic mystery-suspense level, too, but even then not everything is explained in explicit detail, you have to follow the clues like Harry, and even then you might just fall into the truth, not find it, just like Harry. Hackman's character Harry Moseby is committed to the truth, but doesn't seem to have any loyalties or particularly strong convictions otherwise, he almost seems to be half-assing it at times, but when his action seem contribute to a tragedy he fiercely pursues the truth, leading up to a rather shocking culmination on the high seas, an encounter punctuated by  powerful blasts of violence and some surprising bloodshed. 

For a neo-noir this one stands apart as a particularly sun drenched entry, from the sun of L.A. to the golden-aura of the Florida Keys there's not a whole lot of the usual shadow play happening, but there are some smoldering and pivotal night scene in the Keys, including a steamy love-scene between femme fatale Paula and the private eye, plus the discovery of the plane wreckage as seen through a glass-bottom boat. Speaking of nude scene be on the lookout for a few tasty morsels of a very young Melanie Griffith as the sexed-up teen in her very first movie role, there's also a movie debut of a way-too-young James Woods (Videodrome) as a mechanic named Quentin who figures into all. One of my favorite visuals in the film is a shot through the bottom of the glass boat bottom as Harry looks on as the wreckage of a plane sink to the bottom of the sea, the shot goes back and forth from Harry's perspective to the doomed pilots, so good.    

This is a damn fine slice of neo-noir with a terrific performance from Hackman, one of his best, with themes of disillusionment and wrought with slow-burning tension, plus it has a shocker of an apocalyptic downer ending that left me reeling when I first watched it. This is one of those near-classics, a movie that should be heralded more than it has been, and will probably only get more recognition as the years pass by, hopefully this Blu-ray finds it's audience, it definitely blew my hair back. 

Audio/Video: Night Moves (1975) arrives on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive benefiting from a fresh 4K scan of the original camera negative with some additional restoration and clean-up, the results are awesome, there's a nice layer of natural looking film grain, the image is crisp and has some good depth, the fine detail is abundant and all those tacky 70s styles and decor are striking in 1080p. For a neo-noir this is a particularly sun-drenched movie and the cinematography really shines, the Florida Keys scenes are absolutely gorgeous. 

Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track which is appropriately clean, dynamic and well-balanced, the Michael Small (The Driver) score sounds crisp and strong in the mix. Optional English subtitles are provided. The extras are carry-overs from the DVD, we get a widescreen HD trailer for the film and a vintage making-of EPK. 

Special Features: 

- Vintage featurette “DAY OF THE DIRECTOR” (9 min) 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (Remastered in HD)(2 min) HD 

Night moves (1975) where have you been all my life? Seriously, this is a film that has slipped under my radar my whole life till now, the very fact that it has eluded me all this time is a sad testament to the fact that this neo-noir is seriously under appreciated, I sort of feel cheated that I've lived forty years without this movie in my life! This new Blu-ray from Warner Archive looks and sounds phenomenal from start to finish, this is a sun-drenched thriller is worth seeking out, a blind buy, one of the best 70s neo-noirs I've seen, with a phenomenal career-best performance from Gene Hackman, it's right there, side by side, with his turn in Francis Ford Coppola's quiet masterpiece The Conversation (1974) - it's that good.