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DOMINION: PREQUEL TO THE EXORCIST (2005) (***)

The history of this film will become legend. Director Paul Schrader (AUTO FOCUS) was asked to do a prequel to THE EXORCIST. When he turned in his moody dramatic piece the studio decided they wanted something more commercial and hired a new director to virtually redo the entire film with more conventional scares. That movie was EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING and it stank. After it bombed in the theaters, the studio decided to release Schrader’s version to help recoup the costs of making two films.

The core idea of the films is relatively the same, but they couldn’t be anymore different. Schrader’s film is more of a dramatic ode to spiritual doubt and the presence of evil in the world than a scare-fest. Father Lankester Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard, GOOD WILL HUNTING) goes on sabbatical from the Catholic Church after an incident during World War II emotionally scars him. He is involved in an archeological dig in Africa where they find a church buried in the sand.

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PRIDE & PREJUDICE (2005) (***1/2)

Like 2002’s overlooked NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, which successfully pared down an epic novel into a two-hour film, PRIDE & PREJUDICE does a stellar job of doing the same. Star Keira Knightley (BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM) proves that she is not just another pretty face, but a real actress. She brings wit and humor to the central role of Elizabeth Bennet, the second eldest daughter of the moderately poor Mr. and Mrs. Bennet (Donald Sutherland, KLUTE, & Brenda Blethyn, SECRETS & LIES).

She has a bit of snobbery for rich people, but this doesn’t stop her from encouraging her shy older sister Jane (Rosamund Pike, DIE ANOTHER DAY) in her courtship of Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods, TV’s CHARLES II: THE POWER AND THE PASSION). However, she cannot stand Mr. Bingley’s seemingly arrogant and snobbish Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen, THE RECKONING). Other key characters include Elizabeth’s flirtatious sister Lydia (Jena Malone, SAVED!), stuffy preacher Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander, THE LAWLESS HEART), Mr. Darcy’s rich aunt Lady Catherine de Bourg (Judi Dench, MRS. BROWN), dashing soldier Mr. Wickham (Rupert Friend, forthcoming THE LIBERTINE) and Elizabeth’s best friend Charlotte (Claudie Blakley, GOSFORD PARK).

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MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (2005) (***)

This film rendition of the best-selling novel of the same name is an enjoyable love story, but lacks a certain emotional or intelligent oomph to lift it to a greater level. I enjoyed the film from start to finish and was completely engaged, but I never felt swept away by the subject or the love tale.

The film begins with the young girl, Chiyo (Suzuka Ohgo), being sold to a geisha house. She wants to escape, but is thwarted at every turn. Running the geisha house is Auntie (Tsai Chin, THE JOY LUCK CLUB) and the raspy-voiced, chain-smoking Mother (Kaori Momoi, KAGEMUSHA). Chiyo is special because she has brilliant blue eyes, making her an instant threat to the aging geisha Hatsimomo (Gong Li, RAISE THE RED LANTERN). Chiyo must endure though and eventually begins her training as a geisha with Mother’s rival Mameha (Michelle Yeoh, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON). Taking the name Sayuri, Chiyo (now played by Ziyi Zhang, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS) becomes the most popular geisha in Japan.

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HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE (2005) (****)

Are the HARRY POTTER films really getting better? This one doesn’t have the whimsy of the first two films, but as we grow up with Harry, Ron and Hermione we do expect them to tackle issues more sinister and dangerous like dating. Because of the huge length of the fourth book a lot has been cut from the movie, but none of it is missed.

The fourth film does not start at Harry’s aunt and uncle’s house but jumps right into the Quiddich World Cup where Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters make their first appearance, including a mysterious Voldemort servant (David Tennant, BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS) who appears in Harry’s dreams. This year at Hogwort’s the school will play host to the Tri-Wizard Tournament, where one wizard over 17 from three schools will compete for the coveted title. Hogwort’s champion is the nice jock Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson, VANITY FAIR). From the French school, there’s Fleur Delacour (Clémence Poésy) and, from the Eastern European school, there’s professional Quiddich champion Viktor Krum (Stanislav Ianevski). But what’s this? The Goblet of Fire, which picks the names of the contestants, has spit out a fourth — Harry Potter!

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MODERN PROBLEMS (1981) (*1/2)

This Chevy Chase vehicle from the early ’80s is a total mess. The plot moves all over the place and a lack of a consistent tone leaves the film completely repulsive.

Max Fielder (Chase, FUNNY FARM) is an air traffic controller who is so paranoid about his girlfriend Darcy (Patti D’Arbanville, THE FAN) cheating on him that he bugs her. Early in the film she breaks up with him. Depressed Max tries to find comfort from his ex-wife Lorraine (Mary Kay Place, SILVER CITY), who ends up falling for Max’s high school friend Brian Stills (Brian Doyle-Murray, GROUNDHOG DAY), who has become a publisher for egotistical relationship guru Mark (Dabney Coleman, 9 TO 5). Brian’s personal assistant is Dorita (Nell Carter, TV’s GIMME A BREAK), who is into voodoo.

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LENNY (1974) (****)

Director Bob Fosse (ALL THAT JAZZ) tackles the story of groundbreaking and controversial stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce (Dustin Hoffman, THE GRADUATE). The film takes a faux documentary approach to recapping the rise and fall of the funny man, who pushed the boundaries of what could be said on stage in an effort to expose American hypocrisy.

In the interviews, Lenny’s drug-addicted wife Honey (Valerie Perrine, SUPERMAN), his manager Sally Marr (Jan Miner, MERMAIDS) and his smarmy agent Artie Silver (Stanley Beck, WHO KILLED TEDDY BEAR) reminisce over the life and career of Bruce, who died of a drug overdose right before he was to go to jail. Bruce was a genius who bordered on madness. His obsession with the stage and pushing the boundaries of social norms to make his point, lead him to cult fame, but also down a path of paranoia-fueled drug abuse.

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HOME ALONE (1990) (***)

In 1990 when this film became one of the all time box office champions, I loved it. I was 14. I’m a bit older now and find the film so implausible that it was hard for me to be engaged with it as I was back then.

The premise has the McCallister family heading off to Paris for Christmas. Due to a power outage, they are running late and in the rush to make their flight they miscount and leave 8-year-old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin, SAVED!) behind. So many plot contrivances have to pile up to make this scenario work that the film lose a lot of credibility. However, when I put myself in the mind frame of Kevin, I was able to sit back and have fun.

The film is really an 8-year-old’s fantasy. Kevin not only is able to survive on his own, but through elaborate booby traps (that no eight year old could have constructed in the hour the film allows) thwarts two burglars named Harry Lime (Joe Pesci, GOODFELLAS) and Marv Merchants (Daniel Stern, CITY SLICKERS). Adding to the tension of the story is Kevin’s mother Kate’s desperate attempts to find help for her son and get a flight back home. Some of the film’s most satirical moments come when Kate (Catherine O’Hara, WAITING FOR GUFFMAN) hitches a ride with a polka band lead by Gus Polinski (John Candy, PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES).

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GODSEND (2004) (*1/2)

GODSEND is not a godsend. Ugh, this is film is dumb. Paul and Jessie Duncan (Greg Kinnear, AS GOOD AS IT GETS, & Rebecca Romijn, X-MEN) love their son Adam (Cameron Bright, BIRTH). So when he is killed, they are distraught. At the funeral, Jessie’s former teacher Richard Wells (Robert DeNiro, RAGING BULL) offers them a morbid proposition — he can clone their son.

The film goes through the typical reluctance to the idea then clones the kid. Everything seems fine until new Adam reaches the age of old Adam and he begins to see and hear strange things. The film plays along typical thriller lines until the end when it tries to twist things and ends up twisting the entire plausibility of the plot off the rails.

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GINGER SNAPS BACK: THE BEGINNING (2004) (***)

The original GINGER SNAPS is arguably the best horror film of the new millennium so far. GINGER SNAPS 2: UNLEASHED was a solid sequel that continued the tale from the first film and took it into an interesting direction. The third film in the series is a huge departure and made me wonder if the franchise was dead. However, despite being an odd choice, the third film is still engaging and entertaining.

Outsider sisters Ginger (Katharine Isabelle, FREDDY VS. JASON) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins, PROZAC NATION) return, but they aren’t modern girls anymore. The story takes the characters and places them in 19th Century Canada. Their parents have died and they become lost in the woods. After Brigitte is injured, a mysterious Indian hunter (Nathaniel Arcand, ELEKTRA) leads them to an outpost where the inhabitants are very leery of strangers. This is because on a nightly basis the fort is attacked by werewolves.

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THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (1964) (****)

This film just makes you smile… until it breaks your heart that is. Unlike any other musical, director Jacques Demy creates a grand tale of young love that in an artistic way heightens the feelings and emotions to an operatic level.

Part of the film’s charm is that all the dialogue is sung in French. It just seems right that young lovers should be singing in French. 17-year-old Geneviève (Catherine Deneuve, BELLE DE JOUR) is in love with 20-year-old mechanic Guy (Nino Castelnuovo, THE ENGLISH PATIENT). Her mother (Anne Vernon) doesn’t think that her daughter is ready for a serious relationship and really doesn’t know what love is all about. But that can’t stop Geneviève and Guy.

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THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1940) (***1/2)

This Technicolor extravaganza had six directors and began filming in the U.K. until the blitz of WWII forced the production to move to the States. Fans of Disney’s animated ALADDIN will find a lot of similarities in this film about the rightful heir of Bagdad whose advisor tricks him out of this throne as well as steals his true love.

The film begins with Prince Ahmed (John Justin, 1978’s THE BIG SLEEP) as a blind beggar on the street with his dog who is actually his faithful ally — the thief Abu (Sabu, BLACK NARCISSUS). Ahmad’s advisor Jaffar (Conrad Veidt, CASABLANCA) has come back to woo the Princess of Basara (June Duprez, THEY RAID BY NIGHT) away from her father the Sultan (Miles Malleson, PEEPING TOM). As the story progresses, we learn how the prince and Abu got in such a predicament.

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THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (1985) (****)

When Woody Allen is on, he is simply brilliant. This is a statement I find myself saying every time I discover another one of his older classics. He is one of — if not — the best comedy director of all time.

Cecilia (Mia Farrow, ROSEMARY’S BABY) is a waitress trying to support her philandering husband Monk (Danny Aiello, DO THE RIGHT THING) during the Depression. She finds great joy, comfort and peace from her hard life at the movies, which she goes to almost every night. A new film called, THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, has come to town and she just loves it, especially the pith hat wearing, young explorer Tom Baxter, played by Gil Shepherd (Jeff Daniels, THE HOURS). One day when things are at their worst for Cecilia, Tom Baxter walks out of the movie screen and declares his love for her. For once in Cecilia’s life, the magic of the movies has entered her drab existence.

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POLTERGEIST (1982) (***1/2)

When it comes to haunted house films, this one is one of the best. The story knows what scares people and plays on a lot of the common fears that people have as kids. The spooky tree, the strange doll, the monster in the closet are all examples of the film collecting and tapping into very relatable chills that many have firsthand experience with.

The Freeling family lives in a planned community in California. Steve (Craig T. Nelson, TV’s COACH) is the top realtor for the community. His wife Diane (JoBeth Williams, FEVER PITCH) is a stay-at-home mom for their three kids — teen Dana (Dominique Dunne), middle child Robbie (Oliver Robins, AIRPLANE II) and pre-schooler Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke, POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE).

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DAS BOOT (1981) (****)

Sometimes just watching people do their jobs is fascinating. That’s what makes this film so great. The job this film watches is a grueling and life-threatening one.

The film follows a German U-boat mission from start to finish. That’s pretty much it. They experience depth charges, enemy fire and sinking to the bottom of the Straight of Gibraltar. The crew is led by Capt.-Lt. Henrich Lehmann-Willenbrock (Jürgen Prochnow, THE ENGLISH PATIENT), a career sailor who is not a Nazi and has little respect for the fools running his country. Along on the mission is photographer Lt. Werner (Herbert Grönemeyer), who serves as the viewer’s eyes and ears into the world of operating a submarine. The Captain’s right hand man is Chief Engineer Fritz Grade (Klaus Wennemann), a man with sad eyes, but an optimistic heart.

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BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964) (***1/2)

Having seen two of his films, I’m quickly becoming a Mario Bava fan. Within genre films, he was able to skewer the rich with a keen eye for subtle satire and devious dread.

The plot of this film will read like a typical exploitation horror flick. A fashion house full of pretty models is plagued by a serial killer who slowly murders the women in gruesome and elaborate ways one by one. This film is considered one of the first to be labeled in giallo in Italy. Giallo is a sub-genre of thrillers that are highlighted by the elaborated deaths that take place in them. The word means “yellow” in Italian, which was the color of pulp thriller novels of the time.

The first victim Isabella (Francesca Ungaro) is strangled by the killer who looks like Darkman wearing the mask Tom Cruise wore in VANILLA SKY. Inspector Silvester (Thomas Reiner) is assigned the task of capturing the killer, who could be anyone associated with the fashion house. The key characters include fashion house director Max Marian (Cameron Mitchell, MY FAVORITE YEAR); fashion house owner Contessa Cristina Como (Eva Bartok); Isabella’s boyfriend Frank Sacalo (Dante DiPaolo, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS); the model Nicole (Ariana Gorini), who is also secretly seeing Frank; model and Isabella’s roommate Peggy Peyton (Mary Arden, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE); nervous model Greta (Lea Lander); mysterious model Tao-Li (Claude Dantes); Greta’s fiancée Marquis Richard Morell (Franco Ressel); sketchy clothing designer Cesar Losarre (Luciano Pigozzi); and pill-popping Marco (Massimo Righi).

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THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE (2005) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Saturday, December 17, 2005 at 12:07pm

Finally the technology of the movies has caught up with the imagination of C.S. Lewis. This film is the definitive version of the classic children’s fantasy book. This charming tale will quickly win you over.

The Pevensie children live in London during the Blitz of WWII. Their mother decides to send them to live with their uncle Prof. Kirke (Jim Broadbent, IRIS) in the country. There isn’t much to do for the foursome on the giant estate, especially with governess Mrs. MacReady (Elizabeth Hawthorne, THE FRIGHTENERS) barking rules at them.

Peter (William Moseley, TV’s 2002 GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS) is the oldest and serves as surrogate father for the others while their real dad is away at war. Peter’s demands really bother third child Edmund (Skandar Keynes, TV’s FERRARI), who has a problem following orders. The second child, Susan (Anna Popplewell, GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING) is the sensible one of the group and the youngest Lucy (Georgie Henley) is their heart, conscience and spirit.

Blogs

CAPOTE (2005) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Saturday, December 17, 2005 at 11:55am

As this film portrays him, Truman Capote was a complex man. He was two-faced, pretentious, manipulative, caring, sensitive, hypocritical and brilliant.

The central part of this film’s success is the stellar performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman (BOOGIE NIGHTS), who needs to be nominated for the Oscar for his performance. He creates a character who is brought down by his hubris and ego, despite the fact that in the process he accomplishes his greatest artistic triumph.

Though not nearly as flashy as Hoffman, Catherine Keener as Capote’s research assistant Nelle Harper Lee, who over the course of the film gains enormous fame herself for writing TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, is the heart of the film. As Capote’s friend, we see him through her eyes and still care for him despite all his jerkiness. The conversation they have at the movie premiere for MOCKINGBIRD is heartbreaking.

Blogs

Nancy & Nik's Sunday sale

Nik and Nancy are starting to dig into their closets -- the first of many
house sales !!

Vintage clothing from the 20's, 30's and 40's

Hats and accessories

A few just plain oddities

Come buy or just by to say hello

Sunday, November 27 - 11 AM to 6ish (as long as people are buying)

2066 30th Avenue between Pacheco & Quintara in San Francisco

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GOBBLE GOBBLE GOBBLE!

GOBBLE GOBBLE GOBBLE

Just three more days til Turkey Day at Nik and Nancy's -- We know that we
have been threatening that this would be the last one for years but this
REALLY is!!! . . . much will be revealed on Turkey Day!!!

2066 30th Avenue

Between Pacheco & Quintara in the Avenues

415/681-3189 (but we will not be able to hear the phone ring on Thursday
(much less find it) so please call after Thursday to chat)

Nosh at 2:00 PM

Dine at 6:00 PM

and play the night away!!!!!

BRING: Something delicious to eat or drink to share

AND

Something packaged or canned for the food bank barrel

AND

Blogs

UPON FURTHER REVIEW: SCREAM 2

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 11:42pm

SCREAM 2 (**1/2)
(First Reviewed: 6/15/04)
Like the original SCREAM film, the characters know the rules of horror flicks — even the rules of horror sequels. Higher body count and more gore. This "rule" typically ruins other horror sequels and succeeds in doing the same with SCREAM 2…

You might be able to guess the killer(s), but you'll never guess why. The film does have some intelligence. I liked the classroom debate about films influencing behavior, the talk about sequel clichés and the identity of the killer was pretty ingenious, especially the killers' line explaining their motivation.

Blogs

SHORT CUTS (1993) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 11:29pm

Robert Altman is the master of films with large casts where the lives of the various characters intertwine. This film is a look at the lives of 22 characters living in Los Angeles, which clearly influenced the work of Paul Thomas Anderson. The three-hour plus movie plays like a giant slice of life character study of the various cast members.

Ann Finnigan (Andie MacDowell, GROUNDHOG DAY) is married to TV commentator Howard Finnigan (Bruce Davison, LONGTIME COMPANION). Their son Casey (Lane Cassidy) is hit by car on his way to school. Waitress Doreen Piggot (Lily Tomlin, 9 TO 5) was driving the car and tries to take care of the kid, but he refuses to get in a car with a stranger and walks home. Doreen is married to a drunk limo driver named Earl (Tom Waits, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA), who is hated by Doreen’s daughter Honey Bush (Lili Taylor, SAY ANYTHING…), who is married to sleazy make-up artist Bill (Robert Downey Jr., CHAPLIN).

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SCREAM 3 (2000) (*1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 11:09pm

SCREAM reinvented modern horror and now stands as a classic of the genre. For fans of the original, SCREAM 2 was a good follow-up. SCREAM 3 is a disaster.

The first place to look for the reason would be in the writing credits. SCREAM creator Kevin Williamson wrote the first two films, but Ehren Kruger (THE RING, THE SKELETON KEY) tackled the third. He tries too hard to copy Williamson’s hip self-referential style and fails miserably. One of the major problems of the film is that it’s made for people who have seen the first two films. I think people who haven’t seen the first two films, or haven’t seen them recently even, will be lost.

Another problem is that Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell, THE COMPANY) is really short changed in the film. She’s theoretically the central character in the film, but most of the screen time and action is consumed and driven by the Dewey Riley (David Arquette, READY TO RUMBLE) and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox, TV’s FRIENDS) characters. In SCREAM 2, the bickering relationship between the two characters was interesting, but here it’s just irritating and redundant.

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PHANTOMS (1998) (*1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 9:55pm

This horrible horror flick is based on a Dean Koontz book, which is unread by me. He’s a writer that seems to fall into the categories of love him or hate him. Considering that he adapted the screenplay for this film, I’m not leaning toward the love him camp to be honest.

Like so many horror movies, there is a kernel of an intelligent premise buried within spooky clichés and paper-thin characters. Horror writers really love their monsters, but can’t find central characters that aren’t from stock character central. Dr. Jennifer Pailey (Joanna Going, INVENTING THE ABBOTTS) picks up her sister Lisa (Rose McGowan, TV’s CHARMED) from L.A. to take her to a small town in Colorado so she can get away from the hectic life of the City of Angels. When they arrive in Colorado, the town they visit is deserted or dotted with dead people (or at least parts of dead people). The only living people the sisters run into are Sheriff Bryce Hammond (Ben Affleck, GOOD WILL HUNTING) and his deputies Stu Wargle (Live Schreiber, SCREAM 2) and Steve Shanning (Nicky Katt, SECONDHAND LIONS).

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THE MAN FROM LARAMIE (1955) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 9:48pm

Anthony Mann is a director known for his Westerns. James Stewart was an actor who brought great decency to his characters. When Mann and Stewart teamed up, the actor was allowed to explore his darker side. This film was the last Western the star and director would make together and it was their favorite.

Stewart plays Will Lockhart, a former cavalry captain who has bought three wagons and started a hauling business. He rides into the town of Coronado, where his younger brother was killed by Apaches with repeating rifles. Lockhart decides to take salt from the local salt fields back with him to Laramie, but unbeknownst to him this isn’t free salt and has a run in with Dave Waggoman (Alex Nicol, BLOODY MAMA), the son of Alec Waggoman (Donald Crisp, HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY), the richest man in Coronado. With a mission of getting what’s owed him from the Waggomans and to find out who sold the rifles to the Apache, Lockhart sticks around Coronado.

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THE LONG GOODBYE (1973) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 8:15pm

Raymond Chandler’s private eye Philip Marlowe returns, but this time the dic is transported to the 1970s. Elliott Gould (MASH) plays the Marlowe character as a cocky mumbling slob and he’s wonderful.

Early one morning his friend Terry Lennox (former pro baseball player Jim Bouton) shows up and says he fought with his wife and needs a ride to Tijuana. When Marlowe gets back to his apartment, the cops are waiting for him and want to know where he took Terry, because Lennox’s wife was found dead. The rest of the film chronicles Marlowe’s meandering path to finding out the truth behind what really happened to Terry and his wife.

Along the way, Eileen Wade (Nina Van Pallandt, AMERICAN GIGOLO) hires Marlowe to locate her booze-hound writer husband Roger (Sterling Hayden, DR. STRANGELOVE). Also working into the plot are gangster Marty Augustine (Mark Rydell, HAVANA) and strange clinic doctor Verringer (Henry Gibson, NASHVILLE).

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