|THE DROWNING POOL (director: Stuart Rosenberg; screenwriters: Lorenzo Semple Jr./Tracy Keenan Wynn/Walter Hill/ based on the novel by Ross MacDonald; cinematographer: Gordon Willis; editor: John C. Howard; music: Michael Small; cast: Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Joanne Woodward (Iris Devereaux), Tony Franciosa (Broussard), Murray Hamilton (Kilbourne), Gail Strickland (Mavis Kilbourne), Melanie Griffith (Schuyler Devereaux), Linda Haynes (Gretchen), Richard Jaeckel (Lt. Franks), Paul Koslo (Candy), Coral Browne (Olivia Devereaux), Richard Derr (James Devereaux), Linda Haynes (Gretchen, hooker), Andy Robinson (Pat Reavis, chauffeur), Elaine Reavis .(Helena Kallianiptes); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Lawrence/David Foster; Warner Brothers; 1975)|
|"It has a field day recycling
private eye cliches while down in the bayou."
by Dennis Schwartz
box-office bomb. The title is derived from its
climax at an abandoned mental home's hydrotherapy
plant. The crime drama was flatly directed by Stuart
Rosenberg ("Cool Hand Luke"/"Pocket
Money"/"Love and Bullets"). It's based on
the 1950 novel by the noted crime author Ross
MacDonald. Writers Lorenzo
Semple Jr., Tracy Keenan Wynn and Walter Hill keep
it shallow, confusingly plotted and dreary.
Paul Newman gets another crack at playing the smooth
private eye Harper, a role he successfully played in
the 1966 film Harper. But this second time around, the
pic doesn't work. It has a field day recycling private
eye cliches while down in the bayou.
Lew Harper (Paul Newman) goes to the
Louisiana bayou to take the blackmail case of
his former lover Iris Devereaux
Woodward, Newman's wife),
to protect her from an anonymous blackmailer who
threatens to expose her infidelity. Iris married into
the prominent oil family of James Devereaux
and has a scheming sexpot jail-bait daughter named
Schuyler (Melanie Griffith).
survives nasty treatment by the interfering Beau
Rivage police chief (Tony Franciosa); a few beatings
by local thugs; the murder of Iris' wealthy
mother-in-law (Coral Browne); a blackmailing stud,
the fired family chauffeur (Andy Robinson), who also
is soon murdered; Iris' unfriendly homosexual
husband (Richard Derr) and, the film's villain, the
greedy, unscrupulous and
grasping for his rival's oil drilling fields, the
sleazy oil baron Kilbourne (Murray
Hamilton). Harper also receives some enticing
financial offers to stop investigating, as he gets
in the middle of the heated power struggle between the
rival oil tycoons.
Jaeckel plays a corrupt police officer. Linda
Haynes plays a dim-witted hooker and the married
chauffeur's girlfriend. Paul Koslo plays one
of Hamilton’s Cajun thugs.
What worked best was the bayou atmosphere created by the photography of Gordon Willis, giving the pic a sense of exotic reality; otherwise it's a drag.
REVIEWED ON 6/1/2015 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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