Created by Philip H. Reisman Jr.
“Gun in one hand. Woman in the other.”
— the tagline from the film
Here’s a true rara avis of the P.I. genre: PJ, an obscure film starring a surprisingly boyish-looking George Peppard as a private eye and Raymond Burr as the not-quite-right client with both a wife and a mistress.
Turns out the film does exist. Peppard played P.J. DETWEILER, a struggling P.I. working out of a bar and drinking a little too much, and Burr was William Orbison, who is indeed a very wealthy man, and definitely a nasty piece of work. He’s worried that his mistress is in danger from his wife and her family. To protect her, he moves her–and for some reason Orbison and his family–to the Bahamas. But it’s all an elaborate frame job, with P.J. set up as the patsy–and his falling for Orbison’s mistress doesn’t help matters.
Or at least that’s what I’ve been able to piece together. I’d never heard of it, but every now and then somebody would ask me about it, and everyone of them seemed to have rather fond recollections of it. Like almost everyone else on the planet, though, I hadn’t seen it. But hey, it’s got Susan Saint James in it, in one of her first theatrical roles, so how bad could it be?
Everything I’ve heard about this flick has been positive, so what happened? According to writer and reviewer Nick Anez:
Private detectives were prominent in the late 1960s and included Harper(1966), Tony Rome (1967), Gunn (1967), and Marlowe (1969). P.J. appeared in the midst of this surplus, which may account in part for its box office failure. The movie quickly disappeared, at least in its original form. Due to one extended and bloody sequence in a gay bar as well as to other scenes of violence and sexuality, Universal drastically cut and re-edited the movie for its television network presentation. Since then, it has never been officially released on home video and the original version may be lost forever.
So… we’ll see. I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who has a copy he’s willing to lend me. We’ll see…
Meanwhile, in private eye circles, Peppard is of course best known for playing Banacek, the smug Polish/American insurance investigator in the 1970s TV movies.
- The film was released in October 2020, by KL Studio Classics. It’s the uncut, 109 minute version.
P.J. | Buy the DVD | Buy the Blu-Ray
(aka “New Face in Hell”)
Tagline: “Gun in one hand… Woman in the other.”
Story by Philip H. Reisman Jr.
Screenplay by Edward Montagne
Directed by John Guillermin
Starring George Peppard as P.J. DETWEILER
Also starring Raymond Burr, Gayle Hunnicutt, Brock Peters, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Jason Evers, Coleen Gray, Susan Saint James, Severn Darden, Jane Van Duser, George Furth, Barbara Dana, Herb Edelman, Arte Johnson, Don Haggerty
- We Want Out: P.J.
In-depth review of the film by Nicholas Anez (January 2018, Cinema Retro)