Created by Paul Magwood
“Tough guys are so monotonous.”
Cult fave character actor Warren Oates starred as a tired, almost down-and-out private eye named CHANDLER in the tired, almost down-and-out his private eye film Chandler (1972).
That’s Chandler, “as in Raymond” as he helpfully explains for those of you who are hard of thinking, and just to wrap a ribbon on it, there are a few subtle and not-so-subtle shout out to earlier, better private eye films. My favourite is a reference to Harry Jones, the “little guy who got himself cyanided,” while my least favourite may be the guy doing the lousy Casper Gutman impersonation. But just to underline the retro vibe, Chandler drives a clunker from the 1940s. In fact, somehow he ends up in several vehicles of the same vintage.
This may have been one of the first of a seemingly endless stream of seventies flicks to play fast and loose with classic noir and detective films, but this ain’t Chinatown. It’s a decidedly lesser effort–a shambling, meandering story with some decent talent (Oates, Leslie Caron, Gloria Grahame, Mitchell Ryan, Gordon Pinsent, Scatman Crothers, etc.) wandering around, waiting for a plot, any plot, to show up.
Chandler is a former Los Angeles security guard apparently intent on drinking himself to death, who occasionally hires out as a private eye (a murky past is hinted at). He reluctantly takes on a job (although first he stops at a pawn shop to get his .38 Smith & Wesson out of hock) keeping an eye on Katherine Creighton, a suspicious French woman (played by a surprisingly wooden Leslie Caron), unaware that he (and possibly Katherine) is being set up as a patsy. But then, of course, he begins to fall in love with her, because, uh, whatever.
It’s all very confusing, less a cohesive story than a collection of bits and scenes, some ridiculous, some sublime (Chandler seems to run into old friends everywhere he goes, from LA all the way up to Monterey), that end up signifying nothing–something to do with the government honing in on the mob’s action, and using Katherine as bait to draw a mobster out into the open.
The film was panned by the few who ever saw it, with words like “messy,” “sloppy,” “ridiculous,” “lethargic” and “incomprehensible” being tossed about with alarming frequency, but as one of the few films where cult character actor fave Warren Oates got top billing, some fans may get a kick out of it.
Apparently it was a troubled production, and the film was re-edited without the director’s participation, with large chunks of it lopped off, but it should be noted that the director (and writer of the story) never directed or wrote another feature film.
— Leonard Maltin’s TV Movies and Video Guide
- “The story is incoimprehensible, as befits its genre, but it is dull nonsense, wholly without delight in its own incongruities.
— Roger Greenspun (March 2, 1972, The New York Times)
- “… confusing and dull, of interest only to noir nuts and Oates obsessives.”
— Peter Hanson (November 2010, Every 70s Movie)
- CHANDLER | Buy this DVD
Story by Paul Magwood
Screenplay by John Sacret Young
Directed by Paul Magwood
Starring Warren Oates as CHANDLER
Also starring Alex Dreir, Gloria Grahame, Mitchell Ryan, Leslie Caron, Gordon Pinsent, Charles McGra, Richard Loo, Scatman Crothers