Cast and Crew: Andrew Lloyd Webber (Original Music)
What It’s About: Eddie Ginley (Albert Finney, who also produced) is a nightclub bingo caller who loves American rock music, movie stars, and pulp novels. His career is stalled and his more successful brother William (Frank Finlay) married his former girlfriend Ellen (Billie Whitelaw). On a lark Ginley puts an advert in the paper on his 31st birthday, promoting his services as a private eye and before you can say be careful what you wish for, Eddie finds himself wrapped up in a mystery right out of the pulps that will take him from Liverpool to London…
Why Watch it Today?: Dashiell Hammett was born on this date in 1894. Hammett’s most famous creations were Sam Spade (of Maltese Falcon fame, and the name that Ginley advertises under) and The Thin Man, but Hammett helped create the detective and crime fiction that was a source of inspiration for the films that French critics dubbed Film Noir after the war. These same films influenced French New Wave, whose filmmakers often explicitly referenced them in films like Breathless and Alphaville. Gumshoe is in many ways a ten years too late British entry in the same vein, half playing as a goof on the conventions of the genre and half using them to tell an engaging mystery story. It is perhaps more of a detective movie than the earlier French films. Gumshoe profits greatly from moving the setting to Liverpool and London, from its cast and from its director, Stephen Frears, in his debut.
Other Choices: Hammett’s Red Harvest was the inspiration for Yojimbo, itself the inspiration for former Movie of the Day Fistful of Dollars.