“Peeper” is a witty spoof of Film Noir and still manages to create an intriguing mystery to keep the audience along for the ride. That creates a unique experience in viewing this 1975 rarity.
Due to poor test screenings, 20th Century Fox didn’t give this winner of a film the chance it rightfully deserved. However, in 2006, the DVD surfaced, allowing a whole new generation of movie buffs a chance to see this lost picture.
It opens in a dark alley, reminding the audience of the 1940s era of Film Noir. A Humphrey Bogart impostor approaches the screen and starts to read to the audience the opening credits of the movie.
This introduction allows the audience to perceive that is a new take on a classic genre.
And the film genuinely is a surprising treat that creates the feel of something you would catch on Turner Classic Movies at Midnight.
Michael Caine (“Hannah and Her Sisters”), with his tongue firmly in his cheek, plays the lead role of Peeper, (another word for Private Investigator) Leslie C. Tucker. Tucker is a P. I. from L. A. that, according to everyone, has a funny way of talking – simply because he is British.
Tucker becomes entangled in a world of mystery when a strange man wants to hire him to find his daughter that he abandoned over 20 years ago.
Everyone knows Film Noir’s starts this way, but soon the mystery grows into something much larger. This causes the audience to empathize with the P. I. on the case because we know as much as him.
Caine delivers a wonderful performance that is filled with nice comedic touches that don’t overshadow some of the film’s more serious moments. He’s the rare actor who knows how to utilize the written word to enhance his performance.
His narration also provides charming and amusing dimension to the flick.
The other ingredient to this genre is a strong Femme Fatale. A woman that is beautiful, dangerous and full of mystery.
One whose sheer beauty stops the tough guy in his tracks and renders him a slobbering idiot.
The sexy and talented Natalie Wood (“West Side Story”) becomes the Femme Fatale of “Peeper.” This happens to be one of her last great performances before her untimely death.
As a result, Caine and Wood generate exceptional on-screen chemistry through their witty banter together.
Peter Hyams (“End of Days”) directs this light soufflé incredibly well. The DVD contains a short interview with him where he discusses his disappointment with the film’s reception. He also discusses what it was like to direct his childhood crush, Natalie Wood. Overall, while brief, it is an informative eight minutes.
The other extra is a little under twenty minute long analysis of the Film Noir genre, which features interviews with Hyams and film scholars.
The disc also contains the original trailer as well as those for two other Michael Caine films, “The Magnus” and “Deadfall.”
“Peeper” is only for the adventurous cinephiles in the mood for a change of pace and is a bold and daring fast paced movie that attempts to create a new genre, while paying homage to what inspired it.