Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Tonight's Movie: P.J. (1968) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

George Peppard plays the title role in P.J. (1968), recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

Peppard's P.J. Detweiler is a down-on-his-luck New York detective reduced to taking unsavory jobs in order to pay off debts.

He's hired by business tycoon William Orbison (Raymond Burr) to protect his mistress, Maureen (Gayle Hunnicutt), whose life has been threatened.  The possible suspects include the relatives of Orbison's wife Betty (Coleen Gray), who fear losing their meal ticket as Orbison lavishes money on his lady friend and includes her in his will.

Other than paying his mistress well, Orbison is a notorious penny-pincher who is cruel to the other people in his life, including his wife.  Betty tries to ignore Maureen's existence but Orbison forces them to meet at a social event.  Awkward!

It soon becomes clear that P.J. wasn't hired to protect Maureen, but was set up to kill someone else -- but who planned it and why?

The cast of characters also includes Orbison's niece Linette (Susan Saint James, in her feature film debut), Orbison's assistant Jason (Jason Evers), and the police inspector (Brock Peters) on a small island visited by Orbison and his retinue.

P.J. is reasonably interesting for most of its 109-minute running time.  Peppard is solid as the beaten-down detective who's fast on the uptake most of the time, but not so smart he's not capable of being "played" a time or two.  

There's a colorful cast of characters, with Burr playing an extremely weird, controlling man who has millions yet obsesses over pennies.  Hunnicutt is gorgeous as the femme fatale of the piece, and Gray is effective in a small role as the beleaguered wife.

The screenplay, written by Philip H. Reisman Jr., based on a story he created with Edward Montagne, gets a bit rambly and could have been tighter, but the puzzle is interesting enough to hold viewer attention.

Tonally the film is a bit all over the place.  At its best the film has some of the vibe of the later Philip Marlowe film FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975), with perhaps a touch of James Bond thanks to the lovely Hunnicutt, who looks every inch a glamorous Bond girl.

At other moments the movie goes off the deep end with a mod '60s setting, even having one big set piece with a couple of girls dancing in a giant champagne glass, to the point where it starts to feel it's edging close to being a spoof, but then it reels back in.  

Most of the time it simply feels like a run-of-the-mill TV-movie -- a pleasant enough time-passing mystery, but not much more than that.  

P.J. was directed by John Guillermin and filmed by Loyal Griggs.  The annoyingly repetitive, very '60s score was by Neal Hefti.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray is an attractive widescreen print with excellent sound.  The print includes a fun plug at the end: "When in Southern California visit Universal City Studios."

Extras include a commentary track by Howard S. Berger and Steve Mitchell, an image gallery, the trailer, and a gallery of five additional trailers for films also available from Kino Lorber. 

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger barrylane said...

I did not like this picture, but the players, especially Peppard, John Qualen, Jason Evers, and Coleen Gray, with a little Herb Edelman thrown in, were good enough to wish the project had been better executed. I thought Burr, and his part, irritating, or awful depending on mood. Too bad, because Raymond Burr as Perry Mason, the original series, is an all-time favorite.

7:40 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Burr definitely was annoying in this, though I accepted it as part of his role. Thought I found it pleasant enough, I agree that I wish it had offered more than it did.

Best wishes,

6:11 PM  

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