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SHAMUS (director: Buzz Kulik; screenwriter: Barry Beckerman; cinematographer: Victor J. Kemper; editor: Walter Thompson; music: Jerry Goldsmith; cast: Burt Reynolds (McCoy), Dyan Cannon (Alexis Montaigne), John P. Ryan (Colonel Hardcore), Joe Santos (Lieutenant Promuto), Giorgio Tozzi (Dottore), Ron Weyand (E.J. Hume), Georgio Tozzi (Dottore), Larry Block (Springy), Irving Selbst (Heavy), Kathy Frye (Bookstore Girl), Alex Wilson (Felix Montaigne), Melody Santangello (Alice), Beeson Carroll (Bolton, bouncer at Health Club); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Robert Weitman; Columbia Pictures; 1973)
“This tiresome private eye crime drama is what The Big Sleep would look like if it was dreck.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This tiresome private eye crime drama is what The Big Sleep would look like if it was dreck. It’s dreadfully scripted by Barry Beckerman and turgidly directed by Buzz Kulik. The film disappoints because it makes no sense, the bizarre plot is convoluted to the point no effort is made to tie up missing pieces of the gun-running mystery, and the best acting comes from Morris the Cat and the trained attack dogs. All the characters are stereotyped, the amoral tale steals shamelessly (and, I might add, poorly) from other oldie crime dramas and the supposedly cool shamus is reduced to trying to prove his type of dated gumshoe is still relevant (which he never does!).

McCoy (Burt Reynolds) is a struggling NYC private eye, a stud, an ex-pool player and a no-nonsense action guy. McCoy’s pal Heavy, from the pool room, awakens our hero from sleeping on his pool table bed (cute!) with one-night stand Alice next to him, and relates that he has a new Westchester client who wants him to call. The client is shady multi-millionaire diamond mine owner E.J. Hume (Ron Weyand), who buys his services for 10 grand to find out who killed the man who robbed his uncut diamonds because whoever killed him has the missing jewels. McCoy uses his contact with his childhood friend Lieutenant Promuto (Joe Santos), his underworld contact Dottore (Georgio Tozzi), and his sports nut memory freak pool room pal Springy (Larry Block) to discover there’s more than a jewel robbery involved. There’s lots of male bonding scenes, where the shamus is simply charming being one of the boys. Things pick up when the shamus learns ex-football star Felix Montaigne is the frontman for a bogus export company. While hot on the case the shamus meets Felix’s sexy sister Alexis (Dyan Cannon), which calls for a romance story to break out. In the middle of the romance tale, the shamus runs into big-chested bookstore clerk (Kathy Frye) who doesn’t even have time to spit out her name before she’s ready to close shop and bed down for the night with our boy (it’s a PG sex scene since it takes place offscreen). The shamus is a regular James Bond type (or, rather, the studio honchos for this flick wish he was).

The kick-ass shamus learns his client is somehow involved in the gun-running operation Felix is fronting and in the illegal sale of surplus US military supplies (where a demented Col. C. C. Hardcore (John Ryan) sells off surplus tanks as if he were running a used car lot). Soon the action picks up with a flare for 1970s styled violence. It’s all dumb stuff, with the spoof never being witty, too few jokes succeeding and only diehard film buffs will be lured into seeing how many of the in-jokes they get (I refused to play that game). Though diehard Burt fans might find something in this pic to like I might have overlooked when I started losing attention to the narrative and foolishly started fantasizing that maybe Bogey could have saved this mess.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”