Director Blake Edwards was so confident that he could repeat on the big screen the small screen success of Peter Gunn (1958-1961) that the movie was promoted as the first in a series. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Although the private eye genre had been given a fillip by Paul Newman’s shamus Harper (1966) the bulk of screen investigation has been subsumed wholesale by spies. And the amount of time that had passed between the demise of the original television series and the movie revival – only six years – was hardly enough for nostalgia to kick in. Nor did star Craig Stevens have any box office appeal – this was his first picture in nearly a decade.
A James-Bond-rip off credit sequence with girls dancing to a psychedelic background sets up a more contemporary picture than the one unveiled which is as old-fashioned as they come and, except for an increased budget, betrays its television origins. A few characters, Gunn’s girlfriend Edie (Helen Traubel), a nightclub singer, Mother (Laura Devon) the owner of the eponymous nightclub, and Lt Jacoby are reprised from the series although played by different actors.
The dialogue is sometimes slick – “Call me Samantha” – “Samantha” – “You called” and sometimes corny as when prior to an explosion that knocks the hero sideways is the line “may God strike me down.”
Gunn is hired by a nightclub owner Mother to find out who killed a gangster who had once saved the detective’s life. Fingers point at another gangster but it soon becomes clear that the obvious may not be correct. Making the biggest impression is Sherry Jackson as the aforementioned Samantha who turns up unannounced in Gunn’s flat. Plus there’s the Henry Mancini score. The only element that makes it contemporary is some gender-confusion but otherwise it’s a fairly flat story and relies far too much on its television origins.
I caught this on British channel Talking Pictures. There is a DVD available. You might find the original series more to your taste.