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  Shamus A Flirt With Burt
Year: 1973
Director: Buzz Kulik
Stars: Burt Reynolds, Dyan Cannon, John P. Ryan, Joe Santos, Giorgi Tozzi, Ron Weyand, Larry Block, Beeson Carroll, Kevin Conway, Kay Frye, John Glover, Merwin Goldsmith, Melody Santangello, Irving Selbst, Alex Wilson, John Amato Jr, Lou Martell
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Action, Thriller, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: A murder occurred in New York City recently where a flamethrower was used on a man and his wife as they made love in bed; the protective suit-clad attackers had broken the skylight above, killed the couple and stolen their safe. What does this have to do with private detective Shamus McCoy (Burt Reynolds)? He's about to find out as he is woken from his slumber in his one room apartment where he sleeps on a pool table, and finds himself alongside the woman he went home with last night with the phone ringing. He answers it and is told a millionaire businessman E.J. Hume (Ron Weyand) wishes to see him with a job offer, so nursing his hangover McCoy drags himself into the day...

In 1973 a detective movie updating the conventions of forties crime fiction to the seventies was released which didn't do great business at the time but has gone on to be a cult favourite: that was Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye, a controversial Raymond Chandler adaptation. But there was another, surprisingly similar in detail private eye flick out the same year (they even share the same cat, Morris of pet food commercial fame), and that starred the man who was fast becoming the most major Hollywood leading actor of the decade, Burt Reynolds. Shamus has been largely forgotten down the passage of time, whereas its counterpart contained a cool endurance this didn't have, but that's not to say this doesn't have its fans.

It does, mainly thanks to a mood which in spite of harking back to an earlier period was very seventies indeed which many fans are keen to wallow in, and also because it was very easy to watch on late night television should it show up there, a sure sign that a movie was carrying out its job properly. Of this type, anyway, though there were aspects which were less palatable than the creators may have intended: it may have been rated PG in America when it came out, but it was pretty brutal in places even if Burt shrugs off the beatings he receives. The opening scene is particularly jarring, a way over the top display of violence that apparently people in this era thought was fine for family audiences to watch, and the Shamus character has a propensity for doling out physical punishment himself.

The main difference being that he doesn't kill anyone, which makes it all right one presumes. As for the plot he is embroiled in, good luck trying to work out what was actually going on by the point the end credits roll, because Barry Beckerman's script could have done with a few rewrites to clear up a lot of the obscurities as the hero wades further into the swamp of confusion. It's debatable whether he knows what is really happening himself, and is merely sallying forth into the morass of conspiracies and lowlifes because now he's here he might as well continue, though there are compensations as he seems to find a woman to pick up at every turn, one in a straight lift from The Big Sleep, and one Dyan Cannon, playing Alexis Montaigne.

Who she? Alexis is the sister of a man involved with whatever gun running/diamond robbery crimes might be going on, which in fashionably anti-establishment manner has a military Colonel (John P. Ryan) somehow instrumental in diverting arms away from their official intentions. Really most of the diversion here stemmed from watching Burt negotiate the criminals, characters and dames as if he were a less ethical Humphrey Bogart, so he introduces himself to Alexis by pinching her bottom and pretending someone else did it (an obviously camp homosexual, because that's the laughs they were aiming for), and one of his pals is a sporting statistics-spouting eccentric and gambler (Larry Block) who threatens to steal scenes from under the star's nose. On the subject of which, Burt had a moustache in this one, which might have indicated he was in a more relaxed mode, though he does get to cry in Shamus, and performs a stunt which patently went wrong but was so dramatic they kept it in anyway. Action, humour, sex appeal, it was all here bar the coherence. Music by Jerry Goldsmith.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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