The Late Show (Benton, 1977)

Art Carney’s brilliantly grizzled performance anchors The Late Show, a fun and nostalgic detective yarn from genre revisionist Robert Benton. Whereas Bad Company (Benton’s strange directorial debut) takes the Western and inserts a dire sense of cynicism, The Late Show turns the Detective/Mystery film into a series of violently comedic pitfalls, mixing traditional Film Noir elements with everything from Screwball to Slapstick. After his long time partner shows up dead, Carney’s retired P.I. is matched with Lily Tomlin’s new age hippie as they attempt to uncover a series of murders in the case of a missing cat. The plot opens up from there, turning on itself more than once to reveal a strange commentary on aging genre characters coming to grips with a changing, more self-obsessed world. Stoic professionalism has officially swerved toward greedy conglomeration.

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