Saturday, September 30, 2023

Gunn (1967) Classic 1950s TV Private Detective Reboot

irected by Blake Edwards (Mickey Spillane's 'Mike Hammer!' TV Movie (1954). 

Blake also directed episodes of Mr. Lucky TV Series, the whole first season of Peter Gunn TV Series (1958-61), also Breakfast At Tiffany's, Transitional Noir Experiment in Terror, Days Of Wine And Roses, and then found great success filming mostly comedy films i.e. The Pink Panther series, Victor, Victoria etc., etc.). 

Written by Blake Edwards & William Peter Blatty. The Cinematography by Philip H. Lathrop (Peter Gunn TV Series, Experiment in Terror) , Music by the great Henry Mancini.

I've never seen the complete Peter Gunn TV Series. I remember seeing a few as a kid in the 50s. Since then probably I've seen maybe ten on Youtube, and those were like all TV series episodes. Some are excellent, a bunch are good, and then the average and below. 

Some of these TV Detective shows made in the 1950s were quite gimmicky, just to stand out from the others. 

Edmund Obrien played a detective called Johnny Midnight who was an ex-actor/theater owner. Obrien like Ross Martin The Wild Wild West uses disguises in his detective investigations. What a ham. His turf is Broadway and New York City's theater district. He lives in a penthouse apartment above the Midnight Theater on West 44th St. 

John Cassavetes played Johnny Staccato a detective who was the pianist in a jazz combo. Eduardo Ciannelli, (Foreign CorrespondentThe Mask of Dimitrios, Dillinger, GildaI Love Trouble, The People Against Ohara, and as a kid I loved Monster from Green Hell played Waldo the owner of the sort of Bar / Beatnik coffeehouse. Sound familiar?

Craig Stevens (Where The Sidewalk Ends, The Man I Love, ) played Peter Gunn, a detective who worked out of a lounge called Mothers. His gal pal was a Chanteuse named Edie Hart played by Lola Albright. Hershel Bernardi was his cop buddy.  Hope Emmerson (Caged, Cry Of The City, Westward The Women) was the original Mother. The music was Iconic and it lasted four seasons.

Craig Stevens as Peter Gunn and Helen Traubel as Mother.

So Edwards in 1966 decides to reboot Gunn and films a movie that sort of cobbles together storylines from the the establishing episodes of the TV series. Of the original cast only Craig Stevens returns. Edie is played by Laura Devon, Edward Asner plays his cop buddy, Police Lt. Jacoby, Mother is played by Helen Traubel. 

Mod titles

It's a "swinging sixties" Gunn and we get a groovier version of the iconic theme during the credits. 

The Story

Noir City, (the series never pinned down Peter Gunn to any real local), Noirsville, USA.

A local mobster Julio Scarlotti and his gal pal along with his entire crew are all machine gunned to death on his yacht, during the night. 

Nick Fusco the rival gangster had nothing to do with it. He has an alibi. Since Scarlotti once saved Gunn's life, Fusco feels that Gunn should be grateful and should return that "favor" by finding out who did it. Fusco gives Gunn 24 hours to find the murderers. 

Albert Paulsen as Nick Fusco with Craig Stevens as Peter Gunn
Craig Stevens with Ed Asner as Lieutenant Charles Jacoby

He gives Gunn this ultimatum at Scarlotti's funeral. So, Fusco begins to take over Scarlatti's side of town. Mother complains to Gunn that she's getting leaned on hard by Fusco's goons, he wants 50% of her business she asks Gunn if he could do anything about it.


Jazz venue

Laura Devon as Edie Hart

Fusco wants 50% of my business

The details of the hit and what happened are unknown to Gunn and the police. They cannot figure out how anybody could have gotten close enough to Scarlotti's yacht and bodyguards to do the job. So the investigation begins.

Gun leaves the lounge and drives his  out to visit Tinker (J. Pat O'Malley) a lush who keeps his ears open and sort of finds things out. He sells that info. Gunn tells Tinker he's working on the Scarlotti case and he wants to see what Tinker can find out on the grape vine. 

Gunn goes back to Mothers to watch Edie his gal pal' last set at the lounge. They go back to his place and are getting down with it on the couch when someone starts banging at the door. 

Gunn answers, its Archie one of Daisy Jane's (Marion Marshall) bodyguards. Daisy Jane runs a floating whorehouse called The Ark out past the three mile limit or whatever it is in this Noirsville. The gimmick is that most of  Daisy Jane's girls are sets of twins, two of everything. 

The Ark

When Gunn motors out with the bodyguard, Daisy Jane tells Gunn that she'll give him $10,000 to find out who killed Scarlatti. She is sure it's Fusco. She also tells Gunn that Fusco is taking over everything and is moving in on her territory. He'll let her run the place but is only going to offer her a nominal percent of the profits. Daisy wants Gunn to get Fusco.


Gunn shows up at the Gym Fusco uses to play squash. He lied himself in and when the bodyguards try to throw him out he throws one of then off the railing and incapacitated the other. 

Gunn asks Fusco to lay off Mother. Fusco tells Gunn to go to hell and when Gunn departs, Fusco gives the order to kill him.

So Gunn gets back to his place where he finds a naked girl named Samantha (Sherry Jackson) in his bed. The US cut has no nudity the international cut does.

U.S. cut saw this...

International cut something more like this

Anyway Samantha lures Gunn to bed and they are kissing and heating it up when Gunn hears Evie calling from his front door foyer. Gunn extracts himself from Samantha and intercepts Evie on the stairs. He escorts her back down and he flusters about trying to evade the situation upstairs.

Gunn extracts himself from Samantha and intercepts Evie on the stairs. He escorts her back down and he flusters about trying to evade the situation upstairs.

Meanwhile Samantha who's been listening, hears someone else out on the deck outside of the bedroom sliding glass door, and she scrambles to the closet. 

The hit man that Fusco ordered to kill Gunn sneaks into the bedroom. He goes to the door in the hallway and takes a shot at Gunn from the top of the stairs. 

Samantha screams startling the hit man who takes off back the way he came. Gunn exchanges shots with him from the deck and kills the hitman. 

Meanwhile Evie finds the nude Samantha covering herself with a sheet hiding in a corner, she sees  her discarded clothes and ties then in a big tight knot. 

She storms out, kicks Gunn in the shin as she walks past Gunn and Lt. Jacoby and then off into the night. 

Gunn goes back to his apartment and finds out what happened with Evie from Sam. Sam tells Peter that she's already broken three nails trying to untie her clothes. She starts bawling, She then tries again to lure him back into bed, but he tells her to try and be gone before he gets back. 

She tied my clothes in a big knot!

Gunn then goes back to follow up with Tinker and he gives him some money to spread around to see what he can dredge up.

Tinker apparently finds out too much because when Gunn and Jacoby get back to him, he's dying on the floor of his shack. Somebody switched out his booze with cleaning fluid. He manages to whisper something that sounds like  "lazarette."  

Gunn goes looking for another information "seller" named "The Bishop." He's been told that "Rasputin" a bartender at a place called The Monkey Farm, a Rock & Roll bar down by the amusement park /pier, can set him up with "The Bishop."


We get a nice sequence that explains why this was never going to take off as a series because the film doesn't differentiate between the bikers and depicts the "cool" people, the  hipsters, hippies, etc., etc. in the same negative light, except for uninhibited sexy Sam. Sam is harmless and OK. lol. Sam comes off as a slightly smarter version of Goldie Hawn in her earlier roles. So that was Ok but long hair hippies were out. 

That's us who grew up in the 60s. The very demographic everybody tries to target, that the film shows in a unfairly negative almost scary light. Bikers=Hippies=Bad Guys. Good luck with that. 

We all know which way Cool went and it didn't swing "establishment."

"It’s all about cool. Cool, that aura of quiet intensity along that ever changing cutting edge balancing between conservative and excess, the spark between new and old, you know it when you see it.

William Powell had it, Noir icons Bogart, Dick Powell, Mitchum, Conte, Andrews, Ford, Holden, and Hayden had it. Dean Martin and Elvis had it in spades. James Garner as Marlowe displays one of the last vestiges of classic, big city, private eye cool, surfing the counter culture tsunami of the 60s.  Yes, other P.I. depictions will follow, the majority on TV, but they will be diluted and tainted by the sea change of the Age of Aquarius, but they will be written quirky, cutesy, and PC. 

The only other film P.I’s that I've seen that have the classic cool in contemporary settings are Paul Newman’s Harper films, Richard Roundtree in Shaft, Armand Assante in I, The Jury, Gene Hackman in Night Moves and possibly Elliot Gould’s turn as Marlowe in The Long Goodbye." 

Peter Gunn was created for TV as a "suave, well-dressed private investigator whose hair is always in place and who loves cool jazz. Whereas other gumshoes are often coarse and vulgar, Gunn is a sophisticate with expensive tastes. A contemporary article in Life noted that Edwards "deliberately tailored the part after the famous movie smoothie Cary Grant" 

Gunn operates in a gloomy waterfront city, the name and location of which is not revealed in the series. He often visits Mother's, a smokey wharf-side jazz club that Gunn uses as his "office", usually meeting new clients there. Gunn has a reputation for integrity and being among the best investigators; he has many reliable informants and is well-connected. His reputation is so good, the police occasionally ask him for help or advice."(Wiki). 

Back to our tale.

With info from from Rasputin, Gunn heads to a amusement piers or park. He finds The Bishop running a shooting gallery in the midway. 

For appearances The Bishop makes Gunn go into a photo booth. After a while he wanders over and makes the transaction with Gunn.

For some cash laid in the palm of The Bishop. Gunn is tipped that Lazaret Bros. is a shipyard that did a paint job on a boat to make it look like a coast guard vessel. Bingo!

It goes Noirsville from there, following the traditional hardboiled detective formula of shaking things up and seeing what falls out.


The Film Stars Craig Stevens as Peter Gunn, Laura Devon (Chamber of HorrorsTwilight Zone TV Series) as Edie Hart, lounge singer and Peter's gal pal. Edward Asner (Naked City TV SeriesAlfred Hitchcock HourThe Satan Bug, JFK) as Lieutenant Charles Jacoby, friend of Gunn, Albert Paulsen (The Manchurian Candidate) as Nick Fusco, underworld kingpin, Sherry Jackson (The Breaking Point) as Samantha ("Sam"), Helen Traubel as Mother, owner of the nightclub, Mother's, Regis Toomey (seven Classic Noir) as the Bishop, an informant, J. Pat O'Malley as Tinker, an informant, George Murdock as Archie, Jerry Douglas as Dave Corwin, Marion Marshall (The Street with No Name) as Daisy Jane, and Carol Wayne as Ernestine ("Ernie").

It's always great to find a film for the Visual Film Noir canon. Peter Gunn was supposedly the first P.I. created for TV. You can see the tropes along with bits and pieces of Classic Noir Films and Classic Hardboiled Detective fiction. For instance, the floating bordello "The Ark" is a homage to the floating casino The Lido in Farewell My Lovely Chandler's Murder My Sweet). In real Noir Life, if I remember right,  the casino ship was The Rex off Santa Monica, and it had a sister bordello ship called The Tango off Long Beach, but they may have both offered "drinks, dice, and dolls.") It also has a scuba tie in (probably influenced from the success of Thunderball). There's also a tie in to Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer story twist in Vengeance is Mine. 

This is a film that is throwing a lot of stuff at you if you watch it for the first time and are not at all familiar with the original Peter Gunn series. Gunn looks like he is living well off. 

I've never really liked the "rich" P.I.'s you know, not so much the recluse Nero Wolf, but the other shows like Burke's Law, Hart to Hart, etc., etc., where the multimillionaire story lines seem just advertisers product placement dreams gone wild. What millionaire is really going to screw around with crime, lol. It's just escapism so different strokes for different folks.

At the end of the flick there's, maybe if the series was picked up, an indication of the music at Mother's changing to something more contemporary. It's a 7/10 may improve to a 7.5/10 with a restoration. It's another example of a Noir that was made well after the commercial success of those Classic Hollywood Stylistic Noir.