Late Show [1977]

Writer-director Robert Benton, who examined a similar story in 1998's "Twilight," first explored the territory of the geriatric private eye in this sadly underrated 1977 delight. Art Carney stars as a nearly retired detective who suddenly finds himself caught up in two seemingly separate cases. One involves the murder of his former partner (Howard Duff); the other entangles him with a flaky post-hippie (Lily Tomlin), who wants him to find her missing cat. The two cases eventually dovetail, but the plot--which leads them to a Hollywood crime bigwig played by the affable Eugene Roche--is of less interest than the almost magical chemistry between the crotchety Carney and the wonderfully off-the-wall Tomlin. The perfect film for anyone who likes their mysteries in the Dashiell Hammett/Raymond Chandler mode. --Marshall Fine

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