By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: Is psychoanalyst being targeted?
Judd Stevens (Roger Moore) is a psychoanalyst residing in Chicago who suddenly finds that people he knows are turning up dead. First it was one of his patients, whom he let borrow his raincoat. Then it’s his secretary and soon the police are suspecting him of the killings. Lieutenant McGreavy (Rod Steiger) doesn’t like Judd as it was Judd’s expert testimony that got a cop killer sent to an institution versus a jail cell where McGreavy felt he belonged. In order to get the cops off his back and find the real killer Judd hires Morgens (Art Carney), private investigator, who seems to get a lead when he calls Judd and tells him that a ‘Don Vinton’ is behind it, but then Morgens ends up dead too, so Judd puts his trust in another police detective named Angeli (Elliot Gould) only to learn that he has ulterior motives.
The story is based on the Sidney Sheldon novel of the same name that was written in 1970 and besides this one has been remade two other times: in 1992 in Ukraine as Sheriff’s Star and then again in 2007 in India as Kshana Kshana. This version was produced by the notorious Cannon Group, which always makes me hold my breath in apprehension every time I see their logo come up before the movie begins as I’m never sure if this is going to be one of their cheaper productions, or one that was given a decent budget. While Leonard Maltin, in his review, describes it as ‘low budget’ I’d say this was one of their passable efforts as the production standards aren’t compromised in any way and if anything is rather slick. The on-location shooting done in Chicago, this was changed from the novel where the setting was Manhattan, is excellent and the plot is well paced with incremental twists to keep it flowing.
The film’s main selling point is seeing Moore playing against type as he was known as an action star, but here plays an intellectual. For the most part he does quite well and even able to hold his own when sharing a scene with Steiger, who otherwise likes to chew up the scenery and everyone else in it, but I didn’t like the big Harry Caray-type glasses that he wears. I guess this was done to make him look ‘smart’, but it wasn’t needed. The best part is seeing him get beat-up by the bad guys. When Moore was playing Bond it always seemed a bit absurd that this aging 50-something would be able to take-on virtually any villain, no matter the size, and come-out on top every time. Here he gets flattened with one punch and it’s kind of funny.
Steiger, with his intense delivery, dominates. He’s given a lot of screen time during the first half almost making him seem like he’s the star and his stewing anger lends adequate tension, but his good-cop/bad-cop routine doesn’t work because he’s the type of character who’s impossible to like, so he needed to stay bad all the way. I also couldn’t stand the wig. He supposed to be an ugly, unlikable guy, so might as well have him naturally bald, as the rug gives him a campy look.
Gould is the outlier. He was during the 70’s a major headlining star, so seeing him pushed to the background where Steiger takes center stage is almost shocking. I remember him saying once in an interview that he didn’t like the pressure of being a leading man, so maybe this supporting bit was right for him. His character does become more prominent towards the end, but for the most part he comes-off like a faceless walk-on and a sign of a career decline.
The twist ending in which it’s found that the crime syndicate was behind the killings due to the wife (Anne Archer) of the crime boss seeing Judd and fearing she may be giving him secret information during their sessions was not particularly original. It also opened up some loopholes. For instance Judd’s patient at the beginning is stabbed on the streets because he was mistaken for being Judd, but later when Judd is kidnapped and in the crime boss’ presence he isn’t immediately killed as they first want him to divulge what his wife told him, but if the idea was to extract information then why was the patient offed right away instead of taken somewhere for interrogation?
At the very end Moore is walking with Archer outside and suddenly she gets hit with a bullet, but not Moore. If she was shot by a hit man for giving out secret info then Moore should’ve received a bullet as well because it was he that she had confided in, or at least that was what they had presumed.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: June 6, 1984
Runtime: 1 Hour 45 Minutes
Director: Bryan Forbes
Studio: Cannon Film Distributors
Available: DVD, Tubi