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Chinatown: Special Collector's Edition (1974)

Paramount

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston.

Rating: 14A

Run time: 130 mins

Genre: Drama

Verdict: Brilliant (see rating system)

It took me a long time to warm to this slow-paced, classic tale of murder, family intrigue and greed set in 1930s Los Angeles.

It once seemed dull, but now I'm a fan of this sure-footed story, which boasts a smart script by Robert Towne, sharp direction from Roman Polanski and great performances. Nicholson and Dunaway are the stars, but it's a ensemble performance in which even the bit players shine. This great new 2007 edition of the movie will win the movie new fans, I'm sure.

Nicholson wears the mantle of seedy private investigator Jack Gittes like a tailored coat. A former LA cop, Gittes makes a living poking around in the seedy world of married people and their love affairs, producing the evidence that keeps divorce lawyers happy.

However, when he's hired by the wife of an official in the LA water and power company who suspects her husband has a girlfriend, Gittes finds himself being sued, embroiled in a murder investigation and beaten up in short order.

No one is quite who they seem as Gittes uncovers a conspiracy involving the city's water supply and tries to stay one step ahead of the cops as the bodies pile up. Dunaway is the woman who saves him from a tight spot - then puts him in a bigger one.

I don't want to give anymore away than that, because there are plenty of interesting twists and turns in this story which doesn't seem a moment too long despite its run time.

As well as a beautiful new transfer of the picture and sound - love the jazzy, languid musical score from Jerry Goldsmith - Paramount has included some great extras here including new interviews with Nicholson, Polanski, Towne and iconic producer Robert Evans plus a making-of featurette.

The kind of movie Humphrey Bogart would have excelled in during the heyday of Hollywood, Chinatown includes a nod to that era of filmmaking in a substantial role for John Huston - who directed Bogie in The Maltese Falcon. He's excellent as an aging, devious developer with a dark secret.

 



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