James Garner in Marlowe Now on DVD

I have mentioned before that I went through (and I am still going through on some weekends), a Humphrey Bogart phase. Watching Bogart films led me to become a fan of detective fiction and especially the work of Raymond Chandler. When they bring up that technology that will allow computers to bring back stars of the past in new movies, I often scoff, but I am secretly hoping it will come true so that I can get new hard-boiled Bogart films.

It mighty take a while for that to happen, but in the meantime I keep hoping someone will do a proper reboot of the character. It almost happened once. In 1969, a pre-Rockford Files, James Garner was brought on to take a shot at playing the iconic character. The result, was a surprisingly good film filled with great performances, wonderful direction and a decent amount of humor thrown in for good measure (oh and this guy named Bruce Lee).

It was so enjoyable to watch that I was always surprised of two things. One that they never made another film with Garner in the role (although Mitchum did a pretty good job in the 1970s) and two that is what not being put out on DVD. Well we will not get another Garner film, but thanks to the good folks at the Warner Archive, this wonderful film is now finally remastered and available, exclusively through the Warner Archive shop.

Five-hundred bucks doesn’t come easily for private eye Philip Marlowe (James Garner). But when it comes by way of a bribe, it might as well be five cents. He rejects Winslow Wong (Bruce Lee) and his offer of cash…and Wong promptly karates the detective’s office into a junkpile. In a colorful whodunit based on Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister, Garner’s easygoing style contrasts agreeably with the grim task of sleuthing a case of missing persons, blackmail and ice-pick murders. Carroll O’Connor, Rita Moreno, William Daniels, Sharon Farrell and Jackie Coogan are among the cast of characters living in a sprawling ’60s L.A. so hard-boiled somebody’s got to crack. And when that happens, it’s Marlowe’s job to put the pieces together.

TV Thursday: The Rockford Files (1974-1980)

While I was too young to catch the James Garner classic, the Rockford Files, in its original run I was able to watch it on reruns on a local television station in the afternoons after school. I’ve been a huge fan of it ever since. It was created by Roy Huggins (Maverick) and Stephen J. Cannell (A-Team), Huggins had wanted to try to capture the lightning in the bottle that he crafted with Garner back in the days of Maverick, yet set in contemporary times.

The magic of the show rests almost solely with Garner as Jim Scott Rockford, a private investigator in cold cases, who also happened to be a guest at the San Quentin Prison for five years, and as we learn he was truly wrongly accused and has the pardon from the Governor on his office wall. What works so well with how Garner plays Rockford is he a working class P.I., his clothes are not fancy and he is constantly bouncing checks because his clients normally end up not paying his $200 a day fee plus expenses. Jim hardly ever carries a gun, mostly because he doesn’t have a license to do so, but he tend to try to talk his way out of dangerous situations.

There have been quite a few guest stars in its run, including a young James Woods in the second episode. There is also another private investigator that sometimes works with Rockford, more debonair than Jim, Lance White, who just so happens to be played by a young Tom Selleck! Other noteworthy actors in the series are Tom Atkins, Joe Santos, James Whitmore Jr., Simon Oakland, and Louis Gossett Jr.

The Rockford Files is available on Netflix instant, so if you have yourself with some free time on your hand, take a moment and give it a look. I’m pretty sure you will be glad you did!