The Warner Archive DVD release of the 1977 neo-noir with comic touches film "The Late Show" provides another chance to see that Art Carney of "The Honeymooners" is more than just another pretty face. This movie makes a great companion to the (reviewed) Archive DVD release of the 1979 Carney comedy with serious overtones "Going in Style" and his Oscar-winning performance in the 1974 film "Harry and Tonto."
The behind-the-camera cred. of "Show" includes the work of Oscar winner writer/director Robert Benton. His better known films include "Kramer vs. Kramer," "Bonnie and Clyde," and "Places in the Heart."
This change of pace for Carney and co-star Lily Tomlin gets off on the right note with the perfect balance between exposition and starting the action. Elderly private eye Ira Wells (Carney) is enjoying a quiet evening in his small shabby bachelor pad when an old friend stops by and drops dead within a minute of arriving,
The noirness of this film that showcases the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles continues with Wells reuniting with another old friend at the funeral for the dearly departed. Charlie Hatter (Bill Macy of "Maude") is an increasingly failing talent agent who introduces Wells to former client Margo Sterling (Tomlin).
The deceptively simple case this time is that Sterling wants Wells to rescue her cat Winston, whom a catnapper is holding for ransom in the amount of a debt that Sterling owes that scoundrel.
The plot thickens on Sterling literally bringing her troubles to the front door of Chez Wells by arranging a meeting with the not-so-smooth criminal; this results in gun play that fully sets the game afoot for Wells.
Discovering postage stamps on the body of the recently deceased leads to Wells investigating the theft of that loot in a robbery in which the lady of the house is killed. This investigation brings Wells to the home of fence Ron Birdwell (Eugene Roche). The "muscle" of Ron not hesitating to rough up Wells within a minute of his arrival can be considered nice commentary on a lack of age discrimination.
Wells brings Sterling along on a visit to a usual suspect with hopes of that discussion having the least possible trauma and drama. This pair discovering that someone literally and figuratively beat them to the punch draws our low-rent Remington Steele and Laura Holt deeper into the case.
More fun relates to discovering that Laura Birdwell (Joanna Cassidy) is involved in all the action to an even larger degree then her husband is pure Chandler or Spade.
Wells ultimately shows that snow on the roof does not freeze the brain when he connects the pieces in classic noir fashion. It seems that only pulp fiction can tie together a dead gumshoe, a ditzy damsel in distress, a murder-robbery that involves much more than meets the eye. an extra-marital affair, and a friend who dupes a good buddy into having to figure out all of it.
Benton shows genius in remaining true to gritty noir drama decades after the golden era of that genre, successfully showing new sides of Tomlin and Carney and getting that May-December team to click, and crafting a plot that keeps the twists coming until the end, It is hard to imagine that they can make 'em like that anymore.
Archive keeps the fun coming with a special feature that shows Tomlin bringing Ernestine the telephone operator to the party when she discusses "Show" on "Dinah" with Dinah Shore.