Friday, January 26, 2018

Jigsaw (1968)

Universal remakes its own thriller MIRAGE, which was released a whopping three years earlier. The best explanation for this decision is that JIGSAW was intended as a made-for-TV movie, but was instead given a theatrical release, possibly because Michael J. Pollard, just nominated for a BONNIE AND CLYDE Oscar as Best Supporting Actor, is in it. Or maybe because of its drug theme, which may have been too controversial for NBC censors.

Producer Ranald MacDougall (MILDRED PIERCE) hides behind the pseudonym “Quentin Werty” as his screenplay credit, which also gives nods to Peter Stone’s MIRAGE screenplay and the original novel FALLEN ANGEL by Howard Fast. Ignore the theatrical one-sheet that gives the impression Pollard is JIGSAW’s star. He’s barely in it with leading men Bradford Dillman (PIRANHA) and Harry Guardino (KING OF KINGS) carrying MacDougall’s psychedelic storyline.

Dillman wakes up in a strange apartment with amnesia and a dead blonde in the bathtub. He finds private detective Guardino’s AAA Detective Agency in the Yellow Pages, and hires him to investigate. Of course, when the two men visit the scene of the crime, the broken mirror is repaired, the furniture is replaced, and the girl is gone.

The culprit, at least responsible for Dillman’s amnesia, is LSD, and the direction by James Goldstone (ROLLERCOASTER) is trippy as hell. He really goes for the arty cutting and camera angles, which definitely makes JIGSAW more visually exciting than most of Universal’s thrillers from that period. The edgy editing by Edward Biery (THE DON IS DEAD) keeps the viewer disoriented, echoing the Dillman character’s own confusion. The downside is the audience is equally confused, and the plot fails to hold one’s attention.

Dillman and Guardino are quite good and Guardino rarely better. Pat Hingle (HANG ‘EM HIGH) is Dillman’s suspicious co-worker, Hope Lange (THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR) is Dillman’s confused girlfriend, Diana Hyland (THE CHASE) is Guardino’s wealthy girlfriend. Contract player Susan Saint James (KATE & ALLIE) is a secretary. Pollard is terrible as a dope dealer. James Doohan (STAR TREK) pops up in an unbilled role. Quincy Jones (IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT) did the music. Oddly enough, NBC, which originally rejected JIGSAW for prime time, did eventually air it a year later in 1969.

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