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Film / Night Moves

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"Do you ask these questions because you want to know the answer, or is it just something you think a detective should do?"

A 1975 neo-noir mystery, directed by Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde, Alice's Restaurant) and starring Gene Hackman, Jennifer Warren, and Susan Clark.

Hackman plays Harry Moseby, a private investigator (and former pro football player) hired by an ex-Hollywood starlet to track down her wayward teenage daughter. Also features Edward Binns, Harris Yulin, Kenneth Mars, and early appearances from Melanie Griffith and James Woods.

Not to be confused with the 2013 movie of the same name with Jesse Eisenberg, or with the 1976 album (and song) by Bob Seger.


  • The Alleged Car: Paula tells Harry he can follow her to Tom's place, but that he should keep his distance because her car is spewing so much smoke.
  • The Bermuda Triangle: When Delly finds a wrecked plane underwater Tom Iverson mentions this.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Delly, though it's suggested her mother is the real problem.
  • Casting Couch: Arlene Iverson says, "When I was [Delly's] age I was down on my knees to half the men in this town!"
  • Chess Motifs: Harry takes a little chess board with him everywhere he goes, and references a game played in 1922 between K. Emmrich and Bruno Moritz in which Moritz could have won the game if he had seen a play requiring three knight moves, but he played something else and lost. (This is a metaphor for Harry's own inability to see the truth of the mystery unfolding around him.) The title of the movie references both this game and the fact that certain key scenes take place at night.
  • Deadpan Snarker: As a film noir this has a lot of snark, but Paula is the main culprit.
    Paula: Oh, that's a beauty.
    Harry: Yeah, but he didn't see it. He played something else and he lost. He must have regretted it every day of his life. I know I would have. As a matter of fact I do regret it, and I wasn't even born yet.
    Paula: That's no excuse.
  • Detective Drama
  • Disappeared Dad: Harry's father disappeared when he was a child (and possibly his mother, too; it's unclear).
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: Paula says that Tom and his cohorts have been smuggling pieces of some priceless antique into the country one at a time. (Though this has no real effect on Harry's investigation, since he doesn't even find out about it until the very end.)
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The night Delly finds the sunken plane, Paula seduces Harry so Tom can go out and check it out without Harry noticing.
  • Downer Ending: Paula is dead and Harry has been shot far out at sea and may never get back home, and he still doesn’t fully understand the mystery he was trying to solve.
  • Edgy Backwards Chair-Sitting: Harry goes into the room where he's supposed to stay tonight and finds Delly wearing one of his shirts in an obvious seduction attempt. Harry does the backwards chair sit and Delly observes, "You know, I read in a book once that when a man sits in a chair like that, it means he's afraid of women."
  • Fille Fatale: Delly would like to think she is, but her naivete gets her killed.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Of Film Noir. Arlene asks Harry if he's the kind of detective who never lets go of a case; he jokingly responds, "That was true in the old days. Before we had a union." It turns out it's still true, but it does him little good. Delly's death/probable murder pulls him back into the case, but he misses important clues, and even at the very end he doesn't really understand the crimes he's been investigating, and may not even make it through alive.
  • Glory Days: Harry's past as a pro football player. He doesn't seem so much obsessed with the past as unhappy with the present. When Paula asks him where he was when the Kennedys were killed, he says that when JFK was shot he was on a bus with his team on the way to a game; when Bobby Kennedy was killed, he was tailing a philanderer. Throughout the movie it's clear that the sleaze he's continually mired in is starting to get to him.
  • Harmful to Minors: Arlene Iverson's father went bankrupt and committed suicide when she was a child (which probably explains some of her own less-than-perfect parenting of Delly).
  • Idle Rich: Arlene Iverson seems to be this, as the widow of a studio bigwig, but actually the money is mostly in a trust fund for Delly. Harry makes it pretty clear he thinks that's the only reason Arlene wants to get her back.
  • Improvised Weapon: When Harry and Tom fight, Tom grabs the inner part of a large seashell so the outer part covers his hand and punches Harry with it.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Crossed with Big-Breast Pride. Arlene looks at a photo of her from her younger days as a Hollywood starlet and says "I had lovely tits, even if I do say so myself." She then admits that "they're sitting on a little bit of silicone now, but when they were up for grabs, they were really something special."
  • Jailbait Taboo: Discussed Trope. Tom Iverson says that he wants to get rid of Delly because she's just too tempting and apparently he's given into temptation before. He says "There oughta be a law!", and an unamused Harry says "There is."
  • Meaningful Name: A non-human example: Tom Iverson's boat is named "Point of View," which within the movie is a reference to the glass bottom of the boat. But in a more symbolic sense it refers to the use of vision within the story, which both reveals and conceals crucial details. The glass bottom of the boat, in particular, shows a couple of important elements of the mystery.
  • Men Are Uncultured: "I saw a Rohmer film once. It was kinda like watching paint dry." (Ellen has gone to see My Night at Maud's.)
  • Nightmare Fuel: In-Universe and very literal; after Delly finds the sunken plane (with a partially-eaten corpse inside) she wakes up screaming from a nightmare.
  • Parental Neglect: Harry comes to believe that much of Delly's rebelliousness comes from Arlene just not paying much attention to her.
  • Sewer Gator: Paula mentions they have these in New York, but Harry seems skeptical.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: A variant. Delly takes a shower in Harry's room and then puts on one of his shirts (clearly wearing nothing underneath) in a clumsy attempt to seduce him, but nothing comes of it.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: Delly has little restraint in being naked in front of much older men.
  • Skinny Dipping: Harry and Paula take the "Point of View" out one night so Delly can do this.
  • Think Unsexy Thoughts: When Paula asks Harry why he doesn't respond to Delly's (rather juvenile) attempts to be sexy, he says he just thinks of things like "George Washington's teeth."
  • Trapped In a Sinking Plane: Joey Zeigler's death at the end.
  • Uncertain Doom: At the end of the movie, a badly-injured Harry tries to redirect the boat back towards the mainland but it isn't clear if he'll survive.
  • Vapor Wear: It's the Seventies; none of the women bother much with bras. Ellen (Susan Clark) wears a particularly gauzy shirt at one point with nothing underneath.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: Averted by Arlene Iverson. When she asks Harry if he ever saw any of her movies, he can't come up with anything. She just shrugs it off, admitting that she was never that big but she got the consolation prize: marrying a studio executive.
  • Woman Scorned: Arlene slept with Delly's sometime-boyfriend Marv Ellman, and it's suggested that Delly wanted to seduce her former stepfather Tom to even the score.