When Elaine Sampson’s (Lauren Bacall) wealthy disappears, she calls detective Lew Harper (Paul Newman) to track him down. Elaine doesn’t care if her husband is dead or alive, but she knows he’s likely drunk and with another woman and she just wants to find out where he is before he gets too generous in his drunken state and gives away something valuable yet again. He starts by talking to Sampson’s daughter Miranda (Pamela Triffin) and personal pilot Allan Taggert (Robert Wagner). After finding out Sampson had been keeping a bungalow in Los Angeles, Harper takes a trip there to investigate and finds a picture of washed-up starlet Fay Eastabrook (Shelley Winters). Harper spends an evening with Fay, and when he brings her home very drunk, he answers a mysterious phone call from a woman thinking she was talking to Fay’s husband. The woman calling says she saw Fay out with a strange man that night and that she ought to get rid of before “the truck comes through.” From there, he keeps following lead after lead until he finds himself tied up in a conspiracy involving Taggert, Fay, Troy, drug-addicted singer Betty Fraley (Julie Harris), a cult leader, and that mysterious truck.
This movie is just plain awesome. I absolutely loved Paul Newman in this role. Lauren Bacall was a flawless choice to play the jaded, bitter wife. Pamela Triffin was so campy and over the top, but when she was on screen with Lauren Bacall, their two attitudes were so big, that it was just too much and I mean that the best possible way. If drag queens are not already re-enacting that scene in their acts, they are missing a golden opportunity. But fun, campy moments aside, Harper is a quality mystery. The story’s got enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes the whole time and there’s a great twist at the end. From start to finish, it’s nothing but good, quality entertainment.