Arthur Penn’s Night Moves (1975); A Bleak Masterpiece of 70’s Cinema


At the beginning of Arthur Penn’s detective drama Night Moves, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’d stumbled on to an episode of The Rockford Files.


The Rockford Files Season 1 Intro


The LA setting, charming, but occasionally crusty PI protagonist and missing daughter plot could all resemble a typical Rockford mystery.


But you’d be way off base. Waaaay off, in fact.



Night Moves is a deeply cynical, bitter tale of betrayal, infidelity, underage sex and post-Vietnam anxiety/ennui.


Night Moves (1975) Official Trailer - Gene Hackman, Jennifer Warren Movie HD


Written by the great Alan Sharp (of Rob Roy fame), the story follows Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman), retired professional footballer turned PI on what could appear on first glance to be a routine missing persons case.


I won’t spoil the story – or the shocking ending.



Follow Hackman on his Odyssey, where he encounters a young James Woods, an even younger Melanie Griffith, character actors Harris Yulin, Kenneth Mars – and Dennis Dugan, director of multiple Adam Sandler movies and star of the short-lived Rockford spin-off Richie Brockleman, PI (1978).



See how I circled back to Rockford?


Richie Brockelman, Private Eye 1978 TV opening


The score by Michael Small (Marathon Man/The Parallax View/Klute) is excellent, mirroring the coke-drained, bleary-eyed feel of the picture.


Michael Small Harry Moseby


Night Moves did little in terms of box office, but has since be widely recognized as a classic movie – and director Arthur (Bonnie & Clyde) Penn’s best. Penn went on to direct the weird Marlon Brando/Jack Nicholson Western The Missouri Breaks (1976).




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Stephen Arnell

Culture Comment Content Provider. Portrait courtesy of artist Darren Coffield. 'Non satis me tempo'