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The Singing Detective (2004)

Robert Downey Jr. , Robin Wright , Keith Gordon  |  R |  DVD
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Robin Wright, Mel Gibson, Jeremy Northam, Katie Holmes
  • Directors: Keith Gordon
  • Writers: Dennis Potter
  • Producers: Mel Gibson, Bruce Davey, Jane Potter, Kevin Lake, Robert Potter
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: March 23, 2004
  • Run Time: 109 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001AW04I
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #311,273 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Singing Detective" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

From his hospital bed, a writer suffering from a skin disease hallucinates musical numbers and paranoid plots.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seen on its own merits . . . May 20, 2006
Few if any reviewers here indicate having watched Keith Gordon's director's commentary on this DVD. I think it would alter some of their judgements. As Gordon explains, the film script was in fact written by Dennis Potter, whose original "Singing Detective" ran as a much longer miniseries on British TV 20 years ago, and the changes to an American setting with 1950s American pop music were really Potter's own ideas. If the transition to feature film format loses something in the translation, it is in part due to his reconceptualization of his original creation.

As the commentary reveals, much of the inventiveness in this new version is not apparent in a single viewing. While it may seem to truncate and over-simplify the lengthier TV version, there is still complexity and ambiguity enough to entertain and engage a thoughtful viewer appreciative of good screenwriting and wonderful performances. Robert Downey's dual role as the embittered writer and the Bogart-style detective of the title reveal the mercurial range of this amazing actor, and his scenes with Robin Wright Penn, who plays his wife, are a brilliant portrayal of two people equally matched in their struggle to preserve a relationship and, at the same time, the integrity of themselves as individuals.

Strong cast. Interesting contrast of visual styles. Rated R for a wide range of disturbingly graphic and lurid visual imagery, including the main character's horrific skin condition. Granted, this "Singing Detective" is no substitute for the original, but seen on its own merits, it still stands up well on its own.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Lively Nightmare September 2, 2008
By Cilly
This movie didn't seem to get very good reviews. After seeing it myself, I'm stumped. It's malevolent and weird, but it certainly isn't dull; it's surreal, but not to the point that you can't tell what's going on. Plus, the acting is great and the concept disturbing. As unpleasant as parts of it were, I'm going to watch it again.
Part of the problem is, this movie is a remake of a much better TV series. The TV series ran 7 1/2 hours, and this movie has *somehow* been cut down to 2. Okay. You can guess what happened. In an attempt to trim off fat, they whittled the plot down to an incomplete skeleton. But it all still makes sense, and I enjoyed doing my own job of guessing and reconstruction.
I think the other problem is that people see the title, and expect a fun, flashy crime story. This movie is not what you'd call "fun", unless you love a good Lynch or Cronenberg marathon.
Also, if you want to ogle Robert Downey Jr.--and that's a good and admirable pastime, I applaud it--this movie will bother you. He spends most of it looking like he's in the last stages of radiation poisoning. His dreamworld alter-ego is handsome, but played as a flat-voiced, shiny-eyed Invasion Of The Body Snatchers doppelganger. I had to remind myself that it was only an actor in makeup; the illness portrayed here is horrible seems very real. Downey is ferociously good, filled with rage and scorching the paint off the walls, and it's disturbing.

Yeah, Downey is great in this; he goes from a sick, vicious, venomous invalid in the first half to a slightly-less sick, more charming, more frightening nut case in the second half. More frightening, as he becomes less insane? Absolutely.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This needs more than one viewing June 13, 2008
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
What can I say? I was a Singing Detective virgin, being ignorant of the British TV show or the story line. I bought it for Robert Downey, Jr. It is weird, disturbing and pulls you in like a moth to a flame. I have watched it several times now, getting a little more understanding every time I do. My favorite scene is the Mr. Sandman number. How funny!

The acting is supurb; why this didn't get any critical acclaim is beyond me. Robert Downey Jr proves, yet again, that professionally no one can touch him. He is a rare class of actor that can deliver any range be it humor or tragedy. This role had to be a challenge though with the total body make up needed for Dan Dark's horrible skin condition; not to mention the emotional roller coaster the character is on. The man appears to cry real tears at one point! Kudos RDJ!! I wish The People could vote for Oscar winners and not "The Academy". There would be a lot of different winners. RDJ would have several of the gold guys on his mantelpiece if I had anything to do with it.

I don't care for the ending at all; I probably don't totally understand it yet. For a SD newbie, trying to figure out which scene is in Dan Dark's tortured mind or is for real is part of the fun of this film. I intend to see the British series as soon as I can. Maybe I can understand the ending better. Hummm......

It's not for everyone but for those willing to take a risk and actually have to think about a story rather than just watch it, oh, do try this film.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A pale imitation of the classic TV series October 21, 2003
The original BBC television series THE SINGING DETECTIVE, written by Dennis Potter, is by any standard one of the milestones of television. It was a weird but spectacularly successful blend of hospital drama, film noir, psychological thriller, and surreal musical that managed to strike the right balance between its disparate elements to create something utterly unique and magical. Michael Gambon was perfect in the lead, and he was complemented by a first rate cast, including Bill Patterson and Joanna Whalley.
Now we have a very odd thing indeed: a film version of a television series, complete with an all star cast of such performers as Robert Downey Jr., Mel Gibson (all but unrecognizable behind a balding head of light brown hair and thick glasses), Adrien Brody, Robin Penn Wright, Alfre Woodard, Carla Gugino (of SPY KIDS fame), Jon Polito, Katie Holmes, and Jeremy Northam. Despite a spirited, capable performance by Downey (talent intact after his incarceration) in the main role (Dan Dark, as opposed to the Philip Marlowe of the television series), the film simply isn't very successful. I had such high expectations for this one!
So, why does this movie fail? Primarily, two reasons. First, the original series was 450 minutes long, while the movie is only 109. In other words, the series had ample time to introduce the viewer to its strange, nightmarish, surreal world, while the movie, because of time limitations, simply plunges the viewer directly into the heart of things. For anyone who has seen the series, it will seem as if the movie is constantly in a rush, and as if it is always leaving things out. The movie comes across as far less varied and rich.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Sucked
Story did not hold my interest, Downy was his usual outstanding in portrayal. Lost interest in watching it about 20 minutes in to the movie.
Published 4 months ago by Rita E. Mullins
1.0 out of 5 stars Waste of time!!
I couldn't even get through the first 20 minutes of this movie. Wanted to watch it because of Katie Holmes but even though it was free with prime it wasn't worth my time.
Published 5 months ago by Elaine
1.0 out of 5 stars Repulsive
It's funny. I watched the original Brit version of this starring Michael Gambon and was entranced. This version may be great,but the first 10 minutes were so sickening I had to... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Moishe Yidbaum
5.0 out of 5 stars Singing detective
Downey is a genius. Really. This had to be an extremely difficult role to carry off. It's not your run of the mill movie and I like bizarre; I like surprises. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Phoenix
4.0 out of 5 stars Downey-what's not to love
Maybe not the skin disease. The movie is campy and a bit weird, but still good. Loved Mel Gibson, too.
Published 6 months ago by mysterytx
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie!
I didn't know Robert downey jr could sing soo well! It was a pleasant surprise. He's Easton the eyes as well.
Published 6 months ago by Mary R Gasper
1.0 out of 5 stars Can't like every film, and I sure didn't like this one.
Thought I'd watch because the SD was described in one source as "original" and had a supporting cast of actors who's names I recognized because I liked their prior work. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Konrad
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow start, mellow finish
A bit hard to follow, but really good as long as you can parse out what is real and what isn't. Slow start too
Published 7 months ago by Austin Borgstedte
4.0 out of 5 stars Close, but no cigar...
Unless one saw this on PBS, they probably would not have liked or understood it. The PBS version that aired late at night was bizarre to me. Read more
Published 7 months ago by David N. Bergeron
5.0 out of 5 stars Great show
The acting was really terrific. Robert Downey Jr was totally amazing! The story was unusual so I was totally captivated.
Published 7 months ago by Catherine L. Peters
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