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The Singing Detective


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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: #292,745 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Singing Detective" on IMDb

Special Features

None.

Editorial Reviews

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

Customer Reviews

One bad movie.
JArmadillo
I couldn't even get through the first 20 minutes of this movie.
Elaine
Robert Downey Jr. gave the bravura performance of his career!
Suzanne

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on May 20, 2006
Format: DVD
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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Cilly on September 2, 2008
Format: DVD
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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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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