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2.8 out of 5 stars 94 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Oscar® nominee Robert Downey Jr. gives the performance of his career in this acclaimed, all-star movie that weaves sly comedy, suspenseful film noir and spirited musical numbers into one of the most original productions in years. When it comes to murder, seduction and betrayal, pulp-fiction author Dan Dark (Downey) wrote the book. But now, he s living it. Languishing in a hospital room with an immobilizing condition, Dark has lost himself in the fictional world of his alter ego, a hardboiled detective and dance-band singer living in the 1950s Los Angeles. As Dark s grasp on reality continues to slip, he s placed under the care of an enigmatic psychiatrist (Oscar® winner Mel Gibson). Together, they plunge into the mystery of Dark s psyche, where everyone is suspect and danger waits at every turn. Co-starring Robin Wright Penn, Jeremy Northam, Katie Holmes, Carla Gugino and Oscar® winner Adrien Brody, The Singing Detective hits all the right notes.


If I said that Robert Downey Jr. is a singing dick then that might be a completely different review all together. Actually Downey steps into the world of Dennis Potter in this shortened adaptation of his epic miniseries. I m the dick for even implying that Downey is nothing short of excellent in the role, bad me.

Novelist Dan Dark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a sick man. He s been hospitalized with extreme psoriasis that has caused debilitating arthritis. So terrible is his disease that his hands are no more than clubs. Not a good thing for an author to be suffering from as he can t write or even use a typewriter.

His intense pain causes him to seek solace within his own mind. So we accompany him as he views a film noir starring himself as The Singing Detective, a gumshoe and nightclub singer that s involved in an investigation.

Dark s reality isn t exactly normal as characters frequently burst into song as well as looking back on his terrible childhood. His psychiatrist Dr. Gibbon (Mel Gibson, who also produced) tries to help Dark out of his darkness and back into the cold, hard light of reality.

Reality and fantasy have a habit of blending together as Dark tries to come to grips with his illness, his wife (Robin Wright), his nurse (Katie Holmes), and being haunted by his mother (Carla Gugino), all of whom have alter egos in his fantasy world.

The Singing Detective is based on the 1986 British miniseries by author Dennis Potter and starring Michael Gambon. His previous miniseries, Pennies from Heaven (1978), was adapted by Hollywood into a film that he reportedly despised. It was with this in mind that Dennis Potter wrote the screenplay for this adaptation himself and it floated around Hollywood long after his death in 1994.

Mel Gibson s Icon Productions happened upon that screenplay and finally succeeded in making the film in 2003. The problem arises that for fans of the miniseries this might seem like a Cliff s Notes version. I ve always had a soft spot for the film version of Pennies from Heaven (with a favorite Christopher Walken performance he even dances!), but I ve not watched the miniseries of Pennies.

I have watched The Singing Detective and the film seems to not have the breathing room needed. That being said, the film also has a fantastic performance by Robert Downey Jr. who excels in the role of Dan Dark. The concept of his fantasy life as a singing gumshoe and his sad reality also make an interesting contrast.

It s made even better when the two start blending together as well as the characters occasionally bursting into lip-synched musical production numbers. What s interesting is that The Singing Detective has already been on DVD before in 2004 under the Paramount label.

That version was out of print, but it now appears that Paramount is farming out some product to Legend Films so this reissue is exactly the same as that other version, but takes the Paramount logo off the front and puts the Legend logo on the disc and elsewhere.

The Singing Detective is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. The only special feature is an interesting commentary from director Keith Gordon, who you may recognize as the star of John Carpenter s adaptation of Stephen King s Christine.

The Singing Detective is an interesting film with a great performance by Robert Downy Jr. Fans of the miniseries may prefer the greater depth of it, but I found this film a nice version of the story. --Patrick Luce of

Special features


Product details

  • Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Robin Wright Penn, Jeremy Northam, Katie Holmes, Carla Gugino
  • Directors: Keith Gordon
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Legend Films
  • DVD Release Date: September 23, 2008
  • Run Time: 108 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars 94 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B001BPB5YI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,388 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
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