Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:
DIXIE RAY HOLLYWOOD STAR Coventry Productions, 1983. Also released in an R-rated version by Lima Productions as It’s Called Murder, Baby. John Leslie, Lisa de Leeuw, Juliet Anderson, Veronica Hart, Kelly Nicholls, Chris Warfield, Steve Marlow. Guest appearances: Cameron Mitchell and Tom Reece. Screenplay: Dean Rogers. Director: Anhony Spinelli.
A man walks up a narrow flight of stairs in an older building. He walks down a long corridor and enters an office. We see shadows against a cloudy window, a man and a woman. There is shouting and a shot rings out.
Cut to the door. Nick Popolopolis Private Investigations is painted on the door. Inside in the shadow behind his desk is the man (John Leslie) we saw earlier. He is seen only in the shadows of the blinds on the window and the cigarette he lights. Two more men enter and he turns on the lights.
They are the Lieutenant, plain clothes cop Cameron Mitchell and his partner Tom Reece. The dialogue establishes it is the 1940‘s. Guadalcanal has just fallen, they tell Nick, who Mitchell calls The Greek. Nick has other problems. the Lt. picks up Nick’s gun and smells the barrel. He passes it to Reece who does the same. “You been playing with it?” Mitchell asks.
Nick nods toward a dark corner and for the first time we and Mitchell and Reece see the body of a woman.
This could be almost any noirish private eye tale set in the forties, it has the atmosphere, the look, even the music is right.
It’s not just any noir tale of a cynical private eye. John Leslie is a major adult film star of the era, and this film is hard core pornography. Not R, not NR, not NC17. Dixie Ray Hollywood Star is triple XXX hard core porn.
It is also a surprisingly effective noirish private eye tale told in flashback by a wisecracking world-weary private eye with a streak of conscience that just won’t let him turn his back on murder.
The corpse is Adrian (Juliet Anderson) who showed up earlier in the day at Nick’s office. Her friend and employer as well as lesbian lover is one-time big movie star Dixie Ray (Lisa de Leeuw, a busty star with flame red hair), who married and lives now at a beach side mansion with her grown daughter.
Leslie’s Nick is the usual eye of the era, but with a touch of something more. He’s randy and seduces every woman he meets, but he has half a heart and soul. He wishes he was fighting the war and not playing at private eye. He wishes he was in the furniture business and not a detective. Of course he’s not so guilty he doesn’t sleep with his secretary Sherry (Veronica Hart) who is leaving him to be closer to her husband’s army camp.
Dixie Ray’s husband, Charles Barkley (Chris Warfield) owed money and paid off with nude pictures of his wife. She got them back with the help of illegal casino owner Tony LaMarr (Steve Marlow), but now someone still has prints they are blackmailing her for. She doesn’t have the money and she wants the pictures back.
Nick eventually unravels the truth, but he knows it is futile. This is Hollywood, and money will buy a friendly verdict and murder will go unpunished.
Lieutenant: Relax Nick, you aren’t going to save the world.
Nick: Somebody has to. Maybe its me. Nobody else gives a damn.
Lieutenant: You weren’t listening, Nick. Some of us do.
Nick: Yeah, I know.
The Lieutenant and his partner leave to make their arrest, and Nick stays behind to wait for the meat wagon to carry away Anderson’s body.
Nick to Reece: Say, you say we took Guadalcanal?
Nick: Wish I was with them.
Reece: Me too. [pause] See ya around, Nick. See ya at the movies.
Yes, this is porn, it is explicit every other scene hard core porn. But it is also a good little mystery. A solid little noir outing with John Leslie giving a bravura performance as Nick Popodopolis. The sets and the few exteriors and classic cars are all perfect, the clothes right, and anachronisms are studiously avoided.
No one had to put this much effort into this film. A string of barely cogent scenes and the usual bad acting and worse dialogue would have been enough. Porn chic was dead and video was about to deteriorate what originality the genre had earlier.
But they did make this. And it is far better than what it is. You could easily cut the sex scenes and have a short but very good little noir private eye outing. No matter what else you come away with here you will be impressed with Leslie as Popodopolis.
He was always one of the genre’s better actors, but here he is so much more. He may not be Bogart or Dick Powell, but I’ve seen much worse eyes in legitimate films, and in Nick Popodopolis he creates a very real private eye who wouldn’t have to be embarrassed to be in the company of Sam Spade, Philip Malowe, or Mike Hammer.