THE DROWNING POOL. Warner Brothers, 1975. Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Joanne Woodward, Tony Franciosa, Murray Hamilton, Gail Strickland, Melanie Griffith, Linda Haynes, Richard Jaeckel. Based on the novel by Ross Macdonald. Director: Stuart Rosenberg.

   Well, for one thing, they changed to location from sunny, hot southern California to sultry, swampy Louisiana, that much I know. I’m not sure, but I think the facility where the title scene takes place fit in better in the book. It seemed to me that came from nowhere in the movie, but I’d have to watch the movie again to state that as a fact. I watched this movie when it first came out, and I thought I remembered it, but the only scene that came back to me was the one in the pool, with the water rising and rising and still rising, with Harper and his lady companion trying to keep their heads above water.

   Harper is hired by a former girl friend, Iris Devereaux (Joanne Woodward), to find out who’s been blackmailing her about an affair she’s been having. It’s not her husband she’s worried about. It’s his mother who runs the estate where they live with an iron hand. When’s she found murdered, it’s the chauffeur who’s the immediate suspect. (He was also suspected of being the blackmailer.) A ruthless oil developer who wants the property is also involved.

   For a while after seeing this movie for the first time, I keep seeing Paul Newman as Lew Archer as I read the books. He’s very good in the role, but as time went on, the mental  image  I had of him gradually faded away. Joanne Woodward has a nothing part and makes very little of it. It was Melanie Griffith as her teenage sexpot daughter who made a bigger impression on me this time around.

   How much the story resembles the book I wish I could tell you, but I can’t. Considering it on its own, story-wise it doesn’t stack up all that much higher than many an episode of a PI show being shown on TV around the same time. It’s Paul Newman’s presence that makes it what is , though, and he’s quite good at it.