Citation
When logics die

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Title:
When logics die moral vision in the private-eye movies
Alternate title:
Moral vision in the private-eye movies
Creator:
Prats, A. J., 1948-
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
x, 278 leaves : 28 cm.

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Binocular vision ( jstor )
Eyes ( jstor )
Images ( jstor )
Morality ( jstor )
Motivation ( jstor )
Movies ( jstor )
Narratives ( jstor )
Narrators ( jstor )
Theater ( jstor )
Visual perception ( jstor )
Detective and mystery films -- History and criticism ( lcsh )
Detective and mystery films -- Moral and ethical aspects ( lcsh )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Thesis:
Thesis--University of Florida.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 274-277).
General Note:
Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Armando J. Prats.

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University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Resource Identifier:
02969352 ( OCLC )
ocm02969352
Classification:
PN1995.9.D4 P72 ( lcc )

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WHEN LOGICS DIE: MORAL VISION IN
THE PRIVATE-EYE MOVIES












By

ARMANDO J. PRATS















.A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL
FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY








UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 1975



































,?When Logics die, The secret of the soil grows through the eye."

--Dylan Thomas






















For Tonya, whose lovely image ever shows me
the joy of being a private-eye and

For Bill, "this Boss of mine."














.Dirty Harry


for A. J. Prats


Dirty Harry is an activity
in the blessed blessed eye, the imagination of magnums
born at the arch in an end of episodes

nothings habit the cross where words
suggest, the only image
is a mixture of heights and red stumbling-one sound, a line hovering at his sights-and the stadium is a drug of lights
where words are fat men taking walks,
and this is the torture of the crusty sun that wavers between silencers and shadow

"1no reason for it really"--the badge
expands to multitudes he cannot name,
this moving image of bullets and space
happening and happening that only light e xplores

Philip A. Kuhn
















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


One always wishes that he could remember each and every person who makes possible dreams such as these. But, alas, it!s impossible to go back ten years in time and give credit to the collective body of minds that got this dissertation written. Still, it is imperative that some specific people be iiamed. And the first of those must be Olga and Cuca--not for any one contribution, but for a lifetime of love beyond the boundaries of duty.

Then'there is Phil Kuhn, who so willingly bestows upon me the gifts that are a first-rate poet's images. Sid .Homan broke all kinds of speed-reading records and still came up with solid criticism that improved the value of this study. William Childers took great interest in this dissertation, kept me up to date in my progress, provided the script for "Chinatown," and even taught me how-to thread a l6mm. projector. Paul Newman gladly consented to be conned into obtaining "The French Connection" for me and allowed me to see it in the comforts of my home. I also wish to thank Motley Deakin, who helped in getting me back to Gainesville so I could finish my dissertation.

And in more general terms I wish to thank the Robinson family for always making me feel at home.


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Special thanks to Dick Rupp, who, long ago and far away, believed in something like this.

Thanks to the members of the faculty at the University of Kentucky, especially Joe Bryant, Art Gallaher, Frank Burke, and Dick Sugg, who could sort of tell this thing would be written even when they hadn't seen it.

I also wish to express my gratitude to all those

wealthy Italians, and especially to Diego Avegno, as well as to those poor Cubans, Particularly Miguel Diaz and Manuel Asunsolo, who never quite knew what I was up to, but who believed i n me all the same.

The debt that I owe Bill Robinson cannot be repaid in a lifetime and must therefore go unspecified.

Becky, what a good girl you were during all those days when I sweated over the blank pages!

And again, Tonya, is this life's work really enough to show you?




















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CONTENTS

Page

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . . . . . . . . v

ABSTRACT . . . . . . . . . . . . viii

INTRODUCTION . ... . . . . . . . . 1

CHAPTER ONE: THE DETECTIVE STORY AS A NARRATIVE GENRE 13 CHAPTER TWO: POPEYE'S CONNECTION AND CRITICISM AS A VISUAL AID . . . . 48 CHAPTER THREE: LITERATURE AND THE CRUCIAL IMAGE IN "THE MALTESE FALCON . . . 74 CHAPTER FOUR: THE VISION OF COLOR AND THE BLACK SPOT IN THE EYE: "CHINATOWN" 125

CHAPTER FIVE: THE VISION OF COLOR AND THE MARRIAGE STORY: "BULLITT . . . 160 CHAPTER SIX: THE SAVING STRUCTURE IN "DIRTY HARRY". 196 CHAPTER SEVEN: THE GOSPEL OF THE EYE: THE SAVIOR'S VISION IN "DIRTY HARRY" 223 CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . 258

BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . 274

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . . . 278












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Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree-of Doctor of Philosophy

WHEN LOGICS DIE: MORAL VISION IN
THE PRIVATE-EYE MOVIES

By

Armando J. Prats

December, 1975

Chairman: William R. Robinson Major Department: English

A detailed inquiry into the self-generative moral power of five private-eye movies, this study explores the activity by which the private-eye illustrates and clarifies both the medium of the movies and the life in the visible creation. The study begins with a short explanation of "genre." Thereafter, two detective stories are examined in terms of their powers to propel the detective into the cinematic medium. The first such story, Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," is discussed in the light of the narrative's inherent capacities to illuminate the powers of the detective as an agent for the "moral activity" that the story itself announces in the beginning. Immediately following is a brief sketch of the emergence of the interplay between good and evil in the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. This short discussion illustrates the manner in which such an interaction becomes the underlying pattern of action for subseque nt private-eye stories. The second literary narrative discussed in the first chapter is Hammett's "The


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Big Knockover." The investigation of this story reveals the transformations that occur in the method of narration, in the structure of action, and in the interplay between good and evil which change the' private "I" as verbal narrator to the private-eye as agent for his medium. The second chapter deals specifically with "The French Connection" as a model for the illustration of the descriptive method adopted throughout the entire study. Closely following the agent's visual activity, this chapter determines the critical approach enacted by the man of the eye through an individual action that defines the moral activity rendered in the narrative. "The Maltese Falcon" comprises the third chapter. This movie is explored in terms of its success in breaking away from the literary story that engenders it. This chapter also establishes the pattern of analysis employed in the discussion of subsequent movies. Each movie is discussed in its structural, dramatic, thematic, and cinematic aspects. Specifically, the thematic aspect deals with the actions of thehero as an illuminator of the visual activity. An investigation of "Chinatown" views the movie as both a departure from the black and white visual structure of "The Maltese Falcon" and as a narrative of limited success in working with and through color as a means of growth in the private-eye movie. The fifth chapter, on "Bull itt," explores not only the movie's capacity to render the positive vision of a world of color, but also



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discusses the specific activity through which the public agent or police detective propels himself into the dimension of private-eye. The sixth chapter is devoted exclusively to an in-depth examination of the structure of "Dirty Harry" as rendered in the first three sequences of the movie. The purpose of this chapter is to contrast the structure of "Dirty Harry" with the last three sequences of "Bullitt" and to show the new moral vision into which the privateeye movie has been launched. The seventh and last chapter deals with the dramatic, thematic, and cinematic visions of "Dirty Har y" which are specifically discussed according to the structure of action.explored in the sixth chapter. The conclusion serves a twofold purpose: first, it sums up recurrent themes 'and motifs as well as their variations as they appear in the movies that are discussed throughout the study, and second, it provides a vision of the future of the private-eye movies as a narrative art.


















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INTRODUCTION


men did not begin to shoot because
there were ready-made targets to aim at.
They made things into targets by shooting at them, and then made special targets to
make shooting more significantly interesting.

--John Dewey


There he was, this heroicimage in the brightly lit

stadium. Alone, he slowly descended the cement-block steps. He was going to the center of the field to meet the villain he'd just shot with his .44 Magnum and his eagle eye. Silently. No dramatic confrontation. No words at all. He was now walking on the football field, toward the center, the.arena of an action which no one saw except those of us in the darkness of the theater. As he approached him, the villain began to scream. Quietly yet with all the passion of life in his hoarse voice he asked the villain, "Where is the girl?" The villain just kept screaming about rights to a lawyer. Now standing over the villain's wounded leg, this heroic image that had miraculously emerged from the light, kept asking where the girl was. Ile didn't advise the bad guy of his rights. He just stood over him with the .44 Magnum in his right hand and he was never told where the girl was. But he got his man all right.





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Two years ago, after seeing "Dirty Harry," it occurred to me that I had had a vision. I had witnessed a moral act. This heroic image who had been beaten against a concrete cross by the villain at night had emerged from the darkness to chase and finally kill the man who had almost killed him. And then at the end, "High Noon" style, he gave up the badge. He threw it away in disdain. But I saw that Harry's life was not all that was at stake in the movie. It was the movie's life. Either Harry got the villain or the villain got the movie! Harry's actions were not just entertainment, not just wo hours' worth of fantasy titillation. I saw a moral fact. This was my Newtonian apple. I had gone to see "just another movie" and had witnessed, yes, art, a deadly serious and wholly beautiful moral event. Through Harry's heroic agency the life of art and particularly the life of the movies as a visual phenomenon had been affirmed. The basic moral vision resided, I saw, in that affirmation of life.

Now this was not your run of the mill elite "film."

It had no class; and by that I mean that it didn't fit the categories of the old aesthetic to which even as new an art form as the movies has already succumbed. The vision was anti-hierarchical. To use Tom Wolfe's word, the vision had no p lace in the "statusphere" of movie "art." But it was nevertheless morality embodied in an action, wisdom in motion. All the right elements were there. Perhaps I









was wrong, momentarily possessed by the power of the action tomorroww it will seem just another private-eye movie"). But no, this epiphany was for real weeks and months later, today, in fact. I suspect Galileo must have felt pretty much the same way right after he saw what he saw. His vision didn't fit, but he was seeing a whole new order through his telescope. And Columbus, too, must have felt rather awkward when he envisioned a round earth and sailed to discover new passages over the imagined roundness. This exploration of the private-eye movies is just that--an act propelled by a vision that, as art, the private-eye movies

need not fit a priori theories, that they need not conform to the.old system of ideas about art, to the old aesthetic.

As the discoveries or, in the case of this exploration, the conclusions are based on visual fact, it is the vision itself and not the predetermined and accepted notion which is at the center of this inquiry. Columbus' mistake was to call America India. He saw the West and called it East because East is what he wanted to see. I mean that this exploration of the moral terrain of the private-eye movies is no more a question of good than it is of bad, of yes (I discovered) than no (I didn't discover what I wanted to). I make no effort to fit the private-eye movie in a "statusphere" of movie art, or to resound a rallying call to see the private-eye as either an aspect of the old aesthetic





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or as a new hierarchy. 'Which is to say that there is no underlying*thesi s, no basic proposition to be categorically proved here. Newness, freshness,. presupposes discovery, and the new is only new as long as it is not forced into categories.. And that means in turn that even if the title of this study announces an explorative inquiry into moral terrain, ethics are not at stake here. There is nothing new in seeing something different conforming to old rational modes, because that only means that the morality comes first and the vision second; and such an order of priority turns the iew into the old. To see the private-eye movie conforming to a rational ethic is not an exploration; it is more akin to colonization. The old must not be allowed to weigh down the vision. Pioneer-like, the thing to do. is travel light.

Following the lead of two millennia of literary criticism, movie critics have succeeded in creating movie categories. Along with, say, the musical, the gangster story, and the Western, the private-eye movie has also been made a
11genre. But the explorations of these categories are usually seen in picture books such as William K. Everson's The Detective in Film and A Pictorial History of the Western Film or Harry Hossent's Gangster Movies. Images (though not still images), of course, are what movies are all about; and insofar as these books show the image, their value cannot be questioned. But careful not to tread aesthetic





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turf (perhaps for fear of disturbing the "statusphere"),. these efforts result in histories of the genre. The pictures aroused as embellishment to the subtle perpetuation of a fixed convention. And in the case of Mr. Everson's detective book, the afterword mourns the passing of a "classic" such as "The Maltese Falcon" by stating that in the thirty-four years since, no private-eye story has matched this movie's achievement, and thus implying that the new cannot be good, much less empowered to render its own moral vision. or when critical attention is paid to a genre in a: study such as Stephen K arpf's The Gangster Film, the emphasis, as the subtitle indicates, is on "decay" rather than growth, on judgment rather than evaluation, and on history rather than aesthetic value.

With the vision of Harry's heroic action in mind, I

see no need to lend whatever critical talents I may possess .to the cause of colonization, to merely stating what has taken place without considering its value. Eric the Red looked at America, but Columbus saw it. Columbus explored 'the terrain and brought back the good vision of a new land. No vision, no exploration can be at once historical and new. Yet this investigation does tell a story. And the aim of the story is to clarify the vision of several privateeye movies as powers for good. Specifically, I am trying to show the evolution of the terrain of the private-eye by paying detailed attention to the changes that take place






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within almost a century and a half of detective and privateeye stories. And more particularly still, I am attempting to tell the story of the way in which the genre evolves from the word to the image, how, in effect, the detective who uses logic as the power for good, metamorphoses into a private-eye whose visual talents allow him to proclaim another, different good. Thus, while it is certain that the territorial limits of the terrain seem to have been staked out by genre studies, by Erics of criticism, the possibilities for value within the continent are open for discovery. Though the continent be well mapped, the explorer will always see it new when he sees the specific contours that change the region and that make it good. only whe n the concrete and the individual is seen is there freedom to discover value.

And that is the aim of this exploration. To literally see. the moral fact in the genre of the private-eye. The moral fact that I seek is the movie's own. The boundaries of vision are limited only by the imaginative achievement of each movie. The task is, therefore, to see the full splendor of these movies within their self-generated boundaries. Vision, then, is not only the point of departure; it is also the vehicle for the exploration as well as the proposed destination. In other words, the subject matter of this exploration and the method used for discovery converge






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upon a unified, organic vision. The question of unity, therefore, is a central concern of this inquiry. It is not enough to'see the continent; it is imperative to see it whole. Thus the farthest frontier of each story and each movie marks but the border of the new terrain created by the next movie.

So if this investigation is true to both its terrain

and its method, then there shall be no question as to whether or not the voyage has been fruitful. The intensity.of the interaction between critical vision and the visible is what matters above all else.

Five movies are specifically discussed in this study. As individual entities, these movies generate a method of self-clarification which in turn enacts a critical vision of the development of the private-eye story and of the private-eye himself as a clarifier of his visual world. But in order to provide a clearer vision of the evolution of the genre, the initial chapter begins with a short discussion of "genre" and of how the term itself operates in behalf of the entire study. The first chapter also explores the first detective story, Edgar Allan Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," in contrast to a modern private-I story, Dashiell Hammett's "The Big Knockover." The aim of this inquiry is twofold. First, it attempts to trace the growth of the imagination in the detective and





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private-I stories through an examination of the method by which the good is established in each narrative. The second purpose of this chapter is to show the detective story in twentieth-century America and how action and vision emerge to replace deductive logic as the clarifying method, and thus as the new moral activity. The investigation of the modern story is further aimed at defining those forces that make it possible for the imagination to nourish itself from the literary story and to give birth to the privateeye in the movies. Again, this contrast is not raised in the interest of asserting the supremacy of one medium over another. The literary stories are explored only in terms that allow for a clarification of the evolution of the genre.

The second chapter seeks to establish the critical model for the entire exploration by focusing closely on "The French Connection." Particularly, it investigates the power of Popeye Doyle's visual activity to generate a unique critical approach to the narrative and to provide a more general base from which each of the succeeding movies can be explored as events whose inherent moral vision gives rise to the exploration of the new vision contained in the movie that follows it. In other words, the agent's method of action is explored and his activity is offered as that which determines the basic critical approach to each movie





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as well as that which justifies the motion into the vision of the next movie.
'Now,.beginning with the exploration of "The Maltese Falcon" in the third chapter, each movie is approached as an individual entity which contributes to the vision of the whole private-eye genre as a moral continent. This exploration cannot attempt to tell a story by merely discussing each movie in isolation. The exploration must point the way to an organic progression from one movie to the next. But this is not to say that the order in which these movi I es are discussed is chronological. Instead, the order in which these movies are explored is dictated by the movie's own power to provide an accurate vision of its end as the beginning of the one that follows it in the story.

Each movie is first summed up in terms of the basic task that confronts the private-eye as an agent for the clarification of the forces at work within the narrative. Thereafter, the discussion of each movie is basically subdivided into four specific areas of inquiry. The first such area deals with the specific structure or the working model of action generated by each movie. The dramatic aspect of the movie is then discussed as a distinct subcategory of the action in order to determine how the word creates conflict in or is incorporated by the new medium.






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The third subdivision deals with the theme of the privateeye as a clarifier or illuminator of his particular world of action. This third area of inquiry seeks to examine the manner in which the private-eye serves as an agent to carry forward the possibilities announced in the activity that is established for him by the structure. And the fourth part of each chapter examines the way in which the cinematic eye acts in relation to the act ion, both visual and dramatic, of the private-eye. Not all chapters, however, are subdivided into four distinct sections. For instance, in order to establish the fundamental moral feat that is at stake in "'Bullitt," it is first necessary to discuss the model of action which the cinematic eye sets for Frank. In this instance, the structural and the cinematic are inseparable and thus they cannot be separated from the life of the agent without violating the unity of the narrative act. Or, for example, because Frank has no separate existence. as verbal man and another as man of action, both the dramatic and thematic aspects of "Bullitt" are discussed in the same subdivision. And in the case of "Dirty Harry," where the agent has to work for the liberation of the cinematic eye, there is no subdivision that treats the cinematic apart from the thematic level of action. Thus, two chapters are devoted to "Dirty Harry." The sixth deals exclusively with the visual structure contained in the first three sequences of the movie. This chapter, in turn,









serves to set up the discussion of the dramatic level and of both the thematic and cinematic patterns in the seventh chapter. Moreover, for the sake of contrast and clarification, a subdivision may appear in the chapter that explores a new movie. Thus, the exploration of the cinematic aspects of "Chinatown" is incorporated in the chapter on "Bullitt."

"The Maltese Falcon" is specifically discussed in its relation to the emergence of the private-eye of the American literary story into the cinematic medium. Its action, however, is not explored in direct relation to the Hammett novel. Nevertheless, the inquiry is aimed at a discovery of the method through which the cinematic imagination assimilates the elements of the literary story and crosses media boundaries. Particular-attention is given to.the black and white visual structure and to its success in making the transition from literature. The fourth chapter, dealing with."Chinatown," seeks to discover the way in which the model of action changes once the private-eye enters a world of color. Since "Chinatown" begins with black and white images, it is a suitable terrain in which to explore the power of color to generate evolutionary changes in the genre. A discussion of "Bullitt" serves two distinct purposes. The first is to show the actualization of the potentialities within a world of color that remain unrealized in





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"Chinatown." The second aim is to discover the moral value of the transition made within this movie by the agent when, working iri and for the public, he becomes a private-eye. The sixth and seventh chapters deal with "Dirty Harry." As has been mentioned above, the first of these chapters attempts to illustrate the new vision into which the structure of this movie launches the private-eye story. Contrasted with the last three sequences in "Bullitt," the first three of "Dirty Harry" clearly point to a new terrain in the imagination of the private-eye story. The seventh and final chapter is a detailed exploration of dramatic, thematic, and cinematic aspects of "Dirty Harry" in the light of the structure as rendered in the first three sequences of the movi e. The conclusion aims at summing up the moral significance of major themes and dominant motifs discovered throughout the exploration by retracing the growth of the imagination in its encounters with the recurring components of the genre as they appear in the discussion.
















CHAPTER ONE


THE DETECTIVE STORY AS A NARRATIVE GENRE'


The adoption of a literary genre for critical examination usually entails, first of all, a definition of the limits of the conventional form to be examined. once the limits are established, then the variations within those carefully demarcated boundaries are compared and contrasted. This exploration of the private-eye movies does not pretend to be a traditional genre study. That is, it does not seek to limit or classify. Since, however', by the very nature of the subject that it adopts for inquiry, this study of the detective story must inevitably be a genre study, it is necessary to attend briefly to what is meant here by genre. Conventionally defined, "genre" refers to a style, kind, or sort. But for the purposes of this study, "genre" means "gender"--and not "gender" the noun, but the verb, the act of engendering. In other words, genre is a process or a series of acts capable of producing new and different forms for carrying for ward the life of the imagination. This chapter, then, 'is not devoted t a history of the detective story. Instead, it is an investigation into the



13






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process by which the new nourishes itself from the old forms. Through a discussion of two detective stories,' Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and Hammett's "The Big Knockover," this chapter aims at an illustration of the evolution of the detective in literature in order to show .the manner in which the literary genre grows and makes itself a viable form capable of exciting the cinematic imagination.

In "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," the narrator, C. Auguste Dupin's companion, goes to great lengths to describe the quality of the faculty for which he so admires Dupin. The long introduction attests to the fact that, even more than the mystery itself, it is Dupin's power which turns on the narrator's imagination. As in all introductions, the narrator is faced with the task of guiding us into his topic, of making us see more clearly at every step of his exploration. His first such step is to announce that.there is a power which can be so great in a man as to become "that moral activity which disentangles." 1 From the beginning, the introduction prepares us for an encounter


1 Edgar Allan Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher" and Other Tales (New York: Signet, 1960), p. 49. Subsequent references to "Murders in the Rue Morgue" are to this edition and will be incorporated into the text in parentheses immediately after the quotation.






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with a moral event. The narrator is vitally concerned with a moral activity which so delights him that it actually incites him to write about it. Heestablishes his problem and seeks to clarify it within the moral arena.

Previously, however, the narrator had referred to this moral force as "the analytic power" and to the man who possesses those talents as "the analyst." In a rational fashion, the narrator begins by praising the analytic intelligence, or logic, as the source of all moral good. At least initially, then, it is the analytic intelligence which, according to the narrator, accounts for moral action. Not much later, as the narrator attempts to illustrate the exceptional powers of his friend by using the example of a game of draughts, he tells us that "the analyst throws himself into the spirit of his opponent identifies himself therewith, and not unfrequently sees thus, at a glance, the sole methods(sometimes indeed absurdly simple) by which he may seduce into error or hurry into miscalculation" (p. 50). Essentially, identification entails interaction. The narrator is careful to show that the "necessary identification" entails the obliteration of the ego. Yet the annihiliation of that self which must be destroyed exists and thrives by virtue of the analytic intelligence. It is through analysis itself that we arrive at a Cartesian cogito. Thus, should the analyst remain wholly within an analytic world, it would be impossible for him to identify himself with





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"the spirit of his opponent." Should he remain within the limits of logic, he would be incapable of breaking the-bonds of the fiked and would be impotent to see his opponent's 11spirit" as it reveals itself. For example, it is an obvious fact of the story itself that Dupin's narrator-companion must first imagine his hero before he can proceed to analyze the qualities which make him s superior. It is not, therefore., a sufficiently clear statement to say that the power of analysis may "throw" a rival into miscalculation. The fact ofthe story's existence testifies to the narrator's "identification" with his companion. That is, it is evident in the method of the story itself that the imagination unifies the existence of the narrator and that of Dupin. Therefore, following the narrator's own glaring example, it is a much more accurate statement to say that a man of the imagination is the only one who can create the actuality of "an error" in the game of draughts since it is he who possesses the p6wer to envision the acts of his opponent.

Despite the rather confusing example which the narrator employs as he illustrates the powers of the superior moral man, he salvages what little he has contributed to the clarification of those powers by stating that these powers do not depend on mere chance but that there is a method to them. Never does he venture to explore the subtle workings of that method, but, from the foregoing discussion





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of the difference between the imaginative and the analytic, it may be possible to ascertain the method by which the narrator's friend solves his cases. First, then, it may be offered for consideration that no method can exist without a process. If, for instance, the analytic powers unravel, they do so at the end of a specific series of acts. But, as noted above, even at the end of the analytic process we are left with loose ends. Thus, to the degree that he cannot see his imagination as a methodizing power, the narrator runs the risk of failing in his endeavor o identify his companion's talents.

As he moves further into his area of inquiry, the narrator touches upon a point that is vital for the clarification of the method of action which so fascinates him. The "analyst," he tells us, makes "a host of observations and inferences. Sq perhaps, do his companions; and the difference in the extent of the information obtained, lies not so much in the validity of the inference as in the

quality of the observation. The necessary knowledge is that of what to observe" (p. 51). The narrator notes that within the realm of his friend's activity, the primordial fact is that consciousness presupposes experience. The analyst nourishes himself from the facts of an observable universe. He invariably acts out of empirical, a posteriori fact. Thus the analyst is not concerned with the way in which






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his observation conforms to a pre-established order. If, therefore, abstract truth is not that which is most vital to the analyst, then that which is aimed at in the process of observation is not a rational but a self-created order. Everything depends upon "the quality of the observation," upon the capacity of the senses to incite a vision of a new moral activity in each observable entity.

In the progress of h~is introductio n, the narrator also discusses the difference between ingenuity and analysis. In illustrating the difference between these two faculties, hie seizes upon an analog y which serves as yet another step in the clarification of Dupin's powers. "Between ingenuity and the analytic ability," he says, "there exists a difference far greater, indeed, than that between the fancy and the imagination, but of a character very strictly analogous. It will be found, in fact, that the ingenious are always fanciful, and the truly imaginative never otherwise than analytic" (p. 52). It is thus discovered that throughout the entire introduction the narrator has bee n moving toward an identification of the analytic with the imaginative. He partly recognizes that it is the imagination which accounts for ]upin's ability to solve a crime.

But by the end of the introduction, the narrator has never really stepped beyond analysis as the power behind themoral activity that he seeks to reveal. His juxtaposition of the analytic and the imaginative is in tChe end





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nothing but a verbal game. All that he is doing is inventing names when he should be allowing the light of his imagination to'shine upon the narrative process. He plays fast and loose with everything he touches: analysis, fancy, inference, ingenuity, observation, the imagination, but is unwilling to attempt the clarification of any of these. He fails, for instance, in not even suspecting that, as the power which unifies, the.imagination cannot but be totally alien to analysis. He fails to see that the analytic--if one must continue to adhere to the narrator's own term-is, if anything, a phase in the imaginative process. The narrator's own activity shows that while the imagination may break things down, it certainly does not remain content with fragmentation. Consider, for instance, the numerous terms through which he seeks to define and to clarify Dupin's activity. And then consider the fact that no matter how contradictory the definitions may appear, they are all contained within a unified act of the imagination. Thus, when compared with the rest of the story, the introduction itself proves that when the imagination is in its "analytic" or classifying phase, it does not aim at fixing categories, but at rendering an indivisible act. In other words, despite the narrator's attempts at classification, the individual, organic act (of which Dupin's moral activity is a part) is what matters most.






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Thus noticing that the obvious rational inclinations

of the narrator are at odds with the achievement of imdginative formf it is readily discovered that the narrative moves toward confusion and divisiveness just as much as it aspires to self-clarification. To employ a conventional critical term, the narrator is unreliable. He is not so, however, because he lies or disguises the facts, but because from the outset he is unempowered to carry the narrative act toward unity. As a consequence of his inability to clarify the action and the method, it is ironically the narrative activity itself which must support the narrator's vague assertions. And it is to the very life of the narrative, to its process aiming at the revelation of the new moral activity, to which the narrator increasingly becomes a burden. While the narrative moves, the narrator's every clarifying effort seems to stop its motion. This initial conflict results in a crossed condition. That is, the narrator 's intellectual inclinations pull the narrative in one direction while the imaginative act itself continues to move in another direction toward the clarification of the moral activity.

Not coincidentally, then, we find the narrator informing us in advance of that which ultimately proves to be the muddled quality of Dupin's powers, a quality which in turn reflects the narrator's own incapacity to focus clearly on





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that- moral power. 'Observing him in these moods," the narrator tells us of Dupin, "I often dwelt meditatively upon the old philosophy of the Bi-Part Soul, and amused myself with the fancy of a double Dupin--the creative and the resolvent" (p. 54). By way of illu-strating Dupin's powers, the narrator can go no further than to indulge in the notion that Dupin's capacity for moral activity remains in some misty region that cannot be clarified. Furthermore, the narrator himself continues to widen the gap that separates him from the narrative act by allowing himself to appear 'as the opposite of what he is presumably aspiring to, that is, Dupin's powers. Which is to say, that if it is the powers of his companion which excite the narrator to write, he drifts away from a convergence, an "identification" with those very powers as he persists in finding them of a divisive rather than a unifying nature. The narrator "observes" Dupin, yet fails to imagine him as the unifying force of the narrative. Indulging in what he has previously denied as having any value whatsoever, he "f ancies" the old, the abstract, aid the divided. From observation, which, as will be remembered, the narrator held to be the essential feature distinguishing the superior man from his fellows, the narrator can do no more than idly entertain a feeble notion of ancient thought and thereby reinforce the crossed condition of the narrative.





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When we are finally introduced to Dupin the character, we further discover that this man who is endowed with such superhuman powers for moral good is as inept as the narrator himself as a redeemer of the confusion created in the introduction. For instance, the narrator quotes Dupin as saying, "...but observation has become with me, of late, a species of necessity" (p. 56). This analyst, we have been told, can find a wealth of possibilities in the observable. Yet neither Dupin nor the narrator are ever at ease in the light. They are, by their own admission, tenants of the darkness, 'recluses whose sensibilities are injured by the light and who consider it a boon to abandon themselves to random "fancies" which visit them in the dark. The necessity for darkness expressed by Dupin seems to have an obvious priority over the necessity for observation.

In the midst of acts contradicted by words and words that stifle action, the newspaper account of the murders repeatedly relating the "voices in angry contention" heard by all the witnesses at the Rue Morgue becomes more than just another fact in the case to be unravelled by Dupin. Those voices become the dominant motif of the narrative. One ought not to be disturbed by the mystery of the voices related in the newspaper account. They have been heard loudly in the introduction. Whereas in the newspaper story the voices heard by the witnesses were interpreted as degrees of anger in numerous languages, in the narrative it





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is the forked tongue of both the narrator and Dupin, who speak in riddles and fail to match the act to the word; Little surprise that later in the story, as Dupin prepares to solve the mystery surrounding the murders in the Rue Morgue, his first assertion is, "We will go and see the premises with our own eyes" (p. 64). The man to whom observation is a necessity, but who lives in the dark, is going to see. Like the narrator's, Dupin's life reveals a wide rift, a crossed existence. Verbally, he asserts that observation is essential. His own life in the darkness, however, contradicts his claim about the necessity to see.

Further into the narrative it is discovered that Dupin's inability to clarify his own method of operation is the very source of the narrator's incapacity to attain unity with his own narrative. Dupin himself is the great clue. It is his own voice, expressing division, angry contention, and ambiguity, that prevents the narrative from moving smoothly forward and illuminating the moral activity promised at the beginning. Consider the following passage as yet another

*example of Dupin' s inability to clarify his exceptional faculty: "'They [the police]," he tells the narrator, "have fallen into the gross but common error of confounding the unusual with the abstruse. But it is by these deviations from the plane of the ordinary, that reason feels its way, if





24.



at all, in its search for the true. In investigations such as we are now pursuing, it should not be so much asked "'What has occurred,'" as 'what has occurred that has never occurred before'" (P. 66). Initially, it must be pointed out that it is reason which, in its penchant for abstract order, eternally dwells upon the "ordinary." Reason never seeks to deviate from the order that it has established from a priori concepts. As such, it is incapable of "feeling its way," of moving through and toward the extraordinary. Second, it follows that if reason cannot deviate from order, there can'be no genuine creation. The truth at which Dupin aims is an exercise performed by the subcategories of reason such as the analytic and reflective intelligences after these have been fed a priori principles that remain static in the fixed order of things. Dupin's efforts at clarifying

his own method remain "abstruse," as abstruse as the previous endeavor on the part of the narrator to shine a light upon his friend's method.

However confusingly Dupin may speak of his method, when he finally does act, he acts at one with the imagination. The attention that he pays to the rusty nail on the window casement, to the deep indentations of finger marks on Mme. L'Espanaye's neck, or to the size of the spread of those hands on that same neck are vital signs of Dupin's imaginative inclinations. But that which most clearly points to his






25



imaginative propensity is his ability to imagine a creature which could perform the unusual series of acts that have taken place at the Rue Morgue. Out of the observable Dupin has truly created from the extraordinary. He has gone beyond the order of things and, in so doing, has succeeded in unifying out of chaos. The order Dupin creates lies outside the ordinary. That very unity is the sole testimony of the imagination's success in cr eating and organizing, whereas the reason (as embodied in the police and the witnesses) can only detect chaos. 'It is the act of envisioning which accounts for Dupin's superiority. It is such an act which thrusts the narrative forward, away from the divisive condition, and makes it so much more than the jumble of verbal abstractions encountered in the introduction.

But when the unifying activity has been achieved by Dupin, we again find him speaking about his method. Like the narrator,,Dupin only succeeds in undermining his imaginative feat. He makes such absurd statements as, "Fortunately there is but one mode of reasoning upon the point" (p. 68), or "My ultimate object is only the truth" (p. 72). He obviously has not realized that in dealing with a mystery that presented him with infinite possibilities, he was not dealing with just one "point." And, just a s obviously, he confuses truth with unity. or he allows himself to force a confession from the Maltese sailor for reasons of "justice" and "honor." So that if through





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his acts he unifies the narrative, in his indulgence in verbal assertions he divides as does the narrator. Where-he succeeds in discovering the culprit, he fails in discovering the source of his powers. To quote Wallace Stevens, Dupin fails to see that "the imagination is a miracle of logic and that its exquisite divinations are calculations beyond analysis, as the conclusions of the reason are calculations wholly within akialysis." 2 Dupin's, the narrator's, and, ultimately, the story's own failure lies in blindness to the fact that as hero and narrator, respectively, they live by an act of the imagination, that their very existence is predicated upon the existence of an imaginative universe. They fail to see that the essence of the clarification of their method was to be wholly and clearly discovered in acts of the imagination rather than in the empty verbosity of rational notions. As a consequence, the story ends on a crossed rather than a unified note. The 11moral activity which disentangles" and which the narrator sets out to clarify cannot extricate itself from the binary structure of action, the irreconcilable opposites created by the narrator's and Dupin's intellectual inclinations. Dupin and the narrator return to their much preferred darkness, leaving it up to the narrative itself to be the only light that shines through the dark filter of duality and to reveal itself as its own agent of self-clarification.

2 The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination (New York: Vintage Books, 1951), p. 154.






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The detective and his story grow little in the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. From the first form-engendering narrative of Poe, there is not much to be called new in Holmes' method or in the capacity of his stories to generate new forms. Holmes lives by virtually the same method as Dupin. And, of course, included in that method are the efforts of Dr. Watson, of the imaginative in-the service of the intellectual. In an early Holmes story such as "A Study in Scarlet;" Watson employs many of the same devices employed by the narrator of "Murders in the Rue Morgue." He begins with a history of his acquaintance with Holmes, he establishes the method--"the science of deduction," he calls it--by' virtue of which Holmes is made out to be a superior man, then he lightly touches upon the facts of the case, and proceeds to drift into a tedious history of the motives behind the murderer's actions.

This last step in the method of "A Study in Scarlet," that is, the identification of a clear cause for evil, is the major distinguishing feature between the stories of Poe and Doyle. (Dupin, it will be remembered, says to his narrator-companion, "I wish you, therefore, to discard from your thoughts the blundering idea of motive.") That this is a differentiating element, however, is not necessarily an indication of growth in the genre. Indeed, the passion





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to establish a motive is a backward step in the development of the detective story as a narrative genre. Essentially, since motive is analogous to causality or teleology, any imaginative energy expended in.establishing a motive is energy misused to obtrude the onward movement of the narrative. Once motive is established, the narrator and the detective operate in the traditional a priori mode. The detective does not need to move in order to catch his man. once the motive is clear, the conclusions are inevitable. There is~ a clear cause behind every not-so-clear effect.

This penchant for causality is an integral part of

the Victorian passion for absolutes. If Holmes ever looks, it is only to establish a rational motive. Then he usually sits and waits for the culprit. Such is the case in "the Red-Headed League," where Holmes, Watson, Jones, and Merryweather wait in a dark cellar for the appearance of John Clay, the master thief. Or Holmes can establish the line of inheritance to a vast estate and get the killer in The Hound of the Baskervilles. In the Holmesian world, everything pivots around motive. No matter how seemingly irrational the act--a huge hound terrorizing the Grimpen Mire area, for instance--there is always a Stapleton with a claim to the estate behind it all. And, what is more, there is always Dr. Watson, whose imaginative powers are insufficient to break away from that continuous idiotic bafflement at Holmes' deductions.






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The search for a rational cause in the detective storyof the later nineteenth century points clearly to Victorian man's search for rational order. All that is and will be has a reason for existing. Everything exists within the confines of a rationally preconceived order such as the Great Chain of Being. It is the supreme moral task of the detective superman to put all that lies outside the'Great Chain back in its proper place. The "moral activity" of the Holmesian narrative consists of a commitment to abstract order, to an order dictated to the imagination by the rational faculty. As a consequence, the narrative usually expends most of what little remains of its energy in the restoration of such an order. The stories succeed in clarifying nothing about themselves as imaginative acts because they are themselves a part of that abstract order and because they exist first and foremost to preserve that order. The stories belong in the place that a rational civilization has reserved for "culture," moth-eaten examples for some defunct notion of moral conduct to abide by.

Despite any significant aesthetic growth, however,

the Victorian version of the genre succeeds in adding a new dimension to the detective story. That is, as a result of the nineteenth century's highly elaborate ethical system, evil finds its proper place in the detective story. True, Poe had introduced the element of evil (and, one might add,






30



motive) in "The Purloined Letter" before the Victorians appropriated it as the central concern of their stories. But in a world where virtues such as justice and honor constituted the cornerstones of man's rational aspirations, evil b ecomes the-suitable foil for an illustration of the ideal workings of a rational moral system. Thus, the Victorian story displays an unparalleled fascination with evil. For example, the culprit in "Murders in the Rue Morgue" is an orangutan. It has no motive for its actions. As we have seen, the culprit in "The Hound of the Baskervilles" is a savage hound. Here again, there is no real cause, no rational motive upon which the actions of the hound can be blamed since it, too, is an irrational creature. Yet in Doyle'story, there is, as we have also seen above, a rational force behind the actions of the hound. That force is Stapleton's cunning. As we move through Holmes' adventures, we also find John Clay, the master thief. And then there is Professor Moriarty, the academic man, the epitome of reason, who is Holmes' archenemy--a rational power for evil waging moral war on the rational power for good. What this all means, is that in the stories of the later nineteenth century, evil becomes a force to be reckoned with--that it is a power threatening the order of things. The Victorian detective story reflects a major concern of the literary tradition dating to Beowulf. But, as in





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Macbeth or in Paradise Lost, in the Victorian story evil is incorporated within a rational creature. In fact, the very existence of evil in these stories is predicated upon .the existence of a thoroughly rational world and thus upon the power of such a world to define good and bad and to distinguish right from wrong.. Like the hero, the evil creature thinks. It is capable of as much intellectual refinement within the scope of the defined wrong as is the hero within the sphere of the outlined good. Hence the divisive force manifested in the early versions of the detective st ry are accounted for in the light of a rational world that can use the intelligence for.as much evil as good.

The dimension of evil added by the Victorian sensibility to the detective story becomes standardized in sub.sequent forms. No longer is it just the deductive powers of the detective which amaze and delight us, but also his ability to vanquish evil. Therefore, the dominant motif of even the modern story is the interplay between good and evil, the armageddon of which we are given a preview in each story. Indeed, as a pervasive force, the interplay between good and evil permeates the movies themselves (though this is not to say that such an interaction has the same consequences or the same significance in recent stories or in the movies).





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When seen as a form born out of the stories of Poe and Doyle, the modern detective story does what is best described in the words from the title of Dashiell Hammett's early story: it creates "the big knockover." One has but to read a few words into this story to appreciate the nature of the revolution that has taken place in the genre. In it, action takes precedence over analytic or reflective thought. Unencumbered by the Victorian passion for ethical order, "The Big Knockover" begins by revealing a commitment to action as a possibility for good. Moreover, when we consider the last line of the Op's narrative, where he simply exclaims, "What a life!" 3 we see that, within the context of the entire narrative, the modern story reveals what may be referred to as open form. That is, whereas Dupin and his narrator-companion retire to their precious darkness at the end of the story (and thus to a-world of inactivity) the Op, who has missed the mastermind behind the entire heist, tells us at the end, "Now I could turn the city upside down for him" (p. 411). His



3 Lillian Hellman, ed., The Big Knockover: Selected Stories and Short Novels by Dashiell Hammet (New York: Vintage Books, 1972), p. 411. Subsequent reference to "The Big Knockover" are to this edition and will be incorporated into the text in parentheses immediately after the quotation.





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passion for action does not leave him content with returning the stolen money.to Seaman's National and capturing most of the thieves that take part in the heist. He must continue to be the man of action, on the mover because he recognizes that no amount of sophistication in analytic thought will lead him to his man. In his commitment to turning "the city upside down" in the search for his man, the Op is further indicating that he is not through as a living entity, that his story is not over. Although an episode or phase of his life has ended, it has only done so but to begin another.

Yet a further aspect of the modern story is revealed

in the Op's commitment to action. That is, logic has failed as a rational and moral good. The deductive powers of the sleuth are insufficient to enable the Op to capture his man. The fact that he misses the mind at work behind the robbery attests not to the Op as a man incapable of thought, but rather to a world where thought takes a secondary place to action. He lives in a world where theman he follows does not blunder into a neatly laid trap, but moves nimbly and elusively, escaping the powers of the most acute deductive mind.

more significantly still is the emergence of the Op's own imaginative feat as a result of the action. Although the Op tells of how he gets his man in another story,






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"$106,000 Blood Money,"-the sequel is not to be seen as the next move that he promises to make at the end of "The Big Knockover."' In actuality, his immediate act consists of ,writing the story itself. His commitment to continue the search propels him into the imaginative dimension. What appears at the end of the story marks the beginning of the narrative process.

The Op's narrative act is clearer than the narrator's in "Murders" or than Dr. Watson's in any of his stories. For one thing, there is no intrusive narrator to stop the action of the story in praise of the deductive or analytic powers of the super detective. It is the superior man himself who writes the story. As the Op is the private investigator, the discrete, nameless entity at work in the case, so he becomes the private I, the very source from which emanates the narrative act. Here, the imagination no longer performs the function of servant to the rational powers of the detective. Instead, it OPE-rates as the everactive source that illustrates the action and carries forward the active possibilities to their inherent fulfillment, to the achievement of unity of action and narrative method.

From the first words of the narrative, it is discovered that the Op acts at one with the life of the narrative. His very first words are, "I found." They are the initial





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sign that inquiry and discovery are at the source of the action. The method is the action, and action is the method. The story'begins in medias res. Without causal principles, it is just born as spontaneously as only the imagination can give birth to things. The first two words of the narrative further indicate that in order for the Op to render them at all, he must be where the action is from the very beginning. He is not secludled in the darkness of a musty room waiting for the newspaper report of a-murder to come into his hands, nor is he at some smug place like 221B Baker Street awaiting the arrival of a confused client while idly playing discordant notes on the violin. The Op is at "Jean Larrouy's dive," where he seems to be the only man without a criminal record. From the beginning, then, his is a world of action.

As he leaves Larrouy's, Beno, "the hophead newsie," stops the Op on the street to tip him on the planned knockover of Seaman's National. The Op pays no attention to Beno's information and walks away. But only as far as the next corner, from where he hears the shots that have killed the informer. Those shots trigger the action, they set the story in motion, and, from here on, the Op is faced with following the action where it takes him. Unlike Dupin or Holmes, the Op cannot wait for the action to come to him. The evil forces in the Op's world are powers






36



in motion and all the logic in the world will not put them behind bars.

The morning after Beno's murder, the Op goes to the offices of Seaman's National for a routine investigation. A few blocks from the bank offices he again finds himself in the thick of the action. "Rounding into Montgomery Street," he says, "I found few sightseers ahead of me. The middle of -the street was filled with trucks, touring cars, taxis--deserted there. Up in the next block--between Bush

and Pine Streets--hell was on a holiday" (p. 358) Again the Op has found. Indeed, his ability to tell his story depends on his capacity to continue to discover--not only the facts that lead him to the solution of the case, but the links in the events that allow him to become a man of the imagination. So he must be a participant in "hell's holiday," he must get himself dirty as he plays in the game against evil. And so the Op goes from the start. In his humorous metaphorical style, he says, "For the next six hours I was busier than a flea on a fat woman" (p. 359). Unafraid, unhampered by intellectual reflections, he dives deep into the action as wholeheartedly as from his first words he has plunged deeply into the narrative act.

After the initial round of "bloodhounding," the Op goes to the Continental Agency's office for a conference with the Old Man, his boss. The Op's description of his





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mentor serves as an insight into the ways of the Op himself as active detective:

A tall, plump man in his seventies, this boss of mine, with a white-mustached, baby-pink, grandfatherly face, mild blue eyes behind rimless
spectacles, and no more warmth in him than a hangman's rope. Fifty years of crook-hunting for the Continental had emptied him of everything except
brains and a soft-spoken, gently smiling shell
of politeness that was the same whether things went
good or bad--and meant as little at one time as
another. We who worked under him were proud of his
cold-bloodedness. We used to boast that he could
spit icicles in July, and we called him Pontius
Pilate among ours ,elves, because he smiled politely
when he sent us out to be crucified on suicidal
jobs. (p. 359)

The Old Man has attained a wisdom for which the Op greatly admires him. He has been at hell's holiday and has lived to spit icicles in July. He is the guru, the high-priest of sleuths, and the Op must nourish himself from the old Man's wisdom before he continues to follow the action.

After the Op gives the Old Man the facts that he has been able to gather in six busy hours and has pointed to Bluepoint Vance as the possible mastermind behind the knockover, the Old Man says, "'I'm afraid not,' "'IVance is a shrewd, resourceful and determined crimin4l, but his weakness is one common to his type. His abilities are all for present action and not for planning ahead. He has executed some large operations, but I've always thought I saw in'them some other mind at work behind him. '" "'And who,'" asks the Op in the tradition of his predecessors, "'is this arch-gonif?'" The Old Man answers,





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"'1You'll probably know that before I do'" (p. 364). Appropriately to the description of the Old Man which the Op has previously given us, the Old Man's experience tells him that no amount of expertise in sleuthing is going to help him catch his man while sitting at his office and staring out the window. To the great intellectual question asked by the Op, the Old Man answers with an exhortation to action. In the Op's world of motion, questions are but the springboard for an active search that in turn creates more action. So the Old Man's seventy years do not prevent him frcom giving the op a push into the action, from setting him and his story on the move once more.

Then the Op returns to where he first found, to Jean Larrouy's. After an interval of inaction, he goes up the street to Wop Healy's, where he sees the boyish looking Armenian type he had seen walking away from where Beno had been shot. It is at this point in the story that observation, that essential faculty of the super cop's, becomes the force that incites the action. "I watched the young Armenian," says the Op;,and, as the Armenian leaves Healy's, he says, "I followed him out." Motion and not thought is the outcome of observation. When this "optical" man sees, he moves so he can keep on seeing. It is the process of seeing and moving, the rhythms created by these activities, which account for the Op's ability to tell his story. The Armenian, who is carrying messages to all the






39



hoodlums that participated in the knockover, is, like the Old Man before him, the inciter of the action. For the time being, he is the Op's one clue to the man he wants. If he loses the Armenian, he risks losing not only the mastermind behind the heist, but, most importantly, the action that will allow him to tell his story. So the Op follows the youngster everywhere while Jack Counihan, the young Continental Operative, follows the "skull-cracker" who is also tailing the Armenian boy.

Then, when all the "greetings" have been delivered

by the Armenian, he and the skull-cracker enter a dilapidated rooming house. The boy is out of the Op's sight and so the Op must wait until he emerges from the building. But the skull-cracker comes out alone. As the Op prepares to tail him, he hears a faint scream from the upper level of the building. The Op tells Jack to tail the skullcracker while'he goes to see what the scream has already told him, that the Armenian boy is dead. Close scrutiny .of the room where the boy lies with his throat slit from ear to ear reveals no clue, "not a thing out of which information could be squeezed" (p. 369). The Op merely stands there in the center of the room scratching his chin and thinking in vain. For a moment, seeing and moving has come to nothing. He lives in a moving world where the mere blinking of the eyes may cause him to lose the action. For now, neither he nor his story can go anywhere.






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At that moment, however, Sylvia Yount, whom the Op had met at Larrouy' s steals into the room. The Op watches'her moves-from~ a one-inch opening he has left in the closet door. As Sylvia leaves, so does the Op. He has renewed his visual connection with the action. He follows her to Larrouy's, where she asks for "Red." From there he walks after her to the hotel in Stockton Street, where again he hears her asking for Red. Then it is by streetcar to Market and Powell Streets, and once more on foot to Powell and O'Farrel where he sees her step into a taxi where "a customer" is waiting for her. The Op does not follow. She has given him a lead to where the action really is. All that he has to do now is find Red.

After the Op witnesses twenty murders in two separate

locations and has seen the words "Big Flora" written in blood on the wall of one of the apartments, he goes to bed only to be called by the police three minutes later. They are holding Red O'Leary. In the morning, the Op goes to the police station to see how the cops are doing with Red. Red, however, has an alibi for the time during which the robbery took place and the police can get nothing out of him., The police captain, a man of the law and thus a man restrained by abstractions, tells the Op that he can hold O'Leary for twenty-four hours, but the Op tells him, "Suppose you turn him loose now . He's got himself all





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alibied up, so there's no reason why he should hide out on us. We'll let him alone all day--give him time to make sure he isn't being tailed--and then we'll get behind him tonight and stay behind him" (p. 377). In contrast to the police captain, the Op recognizes that he has to allow his man to move so he may move along with him. Like the Armenian boy before him, it is now Red O'Leary who provides the Op with his one link to the action.

After Red emerges from his hotel and goes to Larrouy's, there is little for the Op to do but to wait for more action to begin. 'There, in the same place where he first found, the action is brewing as all the hoodlums that have been cheated out of their cut begin to crowd around while they wait for Bluepoint Vance to appear. As the Op waits for Red to make his move, it is as if the story is being charged with electric power for the big igniting moment that will once more set it in motion. And there he sits, in the middle of the arena, knowing that if the action is to continue he must stand between Red and the hoodlums and let Red make his escape so he can continue to follow him. Even when Bluepoint confronts Red and the action threatens the Opts very life, he says, "This big chump was too valuable to lose. We'd have to get ourselves all battered up saving him from the rewards of his own pig-headedness'. There was no justice in it" (p. 386). Clearly, there is no cause for the actions of the Op. He does not do what he does in






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the interest of some abstract virtue. So he lives for the action which he finds "valuable." He is in his business for the adtion--not for any intellectualized notions of action as a moral good, but for the action as action.

Before Vance can finish telling Nancy Reagan, who is

at Red's table, the details of how lonely she will be without Red, he finds himself knocked across the next table by Red's fist. Volcano-like, the action erupts. The Op, "blackjack in right hand, gun in left," is already with his back to the rear-entrance door calling out to Red and Nancy to move his way. Now it is Red who must follow the Op. They are in it together, and it is an action which the Op must now generate in order that he can keep on following his man. The violence that takes place as the Op, Jack, Red, and Nancy make th eir exit is indicative of the action that the Op can generate:

A squint-eyed Portuguese slashed at my neck with a
knife that spoiled my necktie. I caught him over the ear with the side of my gun before he could get away, *and saw the ear tear loose. A grinning kid of twenty
went down for my legs--football stuff. I felt his teeth in the knee I pumped up, and felt them break.
A pock-marked mulatto pushed a gun-barrel over the shoulder of the man in front of him. My blackjack
crunched the-arm of the man in front. He winced
sidewise as the mulatto pulled the trigger--and
had the side of his face blown away. (p. 388)

In this action, violence is not just a word to denote a conceptualized form of physical cruelty. It is, rather, a necessary series of acts upon which life depends. The





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Op must act in a way that is vital to his life as an active phenomenon. The "Portuguese" and the "pock-marked mulatto" are the embodiment of evil not because they would physically hurt the Op, but because they would prevent him from telling his story, because their action is aimed at stopping all the subsequent acts among which the narrative itself figures as a distinct pos ability.

As they get past the rear door and find themselves

in a dark hallway, the Op says, "'We've got to go somewhere'" (p. 390). As he has to lead Red O'Leary out of the dark, so must he continue the search for the light of those first words that confirm his having gotten somewhere. While in the dark the pursuing hoodlums "were talking about getting lights," it is the Op who, in yet another act of discovery, finds.his way to "A room with two windows through which came a pale glow from the street lights" (p. 390). Unlike Dupin and his companion, the Op is not at ease in the dark. He continues to move past that dim light while carrying O'Leary's big bulk with him. Paralleling the rhythms in which we see the Op lose the thread of the action and regain it, we now see him move from the light into darkness again, then up the roof and down a ten-foot jump to the next building's and up to the next and down a fire escape running down to a back street while in the confusion the police and the hoodlums shoot it out amongst themselves.





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When they finally reach the freedom of the open street, the first thing that Red says is that he-is parting way-s with the Op. The Op, one might say, has been too successful at helping Red make his escape. Once again he has to follow where Red will lead. As they walk together down the street, two not-so-tough hoodlums meet Red and the Op. As they fight, the Op manages to position his man with his back to O'Leary's and it is then that he shoots Red in the back. What appears as a willing effort on the part of the Op to stop the action is really the only alternative that he has to losing his man altogether. O'Leary is too powerful for the Op to take one on one. But with Red injured, the Op.can pretend that he wants to help him and hope that the big Irishman will lead him to Big Flora.

Finally, when he meets Big Flora, the Op realizes

that he can't just flash a badge and tell her that she is under arrest. To Flora's "'Who, what, and why,'" the Op quickly creates a new identity for himself. He calls himself Percy Maguire and tells the huge woman and Pogy (the skull-cracker) that he has come for his share of the loot. The Op is now one of the gang. If up to now there has been a trace of difference between the forces of good as exemplified by the Op and the powers of evil as embodied in all the hoodlums, that difference disappears with the Op's new identity. There is no clearly defined act that separates





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right from wrong, the Op from Flora, Red, or Pogy. As he did from the beginning, he continues to do as they do, act as they act. It is the Op's very life (and thus the life of the narrative) which is at stake here in this activity. At this stage of the story, neither his loyalty to the Continental agency,.nor the recovery of the money, not even, in fact, the arrest of Big Flora are primary considerations in the Op's range of moral alternatives. He chooses life, his life. Life becomes the only mor-al alternative.

Thus, after the little old man that scurries busily

around the-house tells the Op that he can get him out alive if he will let him escape, the Op sees "a feeble ray of light where there hadn't been a dot" (p. 404). Half an hour before daylight, Big Flora comes to the kitchen to finish off the Op. But the little old man tells her that he will take him to the cellar and that he will do the killing. There, in the literal darkness of the cellar, the Op can do no more than let life have his way with him. As a force capable of generating the action, he has reached his end. He has no choice but to go along with the old man's scheme. As he had previously seen Red as a "valuable" entity, as a value contributing to his passion for action, now he sees the "old gink" as another value contributing to his very existence. Soon, the old man begins to parade the hoodlums down to the cellar. First Red and then Pogy. The Op swiftly knocks them cold with an eighteen-inch lead





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pipe. Then,when Big Flora almost shoots him, it is the old man who knocks her unconscious with a blow in the side.of the head..

Even before Bluepoint tells the Op that the old man is the real brain behind the entire heist, the solution to the mystery has ceased to be the primary consideration in the life of the narrative. The essential moral feat confronting the Op is staying alive. The identity of the criminal is not left for the final climactic moment of the story. The narrative has long since stopped aspiring to the illustration of'the ways of the logical mind as its "moral activity." The fact is that the evil element is indispensable for the life of the narrative. As such, it cannot die. It is Papadopoulos himself who has saved the Op's life. And this in turn means that by the end of th e story there is no rationally definable good or evil. out of the interplay between opposing forces is born an aesthetic event, a moral occasion that lies outside the arena of rational polarities. Supposedly the good guy, the Op plays the part of Percy Maguire. Papdopoulos, society's archenemy, has saved the Op's life and has thus allowed him to find his way into the imaginative dimension. The traditional combat between good and evil turns out to be an act of affirmation beyond the boundaries of traditional ethics. Action as motion has been transformed into action as an imaginative feat and thus into a good that finds its place in a concrete rather than an abstract world.






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Ultimately, then, the narrative itself reveals its

own power for good by manifesting a creative act. Rather than an illustration of the victory of reason or logic, the narrative displays a victory for the imagination. The interplay between irreconcilable opposites becomes instead the principle of narrative unity. There is no ideal order at the end. Both Papadopoulos and the Op continue to live as they have in the past, on the move, creating a wake of action behind them. Such is "the moral activity" of which the modern story is capable. As a distinct value beyond intellectual notions, it is the imagination which bursts from the shackles of rationalism to assert itself as a moral good. Now it is the imaginative activity which "disentangles." It is not the activity which unravels a mystery, but rather the act which frees itself to affirm the power of life and engender still more action. Along with the Op, we have discovered the value of the imaginative genius to be the spirit of generation and birth. We discover the value of life as a process consisting of changes leading in a specific direction. Along with the Op, in fact, we discover that it is his commitment to life which we, too, make at every moment in our own lives. Indeed, we discover that we neither remain in nor return to a world of darkness, but that we move f forever onward toward the light, discovering always, always exclaiming, "What a life!"















CHAPTER TWO


POPEYE'S CONNECTION AND CRITICISM AS A VISUAL AID


Popeye Doyle has followed the Frenchman into a dimly

lit abandoned warehouse. Suddenly he sees a slight movement and tells Buddy, his partner, "Frog One' is in that room." Followed by Buddy, Popeye moves toward a small square of light at the center of the screen. Popeye sees something move--an indistinguishable image. He quickly empties his .38 service revolver in the direction of the motion. Both Popeye and Buddy run toward where Popeye has fired the six shots and discover that Popeye has killed Moulderig, the F.B.I. man who had joined them in the case. Visibly dismayed, Buddy is saying, "It's Moulderig, you shot Moulderig." Popeye merely reloads his gun and moves on further past the doorway where Buddy is kneeling over Moulderig's body. Doyle's image disappears at the end of yet another lighted square at the center of the screen. Suddenly a single shot goes off, the screen goes totally black, and "The French Connection" ends.

As in the Op's case, the connection is incomplete. Neither the Op's narrative nor Popeye's story has an end


48





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consisting of the unqualified triumph of a thoroughly defined good over an evil force threatening the existence of that good. But whereas the Op can turn the open possibilities of his story into a narrative act, Popeye can do no more than disappear into the darkness of the screen. Yet this is not to say that the Op's story is more complete than Popeye's. For if the Op's narrative attests to the powers of the word as an imaginative vehicle whereby the life of action is affirmed, Popeye's story testifies on behalf of the vitality of the moving color image to reveal a visual world where the interaction between the eye and the image has resulted in a narrative activity. Indeed, almost the entire action of Popeye's story consists of establishing a visual connection with "Frog One." The following sequence clearly illustrates Popeye's motivation, that which literally moves him. He follows the Frenchman into the Westbury Hotel and out on the street. He loses him, and then catches a glimpse of him as he turns a corner and enters Maia's flower shop. He waits for the Frenchman outside the shop. Popeye thinks it is just a matter of time until he has him in sight, but finally when he goes to the shop, the Frenchman has eluded him once more. Then hie finds him again--this time at the head of the stairway leading down to the subway terminal. Again Popeye loses his man. But the eye never gives up. Once more he sees the






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fleeting imageof his man as he turns to go down another stairway and into the subway station. As "Frog one" waits for the subway, Popeye pretends that he is making a phone call from an adjacent public booth.- Then they both enter the subway. The Frenchman quickly leaves it before it begins to move, and seeing him, Popeye also exits.. Then they both go in and again they both come out. Just as the subway is to begin its motion, "Frog One" comes out, Popeye follows, but the Frenchman quickly goes back in as the automatic doors close on Popeye before he can follow in. Even then, the man of the eye runs after the subway, screaming, cursing, throwing his hat down in disgust, looking at his man, who smiles and waves gently from behind the glass window of the moving subwayClearly, Popeye acts out of the same motivation for action that moves the Op. And while he-may lose his man in this sequence (a prelude to the final scene) that which he never loses is his passion to see. Accordingly, the visual connection is established as an enduring act, as a perennial activity which becomes the dominant power for action throughout the narrative, which becomes, indeed, the narrative itself. But if there are surface similarities between the Op's activity and Popeye's motivations, there are more subtle and basic differences. For one thing, the Op sees but to get to his man, to arrest the "arch-





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gonif" behind the knockover. Popeye, on the other hand, knows who the archenemy is relatively early in the narrative. But what is more, the Op gets to his man by following what are basically verbal clues which lead to the visual action (the Old Man telling him that Bluepoint is not the mastermind behind the heist, Sylvia Yount asking for "Red," or the words "Big Flora" written in blood on a wall). on the other hand, the steps leading Popeye to his man are purely visual. Consider, for instance, when he takes Buddy out for a drink at the end of their day. Buddy thinks that they are going to the lounge to relax, but Popeye, who does not know the difference between his duties as a detective and his life as an active eye, has gone to that particular nightclub on the "hunch" that the man he has gone to see, Sal Boca, will lead him to more visual action." He watches Boca handing out large bills and then waits outside the lounge until dawn for him and his wife to come out. He follows them to a street where they change cars (from a late model Mercury to an old Comet). And even then, he follows them to their delicatessen, "Sal and Angie's," which they use as a "front" for their illegal operations.

Evidently,- Popeyes visual activity differs from the Op's verbal act. Popeye's lead entails a connection between the eye and the image which is unmediated by words, analysis, or even by the ethical concerns of the nineteenth century stories. And it is in the difference in methods of action





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wherein lies the elementary distinguishing feature between the literary story and the new medium into which the detective genre has propelled itself. In the movie, in a world of images; the detective can do no more than follow the lead of the moving image. If hie is to follow the action he must move as the image moves, for unlike in the literary version, the image, not the word, is the primordial generating source. The task confronting the detective in the movies is a visual'rather than a verbal one. His visual talents converge upon the generating activity of the image. As the image acts upon his receptive eye, Popeye assimilates and incorporates that force and he, too, becomes a generating power. Popeye' s activity glaringly illustrates that logical methods and ethical concerns cease to operate as the dominant forces that account for the narrative achievement. Vision is the only method. The world of images in which Popeye moves does not allow him to replace visual action with intellectual reflection. And as Popeye further illuminates, vision is not just a new method for connecting with the criminal element, it is a way of life onto itself. (The joy of the eye's life is present when Popeye is driving through the streets and sees a girl riding a bicycle. out of his passion to see, he later makes love to the image.)

Moreover, since both the Op and the narrator of

"Murders" willingly submit to the power of words, it is





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inevitable that they exist in a world divided between past and present, or, more precisely still, between story and narrative.-act. (Thus, the very presence of the word as a medium acts as the final dimension of the crossed condition present in both stories.) As a direct result of their commitment to words, the first stubborn fact of the literary story resides in the need to live out the action before its results can actually be told. Words and only words empower the active agent to re-create his experience in order-to enact -the narrative process. of necessity, then, the verbal powers pull the literary story toward a world of memory and away from the action itself. The literary medium, it is obvious, does not allow a simultaneity of motion and imaginative activity. Quite simply, before the Op continues to "turn the city upside down" in his search for Papadopoulos, before he can indeed continue to generate the action of discovery which he promises in the end, he has to stop and tell his tale. In short, the story precedes the narrative; and the narrative act in turn precludes the specific motion in search for Papadopoulos.

By contrast, the medium of light, the means of change and growth which gives Popeye his life, demands that he live out all of his story in a world of immediacy, in a domain where both narrative and story converge upon an indivisible and ever-changing present to whose ceaseless unfolding the eye is the only witness. Take, for instance,





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the chase sequence. Through the powers of the word, Popeye has been ordered off the case, Moulderig, the F.B.I. man, the man of abstraction, succeeds in convincing Walt, Popeye's superior, that Popeye has "no case" at all, that he is wasting his and everyone else's time. Walt then tells Popeye, "As of right now, you're off special assignment." But as Popeye is walking home, Pierre Nicoli, "Frog One's" hit man, begins to shoot at him from the rooftop of the apartment building where Popeye lives. Popeye makes his way up to the rooftop and sees only the empty brass rifle cartridges and the rifle. He quickly descends and begins to run after Nicoli. Hie loses him at the "El"' station and then sees his man as he is going into the "El." Though he shouts for the train to stop, it moves on. Popeye is next seen on the street. Finally, he commandeers a car and begins to chase the "El" from below. His eyes are always on the move, up and ahead, to the moving train and the oncoming traffic. Meanwhile, the camera cuts from Nicoli and then to Popeye. It is a constant cross-cutting where the camera fuses the action between the good eye and the evil force which has attempted to kill the image.

Ever on the move, Popeye continues to drive through

every obstacle to his passion to converge with the image of the killer. He stops where the "El" is next scheduled to stop, but quickly learns that motion will not submit to





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abstractions such as the train's timetable. Again he jumps on the now beaten-up Le Mans and continues to speed through the streets. Also continuing its own intense action, the camera keeps up its cross-cutting activity. It soon shows the train crash. Nicoli is knocked down, rises and though visibly dazed, finally exits the train. Popeye is at the foot of the stairs waiting for him. He shouts for Nicoli to stop, and when the killer just turns around to go up the stairs again, Popeye shoots him in the back, killing him. The initial fact of this sequence points to the powerlessness of the word in the domain of images. Moulderig and Walt, both figures of authority in the law enforcement hierarchy have verbally declared the ineffectiveness of the eye to generate the action, to, in fact, empower the narrative act with its vitality. There is, Walt says, nothing "special" to see, no "assignment" that is the eye's own. Alone, then, Popeye has seen and moved to proclaim not only the powerlessness of the word in a medium of light, but the life of the eye as a generating source, as the wellspring of all the action that can take place once it is wholly emancipated to follow the image's lead. After the episode with Nicoli, the eye has shown that it does indeed have "a case." Popeye shows that the eye and the image are powerful enough to generate an action beyond words. And what is more, Popeye's convergence upon Nicoli's image shows that the encounter with the eye is an inevitability.






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In other words, there is no escape from the eye, no other life apart from the one revealed by the agent's visual* powers.

Thus, despite the fact that the words of his superiors seek to disengage Popeye from the action, his moving eye shows the power of the eye to reveal its own potentialities for value. Therefore, the action-engendering eye becomes the unifying phenomenon from which the imaginative eye nourishes itself to create an occasion beyond meaning and necessity, beyond symbol and metaphor as principles of structure. For just as Popeye's actions are empirically verified in the present, so are they empirically emancipated from the abstractions of symbols. Since it is not nourished from the word but fromthe light, Popeye's own image as well as all the others about him cannot possibly be intellectually considered as a device whereby an abstraction can be m ade. 1 Thus, to attempt to distil a thought from the moving image entails an intrinsic cruelty done to its life; it entails an admission, however tacit, that the visual universe is unworthy of our full attention. Popeye's visual activity as we 11 as his living image is not


1
Susanne K. Langer, Feeling and Form (New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1953), p. xi, defines "symbol" as "any device whereby we are enabled to make an abstraction." Within the context of this discussion I have seen the need to-clarify the image as an entity beyond propositional truths and have therefore seen Langer's definition of symbol as a suitable foil for my exploration of the image.





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an idea of the thing, but the thing itself, the organic entity emancipated from the traditional substance-and-, attribute'dichotomy. The interaction between the popping eye and image creates what Alfred North Whitehead has termed "the pure mode of presentational immediacy," which, as he explains, "gives no information as to the past, or the future. It merely presents an illustrated portion of the presented duration. It thereby defines a cross section of the universe: but does not in itself define on which side lies the past, and on which side the future."2 Seeing and moving, Popeye testifies to the fact that his activity is the only reality. Acting autonomously, independent of the onerous commitments to past or future that are at the base of the intellectual tradition, Popeye's eye lives and generates its own life--moving, changing, showing all of its ever-new energy in the immediate present. Acting in and by the light, Popeye becomes an agent for the new medium. And as a living force within the medium, he has also become an agent for genre.

As a result of Popeye's activity, one obvious fact

concerning the detective story as a narrative genre is that, once in a medium of images, the detective or private "I" becomes a private-eye. In a world of images, dancing, changing on the screen, the ego, man's primitive, elemental chord tying him to the womb of his verbal past, has been

2Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929; rpt. New York: Harper and Row, 1957), p. 255.





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severed. It is now the active, mobile eye which establishes and unifies a unique world of relationships in the world of motion in which it acts. As the chase sequence illustrates, since Popeye's activity is not sanctioned by the legal powers, he is therefore acting out of a private center of energy, the eye. (Significantly, during this scene of intense visual activity, Buddy is not with Popeye. Thus the condition of privacy is reinforced.) This "detective" on the vice squad is not a man shackled by the abstract legal powers. Nor, more importan tly still, is he a deductive mind seeking to restore an abstract order. Rather he is a living eye seeking only the encounter with the concrete particular. Though nominally a police officer, Popeye is a private eye. Clearly lacking an ego that wills the restoration of a social order, all that he is left with as a source of action in his world of images is his own visual powers.

Furthermore, since the light denie's Popeye the possibility for verbal creation, it follows that it denies him the element of "character" in the traditional, lexical, and critical senses of that word, That is, the light which shows him as a moving image denies him an intellectualized frame of reference, a narrow self-defining perspective from which he can "see" himself and his rational identity in relation to other abstractions around him.





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First of all, the root sense of the word "character" itself implies the static, the fixed. As such, character entails the age-old notion of a verbally established self resist ing all change in the midst of an ever-moving and ever-growing world. Rationally defined and distilled to the point of active resistance to change, character reveals rational man's perennial passion for certainty and predictability. But as a direct result of his existence in a world charged with the energy of light, Popeye has been wholly divested of the heavy garb of reason and the search for absolute t ruth which were at the core of the activity of both Holmes and Dupin.' He has emerged from that confined larval stage of character-man which is even a characteristic of the Op. Therefore he does not create.out of the fixed immobile "I" but lives as a genius of the eye, generating change out of his eye's interaction with the image. Thus, the new moral activity which Popeye makes manifest resides both in the capacity of his living image to affirm the living powers of a universe of light and in the power of his eye to confirm the vitality of that world of action. His, therefore, is not an ethical morality based on preestablished standards of rational order, but a morality of power, of the value of the living, moving world of light proclaimed by his equally active and mobile eye.

Now if the new moral activity accounts for the basic difference in the life of the "I" and the eye, the Op and






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Popeye, the word and light, "The Big Knockover" and "The French Connection," then it follows that the activity itself genei ates an equally different relationship between good and evil. An art of particularity, each private-eye movie, and each movie for that matter, creates its own sense of good and evil. In "The French Connection," the two initial sequences clearly illustrate the power of the new art form to redefine evil with as much clarity as it redirects the perception of the good. The first sequence takes place in Marseilles, in France, the domain of thought, of the cogito, the birthplace of the first detective, the realm of logic and deduction. The old world is the initial setting for this story of the private-eye in the new world and in the new medium. In this old world, Alain ("Frog one") has ordered Nicoli to kill an image, to violate its life, its motion, its possibilities. Significantly, Alain does not even bother to do the killing himself. Which is to say, that he slights the image. He doesn't care to see it. And more importantly still, it is never established that this image who is shot in the face threatens anything but the intellectual rather than the visual properties of Alain's image. In other words, all that can be ascertained fromthe assassination in the beginning of the movie is that somehow the man who is killed threatens the perverse motives of the Frenchman. Thus, just as Alain's





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destruction of the image is based upon a motive, so is his invasion of the new world dictated by an abstract motive (personal wealth) that aims at nothing but a violation of the integrity of the eye and the image. There is obviously a basic duality at work in this first sequence. Alain is an image, yet is bent on destroying the powers that confirm the existence of the image by preying.upon the senses of those who are "hooked" on heroin. He comes from the old world to the new, but he does not travel in order to be regenerated, in order to discover, but in order to rule supreme over the lives of others. A victory for this force of evil would consist in the total corruption of the senses and it would also hinder the mobility of the image.

Alain, however, is not only the evil element because he seeks to impose his abstract motives upon others and because he seeks to control the life of the image, but also because he brings the ways of the literary story, the ways of the word, into the image's terrain. He is the bearer of mystery, intrigue, and of hidden identities. As such he is the image wickedly resisting an encounter with the powers of the eye. An intellectual, he possesses an ego which imposes itself upon his existence in a world of light and which wills itself to a condition of invisibility not unlike the one to which Dupin and the narrator of "Murders" willed their lives. And yet, as the active image which he cannot





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help.being, Alain is more than just a traditional evil character transplanted from the literary to the cinematic medium. For one thing, as the ending of the narrative illustrates, he moves as nimbly as Popeye himself. He is an image to be seen by the popping eye. Which means that in so being, he, too, is responsible for generating the action. Popeye, it is clear, cannot generate the visual activity unless there is a particular image that teases him into the action. Therefore, while Alain is certainly the source of evil, he is also an active force, an efficient cause of the action and thus a power for a good thatresides outside rational polarities. He is not the absolute embodiment of a perverse force such as is found in the literary stories where evil is absolute and totally pernicious to the order of civilization. For action, not order, is the summum bonum in the story of the eye. Action is the very life of the visual experience. And insofar as Alain contributes to the visual action, he is a vital force for good. Only the perennial threat of.his triumph over the powers of the eye makes him the central evil figure.

On a street in Brooklyn, the camera focuses on the

joyful faces of black children. They are fascinated with the image of Santa Claus. The innocent eyes gape in amazement, delighted with the image before them. It is the innocence of such a vision which Alain and the others like him seek to corrupt. Meanwhile Buddy, who is posing as a





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street vendor, suddenly breaks into a bar to begin making arrests. Santa Claus follows. It is Popeye. From behind this mythic figure of infinite goodness emerges.the popping eye itself. Soon they are chasing a black man who runs out from behind the bar. The man stabs Buddy in the arm and escapes, but finally falls and Popeye, still dressed as Santa Claus though his white beard is off, start s beating him. The black, a drug peddler like Alain, has been conquered by the eye. As Alain is to do later, the black pusher has incited the action. But the result of the second sequence is that out of the traditional encounter between mutually opposed forces, the camera eye has magically bred an action that is outside good and evil, an action that, affirms itself as a living occasion altogether beyond the field of rational ethics.

As a result of Popeye's victory at the end of the second sequence of the movie, it is visually announced that the private-eye is the clarifier of vision, that it is the eye which frees from the darkness, which illuminatesand brightens. And the eye clarifies by allowing the images to move rather than by letting them succumb to the powers of abstraction. As a clarifier of the powers of vision, it follows that Popeye acts as an agent for the powers of the light. In the interplay between good and evil, between light and dark, he keeps the image on the move by keeping an





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active eye on it. With every act, with every move of his eye, Popeye preserves the pristine innocence of the image from the evil of darkness. His clarifying talent is to be most clearly seen in his power to draw the innocent image away from the dark motivations of the intellect and thereby show a unified world of action, on the move, offering immediate possibilities for the good. Popeye's burden is created for him by the presence of an evil force which, from the beginning, seeks to do away with the activity of the moving, changing image. Therefore, the man of the eye cannot live to assert'verbally the power of the image. Instead he must proclaim the vitality of the visual world through an inexhaustible passion to interact with the image.

Thus, as defined in "The French Connection," action presupposes the interplay between good and evil. And not only is evil embodied in Alain and in his associates such as Nicoli and Boca, but, in a more subtle manner, it is also present in the activity of Moulderig who, as a verbal man, tries to prevent Popeye from seeing the image. (Incidentally, by way of displaying his visual talents all that Moulderig can do is sit at the lobby of the Westbury Hotel thinking all the time that "Frog One" is in his room. It takes a telephone call from Popeye to make this visual dolt "see" that'he has lost his man without every having seen him.) Popeye, therefore, must go at it by himself. The action of the eye does not give way to the sanctity of





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the legal system and its hierarchical structure. Popeye is the bearer "of the individual against externally imposed s ystems, against the order of all words, roles, and insti.3
tutions." The moving eye clarifies the image out of a self-generating source of action that knows no authority but its own. Acting out of the private center, Popeye ultimately succeeds in transporting the entire narrative beyond the poles of good and evil. He turns action itself into the supreme moral activity, the living visual event that is the narrative itself.



ii


Popeye's activity extends beyond the screen to invite us to see as he sees. The visual act beckons to a domain where images are seen with an accuracy, a precision, which only their own indiviudal lives can reveal to an eye which, like Popeye's, is always on the move. Therefore, just as Popeye's activity succeeds in clarifying and affirming the living image as a value, so does that very same force succeed in creating its own critical method. In other words, it is futile to come to this exploration of the life of the private-eye armed with what is too often reverentially



3 W. R. Robinson, "The Movies as a Revolutionary Moral Force, Part II," Contempora, 2, No. 1 (1972), 26-34.





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referred to as "film theory." It often happens that critical theory is all too willing to violate the immanently generated-world of concrete form in favor of abstract notions or formulas brought to bear upon the movie under consideration. Like Alain, who is the bearer of a power pernicious to the eye, theory more often than not seeks to control the action by imposing itself on the life of the image. An art of motion, the movies cannot be made to conform to static, preconceived intellectual concepts. Action precludes reflection, so that as Popeye's eye resists the intellectual invasion of "Frog One," so does the narrative itself resists control by alien powers.

As a narrative, then, a movie's only obligation is to assert itself as an object of value within its. given medium. Each movie reveals its particular life and demands that it be seen as a concrete actual occasion. Each creates its own method of action and dictates its own critical approach. "Chinatown" operates with a wholly different critical method than does "Dirty Harry." Thus, the adoption of abstract theory--at least in an exploration of a privateeye. movie--would result in the eventual discovery that, like darkness and abstractions, the rational method is also the enemy of the private-eye; that, like "Frog One," theory, too, seeks to do away with the particular form of light witnessed by the eye. Consequently, the literary critic





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may be a detective. He may seek to order through words because he is dealing in words. The movie critic, however, cannot but be a private-eye. To see Popeye's activity, an intrinsic value, the critic has to. abandon the intellectual passion for fixed concepts, the hankering for thought as a ruling faculty over empirically witnessed phenomena. When he confronts the movies, the critic must begin by shedding all notions of "film art" and allow the eye to move. He must act like Popeye and avoid missing the connection as Moulderig misses it. As Robert Warshow said,

at ihe center of all truly successful criticism

there is always a man reading a book, a man looking at a picture, a man watching a movie." Popeye's action generates from the organic relationship between the eye and the moving image. His emancipated eye does not see the images from a "point of view," or from a rational perspective, but in a center-to-center relationship between itself and the living image.

Thus, a criticism of the private-eye and his story

.seeks an interaction with the life of the image. It follows that if such a critical method abandons intellectual concepts, the center-to-center relationship which it seeks entails an imaginative rather than a rational vision of



4 The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre, and Other Aspects of Popular Culture (New York: Atheneum,
-970), p. 26.






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the private-eye's story. W. R. Robinson has said that both the movie viewer and the critic must seek "a method that concentrates upon describing qualities and their relationships." The source for such a method is to be found in the imagination, or, more accurately, in an imaginative activity which emerges as an extension of the visual powers immediately confronting the eye. Thus, if in rendering the narrative act, the imagination is the image-making power, in studying and exploring that same narrative, the imagination is the power that discovers the value of the visual experience. Image and imagination are wedded to enact a critical method for the exploration of the private-eye's activity. Since the image hides nothing, it is no longer the task of the critic to formulate and reformulate hypotheses by way of ordering what Burckhardt called "the disturbing element" 6 in a work of literary art. Liberated from the divisive power of words and its concomitant ethical considerations of right and wrong and good and evil, the



51"Making Sense of the Movies," The Georgia Review, 23,
No. 2 (1969) 148-168.

6Sigurd Burckhardt, "Notes on the Theory of Intrinsic Interpretation," in Critical Theory Since Plato, ed. Hazard Adams (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1971), p. 1207. Burckhardt says, "I begin to interpret when I tell myself that the 'disturbing element' arises from a discrepancy between my conception and the poem itself."





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imaginative eye interacts with the light that emanates from the silver screen and describes the qualities of the relationships'created by the changing light. only in such an active relationship with the image is the criticism one with Popeye's moving eye. To see Popeye as something other than a moving, changing, growing image entails an outright negation of the value of the visible creation. In a confrontation with an activity such as Popeye's chase after Nicoli, it'is futile for the critic to act out of a necessity to interpret or explain. The action is too fast for the intellect to reflect upon it. Where there is nothing to understand through intellectual dissection, theory inevitably fails to reveal the value potentialities of the image.

From the foregoing discussion a hypothetical question can be immediately anticipated: "If the visual interaction between Popeye and Alain accounts for a unique method of critical exploration to which theory is superfluous, what then is the function of movie criticism?" The question, in effect, posits the order of the critical activity in relation to the visual experience. In other words, it asks what comes first, the method or the image. obviously, in a world of images, the senses precede all critical approaches. In the absence of a ruling theory, the visual experience itself has priority. As far as a vision of Popeye's activity goes, then, the critical act constitutes a basic






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commitment to the life. of the seen. The critic, therefore, evaluates, literally sees and makes manifest the value and the power of the image through the powers of an imagination that matches the power of the narrative act himself. Thus, although he makes common the value of the image through words, the critic's medium is still Popeye's; it is still the light. And further, since he follows the life of the image, his words are emancipated from the dualistic power of words in their intellectual context. Thus the critic is empowered to show exactly what he has seen. For the supreme value is the visual act--not the visual act as a glorification of the rational powers but the visual act as a self-contained value. In short, the critical "fnto" consists of incorporating the method of the image as a power that illustrates the primordial value of vision.

But more than just out of a commitment to the life of

the action in one movie, imaginative criticism functions out of a fuller, more complete attention to all images. and all forms of visual action. Which is to say that while it is true that the activity of the mind which envisions Popeye's activity seeks a unity with that act, it is also certain that Popeye's life does by no means set the limits to a critical commitment to the life of the image. For example, at the end, when both "Frog One" and Popeye have been engulfed by the darkness, it is obvious that as a narrative, "The French Connection" has come short of that which even its title





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promises, namely, the eye's connection with the Frenchman. Therefore, while a criticism of "The French Connection" seeks to dffirm the life of the narrative, this does, not necessarily mean that it is impossible to see its shortcomings as well. Paying close attention to the relations created by and within the narrative act, it becomes possible for the critic to envision, or imagine, the failure of inherent possibilities within the narrative to become living actualities. Thus seeing that the life of the man of the eye and the light comes to an abrupt, black end, it is obvious that the powers of clarification have been denied their intrinsic potentialities to manifest the full value of vision.

The critic, too, acts as a clarifier of the activity

of the life in the visible creation. Following the lead of the private-eye, criticism becomes an enlightening activity. And as a result of the interaction between the visual process and the critical imagination, the evaluating activity renders its own sense of moral vision. For it is the clarifying aspect of the imaginative activity which, like the light itself, enacts the living relationships in Po peye's world. "We see," says Gaston Bachelard, "an endless exchange recurring between vision and the visible.





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Everything that makes us see, sees." 7 The full power of the light made visible, the image declares its existence in a self-created world without casual principles greaterthan itself and thereby invites the eye to witness its life in a self-generated arena of action. And in a universe such as Popeye's, charged with the power of the light, only the interaction between the eye and the living image can account for participation in the new moral activity to which "The Fre'ch Connection" attests,

Therefore, the living method enacted by the narrative for the critical attention is a descriptive criticism. As it encounters the image in motion, such an activity primarily consists of a description of changes and their relationships, The descriptive method is the critical equivalent to the aesthetic totality of the life of the light and the image together with the power of motion and the activity of the eye. But such a method is not relegated to the sequential rendering of events in the narrative. Rather its aim is to explore the manner in which the changes contribute to the actualization of aesthetic value. Acting from the process created by the very facts with which Popeye interacts, the critical act is unified with the forces proclaimed


7 On Poetic Imagination and Reverie: Selections from the Works of Gaston Bachelard, trans, Colette Gaudin (Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill, 1971), p. 78.





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by the life of the eye. Given the changes essential to the process, this form of critical action illustrates or draws attention to specific inherent possibilities and to the actualities whereby the narrative becomes a living form, a moral activity.

In the end, the model of vision offered by Popeye's

activity invites the critical imagination to a convergence with the powers of the image not unlike the one which Popeye's own eye seeks with the light in the form of "Frog One." An accurate description of this universe of.relationships leading to the stages of concrescence is the task of the critical action. The descriptive act must concentrate on particular moments of growth such as those which may lead into a vision of the growth of Popeye's own visual powers as he seeks his encounter with "Frog One.". And further, the critic as private-eye must see and unify each presentational moment of vision, each moti on, into the precise process of action created out of the interaction between the eye and the image. From each specific and immediate instance of growth, the descriptive imagination must forge a vision of the actual occasion as well as of its potentialities to propel the story forward. Out of a passion to see that .matches the popping eye's own, the critical act, too, is empowered for moral action. Nourishing itself in the image, it, too, testifies to the power of the visible creation and to the value of its vision.















CHAPTER THREE


LITERATURE AND THE CRUCIAL
IMAGE IN "THE MALTESE FALCON"

Both "The French Connection" in general and Popeye's visual activity in particular provide an invaluable source for setting up a broad critical base from which to launch the rest of this exploration of the private-eye movies. Both narrative and agent clarify the new moral activity and define the critical method dictated by the visual action. But to begin the actual exploration of the private-eye in the movies with a story such as "The French Connection" is to be blind to the organic growth of the private-eye in the cinematic medium. As no investigation of the detective in literature can begin with "The Big Knockover," so no inquiry into the private-eye movie can start with an exploration of a narrative that takes place some three decades after the private-eye story has solidly entrenched itself in the new medium. To begin in the middle is to miss a vital connection, an essential vision. Therefore, just as this entire exploration started with the first detective story and with an investigation into the method of action which engendered evolutionary changes in the genre, so the



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inquiry into the private-eye movies begins with a narrative which not only precedes "The French Connection" in chronological terms, but which also offers a fundamental vision of the emergence of the detective in the movies. For the fact is that Popeye's victory over the villains that threaten the life of his world presupposes other triumphs by other private-eyes--triumphs which are more well-earned than Popeye' s if only because the most demanding task of the early private-eye was to emerge as a suitable agent for a particular kind of action which could further the life of the imagination within the genre.

And certainly, the first great victory of the privateeye in the movies is to be witnessed in "The Maltese Falcon" (1941). Sam's generating feat is really the generating matrix that makes Popeye's activity possible in a way not unlike the one in which Dupin's engendering achievement makes possible the life of the Continental Op. Not only is "The Maltese Falcon" the first significant story of the private-eye's moral victory, but it is also the first story of such a victory achieved through a new method of action. And further, "The Maltese Falcon" is also the story of the imagination as it crosses the boundaries that divide literature from the movies and it fuses a new moral vision out of its interaction with the possibilities inherent in each medium. The new Sam Spade, the private-eye in the





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movie, has to act within the life of the new medium, and thus his activity is the most glaring illustration of the life of the imagination as it reworks the action of the literary story, forges the transition by revealing the word made image, and seeks to make the activity of the image whole. Thus, the imaginative task itself tells the basic story of the Maltese Falcon. Sam becomes not only an agent for the good as he clarifies vision and value within the given interplay between good and evil, but he also becomes an agent for the good as he illuminates the narrative feat to which the imagination is committed. Therefore, Sam's vision converges upon the imaginative task in precisely the same manner in which the imagination nourishes itself from Sam's activity. Such, then, is the basic goal that the imagination sets for itself in "The Maltese Falcon." The aim is to proclaim the narrative's independence from the literary medium, to display the new forces at work within the new medium, and, above all, to make the narrative a unified act, connected with, but autonomous from, the literary story.

Now aside from the fact that "The Maltese Falcon" is a movie engendered by a literary story, it is important to see that, almost from the beginning, words seek to hold dominance over the images. This passion for hegemony is established in the initial frameswhen the title is almost






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immediately superimposed on the image of a statuette in the form of a falcon. The initial visual fact of the narrative is that the word prevents the eye from seeing the image clearly. The figure of the falcon is dark and in the middleground, almost totally hidden from sight. While the words, white in the foreground, draw the eye's attention, the figure behind them remains a mystery to the eye, showing some but not all of the life that the light can give it. Since words have taken over the screen--materializing and then disintegrating themselves first in the form of the title and subsequently in the form. of the credits--the figure cannot be immediately verified and clarified by the eye. The light that belongs to the image is appropriated by words.

obviously, in so doing, the words themselves have become visual entities, images, in effect. But these images are inexorably anchored to a meaning. Their primarily visual characteristics give way to the ambiguity and irony inherent in all words. In fact, these words are all the more ironic because they are incapable of shedding their abstract properties despite the fact that they nourish themselves not upon other words, but upon the light. The light gives them their life, but their own verbal properties endow them with a divisive power in the intellectual context within which they exist. And although they change






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before the eye, they do so only in relation to themselves, so that they are not, in the strictest sense, telling a verbal natrative. Therefore, they remain half image and half word, clarifying neither their potency as visual values nor (because as words they only point to specific concrete acts) their power to retell the story of the word. The most basic function of these images, then, is to announce, by mere presence, the emergence of the literary story, or the story of the word, into a medium of light. But more than that, since they exist in this new medium, they also succeed in creating a basic ironic structure: images that have verbal properties or, conversely, words that exist by the power of the light.

But if these image-words exhibit the rudimentary life of the image so far as they are able to participate in the most simple form of change, then the figure of the falcon, still in the middleground, fails to display even this most elementary of changes. For it remains fixed--leaden, in fact--announcing its existence in a world where motion is not an integral part of the living process. Moreover, the statuette projects a heavy black shadow into the background, thus directing the eye to a false stereoscopic vision, to a uniform perspectivism that can never exist within the particularizing activity of the living eye. This form of the falcon, the representation of that in life which





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moves best and sees with such accuracy--this figure of a creature that lives by its eye and its mobility and exemplifies man's passion for freedom--cannot see or move; it cannot grow out of its heavy and static existence. Its wings are folded and fused to its body. And its eye is fixed as it is itself fixed on the screen. The statuette thus seeks to call our attention to a world of perspective as well as to a world of fixed matter divorced fromthe energy of light. It attempts to call attention to its mass; in fact, it seeks to trap the eye into the illusion of mass.

Thus, the visual properties of the figure reinforce

the ironic qualities of the imaged words. When the falcon is seen in conjunction with the words, the elemental ironic structure that was announced by the appearance of the image in the form of the word enters into a second, more sophisticated phase. Like the words, the falcon, too, is an image pointing to something else; it is an image with a meaning and hence an image that denies its own life by its very incapacity to change. This image attempts to draw the ey e into a world of substance, literally into a world where it is in possession of an essential quality upon which it stands fixed. In short, this image becomes a symbol. In the critical, literary sense, the falcon's visual properties seek to translate themselves into no more than elements from which the rational mode is empowered to distil abstractions.





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Then, recapitulating the structure contained in the

initial frames, the imaged word reappears over the image of

the bird to draw our attention to an event that altogether

aims at violating the life of the narrative--that is, the

words seek to force the narrative back into the past, into

the "history" of "the maltese falcon." "In 1539," the words

read, "the Knight Templars of Malta, paid tribute to Charles

V of Spain, by sending him a Golden Falcon encrusted from

beak to claw with rarest jewels-but pirates seized the

galley carrying the priceless token and the fate of the

Maltese Falcon remains a mystery to this day--" 1 And as

if it were not enough that these words seek to deny the

story of change within a world of light, they are all the

more perverse because they ascend from the horizontal world



1Richard J. Anobile, ed., The Maltese Falcon (New York: Avon, 1968), p. 8. Subsequent references to the dialogue of the movie are from this book and will be incorporated into the text in quotation marks followed by a page number in parentheses. A note should be made here regarding Mr. Anobile's contribution to the study of "The Maltese Falcon." Since his edition of the dialogue is not based on a screenplay, but on the soundtrack itself, the dialogue is subjected to somewhat arbitrary punctuation. Furthermore, Mr. Anobile has included every dramatic nuance in the dialogue. As a result, such expressions as "er"~ or "yuh" mar the dial1ogue and give it the tone of a comic strip. I have therefore chosen to omit these expressions. Nevertheless, I have chosen, for the most part, to let the words and punctuation stand as they do in this edition without the need for emmendations of my own. After all, Mr. Anobile's slightly less than careful editing of the dialogue is a tacit tribute'to visual predisposition.









of the screen. Moved by their inherently abstract quality, they enact an upward motion into the heavens, compelling the motion of the eye out of the world of the screen where the action is. (This juxtaposition of the fixed image and the abstractive power of the word is again s I een in the following shot--an image of a bridge spanning the horizontal length of the screen with the words "San Francisco" superimposed on it.. This image, therefore, reinforces the structure created by the initial frames. Since the words are pointing to an abstract entity, that is, the city, incapable of being s6en as a particular entity, as well as the name of a man who chose to ascend from the visual world much like the words of the "history" rise out of the screen, this bridge, a unifying structure over the moving waters, fails to counteract the divisive properties of the initial image.) Unquestionably, then, the verbal properties of these rising words hold absolute dominion over their own visual.qualities. Not only do they will themselves out of the visible creation, but almost each word in this "history" points to an abstraction: to the year, the crusading institution, the king with his acquired past and country, the unspecified monetary worth of the falcon, and, above all, the statuette's "mysteriousness." These words, it is evident, want to tell a decidedly verbal story. Abstractions that they are, they exert their power to hold back the story of the eye, to, in fact, return to the literary medium.





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Furthermore, since they state that the image that is still seen in the middleground is a mystery, these words succeed in supporting, indeed, augmenting, the initial structure of irony inherent in the contrasts within the opening frames. These words have an aim. As rational tools, they seek to entrench the narrative in a thoroughly defined intellectual past; they seek to immerse the story in a first cause and thus turn the act ion (which they pretend they are able to generate by themselves) into a teleological event-into a world that is not self-generated and immanently organized, but into a discursive cause-and-effect activity that places a premium on rational reflection to the total exclusion of visual action. These words seek to elicit the intellectual conviction that the narrative has a "true" purpose that is dictated by the power of words to bring the past to accountfor the present. And, more perversely still, these words, themselves the source of irony and contradiction, attempt to persuade that only they can explain the "mystery"-of the image when it is they themselves which stand in the way of an initial clarification of the image which in turn they alone claim they are empowered to clarify!

Therefore, the words aim at the enactment of a story

of motive, of an event in which, abstracted from the light, action is consequently based upon and limited to a search for





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an object which has no value or power as image, but only as that which it represents in a world saturated with abstractions. It-thus follows that images though they may be (in the most basic sense of being visible entities in a visible medium and since they are not spoken words) these verbal entities violate the life of the image by compelling attention away from the thing itself. Aside from their vertical motion, they want, as do all words within a rational context, to transcend a presentational existence and find a suitable niche in the darkness. Consequently, the words correspond'to the condition of the image of the statuette which, unchanged and incapable of changing, still occupies the half-darkness of the middleground and still projects its heavy shadow on the background. Like the figure of the falcon, the words point to the permanent, to the fixed, and to the substantial. Just as the image of the statuette directs the eye to visual perspectivity, so do these words will the perspective of the past on the story that is about to unfold.

In their pretense to create history, words create

mystery and, as a result, they reinforce the mythical qualities of the image. Inevitably, the imposition of words upon the fixed image generates a structure of conflict with both the'powers of light and motion as well as with the achievement of narrative unity. Within a visual process, within the medium of the moving image enacted by the powers





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of the light, the word as a power that reinforces the fixed is irrevocably allied to the powers of evil. Words are., in effect, evil itself. The verbal powers and the condition of the fixed image aspire to the death of the narrative act; they align themselves in direct opposition to the power of the medium to generate a unified act that allows it to leave behind the old literary form. Since

they create chaos and confusion, the word and the static image remain hostile to being incorporated within the light. They want to tell a story in the old way. As the words themselves say, ."to this very day," to the immediate instance when they first appear on the screen, the "fate of the Maltese Falcon remains a mystery." That is all these words can do within the narrative process, that is, to proclaim their impotence for growth through clarification and for unity through action. They testify only to their power to re-enact the past while pointing to their obstinacy to.be functionally assimilated into a unified structure potentially existing in the new medium.

Yet at the same time that the image of the falcon is

burdened with the weight of its past, of its intellectually determined worth, of its mass, and of its heavy shadow, it is also that which excites the eye and incites to a clarifying activity. This basic search to see constitutes the third level of the structure of irony that begins its





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development with the juxtaposition of the word and image in the opening shot. As a visual phenomenon, the falcon becomes the dominant image in the most literal sense of the word. With the exception of Sam's, this image rules over the visual passions of the main pa rticipants in the story. Thus, at one level, the search to see the falcon is what the story is all about. There is an unquestionable urge on the part of Gutman, Cairo, and Brigid to see this image, the vision of which is the measure of their commitment to life. Their passion to see, however, does not culminate in an expansion of their visual talents nor does it lead to their growth within the visible creation. Quite the contrary, since their overmastering zeal to see is determined by intellectual motives alien to the activity of the eye, their seeing degenerates into a rational penchant for material possession, into a moral bias for physically holding and actually controlling the image. The energy of the eye and its capacity to lead to union with the image is thus vitiated and ultimately negated by the intellect. Intellectualized out of its inherent value potentialities, the dominant image becomes the heavy object that.controls the heads rather than the power which expands the visual activity. This denial of the intrinsic power of the image by the rational force comes into full view toward the end when, not willing to accept that which is before his eyes as a value, Gutman






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frantically scratches the surface of the falcon with a penknife in what is the culminating illustration of intellectual blindness. Gutman wants to get at the substance of this image; and, seeing (ironically) that there is nothing but surface, he shouts, "Fake! It s a phoney!" (p. 224). Thus, this image that can be seen but whose visual value is denied in favor of abstraction, becomes the crucial image. ("Crucial" here is used in its primary etymological sense of.a quality which itself begets crossed or contradictory actions or which, conversely, is unempowered to generate a unified, organic act..) Since it brings to surface the traditional dichotomy between appearance and reality, this image creates mystery. The crucial or crossed image (or x) literally becomes the unknown factor and consequently the essential element for clarification in terms of the moral options available to the participants in the story according to either their visual or rational inclinations. This crucial image begets intrigue in its capacity to propel the narrative through a maze of words, a labyrinth of masks and roles, underneath which lurks either the passion for clarification (as exemplified by Sam) or the quest for possession (as incorporated in Gutmanis character). And finally, the crucial image begets suspense in its inherent capacity to literally bring the action to a halt according to whether the potentialities of the eye or the rational powers are asserted in the end.





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hummingg up, then, the crucial image divides; and in

the act of bifurcation it announces a binary structure'out of which ill possibilities must emerge, but within which those same possibilities are doomed to remain. All change in "The Maltese Falcon" takes place within the limitations imposed by the divided structure rendered by the crucial image. Mystery, suspense, and intrigue, traditional elements of the detective story in literature, become more than just conventional subcategories of the rudimentary plot of the detective story and are wholly incorporated components of the principle of irony dominating the narrative. Moreover, the crucial image serves as the vehicle for the exploration of distinct patterns of action on the dramatic, thematic, and cinematic levels, each of which in turn illustrates the achievement of the two moral alternatives implicit in the opposite qualities of the crucial image. Each level of the narrative opens up a more or less limited moral territory, or course of action, leading to a clarification of the crucial image, which defines good and evil for itself within the context of the encompassing structure or medium. The options to which the crucial image invites the participants in the story emerge out of their commitment to either see the image or intellectualize it out of the realm of the visible; to partake in the abundance of life in a world of light or to return to the beginning, to a world of history and causality; to move freely without the





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yearning to come to a halt, or to become a fixture, jaded out of all possibilities as a consequence of the pursuit of a linear motion aimed at as the end of all mobility and change. Even within the world of irreconcilable opposites enacted by the crucial image, though, the options still remain open and clear: the choice entails either a search for security--for the death ensuing from the literal securing of the image as an abstraction--or for an active participation in the lif e of the light.



ii


Since its dramatic pattern follows the lead of the

crossed condition established in and by the initial image, it is inevitable that "The Maltese Falcon" be predominantly a talkie. The dramatic substructure bears the heavy reliance on the verbal powers that the historical passage announces in the beginning. That the narrative thrives on talk-is most evident in the following lines where the talk is about talk itself. "You're a close-mouth man?" Gutman asks. And Sam replies, "No. I like to talk." Gutman, in turn, says, "Talking's something you can't do judiciously, unless you keep in practice," and then, "I'm a man who likes to talk" (pp. 130-31). Talk repeatedly invades the screen, and with every raid upon it, it threatens to debilitate the powers of the image, for, by the very fact that it takes






89



place, for the most pa .rt, at times when only the mouth is moving, speech imposes itself on the image and obscures its powers in precisely the same manner in which the words of the title, of the credits, and of the verbal account of the statuette prevent the image from asserting itself in-thea beginning, Talk casts the shadow of abstraction on the image. As the dark-shadow of the bird points to perspectivity, so does talk direct attention beyond the visual fact itself.

Accordingly, it is significant that the preponderance of the talk taking place within the dramatic aspect of the narrative occurs within the context of acting. Most of the verbal exchanges occur as a dramatic performance on the part of the characters and are aimed at hiding both their identities and their motives and thus at creating a series of plays within a play, fragmentary aspects of narrative substructure, where the images on the screen not only speak their parts, but where the part itself consists of assuming different names and roles (all of which, of course, isin the end, aimed at educing an intellectual sense of truth through the fabrication of the most believable lie!) Donning and doffing masks and roles., the characters are insured of safety and survival within this verbal world. Thus, for instance, Brigid is not just Brigid, but also Miss Wonderly and Miss Leblanc. Or Joel Cairo has four different passports--four different documents identifying him as four




Full Text
INTRODUCTION
. . men did not begin to shoot because
there were ready-made targets to aim at.
They made things into targets by shooting
at them, and then made special targets to
make shooting more significantly interesting.
John Dewey
There he was, this heroic image in the brightly lit
i
stadium. Alone, he slowly descended the cement-block steps
He was going to the center of the field to meet the villain
he'd just shot with his .44 Magnum and his eagle eye.
Silently. No dramatic confrontation. No words at all.
He was now walking on the football field, toward the center
the arena of an action which no one saw except those of us
in the darkness of the theater. As he approached him, the
villain began to scream. Quietly yet with all the passion
of life in his hoarse voice, he asked the villain, "Where
is the girl?" The villain just kept screaming about rights
to a lawyer. Now standing over the villain's wounded leg,
this heroic image that had miraculously emerged from the
light, kept asking where the girl was. He didn't advise
the bad guy of his rights. He just stood over him with the
.44 Magnum in his right hand and he was never told where
the girl was. But he got his man all right.
1


9
as well as that which justifies the motion into the vision
of the next movie.
Now, .beginning with the exploration of "The Maltese
Falcon" in the third chapter, each movie is approached as
an individual entity which contributes to the vision of
the whole private-eye genre as a moral continent. This
exploration cannot attempt to tell a story by merely dis
cussing each movie in isolation. The exploration must
point the way to an organic progression from one movie to
the next. But this is not to say that the order in which
these movies are discussed is chronological. Instead,
the order in which these movies are explored is dictated
by the movie's own power to provide an accurate vision of
its end as the beginning of the one that follows it in the
story.
Each movie is first summed up in terms of the basic
task that confronts the private-eye as an agent for the
clarification of the forces at work within the narrative.
Thereafter, the discussion of each movie is basically
subdivided into four specific areas of inquiry. The first
such area deals with the specific structure or the working
model of action generated by each movie. The dramatic
aspect of the movie is then discussed as a distinct sub
category of the action in order to determine how the word
creates conflict in or is incorporated by the new medium.


247
will he gently give up his life to the abstract heaven that
is offered to him by the vertical dimension of the cross.
In the first encounter with the evil eye, Harry is the
loser. Yet the fact is that he has been willing to enter
the black and dirty domain of Scorpio's wicked vision. He
has accepted the challenge to confront the agent of dark
ness on his own turf. Thus his victory at the end of the
story is all the more glorious precisely because Harry has
survived the encounter with the cross and the chaos where
the eye is powerless to proclaim the value of the world of
i
light.
Through Harry's heroic effort, though, the evil eye
has been unmasked. (Scorpio takes off his red ski mask to
stop the bleeding wound.) And further, the mobility of the
image, and thus its power to escape, has been limited as
an outcome of that very act of refusal to abandon the eye
to the powers of abstraction. Harry has turned a sure
victory for evil into the end of a stage in the narrative
which defines the beginning of a new episode and estab
lishes the infinite capacity for regeneration, the plas
ticity of the eye once its primordial passion consists only
of the power for visual action. This time accompanied by
De Giorgio, Harry goes to the Emergency Hospital where the
doctor tells them that the man he has treated lives at
the stadium across the street. Harry and De Giorgio are
next seen by the fenced entrance to the stadium. The


57
an idea of the thing, but the thing itself, the organic
entity emancipated from the traditional substance-and-'
attribute dichotomy. The interaction between the popping
eye and image creates what Alfred North Whitehead has
termed "the pure mode of presentational immediacy," which,
as he explains, "gives no information as to the past or the
future. It merely presents an illustrated portion of the
presented duration. It thereby defines a cross section of
the universe: but does not in itself define on which
2
side lies the past, and on which side the future." Seeing
i
and moving, Popeye testifies to the fact that his activity
is the only reality. Acting autonomously, independent of
the onerous commitments to past or future that are at the
base of the intellectual tradition, Popeye's eye lives and
generates its own life--moving, changing, showing all of its
ever-new energy in the immediate present. Acting in and
by the light, Popeye becomes an agent for the new medium.
And as a living force within the medium, he has also become
an agent for genre.
As a result of Popeye's activity, one obvious fact
concerning the detective story as a narrative genre is that,
once in a medium of images, the detective or private "I"
becomes a private-eye. In a world of images, dancing, chang
ing on the screen, the ego, man's primitive, elemental
chord tying him to the womb of his verbal past, has been
2
Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929;
rpt. New York: Harper and Row, 1957), p. 255.


105
words so he can tell her that he "won't walk in Thursby's
and I don't know how many other footsteps!" (p. 245). Yet
Sam's insistence that Brigid "go over for it" originates
from an abstract sense of justice which he is unable to
escape. "Listen," he tells Brigid, "You'll never under
stand me, but I'll try once more and then give it up. When
a man's partner's killed, he's supposed to do something about
it. It doesn't make any difference what you thought of him.
He was your partner, and you're supposed to do something
about it" (p. 246). And moments later, in an attempt to
i
explain his actions to Brigid in other than retributory
terms, he says, "I've no earthly reason to think I can trust
you" (p. 246). Rather than employing words to escape
words, Sam now embraces the powers of abstraction out of a
compulsion to verbally justify his actions. He demands that
Brigid "listen" to him; he wants to be "understood" in terms
as perniciously abstract as those which spurred the quest
for the falcon. He submits himself to "reason," to
"thought" and "trust," divisive powers which, by his own
admission, are not "earthly" things, things of this
world; and precisely because he does so, he submits himself
to the world of rational perspectivity which he has so ably
avoided up to this instance. Even if his most immediate
and practical motive for turning Brigid in is the one which
most readily asserts itself, that is, that Sam feels


103
room. The detectives, itching for a motive to jail Sam,
Brigid, and Cairo are about to have their wish fulfilled
when Sam suddenly says, "Aw, wake up, Dundy, you're being
kidded! When I heard the buzzer I said to Miss
0'Shaughnessy and Cairo here, I said: 'There's the
police again. They're getting to be a nuisance! When
you hear them going, one of you scream and then we .Ml
see how far along we can string them, until they tumble'"
(p. 104). Brigid and Cairo, themselves capable performers,
follow Sam's leading role and the three of them succeed
i
in thoroughly confusing the detectives.
But perhaps the most conspicuous instance of Sam's
capacity to use words at the same time that he distrusts
them is seen toward the end of his first encounter with
Gutman. Sam plays the part of an angry man threatening to
turn Gutman in if he fails to let him share half the
\
profits from the falcon. Sam says, "I'm telling you now!
You'll talk to me today, or you are through!" (p. 139).
And, as he is stepping through the door on the way out, he
turns around, points at Gutman, and screams, "Think it
over. You've got till five o'clock. Then, you're either
in, or out--for keeps!" (pp. 140-41). Sam demands both talk
and thought from the intellectual man himself; and, in
effect tells him that his talk and thought will determine
whether or not he will come to possess the falcon. Sam
knows enough about the ways of words that he can use them


69
imaginative eye interacts with the light that emanates from
the silver screen and describes the qualities of the rela
tionships 'created by the changing light. Only in such an
active relationship with the image is the criticism one
with Popeye's moving eye. To see Popeye as something other
than a moving, changing, growing image entails an outright
negation of the value of the visible creation. In a con
frontation with an activity such as Popeye's chase after
Nicoli, it is futile for the critic to act out of a neces
sity to interpret or explain. The action is too fast for
i
the intellect to reflect upon it. Where there is nothing
to understand through intellectual dissection, theory
inevitably fails to reveal the value potentialities of the
image.
From the foregoing discussion a hypothetical question
can be immediately anticipated: "If the visual inter
action between Popeye and Alain accounts for a unique method
of critical exploration to which theory is superfluous, what
then is the function of movie criticism?" The question, in
effect, posits the order of the critical activity in rela
tion to the visual experience. In other words, it asks
what comes first, the method or the image. Obviously, in
a world of images, the senses precede all critical approaches.
In the absence of a ruling theory, the visual experience
itself has priority. As far as a vision of Popeye's
activity goes, then, the critical act constitutes a basic


27
ii
The detective and his story grow little in the ad
ventures of Sherlock Holmes. From the first form-engendering
narrative of Poe, there is not much to be called new in
Holmes' method or in the capacity of his stories to generate
new forms. Holmes lives by virtually the same method as
Dupin. And, of course, included in that method are the
efforts of Dr. Watson, of the imaginative in the service of
the intellectual. In an early Holmes story such as "A Study
in Scarlet;" Watson employs many of the same devices employed
by the narrator of "Murders in the Rue Morgue." He begins
with a history of his acquaintance with Holmes, he establishes
the method--"the science of deduction," he calls it--by
virtue of which Holmes is made out to be a superior man,
then he lightly touches upon the facts of the case, and
proceeds to drift into a tedious history of the motives
behind the murderer's actions.
This last step in the method of "A Study in Scarlet,"
that is, the identification of a clear cause for evil, is
the major distinguishing feature between the stories of
Poe and Doyle. (Dupin, it will be remembered, says to his
narrator-companion, "I wish you, therefore, to discard from
your thoughts the blundering idea of motive.") That this
is a differentiating element, however, is not necessarily
an indication of growth in the genre. Indeed, the passion


132
clearly seen making love among cluttered natural surround
ings. Gradually, the camera pulls away from these stills
and reveals a flesh-color thumb that is part of the hand
that holds the pictures. As it continues to pull away from
the photographs, the camera soon shows the world of color
in the form of an office, in the form of Curly, the color
image who holds the black and white photographs, and in the
form of Jake, who sits behind his desk. The eye's passion
to see beyond a divided visual structure generates the
emergence of the private-eye story into a world of color.
i
This specific visual action in turn declares the task which
the imagination sets for itself in this narrative. Thus if
the essential feat of "The Maltese Falcon" consisted of
illuminating the evolution of the private-eye in literature,
then the basic task of "Chinatown" consists of rendering
a self-generated, organic, evolutionary process from black
and white into color. As illustrated in the opening shots
of "Chinatown," the camera's discovery of color signals
a positive advance in the potentialities for unity within
the story of the private-eye. It is visually proclaimed
in the beginning that the central problem to be clarified
in the narrative is that of the imagination's union with
a world of color images.
In the beginning, therefore, the eye establishes the
model of action that can be followed all the way through by
a visual activity that never gives way to anything but the


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Armando J. Prats was born in Havana, Cuba, on March 20,
1948. At the age of twelve, he came to the United States
as a political exile and subsequently began to blend into
the great melting pot. He is married to Tonya and they have
one daughter, Becky, age five. Mr. Prats is lucky enough to
have been hired as Assistant Professor of English and Film
at the University of Kentucky. He is currently involved in
writing a screenplay and has a tremendous desire to dis
cover America.
278


179
initially operate in a manner contrary to their basic
condition in a world of abstractions where the image is
but a sensory prelude to verbalization. In the context in
which they are first seen in the narrative, then, the words
themselves are endowed with the qualities of the image.
They are white, and, following the model of the light, they
give way to color.
But once the spoken word is introduced into the narra
tive, its function is to announce that at the cor of its
existence lies an incapacity to move with the action. The
i
man in charge of the contract on Ross opens the verbal
aspect of the movie when he says on the phone, "This is
Pete. We lost him."'1' Having missed his connection with
the moving image, the words of the hit man point to their
own inability to be a part of the activity initiated by the
eye and thus to their ex post facto existence. The primary
function of words, therefore, consists of stopping the
moving image by appropriating its past. Words pretend
that they can operate at one with the action since what
for the most part gives them their life is the image which
the eye has already seen.
It is the intellectualization of the image after the
eye has encountered it which triggers the dramatic
^All references to the dialogue in "Bullitt" are from
the soundtrack. The punctuation is my own.


201
the final condition in which the clarifying eye finds itself
at the end.
Frank is the man who can see without disgust at the same
time that he can retain an intellectual awareness that what
he sees is capable of shocking others into a vision of the
"evil" in the creation. Thus Frank, too, possesses the
vestiges of a rational ethic. He sees, but he does not free
to see. He will not make public the value of his vision.
The privacy of the visual act is intellectually staked out
as the domain of those who, like Frank, can live with the
devastating "half"with the vision of horror--while at the
same time they, can emerge wholly regenerated from their en
counter with the image of death. And further, if Frank is
the man of unified vision, he is also the self-proclaimed
protector of intellectual sensibilities. Rather than the
force of wisdom propelling all the participating eyes into
new visions of the image's powers, Frank is the perpetuator
of the security of the ego, of the static condition of in
tellectual identities whom he knows are better off not
seeing. The marriage of Frank's eye to the image establishes
the bond which allows him to clarify the power of the
visible. Like the camera eye, Frank, too, is a god of
images. His activity as a superior eye separates him from
the visual activity of the rest of the participants in the
narrative. Godlike in the wisdom of his vision, heroic,
literally greater than the intellectual life which surrounds


123
sound. Seldom does the camera move when there is an ab
sence of talk. For the most part, it shifts angles only to
see the moving mouth. This becomes increasingly the case
until it is actually the dominant activity of the eye by
the end of the narrative. When Brigid talks to Sam, the
camera will be at Sam's back. Or, if they are apart so
that the eye cannot take both images in, it will rather
consistenly turn to the talking image. The only motion
that interests this eye is the moving mouth's. Inevitably,
then, the cinematic eye becomes a dramatic eye. On sound's
i
cue, the eye turns to see the talking image as if it were
the eye of a playgoer. More precisely still, the eye acts
as a device to clarify talk. In short, since it is not
very interested in seeing, it in effect wills itself to the
condition of an ear.
Not surprisingly, then, in the end the eye returns to
the crucial image. Like the word, it seeks refuge where it
began: in the shadows of mystery and irony, in an image
obscured by the word, incapable of being clarified, divid
ing instead of unifying. And while it is certainly true
that between beginning and end, between first and last
image, a narrative has taken place in the living world of
the screen, it is also a fact that the potentialities for
growth within the reach of the eye have been severely
debilitated by an almost willful refusal to see; by an
intellectual eye which looks at the image without the


90
different abstract entities., And even Sam himself consults
his attorney to find out whether or not he "can . hide
behind the' sanctity of [his] client's identity, secrets
and what-nots all the same, priest or lawyer" (p. 56).
Acting, therefore, is in great measure superimposed upon
action. Consequently, within the dramatic context of the
narrative, change cannot occur out of a self-generative
center of energy that proclaims the transition out of the
old medium of words into the new medium of light, but only
out of the inherently arbitrary quality of words and their
capacity to create the illusion of change while stubbornly
resisting it.
Within this dramatic substructure, the need to assume
a role or play a part becomes an outright necessity.
Again, with the exception of Sam, the talk of Cairo, Brigid,
or Gutman becomes an end in itself, an activity aimed at
obscuring the powers of the eye. For, in this deadly and
sophisticated game, once the veils are rent, not only does
a character cease to have the bargaining power that may
allow it to possess the falcon, but more importantly, it
altogether breaks out of the dramatic substructure and be
comes clarified as an image. Then it is no longer capable
of playing the game of concealment through words. (This is
essentially the process which Brigid has undergone by the
end of the movie. Once Sam has seen through all the roles


discusses the specific activity through which the public
agent or police detective propels himself into the dimension
of private-eye. The sixth chapter is devoted exclusively
to an in-depth examination of the structure of "Dirty Harry"
as rendered in the first three sequences of the movie.
The purpose of this chapter is to contrast the structure of
"Dirty Harry" with the last three sequences of "Bullitt"
and to show the new moral vision into which the private-
eye movie has been launched. The seventh and last chapter
deals with the dramatic, thematic, and cinematic visions of
"Dirty Harry" which are specifically discussed according to
the structure of action explored in the sixth chapter.
The conclusion serves a twofold purpose: first, it sums up
recurrent themes and motifs as well as their variations
as they appear in the movies that are discussed throughout
the study, and second, it provides a vision of the future
of the private-eye movies as a narrative art.
x


119
abstractions are turned into particular images by the
innocent eye. When seen from the inside, these words
which from the outside would draw attention to the two sur
names indicating the past as well as a partnership estab
lished for the pursuit of rational aims'cannot help but
be total nonsense in intellectual terms. From the inside,
the only fact about these potentially abstract entities
is that they have been turned into images by the eye. Thus
the eye hints early to its natural capacity to grow out of
the crossed condition in which it first sees the image.
But as this eye continues to unfold its story, it
conclusively shows that what was a potential precondition
of organic growth has viciously become an inability to break
out of its center and clarify the image through its natural
capacity to move. This failure of the eye is repeatedly
seen in its adamant refusal to follow the image out of the
boxed architectural structures within which the action al
most exclusively takes place. Seldom does the camera eye
follow Sam out of any of these rooms. Instead, it passively
awaits the entrance of one moving image or another into a
room or corridor. Even in the few instances when Sam is
out of these confining structures, the camera has not so
much followed him into the open as it has waited for him
to get to where he is going. (There are, incidentally, times
when, through the devices of fades and lap dissolves, the
eye attempts to move with the action. But in the context


121
Moreover, since the camera remains within the confines
of rooms, the entire visual act tends to be dominated by-
shadows. 'The eye fixes itself on the image at an angle
where shadows always seek to dominate the image itself.
Long, heavy shadows, such as the one projecting from the
falcon's image, are projected from almost every image.
The constant appearance of shadows is no more than another
aspect of the eye's powerlessness to move. Fixed, the eye
draws attention to the darkness as an integral part of the
image. Thus it not only succeeds in affirming a world of
i
perspective as well as in negating its own particularizing
activity, but it also points to the image as a nonatomic
entity capable of being separated into light and darkness.
Its complacency in a world of shadows attests to the eye's
basic failure to enact a unified process. This eye, in
short, is content with looking rather than seeing. There
fore, not only is the eye inextricably trapped by the bi
furcated structure of the image, it is, indeed, the very
source of division.
Furthermore, the positions that the eye assumes are the
low angles of the timid eye, of an eye that is not capable
of actively asserting itself over shadows that permeate the
image with mystery. The fear of this eye to raise itself is
most noticeable at times when it beholds Gutman's image,
and particularly when Gutman is sitting down. In its
relationship with this supreme intellectual, the eye is in


139
But within the narrative's dramatic aspect, that is,
within a world of talk, Jake is unable to retain the initial
wisdom to which his words attest. At the time that he
begins his dramatic relationship with Evelyn he begins to
lose the rudimentary freedom from the passion to know that
is his in the beginning. Evelyn's first words in the
narrative are, "Do you know me?" to which Jake's immediate
response is, "I think I would have remembered." The laughter
following the joke that he has just told Duffy and Walsh
disappears from Jake's face. (Indeed, this is the last
i
laugh in the narrative.) Evelyn challenges the man of the
eye to knowledge, and Jake's reply in turn, is the first
indication that he can articulate the visual experience in
terms that divide him from his existence in the present.
He indicates that he is vulnerable to the mystery lurking
beneath this woman's knowable identity. Furthermore, Jake
also indicates in this encounter that he is not wholly
liberated to see and "forget it." The power of Evelyn's
image is such that he runs the risk of using his eye only
in the interest of that which can be rationally determined
from her image. And this first meeting with Evelyn further
points to the fact that Jake is capable of being deceived
by a name, by an abstraction. It is essentially an abstract
property of the image to which Jake has attended when he
is deceived by Ida Sessions. As a result, his vulnerability
to abstractions raises a doubt concerning his capacity


85
development with the juxtaposition of the word and image in
the opening shot. As a visual phenomenon, the falcon be
comes the dominant image in the most literal sense of the
word. With the exception of Sam's, this image rules over the
visual passions of the main participants in the story. Thus,
at one level, the search to see the falcon is what the story
is all about. There is an unquestionable urge on the part
of Gutman, Cairo, and Brigid to see this image, the vision
of which is the measure of their commitment to life. Their
passion to see, however, does not culminate in an expansion
i
of their visual talents nor does it lead to their growth
within the visible creation. Quite the contrary, since
their overmastering zeal to see is determined by intellec
tual motives alien to the activity of the eye, their seeing
degenerates into a rational penchant for material posses
sion, into a moral bias for physically holding and actually
controlling the image. The energy of the eye and its ca
pacity to lead to union with the image is thus vitiated and
ultimately negated by the intellect. Intellectualized out
of its inherent value potentialities, the dominant image
becomes the heavy object that controls the heads rather than
the power which expands the visual activity. This denial
of the intrinsic power of the image by the rational force
comes into full view toward the end when, not willing to
accept that which is before his eyes as a value, Gutman


130
proof that, having wrestled with the powers of abstrac
tions, it grows into an assertion of its own life and into
an affirmation of the powers of the image. No matter how
torn the eye is at times, the ultimate moral fact is that
the eye is the undisputed agent of all that is good in the
narrative. The eye seeks the action and affirms it by
living it in whatever form it takes. It is its self
generated privacy which accounts for narrative uniqueness,
for growth and freedom. Its individuality creates the
new possibilities inherent in the genre by affirming the
powers of the imagination as a moral force. Propelled by
the imaginative eye, the private-eye story has entered a
new terrain of moral vision.
ii
"The Maltese Falcon" succeeds in defining its self-
created moral options. And as it clarifies its moral
activity, it also achieves a positive clarification of the
powers of the image. But a fact of the black and white
visual structure is that, as a medium, it is not empowered
to attest to its participation in that particularizing
activity which constitutes the abundance of life in the
visible creation. The white light of its black and white
images is but a latent indication of infinite possibilities
abounding in the world of color. The black and white


218
camera eye a model of unified vision which can lead it to
salvation from the divided condition that besets it in the
beginning.'
It is the entrance of Harry in the swimming pool area
which rescues the camera eye, and the imagination itself,
from its immediate inability to get the action going. Thus
Harry's initial activity converts the binary conflict into
a trinary structure of action, into a trinity where each
entity attains equal active value. If the camera follows
Harry it is because, above all, he follows Scorpio. As a
i
result of the interaction between the good and the evil eye,
the eye of the camera is set free from the static condition
from which it could not extricate itself. By the end of the
third sequence, therefore, Harry is more than just an agent
of the cinematic eye; he is the unifying element, the
synthesis of action, and the living alternative to the
threat of total inactivity.
Within the trinary structure, Harry is not trapped by
the halves that limit Frank's growth as a man of the eye.
To the degree that he exists outside an action divided
against itself, he is free to act while unencumbered by an
intellectual awareness such as Frank's, that his world is
polarized. Accordingly, Harry's eye is initially emanci
pated to envision the action all the way throughto
imagine, to literally act out of the life of the image in
order to affirm the positive potentialities for value


40
At that moment, however, Sylvia Yount, whom the Op had
met at Larrouy's steals into the room. The Op watches her
moves from a one-inch opening he has left in the closet
door. As Sylvia leaves, so does the Op. He has renewed his
visual connection with the action. He follows her to
Larrouy's, where she asks for "Red." From there he walks
after her to the hotel in Stockton Street, where again he
hears her asking for Red. Then it is by streetcar to
Market and Powell Streets, and once more on foot to Powell
and O'Farrel where he sees her step into a taxi where "a
customer" is waiting for her. The Op does not follow.
She has given him a lead to where the action really is.
All that he has to do now is find Red.
After the Op witnesses twenty murders in two separate
locations and has seen the words "Big Flora" written in blood
on the wall of one of the apartments, he goes to bed
only to be called by the police three minutes later. They
are holding Red O'Leary. In the morning, the Op goes to
the police station to see how the cops are doing with Red.
Red, however, has an alibi for the time during which the
robbery took place and the police can get nothing out of
him., The police captain, a man of the law and thus a man
restrained by abstractions, tells the Op that he can hold
O'Leary for twenty-four hours, but the Op tells him,
"Suppose you turn him loose now . He's got himself all


was wrong, momentarily possessed by the power of the action
("tomorrow it will seem just another private-eye movie").
But no, this epiphany was for real weeks and months later,
today, in fact. I suspect Galileo must have felt pretty
much the same way right after he saw what he saw. His
vision didn't fit, but he was seeing a whole new order
through his telescope. And Columbus, too, must have felt
rather awkward when he envisioned a round earth and sailed
to discover new passages over the imagined roundness. This
exploration of the private-eye movies is just that--an act
i
propelled by a vision that, as art, the private-eye movies
need not fit a priori theories, that they need not conform
to the old system of ideas about art, to the old aesthetic.
As the discoveries or, in the case of this exploration
the conclusions are based on visual fact, it is the vision
itself and not the predetermined and accepted notion which
is at the center of this inquiry. Columbus' mistake was to
call America India. He saw the West and called it East
because East is what he wanted to see. I mean that this
exploration of the moral terrain of the private-eye movies
is no more a question of good than it is of bad, of yes
(I discovered) than no (I didn't discover what I wanted to)
I make no effort to fit the private-eye movie in a "status-
phere" of movie art, or to resound a rallying call to see
the private-eye as either an aspect of the old aesthetic


52
wherein lies the elementary distinguishing feature between
the literary story and the new medium into which the
detective genre has propelled itself. In the movie, in a
world of images, the detective can do no more than follow
the lead of the moving image. If he is to follow the action
he must move as the image moves, for unlike in the literary
version, the image, not the word, is the primordial gen
erating source. The task confronting the detective in the
movies is a visual rather than a verbal one. His visual
talents converge upon the generating activity of the image.
i
As the image acts upon his receptive eye, Popeye assimilates
and incorporates that force and he, too, becomes a generating
power. Popeye's activity glaringly illustrates that logi
cal methods and ethical concerns cease to operate as the
dominant forces that account for the narrative achievement.
Vision is the only method. The world of images in which
Popeye moves does not allow him to replace visual action
with intellectual reflection. And as Popeye further il
luminates, vision is not just a new method for connecting
with the criminal element, it is a way of life onto itself.
(The joy of the eye's life is present when Popeye is driving
through the streets and sees a girl riding a bicycle. Out
of his passion to see, he later makes love to the image.)
Moreover, since both the Op and the narrator of
"Murders" willingly submit to the power of words, it is


222
his eye propels the narrative forward, away from both the
word and the destructive powers of the eye. His eye points
to the world of positive seeing, to a world of images where
the infinite potentialities for regeneration reside in the
power of the eye to see image-begetting images.
Therefore, in the light of the working model of action
established by the trinary structure, the saving structure
announces what might well be termed a growing down to see.
For Harry's motion is away from the abstract heavens and
toward an increase in the total energy of the structural
pattern thus declaring the possibilities for rebirth avail
able within his world of images. The trinary structure,
then, signals the visual armageddon that is about to take
place. The vitality of the new has been established by the
presence of the good eye. But it remains to be seen whether
or not the new, whether or not vision is a beneficent force
capable of replacing the old ethical systems, or whether the
death of the old, the disintegration of the word and the
intellect as a power for order declares the birth of a force
which can only operate destructively. "The secret . .
grows through the eye," and it is up to Harry's good eye to
clarify the powers of vision as a moral force, for, should
he fail the outcome would be certain darkness and death.


133
passion to see more clearly. It is not enough to move in
and around color, to look at color. The camera must see
and live in it. Thus, the eye's essential narrative feat
entails an active exploration of the new medium for which
it has opted. The eye itself has enacted the imperative
for clarification by seeking the life beyond the fixed
black and white photographs. To point the way to the color
action is to announce the passion to see the wholeness of
the image. But to merely announce the power for visual
action is to declare the death of the eye as an active
agent throughout the narrative. The eye must follow its
own activity where it leads. As it moves in the beginning,
so must it move all along; as it actively proclaims its
passion to see, so must it act out that passion that it
may itself converge with the generative powers of the living
image. In short, the camera must live out its example all
the way up. Moreover, as the eye establishes its own pat
tern of action, so does it render the activity for Jake,
its agent. Living in this medium where the eye has singled
him out as a man of vision (Jake is dressed in white and
thus his image is the living embodiment of the very world
in which the eye has chosen to participate), Jake's activity
consists of following the lead of the camera eye. He,
too, must move into the realization of the powers inherent
in him from the beginning. His eye must work in conjunc
tion with the activity engendered by the eye that it, too,


178
resides not in what it sees, but in how it sees. When
Frank is chasing the killer through the hospital corridors
or when he is chasing him and his partner in his olive-
green Mustang, the camera is not just seeing Frank, but
it is instead seeing both men or both cars and both drivers;
it is uniting a "good" and a "bad" into an organic act which
is beyond rational ethics. It is such a unifying activity
which constitutes the moral vision of the cinematic eye.
Therefore it is not possible to see morality in terms which
can be abstracted from the life of the camera eye. The
i
eye's morality coincides with the root sense of the word,
with "more," which is a way of action. Moral vision is the
vision of action giving birth to more action out of the
eye's persistent passion to forget"an unrestricted and
unqualified union with the powers of the image.
iii
The eye generates the moral example of its own story
by turning its passion to see into its activity as the undis
puted genius of the narrative. Since, as a genius, the eye
clarifies its own potentialities by engendering more visual
action, all talk is unempowered to follow the action, much
less generate it. In the beginning, the obstructive
power of words is minimal, since they give way to the image.
Readily allowing for the emergence of the image, words


151
sees an underlying conflict in that visual structure and
acts according to the tension that he sees there. Even at
this early point in the narrative, Jake's career as a man
of vision attests to the crossed condition of his life as
an agent of color light. He cannot move away from the
world of black and white, from the fixed, and the resulting
will to know arising out of the eye's encounter with the
etiolated image. As a consequence, Jake cannot freely
move on the lead of the moving image in color.
It is through his encounter with the black and white
i
image that Jake finds his way to Noah Cross. As his surname
indicates, Cross, too, lives a divided life. He is the man
of mystery whose past rules over his present passions. He
is Evelyn's partner in incest, the false Noah, not "the
father of mankind" multiplying and filling the earth, but
preserving the old order by preserving himself through him
self. The patriarch does not flow with the waters, he
controls them. Yet at the same time that he is an ironic
source of generation, he is the man who works for the
achievement of the new. At the same time that he is trapped
by his past, he is the man who can envision "the future."
He is the man of "bifocal" vision, looking at once to what
is near (his daughter Katherine) and to what lies far in
time (making Los Angeles into a great city). Further,
Cross is the man who has accepted his divided existence.
"You see, Mr. Gitts," he tells Jake toward the end, "most


8
private-I stories through an examination of the method by
which the good is established in each narrative. The second
purpose of this chapter is to show the detective story in
twentieth-century America and how action and vision emerge
to replace deductive logic as the clarifying method, and
thus as the new moral activity. The investigation of the
modern story is further aimed at defining those forces
that make it possible for the imagination to nourish itself
from the literary story and to give birth to the private-
eye in the movies. Again, this contrast is not raised in
i
the interest of asserting the supremacy of one medium over
another. The literary stories are explored only in terms
that allow for a clarification of the evolution of the
genre.
The second chapter seeks to establish the critical
model for the entire exploration by focusing closely on
"The French Connection." Particularly, it investigates
the power of Popeye Doyle's visual activity to generate
a unique critical approach to the narrative and to provide
a more general base from which each of the succeeding movies
can be explored as events whose inherent moral vision gives
rise to the exploration of the new vision contained in the
movie that follows it. In other words, the agent's method
of action is explored and his activity is offered as that
which determines the basic critical approach to each movie


180
confrontation between Frank and Cathy. After Frank has
been denied a motor pool car on Captain Baker's orders,,
he is driven by Cathy to the hotel where Ann Simmons is
supposedly waiting for Renick. Cathy parks her yellow
Porsche and waits irv it while Frank walks into the hotel
lobby and then to the room. Cathy hears the sirens of the
police cars which are responding to Franks call from the
room where the girl lies dead by strangulation. She runs
into the room and is totally repulsed by the vision of the
dead woman. Her eyes are fixed in horror at the vision of
i
the motionless image. When he sees Cathy, Frank steps
between her and the image of the dead girl. The camera
then cuts to both Frank and Cathy in the car. This time
Frank drives. The car, though, comes to a standstill by
a lake. After running out of the car, still disgusted
with the vision, Cathy begins to talk to Frank in reaction
to what she has just seen. "I thought I knew you," she
says, "but I'm not so sure any more. Do you let anything
reach you? I mean, really reach you. Or are you so used
to it by now that nothing really touches you? You're living
in a sewer, Frank. Day after day." Ethically aroused
by what she has seen, Cathy defiantly assumes an intellec
tual stance and questions Frank's existence as a man of
action. Her eye is replaced by her egovisual action is
abandoned for talk of knowledge, and for the penchant
for certainty. Cathy is disturbed because she intellectually


55
abstractions such as the train's timetable. Again he jumps
on the now beaten-up Le Mans and continues to speed through
the streets. Also continuing its own intense action, the
camera keeps up its cross-cutting activity. It soon shows
the train crash. Nicoli is knocked down, rises and though
visibly dazed, finally exits the train, Popeye is at the
foot of the stairs waiting for him. He shouts for Nicoli to
stop, and when the killer just turns around to go up the
stairs again, Popeye shoots him in the back, killing him.
The initial fact of this sequence points to the powerless
ness of the word in the domain of images. Moulderig and
Walt, both figures of authority in the law enforcement
hierarchy have verbally declared the ineffectiveness of
the eye to generate the action, to, in fact, empower the
narrative act with its vitality. There is, Walt says,
nothing "special" to see, no "assignment" that is the eye's
own. Alone, then, Popeye has seen and moved to proclaim
not only the powerlessness of the word in a medium of light,
but the life of the eye as a generating source, as the well-
spring of all the action that can take place once it is
wholly emancipated to follow the image's lead. After the
episode with Nicoli, the eye has shown that it does indeed
have "a case." Popeye shows that the eye and the image are
powerful enough to generate an action beyond words. And
what is more, Popeye's convergence upon Nicoli's image
shows that the encounter with the eye is an inevitability.


56
In other words, there is no escape from the eye, no other
life apart from the one revealed by the agent's visual
powers.
Thus, despite the fact that the words of his superiors
seek to disengage Popeye from the action, his moving eye
shows the power of the eye to reveal its own potentiali
ties for value. Therefore, the action-engendering eye be
comes the unifying phenomenon from which the imaginative
eye nourishes itself to create an occasion beyond meaning
and necessity, beyond symbol and metaphor as principles of
structure. For just as Popeye's actions are empirically
verified in the present, so are they empirically emanci
pated from the abstractions of symbols. Since it is not
nourished from the word but from the light, Popeye's own
image as well as all the others about him cannot possibly
be intellectually considered as a device whereby an ab
straction can be made.^ Thus, to attempt to distil a
thought from the moving image entails an intrinsic cruelty
done to its life; it entails an admission, however tacit,
that the visual universe is unworthy of our full attention.
Popeye's visual activity as well as his living image is not
Susanne K. Langer, Feeling and Form (New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1953), p. xi, defines "symbol"
as "any device whereby we are enabled to make an abstrac
tion." Within the context of this discussion I have seen
the need to clarify the image as an entity beyond propo
sitional truths and have therefore seen Langer's definition
of symbol as a suitable foil for my exploration of the
image.


237
Even as a man forced into talk about the past, Harry's
words attest to a vision that the reality of life lies
beyond caiisal principles of a rational origin. Further
more, in this scene Harry is also able to verbally pro
claim that the life of action cannot be subjected to an
emotional relationship without losing some of its vitality.
"Look," he says to Chico's wife, "I want you to tell Chico
that I understandhis quitting. I think he's right.
This is no life for you two." Harry "understands" that the
man of action can never be whole if his existence is
i
divided between the visual activity and a rational force
that questions the participation of the eye in all the
action. Where Frank sees life as composed of "halves" from
which the man of action cannot walk away, Harry sees that
all of it, the whole thing, the beautiful and the ugly,
the clean and the dirty, the good and the bad are one and
the same. He sees that action takes place outside the
arena of intellectually determined opposites. The domain
of action, Harry "understands," is to be entered only by
a private, self-integrated force, an eye capable of seeing
as well as generating an action beyond duality, beyond the
poles of a binary structure, beyond cause and effect. Full
and unconditional, the eye's marriage with the image pre
cludes allegiance with another force.
Still, despite Harry's initial freedom from an
intellectual force that holds him ethically responsible for


185
never stand in the way of his activity as an agent for the
growth of the action. As a result, Frank does not have a
separate dramatic existence within the narrative. He does
not have to envelop himself in talk, in publicity, in order
to act. For one thing, Frank's freedom from the divisive
power of words allows him to be undisturbed by mystery.
Since his eye never gives way to logic as a means for
clarification, Frank avoids the divisive existence to which
Jake so thoroughly succumbs. The bearer of the activity
engendered by the camera eye, he can accept all actions as
i
events beyond cause and effect relationships and be free
from the need to resort to the deductive method for an
explanation of the changes occurring in and around him.
Even in the few instances when Frank expresses the need to
know, he clearly indicates that knowledge is no more than
factual information leading to action. "I know you're
hurt," he tells Stanton in the ambulance, "but I've got to
know now. The two mendo you remember anything?" Not
only is knowledge a concern in the immediate present (un
like the knowledge of the future to which Cathy aspired)
but it also, serves as a lead to vision. The facts that
Stanton gives him about the two men allow Frank to get on
the move after the specific image. It is this information
which Stanton gives Frank which accounts for the most
active sequence in the narrative. Alone in his olive-green


204
liberating eye whose primary activity consists in seeing
the beautiful in the "ugly," the clean in the dirtyin
seeing each and all images as parts of the immanent process,
as the very life of the image and the eye, as the life of
the medium, and indeed, as life itself. The godlike eye must
descend not to stand between the eye and the image, but to
let the image shinenot to declare the super eye's existence
as a mediating power, but to proclaim the freedom of the eye
as a liberating source and to offer vision as the way into
the glory of all images.
ii
It is daylight. The eye of the camera moves close to
focus on a marble-like slab the inscription at the head of
which pays "tribute" to the police officers of the City of
San Francisco who have lost their lives "in the line of
duty." The eye moves down through the long list of names as
a seven-pointed golden star appears over the images of the
names. Then the eye cuts to a head-on shot of a rifle's
silencer over whose image the seven-pointed star can still
be seen. As the star fades from the screen, the eye moves
to see through the cross-hairs of a rifle's power scope.
The crossed view dominates the screen. Then the cross-hairs
move slightly until the image of a young girl in a bright
yellow bathing suit shows in the scope's field of view. Now
without looking through the scope, the eye sees the entire


229
But that which makes his last words the most pernicious
verbal element in the narrative is found in his repeti
tion of the very words which Scorpio has previously screamed.
As he lays on the ground with Harry's foot over his wounded
leg, Scorpio, screams, "I have the right for a lawyer!
Don't you see? I have rights!" Significantly, then,
while Harry's visual action entails literally stopping
Scorpio's flight when he shoots him in the leg, Rothko's
verbal powers allow Scorpio to continue on the path of
evil. He says, "I've got news for you, Callahan, as soon
i
as he's well enough to leave the hospital, he walks." It
is clear that Harry cannot hope to get his man within the
limitations imposed by the legal system. The law is dead
as a power to keep the image within the visible creation.
It is indeed blind. And after Rothko has told Harry that
he cannot win the case against Scorpio, Harry further recog
nizes that the action that is at stake in this relation with
the evil eye is too subtle for the powers of the law to
deal with. "Well then, the law is crazy," Harry says.
And although Judge Bannerman, the constitutional law ex
pert (man of the banner, of the word, of the symbol)
proceeds to express his legal "opinion" that "the search
of the suspect's quarters was illegal," that "evidence
obtained thereby ... is inadmissible in court," and that
Harry "should have gotten a search warrant," Harry still
says in amazement, "Search warrant? There was a girl


164
partially hidden by the darkness, one eye covered by the
shadow, the other in the light.) And when the eye again
picks up both Jake and Evelyn outside the restaurant, it
has not followed them there but has placed itself outside
and has waited for them to come out. So again, when Jake
takes off down the narrow alley in his car, all that the
camera can do is focus closely on Evelyn's profile as she
screams, "Mr. Git-tes!" and Jake disappears in the back
ground.
Indeed, the camera always seems to be there when the
i
action is about to start. But contrary to its initial act,
it seldom starts the action. It is there at the riverbed
when Jake is watching Mulwray talking to the boy on horse
back. It waits for Jake to appear within its field of
vision as he looks down at Mulwray and Katherine. It
I
waits for him to get to where he is going to see Cross (and
all that it can do by way of suggesting where Jake has gone
is to focus on the blue burgee with the white figure of a
fish on it). And in those instances where Jake is in a
r~>
car (with the possible exception of the sequence at the
orange groves) the camera is inside the car with him, such
as when he is being driven to Cross', when he is in Evelyn's
car on the way back from the orange groves, or when he is
following Evelyn to Katherine's or is driving Mulvihill
and Cross into Chinatown. The camera does not want to see
motion; it wants to be taken along for the ride. Or, when


72
7
Everything that makes us see, sees." The full power of the
light made visible, the image declares its existence in a
self-created world without casual principles greater than
itself and thereby invites the eye to witness its life in
a self-generated arena of action. And in a universe such
as Popeye's, charged with the power of the light, only the
interaction between the eye and the living image can ac
count for participation in the new moral activity to which
"The French Connection" attests.
Therefore, the living method enacted by the narrative
i
for the critical attention is a descriptive criticism. As
it encounters the image in motion, such an activity pri
marily consists of a description of changes and their rela
tionships. The descriptive method is the critical equivalent
to the aesthetic totality of the life of the light and the
image together with the power of motion and the activity of
the eye. But such a method is not relegated to the sequen
tial rendering of events in the narrative. Rather its aim
is to explore the manner in which the changes contribute
to the actualization of aesthetic value. Acting from the
process created by the very facts with which Popeye inter
acts, the critical act is unified with the forces proclaimed
On Poetic Imagination and Reverie: Selections from
the Works of Gaston Bachelard, trans, Colette Gaudin
(Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill, 1971), p. 78.


238
his existence as a man of action, the great rational ques
tion is still asked of Harry's condition as an active ye.
Blind to the vision of unity which Harry has just ver
balized, Chico's wife asks, "Why do you stay with it?"
Hers is much more than idle curiosity. At the core of
her question lies the intellectual penchant to discover
an abstract cause, a logical motive for action. But as
Harry has proved throughout the entire dramatic pattern,
he will not get caught up in an abstract justification of
his life. He simply answers, "I don't know. I really don't,"
i
and walks away from Chico's wife. Action is not an option
in Harry's life; it is life. His "I" does not "know" and
thus has no separate existence from the eye. The ego can
not assert its rational existence as an alternative to ac
tion because that from which it nourishes itself, knowledge,
is not a part of its existence. Thus, Harry's life within
the talk that seeks to divert attention from the visual to
the abstract clearly entails an affirmation of the passion
for action. It is not so much that as far as Harry's exist
ence goes the word has been rejected as that his words
compliment his activity as a man of action. As a conse
quence, there is no division between verbal and visual
man. Harry's words are but the confirming force of his
life in a world of images.


6
within almost a century and a half of detective and private-
eye stories. And more particularly still, I am attempting
to tell the story of the way in which the genre evolves
from the word to the image, how, in effect, the detective
who uses logic as the power for good, metamorphoses into
a private-eye whose visual talents allow him to proclaim
another, different good. Thus, while it is certain that
the territorial limits of the terrain seem to have been
staked out by genre studies, by Erics of criticism, the
possibilities for value within the continent are open for
i
discovery. Though the continent be well mapped, the ex
plorer will always see it new when he sees the specific
contours that change the region and that make it good.
Only when the concrete and the individual is seen is
there freedom to discover value.
And that is the aim of this exploration. To literally
see the moral fact in the genre of the private-eye. The
moral fact that I seek is the movie's own. The boundaries
of vision are limited only by the imaginative achievement
of each movie. The task is, therefore, to see the full
splendor of these movies within their self-generated boun
daries. Vision, then, is not only the point of departure;
it is also the vehicle for the exploration as well as the
proposed destination. In other words, the subject matter of
this exploration and the method used for discovery converge


272
private-eye manifests the power for good in that visual
system.
The final act of the cinematic eye in "Dirty Harry"
attests to the liberation of the imagination and to the
imagination's newly-discovered capacities to fully embrace
the morality of vision as an on-going process within the
private-eye genre. Though the movie ends, its very last act
marks the beginning of new possibilities, new terrains to
be explored by the imagination. Which is to say that the
vision of "Dirty Harry" extends to show that this movie is
by no means the ultimate achievement of the private-eye
movie in color. But then again, there is no private-eye
story that takes off from where "Dirty Harry" ends. Never
theless, the action of "Dirty Harry" clearly signals that
the clarification of the imagination's activity as it works
within the genre is the narrative's primordial concern.
Both the system of action inherent in the genre since the
first detective stories and the system of action generated
by color light converge upon an imaginative activity that
affirms the value of art. And more than just the achieve
ment of a unified vision, the last act of "Dirty Harry"
issues the imagination's challenge to itself. Just as the
imagination nourished itself from previous forms of the
genre to generate a creative advance, so will it create new
images, new forms out of existing ones. Wallace Stevens
wrote that the imagination "is always at the end of an


268
There is no other world, no heaven where the villain's
motive can take him. Thus, where the escape motif in the
black-and-white story entails a challenge to the powers of
the eye and the light as forces for the good, in the color
movie the motion toward invisibility takes place within an
indivisible creation that is self-redemptive and thus
immanently moral. Since the light (the white actualized
into visual power) is the only generating source, the action
engendered by the light must be one where the moving images
are capable of salvation via the agency of an eye. In the
i
black-and-white system of action, the savior, say, Sam, is
initially outside the condition of mystery and comes out of
his private world to enact the clarifying feat. But Harry,
for instance, is the private force acting in the public
domain. A force for good, for regeneration, he shares the
public arena with his superiors, the powers of abstraction.
But since Harry is a vital part of that public domain, he
is never vulnerable to an outside-inside dichotomy. There
is no mystery to clarify through logic and so Harry can save
the color system of action through the power of his eye.
The private-eye story in color has obviously grown into
a self-empowered force for good. Color asserts itself as
the sum total of the moral alternatives to each of the par
ticipants within the specific activity which it creates.
Evelyn in "Chinatown," the killers and Ross in "Bullitt,"
the bank robbers and Scorpio in "Dirty Harry," and "Frog
One," Nicoli, and Boca in "The French Connection," have to


138
The first dramatic scene succeeds in establishing the
man of words, Curly, in contrast to the man of vision,
Jake. Even within the verbal level of action, the basic
feat of this man of the eye entails, first of all, the
clarification of the powers of the image for those who must
know through vision. Hence his advice to Ida Sessions,
who poses as Evelyn Mulwray, "Mrs. Mulwray, do you love
your husband? . Then go hone and forget about it." As
he did with Curly, Jake is acting out of an awareness
that it is easier to forget than to see with an intellec-
i
tual bias and forget. He is verbally pointing away from
the horror of a vision directed at the clarification of
rational questions. And then, when Ida remains intent on
knowing despite Jake's advice, he warns her, "You know the
expression 'let sleeping dogs lie'? You're better off not
knowing." However, as a potential genius of the eye, his
feat cannot only be relegated to warning others of the
powers of the image. For just as the initial condition of
the camera eye is its predisposition to see color, so is
Jake's verbal wisdom the departure point in his story as an
agent of the eye. Jake must outgrow an existence which
involves only the verbal warnings of the vision of horror.
He must turn from the verbal wisdom that he possesses in
the beginning and allow words of warning to give way to a
vision of the image's power for good.


205
panoramic vista. The girl appears as a minute figure in the
swimming pool on a building rooftop. After seeing this, the
eye again assumes the crossed power-scope view. A muffled
sound is heard and a dark red dot on the girl's back begins
to spread in the clear water. Soon the girl ceases to
struggle for breath and lies motionless, face down on the
surface of the swimming pool. The eye never sees the face
behind the rifle. Nor does it see an escaping man.
A tall man wearing dark glasses comes out of a door be
hind which there is total darkness. The door opens to the
i
brightly lit swimming pool area. He walks up a short stair
way and looks up at a much taller building across the street
Then he is out on the street and looks up at the top of the
tall building. When he is almost all the way up, he looks
up at a stairway at the end of which is a white square of
light. From below, the camera sees him walk toward the
light and then across a transom-like horizontal structure
over a huge electric fan and out on the pebbled roof of the
building. As he walks, his head moves to and fro. When he
stops, he sees the distant swimming pool across the street.
The camera eye then focuses on the pool area as the covered
body of the girl is being taken away by two uniformed police
officers. Then, looking down at his feet, Harry sees the
empty brass cartridge, picks it up with the point of a pen,
and puts it inside an envelope. As he looks up, he sees a
written note impaled on one of the points of a television
antenna.


92
she tells Sam that she has "a terrible, terrible confession
to make" because, she says, "that story . was just a
story" (p. 42). Subsequently, she asks Sam to "shield" her
in order that she will not have to account to the police
for her implication in the murders of both Archer and
Thursby. Yet still she "can't tell" Sam what all her
stories are about. Even when she admits that she is lying,
she is doing no more than beginning another of her perverse
performances: "But the lie was in the way I said it: Not
at all in what I said" (p. 47). She openly admits that she
i
was acting out a part, that she was hiding behind her words,
while at the same time she is asking Sam not to believe the
dramatic performance but the words themselves, which, apart
from the acting, are pure nonsense.
Not only is Brigid's reliance on words aimed at obtain
ing Sam's allegiance, but also at humanistically involving
him in the plight of which she pretends to be an innocent
victim. At the same time that her words belie themselves,
Brigid intends for them to have an ulterior meaning. Their
purpose, as far as Brigid is concerned, is to transcend
their denotative context and spiral upward and away from
the possibility of vision and toward a purely subjective
and abstract sense aimed at making Sam a creature of senti
ment, at making him a blind romantic. Indeed, Brigid's
words are ultimately no more than the weapon used to vanquish


47
Ultimately, then, the narrative itself reveals its
own power for good by manifesting a creative act. Rather
than an illustration of the victory of reason or logic, the
narrative displays a victory for the imagination. The
interplay between irreconcilable opposites becomes instead
the principle of narrative unity. There is no ideal order
at the end. Both Papadopoulos and the Op continue to live
as they have in the past, on the move, creating a wake of
action behind them. Such is "the moral activity" of which
the modern story is capable. As a distinct value beyond
i
intellectual notions, it is the imagination which bursts
from the shackles of rationalism to assert itself as a moral
good. Now it is the imaginative activity which "disen
tangles." It is not the activity which unravels a mystery,
but rather the act which frees itself to affirm the power
of life and engender still more action. Along with the Op,
we have discovered the value of the imaginative genius to
be the spirit of generation and birth. We discover the
value of life as a process consisting of changes
leading in a specific direction. Along with the Op,
in fact, we discover that it is his commitment to life which
we, too, make at every moment in our own lives. Indeed,
we discover that we neither remain in nor return to a world
of darkness, but that we move forever onward toward the
light, discovering always, always exclaiming, "What a life.!"


206
Such is the initial visual structure of "Dirty Harry."
Unlike in "Bullitt," where the eye begins its story at
night and has to work toward the dawn at the end, the light
is present in the beginning of "Dirty Harry." But if the
light is there as the given which makes the existence of the
story a possibility, it is the camera eye's attention to
words which creates the initial conflict. As in "The
Maltese Falcon," the camera readily attends to the written
word. Moreover, these images bear the abstract properties
that the images of the "history" bore in the opening shots
i
of "The Maltese Falcon." Though elementary images, the
visual favors the abstractthe eye attends to the epigraph
at the head of the marble-like slab and to the names of the
officers. Thus the first visual act draws attention to the
past as well as to the fixed stone on which the names are
engraved. The seven-pointed star also operates as an ab
straction. The words inscribed upon it, "S. F. Police," are
an abstraction of an abstraction (initials of a city). And
the words further point to an intellectually sanctioned
force that operates in behalf of the abstract principles by
which the body politic lives.
But if the opening shot in "Dirty Harry" is reminescent
of the initial frames of "The Maltese Falcon," it is also
noticeably different. It is in color. The soft pinks of
the marble stone and the gold of the star prove that this
specific opening cannot establish a crucial image with the


75
inquiry into the private-eye movies begins with a narrative
which not only precedes "The French Connection" in chrono
logical terms, but which also offers a fundamental vision of
the emergence of the detective in the movies. For the fact
is that Popeye's victory over the villains that threaten
the life of his world presupposes other triumphs by other
private-eyes--triumphs which are more well-earned than
Popeye's if only because the most demanding task of the
early private-eye was to emerge as a suitable agent for a
particular kind of action which could further the life of
the imagination within the genre.
And certainly, the first great victory of the private-
eye in the movies is to be witnessed in "The Maltese Falcon"
(1941). Sam's generating feat is really the generating
matrix that makes Popeye's activity possible in a way
not unlike the one in which Dupin's engendering achievement
makes possible the life of the Continental Op. Not only is
"The Maltese Falcon" the first significant story of the
private-eye's moral victory, but it is also the first story
of such a victory achieved through a new method of action.
And further, "The Maltese Falcon" is also the story of the
imagination as it crosses the boundaries that divide
literature from the movies and it fuses a new moral vision
out of its interaction with the possibilities inherent in
each medium. The new Sam Spade, the private-eye in the


100
verbal games. At times his indulgence in talk takes on the
character of innocence when, for example, he defines him
self as a .name to the patrolman at the scene of Archer's
murder, saying, "I'm Sam Spade" (p. 22). Or there is his
insistence in changing the name of the investigating firm
to "Samuel Spade" after Miles' death. But this innocent
predisposition to words makes Sam vulnerable to Brigid's
lies and thus lays him open to attack by her sentimental
appeals. Such is the case, for example, when he says that
he can possibly help her, but that he "must know what it's
all about"1 (p. 45). And he despairs when he is unable to
make sense out of her stories, saying, "I don't know
what you want done! I don't even know if you know what you
want done" (p. 51). Sam, however, is finally saved from
the fate suffered by the others simply because his passion
to know is never aimed at possession or control, but at a
clarification of the mystery of words which in turn allows
him to be free from their passion to control the powers
of vision.
In fact, Sam's genius consists in great measure of his
ability to use words to break out of mystery and irony, of
his capacity to move away from the crossed condition created
by words. Sam conclusively proves his power to extricate
himself from the repetitive cycle of words when, with the
wisdom of a Prospero, he answers Tom's rational question
("What is it?"): "The stuff that dreams are made of"


128
an evil force and thereby affirm San's activity as a
value.
Black and white, therefore, more than just recapitu
lates the other forms of conflict within the narrative.
For within the progress of its narrative career in "The
Maltese Falcon," the image can be no less than an organic
phenomenon. As such, the narrative confronts the eye with
the vision that value resides within the scope of the
image's own visual structure. Since the image cannot be
but immanently organized, its evil properties can only be
i
those which invade its organicity from the outside. Its
good, on the other hand, entails a vision of the image
itself as a value. Therefore, the illuminating activity of
"The Maltese Falcon" lies ultimately in the power of its
image to incite to actionto, in fact, initiate the moral
options available to the living eye. Within its structure,
seeing entails a clarification of the vitality of the image.
In contrast, the search for the substance of the image
consists of a concentration upon its blackness, on what
cannot possibly be there in fact. The black and white
visual structure is thus a prototype for an exploration of
moral action in the private-eye movie. Indeed, it is the
basic model of action for an investigation of life in the
visible creation. Through black and white, "The Maltese
Falcon" clarifies the choices within the reach of con
temporary man: like Sam, he can make the initial commitment


109
that the object he, Tom, holds in his hands is no more than
an image, the value of which intellectual man has attempted
to bury with the burden of mystery, intrigue, and suspense.
In the end, Sam's answer to Tom ("the stuff that dreams are
made of") proves that Sam succeeds in stripping the image
of its illusory qualities. Sam's words converge upon the
concrete particularity of the image and thus proclaim its
value. In this sense, then, Sam has not only divested the
image from its deceptive elements, but he has also stripped
the word of its abstract context and has used it to describe
i
what he sees. Hence through Sam's agency, both the verbal
and the visual, divisive elements of the crucial image are
united.
The eye and the image have achieved a one-to-one rela
tionshipnot seeking dominance over each other, but rather
showing their joint power to break through the barriers of
intellectual concepts. The potentialities of the eye for
growth have asserted themselves as a power able to break
away from the force of words. As a direct result of the
passion to see, the good in the form of change is affirmed.
Sam's growth into vision is connected with his verbal
powers. Although he is first seen devoting all of his
attention to a predominantly visual act (Sam is putting
together a cigarette), once his silent, visual world is
invaded by Effie's announcement of "a girl that wants to
see [him]" (p. 11), Sam is forced into a life where the


147
his potentialities as a private-eye to see "what's going
on. "
If even in the most elemental fashion, Jake is initi
ally a man of the eye. He makes a living out of seeing.
And of course, in order for him to live out of the energies
of the eye, he must move with the moving image. Thus,
immediately after he has been hired by Ida Sessions, he is
after his man at the town council meeting, and then out at
the L.A. riverbed he is training his field glasses on Hollis
Mulwray. This is the basic action of Jake's eye throughout.
It is followed by such sequences as when Jake is taking
photographs of Mulwray and Katherine in the boat at Echo
Park and when, later, from a rooftop near a bell tower, he
photographs Katherine while she shows her new dress to
Mulwray. Numerous such episodes prove that, aside from
his initial capacity to talk lightly about the eye's en
counter with the image, Jake's is a talented eye. His
ability to move with his eye is again evident when he
quickly goes through the desk drawers at Mulwray's office,
or when he sees the glint of metal and glass in the back
yard pond at the Mulwrays', or, again, when he glances
through the plat books at the Hall of Records (a sequence
which is paralleled by the quick glance at the names on
the activity list at the Mar Vista Rest Home), when he sees
the "flaw" in Evelyn's eye, when he follows her white
Packard out of her house and to Katherine's. The eye


273
era." Each private-eye movie of any consequence consti
tutes the beginning of a new era as well as the end of it.
The image-creating spirit converges with the end of a
particular form to generate the life of art and to reveal
the good. As in all creative advances, the old form, the
accepted vision, is assimilated and changed by the imagina
tion. And thus, as, Harry enters the scene to save the
story of the genre from its disastrous condition, so the
imagination enters the private-eye scene to forge a new
story, to discover, as it always does, new possibilities
i
for moral vision.
2
The Necessary Angel, p. 22.


215
exclusively entail the death of the image (for were this all
there is to Scorpio's activity, his, too, would be a pri
marily intellectual motivethe eye proclaiming its supremacy
over the image). Scorpio's actions consist of the ultimate
form of wickedness because his very existence as a destruc
tive eye is directed at the death of his own image. As his
face is never seen in the opening shot, or as his red mask
or his masochistic submission to the sadist's fists (leading
to the image of his bandage-covered face) conclusively prove,
Scorpio has reached the apex of visual perversity. Not only
i
does he try to deface Harry by the cross or aims at Charlie
Russell's head and blows half his face off or breaks the
bottle of Seagrams over the side of the face of the liquor
store proprietor, but he turns the crossed sights upon his
own existence as an image. It is not therefore sufficiently
accurate to state that Scorpio acts against the powers and
potentialities of the cinematic eye. Instead, the precise
course of action established in the opening sequence en
tails Scorpio's escape attempt from the world of images--
not as a physical entity trying to physically escape capture
by moving toward a place where he is safe from arrest, but
as an image, trying to transcend his visible condition
through the deadliness of his eye.


252
gospel of the eye, and in the end, the eye itself must be
the source of the good news.
At the railroad bridge over Drake Boulevard, Harry
waits for his third and final meeting with Scorpio. Be
fore he jumps on top of the school bus, his image is
reflected on the windshield. As the bus passes under the
bridge, Harry descends upon its roof. Scorpio frantically
begins to shoot through the ceiling with his automatic
pistol. In desperation, he knocks the driver from her seat
and takes, over the wheel. The school bus weaves in and
out of the traffic lanes as Scorpio tries to shake Harry off
On the roof, Harry makes his way toward the front of the
bus. At one point, his image appears through the windshield
He is holding his Magnum and from the outside of the bus the
image of the .44 almost touches that of Scorpio's auto
matic. Finally the bus crashes through the fence of the
Hutchinson Rock and Gravel Pit. As Scorpio loses control,
the bus crashes into a dirt pile. Harry falls in it and
is momentarily blinded. Scorpio rushes out of the bus
through the rear emergency exit. Once in the horizontal
dimension embodied by the moving bus, escape is no longer a
possibility. Scorpio is operating in Harry's own terrain.
The vehicle containing the two dominant forces of the nar
rative crashes through the fence, busting through every
possible obstacle. But in this visible world, Scorpio's


255
Scorpio feels "lucky" and reaches for the automatic. As
he stands up to fire, Harry lets go the last shot of the
Magnum, the force slams Scorpio backwards, and he falls in
the water. Scorpio's luck has failed, for within the struc
ture of the action luck is the presence of the light as a
benevolent powerthe force which Scorpio does not want to
shine upon him. Since Scorpio rejects the light, his death
is not so much brought about by Harry's gun as by the fact
that, once offered life in the visible creation, he
completely and absolutely rejects his last opportunity to
i
participate in a world of light. As an agent of the light,
Harry extends to Scorpio the living alternative; to be
seen or to die. And as in the ancient fable of the scorpion
where, once surrounded by a circle of fire, the arachnid
will sting itself to death, Scorpio, surrounded by the
light and by the fiery circle of Harry's eye, chooses to
destroy himself. He dies as he first killed, in the water.
But unlike the girl in the yellow bathing suit, Scorpio
lies face up in the water. Even motionless, the visible
creation will not allow him to efface himself.
As Scorpio's death is an inevitability arising out of
the eye's perverse passion to do away with its own life, so
is Harry's act of throwing the star away equally unavoid
able. Harry's star is the last remnant of abstraction
plaguing both his life and the narrative's. After the final


228
But by far the most serious challenge to the activity
of the eye within the dramatic aspect of the narrative .
occurs at-Rothko's office immediately after Harry has shot
Scorpio at Kezar Stadium. After noting the "unusual piece
of police work" that has allowed Harry to arrest Scorpio,
Rothko tells him, "You're lucky I'm not indicting you for
assault with intent to commit murder. Where the hell does
it say you have a right to kick down doors, torture suspects,
deny medical attention and legal counsel?" And he continues
"Where have you been? Does Escobedo ring a bell? Miranda?
I mean, you must have heard of the Fourth Amendment. What
I'm saying is that man had rights." This attorney, this
man appointed by an abstract "district" to serve as its
agent, is incapable of verbalizing a single concrete act.
He speaks of indictments, intentions, rights, torture,
names, and amendments, none of which can be seennone
of which may be used as living options that will effectively
deal with the force of the evil eye. But what is still
more wicked about Rothko's tirade is that he contends
that Scorpio "had rights." It is not, of course, the fact
that Rothko attempts to preserve Scorpio's civil liber
ties which makes of his speech to Harry a negative force
working against the life of the eye. As a public man
whose role consists of preserving the letter of the law,
Rothko is doing no more than living up to his public role.


59
First of all, the root sense of the word "character" it
self implies the static, the fixed. As such, character
entails the age-old notion of a verbally established self
resisting all change in the midst of an ever-moving and
ever-growing world. Rationally defined and distilled to
the point of active resistance to change, character reveals
rational man's perennial passion for certainty and predic
tability. But as a direct result of his existence in a world
charged with the energy of light, Popeye has been wholly
divested of the heavy garb of reason and the search for
i
absolute truth which were at the core of the activity of
both Holmes and Dupin. He has emerged from that confined
larval stage of character-man which is even a characteris
tic of the Op. Therefore he does not create out of the
fixed immobile "I" but lives as a genius of the eye, gen
erating change out of his eye's interaction with the image.
Thus, the new moral activity which Popeye makes manifest
resides both in the capacity of his living image to affirm
the living powers of a universe of light and in the power
of his eye to confirm the vitality of that world of action.
His, therefore, is not an ethical morality based on pre-
established standards of rational order, but a morality of
power, of the value of the living, moving world of light
proclaimed by his equally active and mobile eye.
Now if the new moral activity accounts for the basic
difference in the life of the "I" and the eye, the Op and


110
powers of his eye coexist with his propensity to verbalize
experience. Since his occupation itself exposes him to a
public world ruled by roles and words, his unavoiable im
mersion in talk and thought clashes with the private act
of seeing. The dominant dichotomy created by the impera
tive to talk acting against Sam's passion to see is announced
by the basic fact of his partnership with Miles Archer. Un
questionably, Sam sees before he talks; he envisions (or
imagines out of the power of the eye) before he explains.
In fact, Sam is immediately singled out as the agent of the
eye by Miles himself, who, having taken Brigid's case away
from Sam, says, "Maybe you saw her first, Sam. But I spoke
first" (p. 19). It is verbally proclaimed that, within this
partnership, Sam is allied with the powers of the eye,
whereas Archer, in the tradition of the detective in litera
ture, is the agent of the word. In fact, Archer has singled
himself out as Sam's opposite when he has earlier said that
it is he who will "look after" Brigid. Thus, within this
narrative taking place in the new medium, Miles' death
points to the death of the deductive mind as a power to
clarify. This man who "looks after," who bears a tradi
tion of blind thought and reflection, is the first to be
annihilated within the story of the light.
But the fact that Sam is a predominantly visual
creature is not at all an indication that he is wholly


115
not an indication of the eye's decisive victory, for Sam's
eye is not moving. When he finally stops looking at Brigid's
face, Sam is last seen descending the steps, his head bowed,
denying the eye its passion to see. And although his descent
from Gutman's room, the room of abstraction, under his own
power signals his possibilities for regeneration, seeing
has nevertheless resulted in partial disaster. That
trident-shaped shadow preying on Brigid's face marks the
reappearance of the shadow of the crucial image. It is the
shadow of an inescapable duality that ultimately haunts
i
Sam as a result of his eye's incapacity to achieve an uncon
ditional liberation. Sam's entire visual activity, there
fore, only succeeds in clarifying that which the image is
not rather than that which it is all along empowered to
become. At best he clarifies the image through the nega
tion of the verbal powers in conjunction with which it
exists throughout the narrative. The fact is, that insofar
as he is able to actually see the image, the thing itself,
as an intrinsic value'insofar as his eye enacts a dominant
motion culminating in the positive clarification of both
its own and the image's powers, Sam fails. Although Sam's
eye allows him to strip the falcon's image from its mysteri
ous properties, he, too, is the bearer of the divisive
elements of the crucial image. He carries the falcon's
weight at the end. It is he who is left holding this heavy
object, the "stuff" of the image which, even after it has


5
turf (perhaps for fear of disturbing the "statusphere"),
these efforts result in histories of the genre. The pic
tures are.used as embellishment to the subtle perpetuation
of a fixed convention. And in the case of Mr. Everson's
detective book, the afterword mourns the passing of a
"classic" such as "The Maltese Falcon" by stating that in
the thirty-four years since, no private-eye story has
matched this movie's achievement, and thus implying that

the new cannot be good, much less empowered to render its
own moral vision. Or when critical attention is paid to a
genre in a' study such as Stephen Karpf's The Gangster Film,
the emphasis, as the subtitle indicates, is on "decay"
rather than growth, on judgment rather than evaluation, and
on history rather than aesthetic value.
With the vision of Harry's heroic action in mind, I
see no need to lend whatever critical talents I may possess
to the cause of colonization, to merely stating what has
taken place without considering its value. Eric the Red
looked at America, but Columbus saw it. Columbus explored
the terrain and brought back the good vision of a new land.
No vision, no exploration can be at once historical and new.
Yet this investigation does tell a story. And the aim of
the story is to clarify the vision of several private-
eye movies as powers for good. Specifically, I am trying
to show the evolution of the terrain of the private-eye
by paying detailed attention to the changes that take place


53
inevitable that they exist in a world divided between past
and present, or, more precisely still, between story and
narrative act. (Thus, the very presence of the word as a
medium acts as the final dimension of the crossed condition
present in both stories.) As a direct result of their
commitment to words, the first stubborn fact of the liter
ary story resides in the need to live out the action before
its results can actually be told. Words and only words
empower the active agent to re-create his experience in
order to enact the narrative process. Of necessity, then,
i
the verbal powers pull the literary story toward a world of
memory and away from the action itself. The literary
medium, it is obvious, does not allow a simultaneity of motion
and imaginative activity. Quite simply, before the Op con
tinues to "turn the city upside down" in his search for
Papadopoulos, before he can indeed continue to generate the
action of discovery which he promises in the end, he has to
stop and tell his tale. In short, the story precedes the
narrative; and the narrative act in turn precludes the spe
cific motion in search for Papadopoulos.
By contrast, the medium of light, the means of change
and growth which gives Popeye his life, demands that he
live out all of his story in a world of immediacy, in a
domain where both narrative and story converge upon an
indivisible and ever-changing present to whose ceaseless
unfolding the eye is the only witness. Take, for instance,


I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
tu* {L
William R. Ro
Professor of
son, Chairman
English
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Associate Professor of English
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
3aden
Associate Professor of Sociology
This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of
the Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences
and to the Graduate Council, and was accepted as partial
fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor
of Philosophy.
December, 1975
Dean, Graduate School


89
place, for the most part, at times when only the mouth is
moving, speech imposes itself on the image and obscures its
powers in precisely the same manner in which the words of
the title, of the credits, and of the verbal account of the
statuette prevent the image from asserting itself in the
beginning. Talk casts the shadow of abstraction on the
image. As the dark shadow of the bird points to perspec-
tivity, so does talk direct attention beyond the visual
fact itself.
Accordingly, it is significant that the preponderance
i
of the talk taking place within the dramatic aspect of the
narrative occurs within the context of acting. Most of the
verbal exchanges occur as a dramatic performance on the
part of the characters and are aimed at hiding both their
identities and their motives and thus at creating a series
of plays within a play, fragmentary aspects of narrative
substructure, where the images on the screen not only speak
their parts, but where the part itself consists of assuming
different names and roles (all of which, of course, is, in
the end, aimed at educing an intellectual sense of truth
through the fabrication of the most believable lie!) Donning
and doffing masks and roles, the characters are insured of
safety and survival within this verbal world. Thus, for
instance, Brigid is not just Brigid, but also Miss Wonderly
and Miss Leblanc. Or Joel Cairo has four different pass
portsfour different documents identifying him as four


38
"'You'll probably know that before I do'" (p. 364).
Appropriately to the description of the Old Man which the
Op has previously given us, the Old Man's experience tells
him that no amount of expertise in sleuthing is going to
help him catch his man while sitting at his office and
staring out the window. To the great intellectual question
asked by the Op, the Old Man answers with an exhortation to
action. In the Op's world of motion, questions are but the
springboard for an active search that in turn creates
more action. So the Old Man's seventy years do not pre
vent him from giving the Op a push into the action, from
setting him and his story on the move once more.
Then the Op returns to where he first found, to Jean
Larrouy's. After an interval of inaction, he goes up the
street to Wop Healy's, where he sees the boyish looking
Armenian type he had seen walking away from where Beno had
been shot. It is at this point in the story that observa
tion, that essential faculty of the super cop's, becomes
the force that incites the action. "I watched the young
Armenian," says the Op; and, as the Armenian leaves
Healy's, he says, "I followed him out." Motion and not
thought is the outcome of observation. When this "optical"
man sees, he moves so he can keep on seeing. It is the
process of seeing and moving, the rhythms created by these
activities, which account for the Op's ability to tell his
story. The Armenian, who is carrying messages to all the


241
to the rooftop, it is the light behind the door which makes
Harry move his field glasses to see what the light reveals.
Indeed the' progress of the narrative proves that Harry's
capacity to align his visual powers with the light is any
thing but coincidental. As the process of clarification
clearly illustrates, Harry's visual activity is made pos
sible through its concretion with the light, through the
growth of the potentialities of his eye together with the
means of action available to it. As Harry has no separate
verbal existence in the dramatic pattern, neither does he
i
have a life in which his vision can be considered apart
from the action-engendering light. Furthermore, since
Harry lives by the light or not at all, there is no basic
difference between the clarifying feat of the cinematic
eye and the essential achievement of his redeeming eye.
As the camera is one with the medium, so does Harry's
illuminating accomplishmentthe glorifying act of cleansing
the narrative from the pervasiveness of the evil eye
consists of becoming one with the light.
Now Harry's career as a man of the eye is episodic.
The action of the three episodes, each ending in the con
vergence of Harry's image with Scorpio's parallels the
structure of action established in the trinary model. At
the end of the first episode, when Harry passes out at the
foot of the cross, the narrative threatens to give way to
the vision of the evil eye. Harry cannot unmask Scorpio;


16
"the spirit of his opponent." Should he remain within the
limits of logic, he would be incapable of breaking the bonds
of the fixed and would be impotent to see his opponent's
"spirit" as it reveals itself. For example, it is an obvious
fact of the story itself that Dupin's narrator-companion
must first imagine his hero before he can proceed to analyze
the qualities which make him superior. It is not, therefore,
a sufficiently clear statement to say that the power of
analysis may "throw" a rival into miscalculation. The fact
of the story's existence testifies to the narrator's "iden-
i
tification" with his companion. That is, it is evident in
the method of the story itself that the imagination unifies
the existence of the narrator and that of Dupin. Therefore,
following the narrator's own glaring example, it is a much
more accurate statement to say that a man of the imagination
is the only one who can create the actuality of "an error"
in the game of draughts since it is he who possesses the
power to envision the acts of his opponent.
Despite the rather confusing example which the narrator
employs as he illustrates the powers of the superior moral
man, he salvages what little he has contributed to the
clarification of those powers by stating that these powers
do not depend on mere chance but that there is a method
to them. Never does he venture to explore the subtle
workings of that method, but, from the foregoing discussion


58
severed. It is now the active, mobile eye which estab
lishes and unifies a unique world of relationships in the
world of motion in which it acts. As the chase sequence
illustrates, since Popeye's activity is not sanctioned by
the legal powers, he is therefore acting out of a private
center of energy, the eye, (Significantly, during this
scene of intense visual activity, Buddy is not with Popeye.
Thus the condition of privacy is reinforced.) This "de
tective" on the vice squad is not a man shackled by the
abstract legal powers. Nor, more importantly still, is he
a deductive mind seeking to restore an abstract order.
Rather he is a living eye seeking only the encounter with
the concrete particular. Though nominally a police officer,
Popeye is a private eye. Clearly lacking an ego that wills
the restoration of a social order, all that he is left
with as a source of action in his world of images is his
own visual powers.
Furthermore, since the light denies Popeye the possi
bility for verbal creation, it follows that it denies him
the element of "character" in the traditional, lexical,
and critical senses of that word. That is, the light
which shows him as a moving image denies him an intellec-
tualized frame of reference, a narrow self-defining per
spective from which he can "see" himself and his rational
identity in relation to other abstractions around him.


68
the private-eye's story. W. R. Robinson has said that both
the movie viewer and the critic must seek "a method that
concentrates upon describing qualities and their relation-
5
ships." The source for such a method is to be found in
the imagination, or, more accurately, in an imaginative
activity which emerges as an extension of the visual powers
immediately confronting the eye. Thus, if in rendering the
narrative act, the imagination is the image-making power,
in studying and exploring that same narrative, the imagina
tion is the power that discovers the value of the visual
i
experience. Image and imagination are wedded to enact a
critical method for the exploration of the private-eye's
activity. Since the image hides nothing, it is no longer
the task of the critic to formulate and reformulate hy
potheses by way of ordering what Burckhardt called "the
disturbing element"^ in a work of literary art. Liberated
from the divisive power of words and its concomitant ethi
cal considerations of right and wrong and good and evil, the
^"Making Sense of the Movies," The Georgia Review, 23,
No. 2 (1969), 148-168.
g
Sigurd Burckhardt, "Notes on the Theory of Intrinsic
Interpretation," in Critical Theory Since Plato, ed. Hazard
Adams (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1971), p.
1207. Burckhardt says, "I begin to interpret when I tell
myself that the 'disturbing element' arises from a dis
crepancy between my conception and the poem itself."


171
pull away from the black and white reflection, but, as it
does so, it begins to see in color once more. This eye
will not passively record whatever appears within its
field of view. Having incorporated the black and white into
its activity, it moves away from the divided and the fixed.
The eye moves around the office, seeing typewriters, desks,
telephones, the names of the Ross brothers on the door,
until it finds a face, this time in color. And that face
gets the eye going again. The man the eye has found becomes
an agent for the action. He tosses a smoke bomb at the
i
glass pane behind which four men hide, the glass breaks,
the man runs away, and the eye follows him outside the
building and into his Continental as he drives away.
In "Bullitt," color in motion, the living image, is at
work from the beginning. And the eye has attained a union
with the power of color from that beginning. The camera is
out in the open, working its way into the specific structure
of action only after it has visually proclaimed its exist
ence in a world of action, after it has announced its zeal
to participate in the action, and, indeed, after it has
proved that its mobility and its passion to see empower it
to generate a unified act within a world of action. Given
the first shots of "Bullitt," visual action becomes the
norm, the model to be followed throughout the entire narra
tive. In other words, the camera eye's initial activity
sets the pattern for the exploration of the different


61
destruction of the image is based upon a motive, so is his
invasion of the new world dictated by an abstract motive
(personal wealth) that aims at nothing but a violation of
the integrity of the eye and the image. There is obviously
a basic duality at work in this first sequence. Alain is
an image, yet is bent on destroying the powers that confirm
the existence of the image by preying upon the senses of
those who are "hooked" on heroin. He comes from the old
world to the new, but he does not travel in order to be
regenerated, in order to discover, but in order to rule
supreme over the lives of others. A victory for this force
of evil would consist in the total corruption of the senses
and it would also hinder the mobility of the image.
Alain, however, is not only the evil element because
he seeks to impose his abstract motives upon others and
because he seeks to control the life of the image, but also
because he brings the ways of the literary story, the ways
of the word, into the image's terrain. He is the bearer of
mystery, intrigue, and of hidden identities. As such, he
is the image wickedly resisting an encounter with the powers
of the eye. An intellectual, he possesses an ego which
imposes itself upon his existence in a world of light and
which wills itself to a condition of invisibility not unlike
the one to which Dupin and the narrator of "Murders" willed
their lives. And yet, as the active image which he cannot


64
active eye on it. With every act, with every move of his
eye, Popeye preserves the pristine innocence of the image
from the evil of darkness. His clarifying talent is to be
most clearly seen in his power to draw the innocent image
away from the dark motivations of the intellect and thereby
show a unified world of action, on the move, offering immedi
ate possibilities for the good. Popeye's burden is created
for him by the presence of an evil force which, from the
beginning, seeks to do away with the activity of the moving,
changing image. Therefore, the man of the eye cannot live
to assert Verbally the power of the image. Instead he must
proclaim the vitality of the visual world through an inex
haustible passion to interact with the image.
Thus, as defined in "The French Connection," action
presupposes the interplay between good and evil. And not
only is evil embodied in Alain and in his associates such
as Nicoli and Boca, but, in a more subtle manner, it is also
present in the activity of Moulderig who, as a verbal man,
tries to prevent Popeye from seeing the image. (Inciden
tally, by way of displaying his visual talents all that
Moulderig can do is sit at the lobby of the Westbury Hotel
thinking all the time that "Frog One" is in his room. It
takes a telephone call from Popeye to make this visual
dolt "see" that he has lost his man without ever^1 having
seen him.) Popeye, therefore, must go at it by himself.
The action of the eye does not give way to the sanctity of


232
the primordial potentialities of the image within the
narrative.
Harry's last verbal encounter with the powers of the
law consists of literally giving up the star. It is not
exact enough to say that Harry divests his own image of
the abstractions embodied in the star at the very end
when, after killing Scorpio, he removes the star from the
identification wallet and throws it in the lake by the
rock pit. The life of the narrative cannot wait until
"the mess" is over so that Harry can turn in his star. Nor
can Harry move to a third confrontation with the evil eye
and succeed in exposing it as an image unless he has
previously liberated his eye from the star that is forever
superimposed upon it. It is fitting that Harry emanci
pates his image from the powers of the law in the room of
law itself. His final words as a public man are spoken
at the Mayor's office. After he has listened to Scorpio's
orders to the effect that he wants no police interference,
the Mayor says, "I guarantee you you will not be molested
in any way. I give you my word of honor on it." The Mayer
then asks Harry if he wants to deliver the money to Scorpio,
but Harry asks, "When are you people going to stop messing
around with this guy? He's got to be stopped now." Harry's
question indicates that he is too wise to the ways of the
law, that he knows that the law cannot do anything but go
along with the demands of Scorpio. And he further knows


17
of the difference between the imaginative and the analytic,
it may be possible to ascertain the method by which the
narrator's friend solves his cases. First, then, it may
be offered for consideration that no method can exist with
out a process. If, for instance, the analytic powers
unravel, they do so at the end of a specific series of
acts. But, as noted above, even at the end of the analy
tic process we are left with loose ends. Thus, to the de-
gree that he cannot see his imagination as a methodizing
power, the narrator runs the risk of failing in his
endeavor to identify his companion's talents.
As he moves further into his area of inquiry, the narra
tor touches upon a point that is vital for the clarifica
tion of the method of action which so fascinates him.
The "analyst," he tells us, makes "a host of observations
and inferences. Scy perhaps, do his companions; and the
difference in the extent of the information obtained, lies
not so much in the validity of the inference as in the
quality of the observation. The necessary knowledge is that of
what to observe" (p. 51). The narrator notes that within
the realm of his friend's activity, the primordial fact is
that consciousness presupposes experience. The analyst
nourishes himself from the facts of an observable universe.
He invariably acts out of empirical, a posteriori fact.
Thus the analyst is not concerned with the way in which


176
the buckshot hits Renick on his left shoulder and on the
left side of his face. He is slammed backward by the force
of the shot. The eye sees this as it happens. It is not
afraid to see the whole act. But once Renick is
dead as a nourishing source for the life of the eye, the
camera moves once more to the killer, who unplugs his
ears, picks up the empty shells, and walks out of the room
along with the back-up man. Or there is the end of the
chase sequence, when the killers' black Dodge crashes into
a fuel storage tank. The camera sees the crash from a long
i
distance, but then it moves up close to show the motion
less bodies inside the upside down car which is wrapped
in flames. Seeing, therefore, is not a malicious act.
It is only the hint of vision, a half vision resulting from
the imposition of a censoring force upon the eye, which
acts as an evil power over the unmediated visual activity.
Out of its passion to see every image, the eye generates
its own sensitivity, its own sense of subtle moral discrimi
nation. The eye's moral activity illustrates its acceptance
of a world where action is the integrating force accounting
for the existence of the visual activity beyond rational
concepts.
It is clearly the bond between the image and the passion
to see which accounts for a union empowering the eye to be
the genius that clarifies the life in the visible creation.


146
image by Evelyn's talk. And it is he who has to be told
at the end to "forget it." By the end of his career in
this world of talk, Jake has lapsed into Curly's initial
condition. His relationship with the knowable image has
literally brought him back to the place whence his life as
a creature of memory began. And like a child, a "kid," he
is led away from the vision of tragedy as he had previously
led Curly from his office after Curly's own disastrous
encounter with the image.
i
iv
Unavoidably, Jake's life as a man of vision is severely
restricted through his verbal relationship with Evelyn, the
ironic image who can give birth to nothing from a self-
contained center of energy. The imposition of her talk
about the past upon Jake's life prevents him from achieving
a union with her. Nevertheless, Jake is, above all else,
an agent for the action initiated by the eye. From the
beginning, he is the clarifier of vision. His activity as
a man of the eye presupposes all forms of dramatic encoun
ters, whether with Evelyn or Noah Cross, or Lieutenant
Escobar. Seeing precedes knowing. It precedes talk. And
ultimately it is Jake's task to incorporate his visual
talents for his own growth. In short, even if Jake cannot
"tell what's going on," it is still within the reach of


37
mentor serves as an insight into the ways of the Op himself
as active detective:
A tall, plump man in his seventies, this boss of
mine, with a white-mustached, baby-pink, grand-
fatherly face, mild blue eyes behind rimless
spectacles, and no more warmth in him than a hang
man's rope. Fifty years of crook-hunting for the
Continental had emptied him of everything except
brains and a soft-spoken, gently smiling shell
of politeness that was the same whether things went
good or badand meant as little at one time as
another. We who worked under him were proud of his
cold-bloodedness. We used to boast that he could
spit icicles in July, and we called him Pontius
Pilate among ourselves, because he smiled politely
when he sent us out to be crucified on suicidal
jobs. (p. 359)
i
The Old Man has attained a wisdom for which the Op greatly
admires him. He has been at hell's holiday and has lived
to spit icicles in July. He is the guru, the high-priest
of sleuths, and the Op must nourish himself from the Old
Man's wisdom before he continues to follow the action.
After the Op gives the Old Man the facts that he has
been able to gather in six busy hours and has pointed to
Bluepoint Vance as the possible mastermind behind the
knockover, the Old Man says, "'I'm afraid not,'" . .
"'Vance is a shrewd, resourceful and determined criminal,
but his weakness is one common to his type. His abilities
are all for present action and not for planning ahead. He
has executed some large operations, but I've always thought
I saw in them some other mind at work behind him.'"
"'And who,'" asks the Op in the tradition of his prede
cessors, "'is this arch-gonif?'" The Old Man answers,


257
from escaping and thereby proclaim that no image can live
outside the light, it also allows the imaginative eye to
escape the static condition which beset it in the beginning.
At the end, when the eye pulls away from Harry, its vision
is no longer confined to an isolated arena of action such
as the one to which its vision was restricted at the end of
the second episode. In the foreground there is now the
slowly moving stream; and Harry's own earth-colored image
merges with the dark gray building and the green shrubs and
the gravel mounds in the middleground. In the distant fore-
i
ground the cars move on the expressways. Among so many
images, Harry's is soon lost. But the very fact that he
loses his particularity attests to the new visual dimension
which the imaginative eye has entered. Harry has freed
the eye to continue to explore the possibilities for action
inherent in all visual phenomena. Indeed the genius has
emancipated the imagination to continue with its creative
urge. And further, the genius has clearly established the
power of the liberated imagination as the supreme moral power,
as the great force eternally seeking to celebrate the cre
ation. The genius, the divinity, has emerged from within
and has died but to announce the life of the eye as the
endlessly new moral activity. In full marriage with the
light, it has lived to proclaim the advent of the new
moral force by illustrating the power of the image and the
glory of its vision.


44
When they finally reach the freedom of the open street,
the first thing that Red says is that he is parting ways
with the Op. The Op, one might say, has been too success
ful at helping Red make his escape. Once again he has to
follow where Red will lead. As they walk together down the
street, two not-so-tough hoodlums meet Red and the Op. As
they fight, the Op manages to position his man with his
back to O'Leary's and it is then that he shoots Red in the
back. What appears as a willing effort on the part of the
Op to stop the action is really the only alternative that
i
he has to losing his man altogether. O'Leary is too power
ful for the Op to take one on one. But with Red injured,
the Op can pretend that he wants to help him and hope that
the big Irishman will lead him to Big Flora.
Finally, when he meets Big Flora, the Op realizes
that he can't just flash a badge and tell her that she is
under arrest. To Flora's "'Who, what, and why,'" the Op
quickly creates a new identity for himself. He calls him
self Percy Maguire and tells the huge woman and Pogy (the
skull-cracker) that he has come for his share of the loot.
The Op is now one of the gang. If up to now there has been
a trace of difference between the forces of good as exempli
fied by the Op and the powers of evil as embodied in all the
hoodlums, that difference disappears with the Op's new
identity. There is no clearly defined act that separates


209
Even if later in the narrative the intellect develops
into a deadly obstacle threatening to halt the action, the
fact nevertheless remains that the eye is the primordial
instrument of evil in the story. The initial friction with
in the structure of the action has been established at the
end of the second sequence. The eye of the camera gives life
to the image. By contrast, the killer's eye acts in complete
opposition to the good eye of the camera. Like Evelyn's or
like the eye of the camera itself in "Chinatown," the killer
eye is flawed. But unlike the eye in "Chinatown," which
moves toward that final negative dimension, in "Dirty Harry"
there is the presence of an evil eye from the very be
ginning. Thus if "Chinatown" cannot be an anti-private-eye
movie if only because the negative powers of the eye are not
revealed until the very end, then the eye which creates the
initial tension within the visual structure of "Dirty Harry"
is empowered to do away with the narrative immediately after
the first two sequences. The activity of the murderer's
eye works against the progress of the story.
The cross-hairs of the masked rifle-scope shot are more
than just the vision of a target at which the eye aims with
"intent" to kill. The eye is not only used to kill, but it
is also used as an instrument of perspectivity, of a vision
from on high consisting of uniform focus, aiming at in
finity, at a "point" that cannot exist within the life of
the visible. The eye assumes a "point of view" that negates


167
of focusing on the talking image. And, undoubtedly, the
image which most consistently talks is Evelyn's. "Do you
know me?"she asks Jake, and indeed, as Jake gets immedi
ately taken in by the passion to know her, so does the
camera eye, judging by its activity after its encounter
with Evelyn, seem intent on knowing her, on intellectually
arriving at her identity through discovering her past, a
past which the camera can only discover by focusing on her
moving mouth, by attempting to hear rather than to see.
Since the camera repeatedly stays with Evelyn after Jake
i
leaves her, it is clear that it is fascinated by her mystery
Evelyn is seldom seen without Jake (her meeting with Kath
erine and her escape attempt being the only exceptions).
Yet, ensnared by Evelyn's identity, it is fitting that the
camera use Jake not as an agent for the clarification of
the image, but as an inquisitor, an ear that will mediate
between it and the verbal mystery of Evelyn's talking image.
As a result of the camera's enchantment with the moving
mouth, its activity can come to little more than the action
of Jake's own eye. Trapped by the talking image, the eye
wickedly denies the activity that it initiated in the
beginning. It negates all visual activity and thus denies
the life of the narrative. Once Evelyn is incapable of
further talk, all that the eye will do is to fix itself on
the darkness at the center of the field of vision and let


246
darkness, Harry is ordered to stop by the voice that says,
"Freeze. Just like a statue. . One wrong move
anything, .1 don't care, I'll kill you and the girl both.
. . Now turn. Face the cross." It is now more clear
than ever that the motive behind all of Scorpio's actions
is to stop all motion. At the mercy of the voice in the
darkness, Harry's eye has come into contact with the very
same crossed condition which the camera eye saw when it
looked through the cross-hairs of the power scope. Unable
to move, then, Harry, too, needs a savior. It is evident
that in his momentary condition his eye can generate no
action out of its own center.
Once Scorpio has beaten Harry and has him ready for
the kill, Chico fires at Scorpio. Again, however, Scorpio
wins the shootout when he wounds Chico. But Harry is not
passively waiting to die while the shooting is taking
place. He accepts Chico's saving action and while Scorpio
is firing he plunges the switchblade deep into Scorpio's
left thigh. And when Scorpio picks up the yellow bag and
rolls down the embankment by the side of the road, Harry
crawls away from the cross, picks up the Magnum, and
fires at Scorpio in a futile attempt to prevent his escape.
As he blacks out, Harry is pointing his gun up; he is, in
effect; aiming at the cross in an act of outright refusal
to surrender what powers he has left to the crossed
condition into which the evil eye has brought him. Nor


CHAPTER SIX
THE SAVING STRUCTURE IN "DIRTY HARRY"
- It is dawn. Frank drives his olive-green Mustang down
the steep street running through the center of the screen.
Half-way down the hill, he parks, walks to the left of the
screen and into a building. Once at his apartment he opens
i
the bedroom door. He sees that Cathy is peacefully asleep
and slowly, silently he closes the door on her. Frank takes
off his brown sports jacket and then unstraps his shoulder
holster. He places the holstered gun on a table top, goes
to the bathroom sink, and turns on the water. He looks up
into the mirror in front of him. The reflected face shows
the faint trace of a smile. Then, as Frank looks down and
away from the mirror, the camera eye leaves his image and
slowly pans left to focus on the holstered gun in the dim
light. In the last sequence in "Bullitt," the camera eye
has visually confirmed the existence of the two "halves"
that constitute Frank's union with the visible creation.
As the camera eye lives by both halves throughout, as
it loves both the talking image as well as the image in
motion, so does it conclusively establish the oneness of
Frank's activity with the two worlds between which he
196


46
pipe. Then, when Big Flora almost shoots him, it is the old
man who knocks her unconscious with a blow in the side.of
the head. .
Even before Bluepoint tells the Op that the old man is
the real brain behind the entire heist, the solution to the
mystery has ceased to be the primary consideration in the
life of the narrative. The essential moral feat confront
ing the Op is staying alive. The identity of the criminal
is not left for the final climactic moment of the story.
The narrative has long since stopped aspiring to the illus
tration of' the ways of the logical mind as its "moral
activity." The fact is that the evil element is indis
pensable for the life of the narrative. As such, it cannot
die. It is Papadopoulos himself who has saved the Op's life.
And this in turn means that by the end of the story there is
no rationally definable good or evil. Out of the interplay
between opposing forces is born an aesthetic event, a moral
occasion that lies outside the arena of rational polari
ties. Supposedly the good guy, the Op plays the part of
Percy Maguire. Papdopoulos, society's archenemy, has saved
the Op's life and has thus allowed him to find his way into
the imaginative dimension. The traditional combat between
good and evil turns out to be an act of affirmation beyond
the boundaries of traditional ethics. Action as motion has
been transformed into action as an imaginative feat and
thus into a good that finds its place in a concrete
rather than an abstract world.


161
Wow, unquestionably, this eye is always visually
ahead of Jake's. For one thing, it stands to see more and
better than Jake, if only because its very existence pre
vents it from being as vulnerable to the mystery of words
as Jake is. Thus, for instance, when Jake is talking to
Curly, the camera is not immediately focused on Jake, who
is doing the talking. Instead, it attends to Curly, who
is throwing the pictures up in the air and is clutching
madly at the Venetian blinds. Or the eye can reveal Mulwray
walking by the riverbed at the same time that, in the right
.1
foreground, Jake is looking at Mulwray through the field
glasses. And, on a variation of this same activity, the
camera can look at the image reflected on the outer lens
of Jake's binoculars as he looks at Katherine and Mulwray.
(The eye thus seeing itself and actively confronting the
eye and the image it sees.) Not only is the camera in
itially uninclined to dwell in abstractions, but it is
capable of actually seeing what Jake himself cannot see.
This power to see what Jake can't, however, is more
than just the result of what is commonly dismissed as "point
of view" or even of the camera eye's ability to create
mis en scene. For the camera is, throughout, establishing
the lead for the positive clarification of the image.
Consider, for instance, the scene when Jake is having
lunch with Noah Cross. Jake's eyes are fixed on the fish.


199
of the very privacy with which this public man approaches
the visible. If it is true that Frank can live between the
two halves- of the life of the image and that out of that
capacity he can achieve a union with all of the images that
he confronts, it is also certain that Frank clarifies out of
such an esoteric relationship with the image that the value
of his vision as a source of wisdom is severely restricted.
Frank is too aware of the vision of horror. To state that
he can live with the "half" of death is not necessarily an
assertion that Frank can incorporate the vision of disaster
into the life of his eye and thereby provide a unified model
of visual action such as the camera eye provides in the
beginning. In the end, Frank is as aware of a divided visual
existence as is indeed Cathy herself. It is, after all,
Frank himself who is initially wise to an aspect of the
action which he deems unsuitable for all eyes to partake of.
Such caution on Frank's part is initially announced when,
after talking to Delgetti on the phone, he says to Cathy,
"It's not for you, baby." From the beginning, Frank knows
that there is a terrifying element which is capable of
sundering consciousness from its state of intellectual
innocence.
As a man of the eye aware of the possible destructive
effects of vision, it is inevitable that a part of Frank's
life be devoted to keeping the horrifying half all to him
self. .One of the first instances indicating Frank's aware
ness that the image can be a repulsive experience takes place


Big Knockover." The investigation of this story reveals
the transformations that occur in the method of narration,
in the structure of action, and in the interplay between
good and evil which change the private "I" as verbal
narrator to the private-eye as agent for his medium. The
second chapter deals specifically with "The French Connec
tion" as a model for the illustration of the descriptive
method adopted throughout the entire study. Closely follow
ing the agent's visual activity, this chapter determines the
critical approach enacted by the man of the eye through an
individual action that defines the moral activity rendered
in the narrative. "The Maltese Falcon" comprises the third
chapter. This movie is explored in terms of its success
in breaking away from the literary story that engenders it.
This chapter also establishes the pattern of analysis
employed in the discussion of subsequent movies. Each
movie is discussed in its structural, dramatic, thematic,
and cinematic aspects. Specifically, the thematic aspect
deals with the actions of the hero as an illuminator of the
visual activity. An investigation of "Chinatown" views the
movie as both a departure from the black and white visual
structure of "The Maltese Falcon" and as a narrative of
limited success in working with and through color as a
means of growth in the private-eye movie. The fifth chapter,
on "Bullitt," explores not only the movie's capacity to
render the positive vision of a world of color, but also
IX


122
a submissive position, looking at the immobile man of the
gut fixed in a chair while he speaks of talk, or of history,
or of monetary wealth. The eye and its inherent powers are
on the defensive against the perennial assault of words.
And since in its relationship to Gutman's face (and later
in relation to the images of the other faces, especially
when they look at the falcon on the table) the eye remains
fixed, it thus follows that, aided by the shadows, the image
of Gutman's head becomes a sculpture. The eye gives these
faces both depth and substance-~the illusion of mass, in
i
effect, and it thus makes the image of the head a statuette
much like the one that it sees in the beginning.
The eye's low position in relation to the head is not
just an indication of both its submission to words and its
unintentional assertion of perspectivity. For in fact, the
eye shows all along that its failure to assume the live
falcon's view accounts for its ultimate viciousness. Its
perversity resides in its attraction to all words, and, more
wickedly still, to the spoken word. Time and again this
eye deliberately focuses attention on words such as the
shadows of "Spade and Archer" on the office floor (the
word straightened out and thus the image negated), on the
"Bush Street" sign, on the newspaper headlines linking the
Archer and Thursby murders, or on the "Belvedere Hotel"
plaque. However, the final dimension of the eye's failure
within the binary structure consists of its attraction to


262
imagination. Within the social order of the nineteenth cen
tury stories, the man of the imagination, say, the narrator
of "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" or Dr. Watson, is not
the man whose powers constitute the moral core of the narra
tive. No matter if he is the primary agent for the very
existence of the narrative, the fact remains that his is
not the supreme moral activity. (Thus, since Dupin's or
Holmes' rational inclinations preclude their existence as
men of the imagination, their stories imply that, as ra
tional heroes, they can live without the aid of the
imagination.) But the Continental Op lives in a world where
logic and analysis are insufficient to establish "order."
Indeed, order is not a primary consideration in the Op's
life. As a result, his ability to generate a unified
imaginative action is as basic an aspect of his existence
as a moral man as is his ability to actively participate in
the events of the story. In the Op's world, the imagination
does not exist as just an aspect of the moral action. For
the interaction between the system of action and the imagi
nation generates a new vision in the genre. Action, not
passive reflection, is the new method for clarification.
And through action, the Op becomes the agent which unifies
his life both as an active man and as a man of the imagina
tion. Thus, if the nineteenth century stories prove that
the conflict between good and evil is not a limitation on
the unifying powers of the imagination, a modern story such


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
One always wishes that he could remember each and every
person who makes possible dreams such as these. But, alas,
ids impossible to go back ten years in time and give credit
to the collective body of minds that got this dissertation
written. Still, it is imperative that some specific
people be named. And the first of those must be Olga and
Cucanot for any one contribution, but for a lifetime of
love beyond the boundaries of duty.
Then there is Phil Kuhn, who so willingly bestows upon
me the gifts that are a first-rate poet's images. Sid
Homan broke all kinds of speed-reading records and still
came up with solid criticism that improved the value of
this study. William Childers took great interest in this
dissertation, kept me up to date in my progress, provided
the script for "Chinatown," and even taught me how to thread
a 16mm projector. Paul Newman gladly consented to be conned
into obtaining "The French Connection" for me and allowed
me to see it in the comforts of my home. I also wish to
thank Motley Deakin, who helped in getting me back to Gaines
ville so I could finish my dissertation.
And in more general terms I wish to thank the Robinson
family for always making me feel at home.
v


188
demand that signed statement now," Frank merely says, "Ex
cuse me," and walks past Chalmers to see the image coming in
through the Telecopier. Frank's public role is therefore
incorporated in his private actions. Thus, though he acts
within the public, he preserves the value of the individual
and the particular as a source for good. He is the private
image acting out of a private center of energy. But he does
not act in opposition to the public, but in its behalf by
exemplifying the value of vision and by offering its power
to that public community.
i
Since he acts out of a particular source of energy, it
is inevitable that Frank's encounters with Chalmers con
sist of a confrontation with the powers which seek to deny
Frank's activity in a world of images. Seen from Frank's
relationship with Chalmers, the entire narrative is summed
up when Frank asks Bennet, "Does Chalmers run this case, or
do I?" The question clearly pits the man of the law,
Chalmers, against the man of the eye, the public (in the
sense of being dangerous to the integrity of the image)
against the private actions of the public man. In short,
the question pits knowledge against value. For, as Bennet
says to Frank earlier over the telephone, "He [Chalmers]
is grooming himself for public office." Chalmers wants to
become the public image, the image known and thus vitiated
of its inherent powers. And Chalmers wants to be "seen"


224
eye. For instance, as Harry is leaving the Mayor's office
after the meeting where, along with Bressler and the
Chief, they have planned the strategy to deal with Scorpio,
the Mayor says, "Callahan, ... I don't want any more
trouble like you had last year at the Filmore. Understand?
That's my policy." Harry in turn proceeds to describe the
facts of the "trouble." "When an adult male is chasing
a female with intent to commit rape," he says, "I shoot the
bastard. That's my policy." As the supreme embodiment of
the legal structure within which Harry operates, the Mayor
i
cannot possibly "understand" the ways of the active eye.
"How did you establish that?" he asks. And Harry answers,
"When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with
a butcher knife and a hard-on, I figure he isn't out collect
ing for the Red Cross." Clearly, Harry's only way to estab
lish "intent" is through active vision. Thus his "policy,"
his law, runs contrary to the Mayor's and indeed contrary
to the abstract forces that demand a justification of his
actions. Harry verbally proves that words come after the
fact; that logic is dead as a faculty that would have
allowed him to arrest the destructive motion of the man
that was chasing the woman. Even the Mayor agrees that to
have stopped to figure out the man's motives would have
resulted in disaster. Furthermore, it is verbally announced
in this sequence (and indeed declared for the first time


114
(p. 239) Sam, in turn, never takes his eyes away from
Brigid. It is then when, his clear eye still riveted on
Brigid's, 'Sam verbally unravels the mystery of Miles'
murder. The blinding scales of words fallen from his eye,
Sam is now able to overpower Brigid's verbal powers to the
point where the eye exhausts her capacity to fabricate lies.
Sam's vision has finally allowed him to see all the way
through the facade of Brigid's stories; it has allowed him
to liberate himself from the passion to know the image.
The liberation of Sam's eye, however, is the outcome
i
of a pyrrhic victory. Although it is his vision which frees
him, he is ultimately incapable of making the emancipation
complete as a result of his enduring compulsion to verbalize
experience. As he looks into Brigid's face, he still
feels the need to verbalize what he sees there, to verbally
trace her motives for killing Miles, and thus he again
allows the word to obstruct the liberating powers of the
eye. Since his renewed visual activity is shown only in
verbal terms, Sam's story is only the story of the eye to
the degree that his inherent visual talents allow him to
clarify the inherent falsity of words in relation to the
image. His story tells of the growth of the eye only to
the degree that he is able to expel the word, in the form
of Brigid, from the narrative. But his last visual act is
no more than a fixed stare at Brigid and the talon-shaped
shadow over her eye. His last visual act, therefore, is


99
itself as the verbal correlative of the crucial image.
Erigid's talk redefines the element of mystery with which
the crucial image is endowed. Equally, within the dramatic
aspect of the narrative, Gutman's verbal powers reassert
the crucial image's penchant to intellectually cut through
even the burden of its self-imposed mystery and its will to
emerge (ironically, since it is doing no more than illustrat
ing the incapacity of abstractions for self-liberation) into
a rational existence that completely transcends the visual
creation by establishing itself as an idea of permanent
i
value contemptuous of the transitory quality of the images
of this world. Inevitably, the dramatic subcategory of the
action is that which most accurately defines the element
of,evil within the narrative. Since drama takes place
within a visual context, or, more precisely, since the
spoken word inevitably presupposes the existence of the
living image, and since, further, it seeks to do away with
the clarification of the powers of the image, it follows
that the aim of the word is to dissipate and disintegrate
the images altogether and attain a union with the written
words in the initial frames.
Now as a hero faced with life in a world of wicked
talk, it is unavoidable that Sam, too, get caught up in
words. Not only is Sam not "a close-mouth man," but there
are numerous instances of his involvement in abstract


Dirty Harry
for A. J. Prats
Dirty Harry is an activity
in the blessed blessed eye,
the imagination of magnums
born at the arch in an end of episodes
nothings habit the cross where words
suggest, the only image
is a mixture of heights and red stumbling
one sound, a line hovering at his sights
i
and the stadium is a drug of lights
where words are fat men taking walks,
and this is the torture of the crusty sun
that wavers between silencers and shadow
"no reason for it really"the badge
expands to multitudes he cannot name,
this moving image of bullets and space
happening and happening that only light explores
Philip A. Kuhn


131
structure points to the positive potentialities of the image,
and, as a direct result, it points to the moral options
made by and for the eyethe black of the intellect and the
word, or the liberating force of the eye's unmediated inter
action with the light.
The eye's liberation from the dualism of black and
white as well as its emergence into the realized possibili
ties inherent in the white light are announced in "China
town" when the camera, which initially focuses on black and
white images, moves back to reveal a world of color. Now
i
"Marlowe," "Harper," "Klute," and "The Long Goodbye,"
among others, are private-eye movies in color which chrono
logically precede "Chinatown." But since "Chinatown"
begins with black and white images, the imaginative task
at hand entails working out of the black and white visual
structure and into color. In "Chinatown" the imaginative
transition into color is attempted from within, particu
larly in the light of the initial background diagonal
lines in varying shades of gray and the titles superimposed
upon it. The "three-dimensional" shape of the words of
the credits recall earlier black and white private-eye
movies such as "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Big Sleep."
Immediately after the achromatic lines and the rising
words disappear, the camera focuses closely on different
black and white photographs where a man and a woman are


251
man of the eye. As a result of the legal reasonings of
both Rothko and Bannerman, Scorpio is let loose to once
more attempt to die as an image. The second force operat
ing against the enlightening feat achieved at the end of
the second episode is no more than an outgrowth of the actions
of the law. That is, since Scorpio is allowed to regain
his motion toward abstraction, it is inevitable that once
again he become the source of all the action that seeks to
do away with the narrative, of all that wills its way to
darkness. (And of course, his immediate motion after he
i
is set free is to have his face completely destroyed by
the black sadist.) Given the insufficiency of Harry's
activity to proclaim the powers of the eye at the stadium
scene, it follows that he must perform the ultimate clari
fying feat outside the confines of the law. Furthermore,
without the help of any legal force, it also follows that
Harry's final convergence with Scorpio must be achieved
alone. Chico cannot save Harry from getting killed.
De Giorgio will not be there to shine the lights for him.
Thus the third and final confrontation entails the ultimate
growth of Harry's eye, for he must incorporate all the
energies that are available to it in order that, by himself,
he can bring Scorpio into the light. In short, the savior
must perform a miracle--the miracle that redeems the crossed
life of the narrative. Harry's miracle must proclaim the


260
which only Dupin's analytical faculties can preserve. Thus,
as a result of a mysterious threat to the social order, the
detective superman is called upon to restore the rational
system which an unknown force has disrupted. But in the
process of re-ordering, the analytic mind finds its way to
the clarification of the mystery by assimilating the possi
bilities inherent in the contradictory facts and by then
imagining the one unified actuality that lies within those
possibilities. Hence, while Dupin succeeds in restoring.a
rational, abstract order, he does it only at the end of the
i
imaginative process. His "moral activity" entails a clear
vision of the potentialities for rational order that lie
within "chaos." As he enacts the moral activity, Dupin does
for logic exactly what the imagination does for the ethical
system that is contained in the story. The "analyst" works
in the interest of polarized ethical values, but he gives
life to those values through his imagination's power to
unify. More than just an analyst, therefore, Dupin is an
agent for the imagination. And what is more, Dupin's moral
activity also gives life to the narrator's own, for he, too,
is an agent for the imagination. This is not to say that in
"The Murders in the Rue Morgue" the imagination asserts it
self over the rational powers as a superior moral power.
But the very structure of the story testifies to the creation
of an action which envelops the ethical values that are at
stake in the narrative. In other words, even as it works




10
The third subdivision deals with the theme of the private-
eye as a clarifier or illuminator of his particular world
of action. This third area of inquiry seeks to examine the
manner in which the private-eye serves as an agent to carry
forward the possibilities announced in the activity that is
established for him by the structure. And the fourth part
of each chapter examines the way in which the cinematic eye
acts in relation to the action, both visual and dramatic,
of the private-eye. Not all chapters, however, are sub
divided into four distinct sections. For instance, in
i
order to establish the fundamental moral feat that is at
stake in ,!Bullitt," it is first necessary to discuss the
model of action which the cinematic eye sets for Frank.
In this instance, the structural and the cinematic are in
separable and thus they cannot be separated from the life of
the agent without violating the unity of the narrative act.
Or, for example, because Frank has no separate existence
as verbal man and another as man of action, both the drama
tic and thematic aspects of "Bullitt" are discussed in the
same subdivision. And in the case of "Dirty Harry," where
the agent has to work for the liberation of the cinematic
eye, there is no subdivision that treats the cinematic
apart from the thematic level of action. Thus, two chap
ters are devoted to "Dirty Harry." The sixth deals ex
clusively with the visual structure contained in the first
three sequences of the movie. This chapter, in turn,


203
hierarchy of vision, keeping the full force of the image
from the intellectual eye lest the power of the image make
gods of the blind, lest it be the force exciting them to a
marriage with the visible creation, and, seeing that it is
all good, they, too, become like gods. To the degree that
Frank's visual action makes an Olympus of the eye out of the
visible creation, the self-contained divinity of the living
image cannot be but a mysterious, occult power which is best
left unseen. The godlike potentialities ever-present in the
eye are denied by the mediator of vision who intercedes to
i
announce that he alone can see the beautiful and the ugly,
the clean and the dirty, unified into a vision unfit for
all eyes to see.
But when an eye as powerful as Frank's becomes more
than just the mediator of the visual horrorwhen the eye
lives to expose even the devastating vision as but an aspect
of the innocence of the visual act--the private-eye story
in color has reached the ultimate clarification of which it
is capable in its present-day form. For indeed, such an
active eye seeks to clarify its medium; it seeks to cleanse
and purify the very source of power and means of change which
account for the life of the eye and the image. All that has
to happen for the ultimate clarification to take place is
that the private-eye must act not as an eye endowed with the
power of seeing a unified act in that which insults as well
as injures the rational sensibility, but rather as a


189
by "the public eye," by the eye that knows but cannot see.
"Once and for all," he tells Frank after they are out of
the room of talk, "the top men in law enforcement are
united. We're going to expose the organization. . .
A senatorial hearing has a way of catapulting everyone
involved into the public eye, with subsequent effects on
one's career." Immediately, Chalmers announces himself as
the supreme intellectual force in the narrative. His aim is
to organize society "once and for all," to create, by ab
stract means, a permanent state that is intellectually free
i
from disruptive forces. Those who enforce the law--the
hierarchy wielding moral power over social manare "united"
to make public the moral depravity of an abstract order, "the
organization," within an abstract system, society. Through
a "hearing," through listening to talk, the moral malaise
of the social structure will be rooted out. But what is
more, this talk of abstraction by an abstract community
will make of those who participate in it public images to
be known by the society in terms which are themselves
unempowered to go beyond talk. But even at this point in
the narrative, when Frank has yet to be seen as a whole
man of action, he merely nods politely at Chalmers' tempta
tion to "catapult" him into the "public eye." He walks
down the stairs, away from the talk, and gets in the car
with Delgetti and Stanton, When Delgetti asks him what all


18
his observation conforms to a pre-established order. If,
therefore, abstract truth is not that which is most vital
to the analyst, then that which is aimed at in the process
of observation is not a rational but a self-created order.
Everything depends upon "the quality of the observation,"
upon the capacity of the senses to incite a vision of a
new moral activity in each observable entity.
In the progress of l}is introduction, the narrator also
discusses the difference between ingenuity and analysis.
In illustrating the difference between these two faculties,
i
he seizes upon an analogy which serves as yet another step
in the clarification of Dupin's powers. "Between ingenuity
and the analytic ability," he says, "there exists a differ
ence far greater, indeed, than that between the fancy and
the imagination, but of a character very strictly analogous.
It will be found, in fact, that the ingenious are always
fanciful, and the truly imaginative never otherwise than
analytic" (p. 52). It is thus discovered that throughout
the entire introduction the narrator has been moving toward
an identification of the analytic with the imaginative. He
partly recognizes that it is the imagination which accounts
for Dupin's ability to solve a crime.
But by the end of the introduction, the narrator has
never really stepped beyond analysis as the power behind
themoral activity that he seeks to reveal. His juxtapo
sition of the analytic and the imaginative is in the end


267
the private-eye genre. Darkness is just not there as a
separate universe where the villain can escape the "living
predicament" and assert life as a moral "wrong." While the
motive of the evil element aims at a liberation from an
existence that manifests the powers of the light, the
geniuses within the color world act as agents of a motion
that turns back into itself and becomes an action beyond
rationally determined concepts of good and evil. The energy
of "abstraction" manifested in the genre's system of action
is captured by the agent of the imaginationby the agent
i
of color'who turns the abstract powers into concrete,
actual occasions, into forces for moral vision. The re
currence of reflected images, such as when both Mulwray1s
and Katherine's images are reflected on the outer lens of
Jake's binoculars, when the camera eye in "Bullitt" sees
the image of four men reflected on the round lamp cover,
when Frank's image is seen in numerous mirrors, and when
Harry's image appears on the windshield of the school bus,
are indications that the activity of the agent is turned
upon its own source of life, upon the color image and the
eye. The image that seeks to escape into an abstract
invisibility is always within the reach of the agent's eye.
Even in the case of Evelyn, where Jake cannot prevent her
escape (and where, in fact, he actually wills it), the
camera eye, through Loach's agency, acts as the visual force
that keeps her within the world of color even if she must
die within that world.


For Tonya, whose lovely image ever shows me
the joy of being a private-eye
and
For Bill, "this Boss of mine."


153
repeats time and again, "Just find the girl, Mr. Gitts."
Jake works his way into the clarification of the image
through images within the image which he "sees" "in angry
contention." He wants those images to tell him a verbal
story while he is incapable of seeing that any verbal
story abstracted from the image divides him from the
activity of finding, of discovering. Since he insists on
deducing out of black and white, he resists the powers of
the eye to unify the image. Obstinately bent on seeing
his world as divided, Jake is, in effect, working against
i
the grain of the model of unified action established by
the camera in the initial shots. Jake cannot pull away
from a black and white vision.
Even when Jake works out of the living image, out of
color in motion, his inclination is to deduce from it in
terms which cannot but distort the vision of the new to
which the camera points in the beginning. Such is the case
after he sees Evelyn, the girl, and Khan through the bed
room window of the house where he has followed Evelyn's
white Packard. The young girl, in a white light-print
dress, holds a newspaper in her hands. She is visibly
distressed. Kahn, in black, and Evelyn, in grey, stand
over her as she lies face down on the bed by which she was
standing. Evelyn sits next to the girl, talks to her, and
tries to give her some pills, which, after a while, she
finally takes. As fact, Jake sees no more. (It is


187
when Bennet says to Frank, "Tell him [Baker], That's an
order." But the order is little more than a parallel of
the run-ins that Sam has with Polhaus and Dundy, or Jake
has with Escobar and Loach.
Unlike Gittes, Frank goes it alone. When he chases
the hit men in his car, it is because he has seen them
from his own car. Or when he hires Weissberg, the cabbie,
to help him retrace the route through which he took Ross,
he is not acting on orders. He is acting, rather, out of
his own private center of action, his eye. He is alone
i
when we first see him, and he is alone at the end when he
looks at himself in the mirror before the camera pans to a
shot of the holstered gun. Delgetti, Frank's assistant,
is with Frank at the hospital and at the airport. But
Frank alone chases the killer through the hospital corri
dors, he alone enters the airplane where Ross is, and he
alone chases Ross through the airport runways and back to
the terminal. And, of course, he alone confronts Ross in
the final shootout. The orders upon which he acts are
clearly his own. They are not abstract orders but the
instinctive integrative acts emerging out of a private
source. Thus, when acting on Chalmers' orders, Captain Baker
says to Frank over the phone, "Now listen here, Lieutenant,"
Frank just hangs up the receiver. And, outside police head
quarters, where Chalmers says to him, "I demand a signed
admission now that Ross died while in your custody. I


70
commitment to the life of the seen. The critic, therefore,
evaluates, literally sees and makes manifest the value and
the power of the image through the powers of an imagina
tion that matches the power of the narrative act himself.
Thus, although he makes common the value of the image through
words, the critic's medium is still Popeye's; it is still
the light. And further, since he follows the life of the
image, his words are emancipated from the dualistic power
of words in their intellectual context. Thus the critic
is empowered to show exactly what he has seen. For the
i
supreme value is the visual act--not the visual act as a
glorification of the rational powers but the visual act as
a self-contained value. In short, the critical "function"
consists of incorporating the method of the image as a power
that illustrates the primordial value of vision.
But more than just out of a commitment to the life of
the action in one movie, imaginative criticism functions out
of a fuller, more complete attention to all images and all
forms of visual action. Which is to say that while it is
true that the activity of the mind which envisions Popeye's
activity seeks a unity with that act, it is also certain that
Popeye's life does by no means set the limits to a critical
commitment to the life of the image. For example, at the
end, when both "Frog One" and Popeye have been engulfed by
the darkness, it is obvious that as a narrative, "The French
Connection" has come short of that which even its title


94
too, would fall to the powers of the asbstrations for which
she lives. But it is she who ends up at the mercy of the
darkness, while Sam, who saw beyond and through her lies,
escapes from the confining labyrinth, scarred, no doubt,
but free from a relationship made up of nothing but senti
ment and regret. It is therefore fittingly ironic that
Brigid's ability to break out of her verbal existence is
denied to her by her very reliance upon words. Appropriately,
her ultimate fate is that she is framed in. As a conse
quence of her exclusive dependence on her verbal powers, her
i
potentialities for mobility are literally barred in the end.
Since she bears the weight of the word's mystery, her ac
tivity throughout the dramatic substructure, closely follow
ing the career of all words, is cyclical and repetitive,
so that she ends where she began, a prisoner of her own
abstract forces, at the starting point of the verbal maze.
But the pervasive power of words in their rational con
text in "The Maltese Falcon" is not only relegated to
a series of dramatic encounters between Sam and Brigid.
Everyone in the story is more or less caught up, trapped,
in effect, by their own reliance upon and trust of words as
vehicles for their intellectual motives. Perhaps the single
most glaring example of the powerlessness of words to gen
erate growth comes at the end of the story when Tom Polhaus
is holding the falcon and, noticing its weight, asks Sam,


112
The most subtle aspect of the powers of the eye in
conflict with the penchant for talk, however, lies in Sams
visual attraction to Brigids image. The irony of Sam's
impending doom as a genius of the eye lies precisely in
his fascination with this image. His enchantment with
Brigid generates a series of acts which threaten to turn the
activity of the eye into an enslaving act rather than into
action culminating in freedom. The excitement is on Sam's
face from the beginning when Effie says, "You'll want to
see her, anyway. She's a knockout" (p. 11). As she walks
up to Sam, he seldom takes his eyes away from her face,
while she, who seldom looks at Sam, talks incessantly.
From the beginning, Sam's growth as a clarifier of vision
entails an active assertion of the liberating powers of
the eye over the supremacy that words seek to exert upon
it. Brigid's image, not the falcon's, is what Sam's eye
must clarify above all else. Not only can Sam verbally
assert his visual liberty when, for instance, he says to
Brigid after her "confession," "Oh, that, we--didn't
exactly believe your story" (p. 43), or when he smilingly
tells her, ". . if you actually were as innocent as you
pretend to be, we'd never get anywhere" (p. 77), but he
can also act it out silently. He can look down at her with
his elbows propped on the mantelpiece, or, looking intensely
into her eyes, he can walk up to her, kiss her and then move
back, still looking into her eyes; or toward.the end, when


28
to establish a motive is a backward step in the development
of the detective story as a narrative genre. Essentially,
since motive is analogous to causality or teleology, any
imaginative energy expended in.establishing a motive is
energy misused to obtrude the onward movement of the narra
tive. Once motive is established, the narrator and the
detective operate in the traditional a priori mode. The
detective does not need to move in order to catch his man.

Once the motive is clear, the conclusions are inevitable.
There is a clear cause behind every not-so-clear effect.
i
This penchant for causality is an integral part of
the Victorian passion for absolutes. If Holmes ever looks,
it is only to establish a rational motive. Then he usually
sits and waits for the culprit. Such is the case in "the
Red-Headed League," where Holmes, Watson, Jones, and
Merryweather wait in a dark cellar for the appearance of
John Clay, the master thief. Or Holmes can establish the
line of inheritance to a vast estate and get the killer in
The Hound of the Baskervilles. In the Holmesian world,
everything pivots around motive. No matter how seemingly
irrational the acta huge hound terrorizing the Grimpen
Mire area, for instancethere is always a Stapleton with a
claim to the estate behind it all. And, what is more, there
is always Dr. Watson, whose imaginative powers are insuf
ficient to break away from that continuous idiotic baffle
ment at Holmes' deductions.


150
"finesse," as the fineness of his professional life as an
eye, is the capacity to see in order to exert a rational
force upon the image. This rational force will in turn
provide him with verbal clues out of which he can construct
a deductive pattern of thought. Not surprisingly, then,
when Walsh tells Jake that he has been unable to hear any
thing in the conversation between Cross and Mulwray but a
word that sounded "something like apple-core," Jake becomes
much more interested in the word than in the image. The
image must symbolize something; it must possess a substance,
a past, if it is to have any value for Jake.
Later, when Jake is looking at the photographs on the
walls of the Water Department's reception room, he needs a
mediator who will "explain" the history of the images.
Looking at a photograph of Noah Cross, he says, "Noah Cross
worked for the Water Department." The secretary's answers
finally allow Jake to know from the images that both Cross
and Mulwray owned the Water Department. It is only after
the secretary's explanation that the pictures that Walsh
has shown Jake begin to have any meaning for him. Through
the aid of the secretary, who is acquainted with the story
of the partnership, Jake acquires a knowledge of the images
with which his eye is confronted. Moreover, it becomes in
creasingly obvious at this point in the narrative that Jake
can only work out of black and white stills. Jake repeatedly
makes his deductions out of black and white stills. He


15
with a moral event. The narrator is vitally concerned with
a moral activity which so delights him that it actually
incites him to write about it. He establishes his problem
and seeks to clarify it within the moral arena.
Previously, however, the narrator had referred to this
moral force as "the analytic power" and to the man who
possesses those talents as "the analyst." In a rational
fashion, the narrator begins by praising the analytic
intelligence, or logic, as the source of all moral good.
At least initially, then, it is the analytic intelligence
which, according to the narrator, accounts for moral action
Not much later, as the narrator attempts to illustrate the
exceptional powers of his friend by using the example of a
game of draughts, he tells us that "the analyst throws
himself into the spirit of his opponent, identifies himself
therewith, and not unfrequently sees thus, at a glance, the
sole methods (sometimes indeed absurdly simple) by which he
may seduce into error or hurry into miscalculation" (p. 50)
Essentially, identification entails interaction. The narra
tor is careful to show that the "necessary identification"
entails the obliteration of the ego. Yet the annihiliation
of that self which must be destroyed exists and thrives by
virtue of the analytic intelligence. It is through analy
sis itself that we arrive at a Cartesian cogito. Thus,
should the analyst remain wholly within an analytic world,
it would be impossible for him to identify himself with


CHAPTER THREE
LITERATURE AND THE CRUCIAL
IMAGE IN "THE MALTESE FALCON"
Both "The French Connection" in general and Popeye's
visual activity in particular provide an invaluable source
for setting up a broad critical base from which to launch
the rest of this exploration of the private-eye movies.
Both narrative and agent clarify the new moral activity and
define the critical method dictated by the visual action.
But to begin the actual exploration of the private-eye in
the movies with a story such as "The French Connection" is
to be blind to the organic growth of the private-eye in
the cinematic medium. As no investigation of the detective
in literature can begin with "The Big Knockover," so no
inquiry into the private-eye movie can start with an
exploration of a narrative that takes place some three
decades after the private-eye story has solidly entrenched
itself in the new medium. To begin in the middle is to miss
a vital connection, an essential vision. Therefore, just
as this entire exploration started with the first detective
story and with an investigation into the method of action
which engendered evolutionary changes in the genre, so the
74


CHAPTER ONE
THE DETECTIVE STORY AS A NARRATIVE GENRE1
The adoption of a literary genre for critical examina
tion usually entails, first of all, a definition of the
limits of the conventional form to be examined. Once the
limits are established, then the variations within those

carefully demarcated boundaries are compared and contrasted.
This exploration of the private-eye movies does not pre
tend to be a traditional genre study. That is, it does not
seek to limit or classify. Since, however, by the very
nature of the subject that it adopts for inquiry, this study
of the detective story must inevitably be a genre study,
it is necessary to attend briefly to what is meant here by
genre. Conventionally defined, "genre" refers to a style,
kind, or sort. But for the purposes of this study, "genre"
means "gender"and not "gender" the noun, but the verb,
the act of engendering. In other words, genre is a process
or a series of acts capable of producing new and different
forms for carrying forward the life of the imagination.
i ,
This chapter, then, is not devoted to a history of the
detective story. Instead, it is an investigation into the
13


225
in the narrative) that the gun is a power for goodthat
as an extension of the eye the gun is the power that pre
vents the 'violation of the life of the image at the same
time that it is a force that generates action.
Despite the Mayor's agreement with the efficiency
of Harry's method, the law wants to abide by the rules which
Scorpio makes. For example, before Harry enters the Mayor's
office, the Mayor asks Bressler, "Who's in charge of this
case?" The Lieutenant, of course, mentions Harry. But
actually Harry is deliberately denied active participa-
i
tion, "charge" of the case, by the law. The Mayor is in
volved in the process of getting together the one hundred
thousand dollars which Scorpio has demanded and Harry
asks, "Do I get this right? You're going to play this
creep's game?" And after asking the Mayor to let him "meet
with the son of a bitch" and obtaining a negative reply,
Harry finds out that the law does indeed intend to play
Scorpio's "game"that rather than allowing the good eye
to confront the evil eye, they are trying to meet the
abstract demands of the abstract entity that has threatened
to kill a "Catholic priest" or "a nigger" if it is not
given the money. Since the law fights the abstract with
the abstractions within its reach, words with words and
threats with promises, it is actively working in behalf
of Scorpio's urge to escape from the visible. As a result,
Harry's initial involvement in the case is limited to the
coordination of the surveillance pattern that is


CHAPTER SEVEN
THE GOSPEL OF THE EYE:
THE SAVIOR'S VISION IN "DIRTY HARRY"
This earthly messiah of the image, this liberator of
the immediate present as a power for good, does not act
within the dramatic level of the narrative as a man with a
verbal message. Were Harry's function as a force within the
narrative limited to verbally expatiating on the power of
the eye, he would be as impotent to clarify the possibili
ties for value inherent in the visual act as the law it
self is powerless to battle the evil eye throughout the
narrative. For indeed it is the law itself, that abstract
body of which Harry is a part, which forces Harry into talk,
into the verbal defense of action as the only force that can
match Scorpio's destructive activity. (Harry's title,
incidentally, is not one which readily identifies him as
a member of the hierarchy. He is an "inspector," literally
"one who sees into.") The fact that Harry is goaded into
talk by his superiors in no way means that his involvement
in the verbal aspect of the narrative succeeds in divorcing
him from the visual activity. In fact, almost always
Harry's talk is connected with his life as a man of the
223


136
the first words in the narrative, Curly's "Oh, no,"
signal a negation of vision. His eyes full of tears,
Curly's preconceived world is shattered by the revelative
powers of the image. The photographs have shown what is,
but in them, Curly has seen a power that destroys his own
notions of what life ought to be. Intellectually, not
visually, he determines that the image is evil and that the
eye is an instrument to confirm that evil. The ensuing
shrieks and moans prove Curly a man incapable of doing as
the camera does. He is impotent to see his way out of the
black and white. (The fact that Curly sees both the eye
and the image as the sources of suffering is cinematically
confirmed much later in the narrative when Jake goes to
Curly's and is allowed in the house by his wife, who has
a black and blue eye.) In despair, Curly throws up the
photographs in the air and clutches madly at the Venetian
blinds in Jake's office. The image has been used in the
interest of rational knowledge and has resulted in Curly's
painful vision.
In the first instance of the eye coming to terms with
its own powers, seeing gives way to drama. Since in this
"''This quote and all the others in the discussion of
"Chinatown" are from the soundtrack of "Chinatown," a
Paramount release, Robert Evans production. I have, however,
used a copy of the third draft (October 9, 1973) of the
screenplay by Robert Towne solely for punctuation purposes
in those instances where the dialogue of the screenplay is
exactly that of the soundtrack.


269
suffer the consequences of living for "ulterior" motives in
a world of color. For in the end, color denies them their
passion to' transcend the visible condition. Loach doesn't
really kill Evelyn. And for that matter, neither does Frank
kill Ross, or Harry the robbers and Scorpio, or Popeye
Nicoli. They kill themselves by willing the transcendence
of an activity whose powers extend to allow it to proclaim
itself as the source of all freedom. The moral vision of
the private-eye story in color basically resides in color's
inherent capacity to invite the images to live for vision
in its beneficent power to invite them to see and be seen.
Again, when the hit men in "Bullitt" are killed in the
crash, the color light has in effect announced that there
is no freedom to be found in a world of abstractions and
that, in fact, the world of the eye in action is the new
liberating source. Like Scorpio, the killers are going
nowhere. Wherever they go, the eye follows, and their
attempts to flee the living eye (the agent's as well as the
camera's) results in death. All that lives, and thus all
that is good in this new world of color, takes place as a
result of the passion to see. So, too, despite the "history"
provided by the stills at the end of "The French Connection,"
"Frog One" dies in the final act of the narrative. Since he
deliberately seeks the darkness, he dies to the eye and as
an image even if we are "told" that he is presumed to be
living in France. And as for Popeye, he also dies in the


32
iii
When seen as a form born out of the stories of Poe
and Doyle, the modern detective story does what is best
described in the words from the title of Dashiell
Hammett's early story: it creates "the big knockover."
One has but to read a few words into this story to appre
ciate the nature of the revolution that has taken place in
the genre. In it, action takes precedence over analytic
or reflective thought. Unencumbered by the Victorian pas
sion for e.thical order, "The Big Knockover" begins by re
vealing a commitment to action as a possibility for good.
Moreover, when we consider the last line of the Op's narra-
3
tive, where he simply exclaims, "What a life!" we see that,
within the context of the entire narrative, the modern
story reveals what may be referred to as open form. That
is, whereas Dupin and his narrator-companion retire to
their precious darkness at the end of the story (and thus
to a world of inactivity) the Op, who has missed the master
mind behind the entire heist, tells us at the end, "Now I
could turn the city upside down for him" (p. 411). His
3
Lillian Heilman, ed., The Big Knockover: Selected
Stories and Short Novels by Dashiell Hammet (New York:
Vintage Books, 1972), p. 411. Subsequent reference to "The
Big Knockover" are to this edition and will be incorporated
into the text in parentheses immediately after the quota
tion .


259
But "Dirty Harry" is a revelation of a specific" moral
vision contained within a system of action which has been
the source of the imaginative activity in the genre for
over a century. Since "good" and "evil" in "Dirty Harry"
are beyond logic, "Dirty Harry" testifies not only to the
imagination's powers to successfully transform the verbal
into the cinematic, but also to the power of the imagination
to evolve from the divisive system of logics which dictate
the imagination's own moral role to a self-contained vision
which remains within the system of action but which is
i
nevertheless a direct outcome of the imagination's capacity
to generate a unity within such a system. In other words,
"Dirty Harry" is an illumination of the imagination's power
to replace its "either/or" relationship with the genre's
system of action with a relationship with that system in
which the imagination itself is both action and aesthetic
(or moral) vision. Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"
is the first example of the way in which the imagination
works within an existing ethical system of which the imagina
tion is not an essential part. Despite the fact that logic
is celebrated as the great moral faculty in this first detec
tive story, the imagination incorporates the powers of ab
stract thought and reveals itself as a force capable of em
bodying a rational moral system in a concrete, unified act.
The ape is Dupin's polar counterpart. Its irrational powers
threaten the intellectually established system of order


142
a problem, I'd like to talk to your husband." As Jake him
self has previously pointed out to Evelyn in this very .scene,
he is not an "innocent" mannot innocent, as his words
prove, to his own self-identity and to his self-consciousness
as a thinking man who can will himself to act rather than
allow the eye to lead him into the action.
As he begins to circle around the web of Evelyn's
abstract existence, Jake's initial susceptibility to words
begins to assert itself more and more strongly. For instance,
at the restaurant where Jake meets Evelyn, presumably to
i
return her check, he asks her about her extra-marital
affairs; and, after she hints that she has been involved in
many an adulterous experience, she says, "Now I think you
know all you need know about me." Jake, however, points to
the monogram on the envelope and asks, "By the way, what
does this 'C stand for?" Having seen the detail on the
envelope, he asserts his power to see detail; yet, wanting
to use the image as a tool for knowledge, he is engaging
Evelyn's verbal powers to clarify the image. Evelyn's
is a fitting answer to Jake's inquiry. "Cross," she says.
For not only does her answer establish her past within the
dramatic aspect of the narrativean irrelevancy to the
potentialities for union between these mutually attracted
imagesbut it also confirms that at this point in the
story Jake's existence is crossed between the life of the
eye and the will to know.


20
Thus noticing that the obvious rational inclinations
of the narrator are at odds with the achievement of imagina
tive form, it is readily discovered that the narrative moves
toward confusion and divisiveness just as much as it aspires
to self-clarification. To employ a conventional critical
term, the narrator is unrealiable. He is not so, however,
because he lies or disguises the facts, but because from
the outset he is unempowered to carry the narrative act
toward unity. As a consequence of his inability to clarify
the action and the method, it is ironically the narrative
i
activity itself which must support the narrator's vague
assertions. And it is to the very life of the narrative,
to its process aiming at the revelation of the new moral
activity, to which the narrator increasingly becomes a
burden. While the narrative moves, the narrator's every
clarifying effort seems to stop its motion. This initial
conflict results in a crossed condition. That is, the
narrator's intellectual inclinations pull the narrative in
one direction while the imaginative act itself continues
to move in another direction toward the clarification of
the moral activity.
Not coincidentally, then, we find the narrator inform
ing us in advance of that which ultimately proves to be the
muddled quality of Dupin's powers, a quality which in turn
reflects the narrator's own incapacity to focus clearly on


214
paradoxically still, if the cinematic eye moves only with the
evil eye and if indeed the ultimate aim of the action-
engendering eye is to do away with the vital forces of the
imagewith motion, with color, with particularity--then it
is unavoidable that, taking place in the beginning, the
binary vision succeeds in the achievement of self-destruction.
Working solely with and through the depraved vision, it is
almost a foregone conclusion that the camera eye will suc
cumb to an anti-movie, that the juxtaposition of visions
will succeed in giving way to total darkness, to the ulti-
i
mate narrative perversity. The visual powers that are
present in the first two sequences cancel each other. In
the beginning is the eye looking at the word, but when the
eye looks at the image, when the eye announces the new, only
disaster occurs. The narrative has reached an impasse. At
best, the eye can continue to show the ultimate negation of
the powers of the eye for good by continuing to follow the
activity of the evil eye. But obviously, if all that the
imaginative eye could do would consist in illustrating the
evil of seeing, the result would be the total corruption of
both the eye and the image, the complete absence of any
positive force. To follow this action is to follow the
path toward death enacted by the evil eye.
Like both Ross and Evelyn, Scorpio's aim is to escape
from sight. But his actions are not only directed at an
achievement of the condition of invisibility. Nor do they


obstreperous forces impeding the clarification of the
visual activity. (Of course, the law, in its manifold sub
structures-, continues to operate in its traditional en
cumbering manner throughout "Dirty Harry." The Chief ad
monishes Harry that Scorpio "is not an animal." Lieutenant
Bressler, Harry's immediate superior, intent on denying
Harry his activity as a private-eye, says, "Now, you're
working with Gonzalez or you're not working. Now, that's
straight from the fifth floor, you got it?" Bressler doesn't
even name the man who gives the orders. They come from on
i
high, abstractions emanating from abstractions. Or Rothko
cites "Miranda," "Escobedo," and "The Fourth- Amendment" as
reasons why Harry should have proceeded differently when he
arrests Scorpio at Kezar Stadium.) That which immediately
threatens the life of the narrative in "Dirty Harry" is an
eye. And thus, the eye's own activity entails the ultimate
challenge to moral vision.
But that which adds the final dimension to the intri
cate structure of vision rendered in the first two sequences
resides in the fact that at the same time that the evil eye
seeks to do away with the action initiated by the camera
eye, its distinct acts provide a source of life for the
cinematic eye. While the actions of the wicked eye are the
primordial forces operating against the inherent possibilities
for value within the narrative, its very actions compel the
imaginative eye to follow its motions. And, more


175
and moves closer and then back again, focusing on one image
and blurring the other, but it is not excited by the moving
mouths. Although there is active conversation, it is never
heard. Again, when Frank and the two doctors meet behind
the wire-meshed glass through which the camera sees, no
talk is heard. And yet another example of the eye's lack
of enthusiasm about the spoken word is found when Frank
meets with Eddy and his girl at Enrico's. Their mouths
move but again the spoken word is never heard.
Although there are a number of exceptions to the eye's
dominant disinterest in talk, it is obviously the moving
thing itself which most excites the eye. At the source of
its activity is the passion to see innocently, without
the need to "explain" through words. Since it sees all
images without intellectual considerations, it is capable
of seeing everything that the action leads it to see.
Consider, for instance, the sequence at the Hotel Daniels
when the two killers bust through the door which Renick
has unchained moments before. From Stanton's face, the
camera moves close to his right leg as the shot hits.
The eye is not disgusted. And if it quickly turns away
from this image, it is but to focus on Stanton's face
being kicked, and then on to look closely at the black-
gloved finger on the trigger of the Winchester pump
pointed at Renick, who is backing up, climbing the bed
until he is stopped by the wall. As the shotgun goes off,


117
an intellectual sense of order that gives priority to the
verbal aspects of the narrative, but a true sense, or,
better yet, an accurate vision of the unity of the image.
It is the task of the cinematic eyethat is, literally the
activity engendered by the camera eye--to assert itself as
the creator of a self-organized universe that affirms and
confirms the value potentialities of the narrative of the
light. And basically, the act to be carried out and all
the way through by the eye consists of successfully cross
ing media boundaries, of engendering an activity that is
i
capable of breaking away from the word at the same time that
it freely enters and moves within a world of light. Cine-
matically, then, the question to ask of "The Maltese Falcon"
is whether or not genre is merely an atavistic force
whether the rules and devices of the literary medium obscure
and stunt the growth of the light's storyor whether genre
becomes a generating power from which the eye can nourish
itself to enact a narrative all its own.
The first visual fact of the narrative has been out
lined above in terms of its inherent structural properties
and of its power to establish the dominant binary pattern
of action. 3ut the very structure of the crucial image
resides in the initial failure of the eye to move, in its
incapacity to search for a unified relationship between
itself and the motion to which the eye is naturally at
tracted. In the beginning there is no movie, only a still


145
him from coming together with Evelyn's image as
image.
In a world where color is the force generating the
new, Evelyn is that which gives power to the old by con
stantly giving life to words in a rational context. It
is not, as Jake discovers, the fact that Evelyn is the
willing participant in an incestuous relationship which
exclusively accounts for her fallen condition. Rather,
that which establishes her as an evil power within the
narrative is her capacity to draw Jake from his pre-
i
dominantly visual existence into a world of memory and
sentiment. In the dramatic aspect of the narrative, all
that is ultimately discovered is the powerlessness of the
living image to engender a pattern of growth away from
talk. It is the talk about the past generated by Evelyn
which functions as the ironic force of change. Not only
have Evelyn's sexual powers been turned to self-perpetuation
through an incestuous relationship with her father, but her
thoroughly verbal existence itself constitutes a self
perpetuation of the "cross," of mystery, of a world of words
which categorically denies her the power to break away
from the repetitive cycle of words. But it is not Evelyn's
growth which is at stake in the narrative, for the "cross"
itself, her past, marks her and defines her as incapable
of growth. It is Jake who is blinded to the powers of the


98
immeasureable wealth of the Order of that time?" (p. 150),
and when he further asserts, "We all know the Holy Wars to
them were'largely a matter of loot" (p. 151). And Gutman's
knowledge, in turn, defines his quest for the possession
and control of the image. "Well, sir," Gutman says, "it
took me seventeen years to locate that bird, but I did, I
wanted it! I'm a man not easily discouraged when I want
something" (p. 155). If the word and the passion to know
establish themselves as the boundaries within which only
the movement toward control and possession may exist, then
i
it is inevitable that, in burying the image with the
onerousness of history, Gutman and his verbal powers become
yet another evil force within the narrative, another power
exerting itself against the clarifying capabilities of the
eye. As Gutman states, this conceptualized image becomes
"largely a matter of loot," largely matter, in fact, and
thus largely an object which is forced into a denial of its
own visual potency in favor of its intellectual, abstract
qualities. In direct connection with this talk about the
separation of the image from its visual qualities, Sam's
vision becomes blurred, by the "mickey" that Gutman has
"slipped" him, but just as blurred as a consequence of
overexposure to the powers of the word as a rational force.
Therefore, as perceived through the words of Brigid
and Gutman, the entire dramatic substructure establishes


113
he is holding the phone in his hands, ready to call Polhaus
and he can turn to her and smile even though he knows he
is going to turn her over to the police.
Yet at times Sam finds himself so ensnared by Brigid's
image that he, too, succumbs to the will to know. He wants
to get at the reality behind her words. "Have you ever
given me any of your confidence," he says, "any of the truth?"
(p. 80). Or, in a still more masochistic willingness to
submit himself to the trap of her words, he says, "You
don't have to trust me as long as you can persuade me to
i
trust you" (p. 85). In thus exposing his visual powers to
total defeat by the verbal forces it is unavoidable that
Sam's vision of Brigid be at times as blurred as is his
vision of Gutman after Sam's drink has been drugged. Sam's
eye is repeatedly thrown out of focus by this constantly
talking image, by this image with a will to be heard and
believed rather than with the passion to be seen and loved.
But just as Sam begins to recover his senses after
Gutman, Cairo, and Wilmer have left the room where he lies
in total darkness and literally turns on the light and
begins to see anew, finally discovering the ship's name
marked off in the newspaper, so does his eye regenerates
itself to assert its freedom from Brigid's talking image.
Sam has already seen through the falcon's sham and then he
sees through Brigid's last mask. At the end, while she
says, "Oh, I can't look at you and tell you this, Sam!"


102
to toast to the success of crime. Equally, when Iva Archer
invades Sam's office to find out whether or not Sam killed
Miles so they could get married, Sam props himself against
his desk, breaks out in laughter, claps his hands, and
sneeringly mimicks Iva's sentimental outburst, saying, "You
killed my husband, Sam. Be kind to me!" (p. 35). This
capacity to reject the deadly thrust of words is also evi
dent in numerous scenes with Brigid where Sam not only
eludes the trap of her lies, but where he also lets her
know that he cares little for words by deliberately throw
ing them back at her. For instance, when Brigid appeals
to Sams sense of "generosity" that he may give her the
help she "so badly" needs, Sam retorts, "You won't need much
of anybody's help. You're good. It's chiefly your eyes,
I think, and that throb you get in your voice when you say
things like 'Be generous, Mr. Spade'" (p. 47). The words
bounce off Sam, as it were. He does not absorb them or get
trapped by them, but rather he can verbally assert his free
dom from words by filtering their abstract qualities from
them.
Moreover, if Sam has the talent to see through the
masks of words, he also has an equal capacity to act a
part as convincingly as Brigid herself. This aspect of his
natural ability to use words while remaining free of their
divisive powers is first seen when Polhaus and Dundy walk
into the fight that Brigid is having with Cairo in Sam's


202
him, Frank's eye clarifies the image through an activity
which is, after all, the product of the super eyehe
clarifies through an action which the other eyes are unable
to match.
Therefore, in his relationship with the eye and the
image, Frank is the old god of vision. Seeing the fallen
condition of those within his world, he goes about the task
of allowing the intellectual eye to remain blind to the
powers of the image. Seeing it whole is the prerogative of
the gods, of those for whom the eye as a private center of
i
action is a beneficent source of life accounting for a
unified vision where all that is visible is the good.
Knowing that the power of the eye is a force that threatens
to disrupt the intellect's static vision, Frank deliberately
separates himself from those who seek to flee the visible
creation. As a force for wisdom, then, Frank's vision is
inherently ironic. Since Frank obtrudes in the eye's en
counter with the image, he is in effect restricting growth
out of the intellectual fetters that bind others. Seeing it
all is only for selfish eyes whose superiority resides in
their capacity to see the wholeness of the creation while
simultaneously forbidding the clear vision of the image by
imperfect eyes. Thus Frank's is, to a degree, a crossed
story. As a man who sees from the beginning he must keep
the gift from the blind. As the super eye he must mediate
between the blind and the visible while preserving the


212
first and asks for the money later. Nothing then comes
closer to a verbal clarification of Scorpio's actions than
Harry's statement to Rothko, the district attorney, when he
says that Scorpio will kill again "because he likes it."'*'
But Harry's statement is no more than a verbalization of
that which is known throughout the story: this eye simply
delights in the destruction of the image.
Thus the activity of the evil eye lies altogether out
side the realm of deductive logic. Sam could see that
Gutman's and Brigid's motives aimed at the possession of the
i
falcon and the material wealth which it would bring them.
Jake's deductive powers allow him to find (rather belatedly
one might add) that the reason behind Noah Cross' schemes
consisted of controlling the waters in order to create a
"future" which he would never see. Frank's final confronta
tion with Chalmers entails a difference in motivation.
Frank's "motive" is action while Chalmers' is the will to
political power. And Ross, of course, was motivated to
escape so he could enjoy the two million dollars that he
had embezzled from "the organization." But in Scorpio's
case it is the eye itself which is at the root of all the
perversity in the narrative. Therefore in "Dirty Harry"
not only has logic died as a faculty to clarify mystery, but
all rational modes have ceased to exist as dominant
''All references from the dialogue in "Dirty Harry" are
from the soundtrack. The punctuation is my own.


158
of her complicity in the murder are not Mulwray's. As
Jake himself said to Ida Sessions in the beginning, "I
can't do everything myself." And ultimately, since he
can't go at it alone, since he is incapable of searching
the living image and meeting its life one-on-one, the medi
ating force (and thus the ironic clarifying power) is none
but the word itself. In the end, the one thing Jake cannot
do for himself is seewhich is to say that he cannot do
anything at all. Since he is blind, words become the only
source for clarification within the life of this private-
i
eye as an agent for the action of the eye. Through his
passion to know, he has ultimately succeeded in denying
his existence in a visual world.
Once Jake has heard Evelyn's "truth," he is beyond the
possibilities of visual self-redemption. And once his pas
sion for knowledge is satisfied, he submits himself to the
more pernicious humanistic union with Evelyn. He has lost
the power of his eye, while she has gained his sympathy
and his pity. His moralistic commitment, though, is totally
futile. Not only does his past experience, as revealed in
the dramatic pattern, attests to his failure to grow as
a man of emotion, but, more than that, totally divested of
his visual talent, he cannot help but destroy Evelyn as
well as himself. Since he has become a man of knowledge, it
is unavoidable that he return to the source of his first
tragic experience. It is in this place that the man whose


226
arranged by the Chief and all the others who are also
working in the case. Harry is in fact immobilized by talk-
made to sit and wait for the action to get going. As a re
sult of the powers of the word acting upon his role as a
public man, Harry is denied his own power to generate the
action.
Indeed the entire activity of the different embodi
ments of the law continues to work against Harry and for
Scorpio. Before Harry is to go on surveillance, Bressler
tells him that he is assigning him a partner. But instead
of greeting Chico as Bressler orders, Harry tells the
Lieutenant, "You've got to be kidding. I haven't got any
time to break in any newcomers. Why don't you do this boy
a favor? . You know what happens to the guys I work with
Deeds is in the hospital with a bullet in his gut and
Fanducci is dead. . So if I need a partner I'll get
someone who knows what the hell he's doing." As is evi
dent- later, Harry proves himself correct. Chico is a
"boy" who can't see the image of disaster without turning
his head away in disgust. Chico is the "newcomer," the
visual rookie who must be initiated into the ways of the
image by Harry's eye. Through the word, Harry establishes
in this scene that he alone can get the action going.
Not surprisingly, half-way through the narrative, "homi
cide" gets to be too much for Chico and he decides to quit
"the force"--he decides to teach about abstractions, to
be a man of the word rather than a living eye.


220
looks across to the tall building and descends to ascend
once more and assume the view of perspectivity. The redemp
tive eye sees as the corrupt one, yet it continues to offer,
through its own activity, the alternative to darkness. Thus
when Harry is out on the street moving from the first
building to the tallest one, he looks up at the top of the
structure which points away from the screen. He finds his
way up to the roof. But unlike Scorpio, who is never seen
entering or leaving the building (and is, in fact, never
seen ascending or descending any rooftop) Harry has to find
i
his way up into this unknown terrain. In so doing, however,
the lead that Harry follows is the light's own. He looks
at the square of white light that shines at the end of a
dark stairway and gradually the square becomes larger and
larger until it becomes almost all the screen. The good
eye aligns its powers with the light from the beginning. It
finds its way to the light through the light itself; it
finds its way with the light, and thus the structure of
visual action is set in motion by the announcement of the
eye's power for good as a result of the union of its poten
tialities with the source of its life.
When Harry sees the image of the swimming pool which
the evil eye has seen through the cross-hairs of the power
scope, he sees it whole. There is no crossed vision of the
now empty pool where the redness of the blood has lost its
saturation and has begun to blend with the blue-green of the



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275
Hammett, Dashiell. The Dain Curse. 1929; rpt. New York:
Vintage Books, 1972.
. The Glass Key. 1931; rpt. New York: Vintage
Books', 19 72.
. The Maltese Falcon. 1929; rpt. New York:
Vintage Books, 1972.
. Red Harvest. 1929; rpt. New York: Vintage
Books, 1972.
. The Thin Man. 1933; rpt. New York: Vintage
Books, 1972.
Higgins, George V. "The Private-Eye as Illegal Hero: How
Philip Marlowe Got To Be Dirty Harry." Esquire,
December, 1972, p. 348 and pp. 350-51.
Hossent, Harry. Gangster Movies: Gangsters, Hoodlums
and Tough Guys of the Screen. London: Octopus Books,
1974.
Karpf, Louis Stephen. The Gangster Film: Emergence,
Variation and Decay of a Genre, 1930-1940. New York:
Arno Press, 1973.
Langer, Susanne K. Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art
Developed from Philosophy in a New Key. New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1953.
The Maltese Falcon. Ed. Richard J. Anobile. New York:
Darien House, 1971.
Man and the Movies. Ed. VI. R. Robinson. 1967; rpt.
Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1971.
McArthur, Colin. Underworld USA. New York: Viking
Press, 1972.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a
Philosophy of the Future. Trans. Walter Kaufmann.
New York: Vintage Books, 1966.
Pirsig, Robert M. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Main
tenance: An Inquiry into Values. New York: Bantam
Books, 1974.
Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Fall of the House of Usher" and Other
Tales. New York: Signet, 1960.


67
may be a detective. He may seek to order through words
because he is dealing in words. The movie critic, however,
cannot but be a private-eye. To see Popeye's activity,
an intrinsic value, the critic has to. abandon the intellec
tual passion for fixed concepts, the hankering for thought
as a ruling faculty over empirically witnessed phenomena.
When he confronts the movies, the critic must begin by
shedding all notions of "film art" and allow the eye to
move. He must act like Popeye and avoid missing the con
nection as Moulderig misses it. As Robert Warshow said,
". .at the center of all truly successful criticism
there is always a man reading a book, a man looking at a
picture, a man watching a movie." Popeye's action gen
erates from the organic relationship between the eye and
the moving image. His emancipated eye does not see the
images from a "point of view," or from a rational perspec
tive, but in a center-to-center relationship between it
self and the living image.
Thus, a criticism of the private-eye and his story
seeks an interaction with the life of the image. It follows
that if such a critical method abandons intellectual con
cepts, the center-to-center relationship which it seeks
entails an imaginative rather than a rational vision of
4
The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre,
and Other Aspects of Popular Culture (New York: Atheneum,
1970), p. 26.


35
sign that inquiry and discovery are at the source of the
action. The method is the action, and action is the method.
The story begins in medias res. Without causal principles,
it is just born as spontaneously as only the imagination can
give birth to things. The first two words of the narra
tive further indicate that in order for the Op to render
them at all, he must be where the action is from the very
beginning. He is not secluded in the darkness of a musty
room waiting for the newspaper report of a murder to come
into his hands, nor is he at some smug place like 221B
i
Baker Street awaiting the arrival of a confused client
while idly playing discordant notes on the violin. The
Op is at "Jean Larrouy's dive," where he seems to be the
only man without a criminal record. From the beginning,
then, his is a world of action.
As he leaves Larrouy's, Beno, "the hophead newsie,"
stops the Op on the street to tip him on the planned
knockover of Seaman's National. The Op pays no attention
to Beno's information and walks away. But only as far as
the next corner, from where he hears the shots that have
killed the informer. Those shots trigger the action, they
set the story in motion, and, from here on, the Op is faced
with following the action where it takes him. Unlike
Dupin or Holmes, the Op cannot wait for the action to
come to him. The evil forces in the Op's world are powers


14
process by which the new nourishes itself from the old
forms. Through a discussion of two detective stories,'
Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and Hammett's "The
Big Knockover," this chapter aims at an illustration of the
evolution of the detective in literature in order to show
the manner in which the literary genre grows and makes it
self a viable form capable of exciting the cinematic
imagination.
In "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," the narrator,
C. Auguste Dupin's companion, goes to great lengths to
i
describe the quality of the faculty for which he so admires
Dupin. The long introduction attests to the fact that, even
more than the mystery itself, it is Dupin's power which
turns on the narrator's imagination. As in all introduc
tions, the narrator is faced with the task of guiding us
into his topic, of making us see more clearly at every step
of his exploration. His first such step is to announce
that there is a power which can be so great in a man as to
become "that moral activity which disentangles."'*" From the
beginning, the introduction prepares us for an encounter
'"Edgar Allan Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher" and
Other Tales (New York: Signet, 1960), p. 49. Subsequent
references to "Murders in the Rue Morgue" are to this
edition and will be incorporated into the text in parentheses
immediately after the quotation.


200
when, outside the Hotel Daniels he orders a patrolman to
have the room where both Renick and Stanton have been shot
"completely sealed." Again, at the hotel room where Ann
Simmons lies dead by strangulation, Frank deliberately blocks
Cathy's view. Frank stunts the possibilities for the growth
of Cathy's eye by taking it upon himself to determine what
she can and cannot see. He censors the interaction between
Cathy's eye and the image. He uses his own image (the image
he knows Cathy doesn't find "ugly") to replace the "half" of
which Cathy never wants to be "reminded." Indeed, he makes
i
of his image the only half which Cathy can see. This
sequence in which Frank blocks Cathy's confrontation with the
image of death sets a precedent for the last sequence. As
Frank is between Cathy and the gun in the end, so is he be
tween Cathy and the image which she finds so disgusting. And
once more, at the airport, after he has killed Ross, Frank
removes his brown coat and, putting it over Ross, prevents
the crowd from seeing. (The censorship of the eye is also
present in this scene when a middle-age woman in the crowd
looks at the dead body but puts her hands over the eyes of a
boy that is with her. As Frank becomes the master over the
visible, so does this woman take it upon herself to shut the
innocent eye of the boy. The woman's act is reminescent of
the last sequence in "Chinatown" where Cross prevents
Katherine from seeing.) This next to last sequence reinforces
the episode with Cathy at the hotel and in turn foreshadows


76
movie, has to act within the life of the new medium, and
thus his activity is the most glaring illustration of the
life of the imagination as it reworks the action of the
literary story, forges the transition by revealing the word
made image, and seeks to make the activity of the image
whole. Thus, the imaginative task itself tells the basic
story of the Maltese Falcon." Sam becomes not only an agent
for the good as he clarifies vision and value within the
given interplay between good and evil, but he also becomes
an agent for the good as he illuminates the narrative feat
i
to which the imagination is committed. Therefore, Sam's
vision converges upon the imaginative task in precisely
the same manner in which the imagination nourishes itself
from Sam's activity. Such, then, is the basic goal that the
imagination sets for itself in "The Maltese Falcon." The
aim is to proclaim the narrative's independence from the
literary medium, to display the new forces at work within
the new medium, and, above all, to make the narrative a
unified act, connected with, but autonomous from, the
literary story.
Wow aside from the fact that "The Maltese Falcon" is
a movie engendered by a literary story, it is important to
see that, almost from the beginning, words seek to hold
dominance over the images. This passion for hegemony is
established in the initial frames when the title is almost


207
same readiness as did the beginning black-and-white images
of "The Maltese Falcon." And what is more, the words are
fixed. Imbedded in the stone, they do not ascend from the
screen as did the words in "The Maltese Falcon" or in
"Chinatown." (Meanwhile, the titles--in mustard yellow with
a hint of three dimensionality by the presence of black
shadows behind them--simply fade away. They never obtrude
upon the image.) In contrast to "The Maltese Falcon" or
"Chinatown," in "Dirty Harry" the word never escapes from
the visual. As the camera moves down the list of names on
i
the marble slab, it points to the existence of words as a
part of the visible creation and not to a separate life of
their own which immediately opposes the life of the image.
And even the star cannot escape to an abstract firmament.
It must act within the visible in a specific manner or give
way to a different and new act.
The star immediately gives way to the activity that is
initiated by the gun, or more precisely still, to the inter
action between the eye and the gun. Initially the camera
eye encounters the gun from the outside. Having established
the relationship which dominates the narrative process, the
camera then assumes the vision of that which allows for the
specific mode of seeing of one of the central figures in the
narrative, that is, Scorpio. And the first vision that this
other eye has is a crossed view of the image. Therefore,
where it is certainly another eye which looks through the


126
As the words were initially imposed upon the opening
image of "The Maltese Falcon," literature and the dramatic
mode obtrude upon the motion of the image. The pervasive
word inhibits the powers of the imagination as it attempts
to cross media boundaries. Thus the narrative of the
light cannot freely assert its own potentialities to gen
erate a new act. As a result of the crossed condition
created by the dominance of the word in an abstract con
text, the eye does not completely succeed in clarifying the
mystery with which the image is laden from the beginning.
i
Moreover, the crossed condition is not exclusively seen in
the structure of the initial image, or in the dramatic,
thematic, and cinematic aspects of the narrative. The
crucial existence of the narrative is seen, above all else,
in the black and white visual structure. For "The Maltese
Falcon" is not so much the product of an imagination acting
out the possibilities inherent in a black and white world
as it is an illustration of the disjunction between the
word (or the black) and the light (or the white). The word
is seldom complimentary to the image. Almost always it is
its enemy. Therefore, the black and white visual structure
is not so much an illustration of the crucial image as it
is the crucial image's source in the perpetuation of mystery,
intrigue, and suspense.
But, given the specific narrative events within the
story of the light, black and white becomes the most


73
by the life of the eye. Given the changes essential to
the process, this form of critical action illustrates or
draws attention to specific inherent possibilities and to
the actualities whereby the narrative becomes a living form,
a moral activity.
In the end, the model of vision offered by Popeye's
activity invites the critical imagination to a convergence
with the powers of the image not unlike the one which Popeye's
own eye seeks with the light in the form of "Frog One." An
accurate description of this universe of relationships lead-
i
ing to the stages of concrescence is the task of the criti
cal action. The descriptive act must concentrate on par
ticular moments of growth such as those which may lead into
a vision of the growth of Popeye's own visual powers as he
seeks his encounter with "Frog One." And further, the
critic as private-eye must see and unify each presenta
tional moment of vision, each motion, into the precise pro
cess of action created out of the interaction between the
eye and the image. From each specific and immediate instance
of growth, the descriptive imagination must forge a vision
of the actual occasion as well as of its potentialities to
propel the story forward. Out of a passion to see that
matches the popping eye's own, the critical act, too, is
empowered for moral action. Nourishing itself in the image,
it, too, testifies to the power of the visible creation
and to the value of its vision.


210
the center-to-center relationship with the image. And since
its vision is aimed at what is most distant, it is inevitable
that the eye be a perverse power not only because it seeks
to see in order to stop the mobility of the image and be
cause it aims at a vision of perspectivity, but also because
in choosing to see that which cannot be readily particu
larized without the use of a crossed telescopic vision, it
is aiming at the condition of blindness. The evil eye
suffers from an obvious polarization, for though it sees, it
aims at the transcendence of a world where the value of
i
seeing is obliterated in favor of the perverse passion to
"see" beyond the visible.
This mode of crossed vision dominates the life of the
evil eye. It is, in fact, in the image of the cross that
this eye finds its source of visual activity. For instance,
later in the movie when Scorpio is looking from atop a
building at the young black man draped in a violet poncho
outside the ice cream parlor, he is looking through the
scope, using it as an extension of the eye. Yet when he re
moves the scope from his eye, he loses the man, who, along
with his companion, has crossed the street and is moving in
and out of sight as he moves through the trees in the park.
Having lost the image, Scorpio is visibly enraged. Only
when he again sees him through the scopethis time the
black man is sitting on a park bench with his friend
Scorpio smiles and proceeds to assemble the gun. The image


227
After Harry has accepted the "bag man" job which con
sists of taking the money to Scorpio for the safe return
of Mary Ann Deacon, Bressler again attempts to set limita
tions to the range of Harry's activity. Chico has finished
reading the note describing the conditions for the meeting
at South Side Marina and Harry tells Bressler, "You know
she's dead, don't you?" But Bressler, who cannot act his
way out of the orders which he receives, merely says, "All
I know is what the letter says. She'll be alive until three
A.M." (And although it is Bressler who removes Chico from
i
the case and lets Harry meet Scorpio alone, it should be
remembered that he is following the instructions of the
ransom note in a way which differs little from his accept
ance of orders "Straight from the fifth floor.") Then he
says to Harry, "Now you just go where you're told, do what
you're told. Play it straight down the line. Okay?"
Harry, of course, does not play "it straight." Aside from
wiring himself to Chico via a miniature two-way radio, he
pulls out a huge switchblade, casually asks Bressler for
his adhesive tape, and wraps the tape around the knife and
his ankle. It is clear that if Harry were to act in strict
accordance with either Scorpio's or Bressler's orders, his
mission would result in his own destruction. It is the
blade, the refusal to play "it straight," which saves
Harry at the foot of the cross at Mount Davidson Park.


230
dying!" Harry sees that what concerns both Rothko and
Bannerrnan is the letter of the law, literally the abstract
qualities 'of the law. He leaves Rothko with the promise
that Scorpio will not long be out in the streets. "Sooner
or later," he says, "he's going to stub his toe and I'll
be right there." Harry alone knows that Scorpio will "kill
again" "because he likes it."
It is evident that the primordial source of the dra
matic pattern resides in the power of the law to check
Harry's every move. The legal word acts as a deterrent
to the mobility of the eye. But rather than getting
trapped into an abstract, humanistic defense of his poten
tialities to arrest Scorpio's escape attempt, Harry's
words simply point to the living possibilities inherent in
his visual talent. And whether or not his activity is
sanctioned by the legal powers is never a serious con
sideration in Harry's life. Still, his predominant motion
within the dramatic aspect of the narrative entails the
total emancipation of the eye from whatever vestiges of
abstraction restrict its freedom. At Bressler's office
after the incident at Mark Davidson Park, Harry tells the
Lieutenant that "when this mess is over he [the Chief] can
have my star if he wants it." Later on, at the Chief's
office, the Chief tells Harry that Scorpio claims that he,
Harry, has been following him. Harry replies with a ques
tion: "Do you want my star?" As intellectually inclined


154
interesting to note that, though moving, the basic com
ponents of this image are in black and white.) Yet he
waits inside Evelyn's car and tells her, "You're keeping
her there against her will." Jake has seen nothing that
may allow him to make such a deduction. But what points to
his visual stupidity is not so much the fact that he has
made the wrong inference, but that he needs to make an
inference at all. In order for him to be able to make a
logical deduction from the living image, Jake has alto
gether had to divorce his eye from the visible. Even
i
when Evelyn tells him that the girl has just found out about
Hollis' death, Jake tells her, "That's not what it looks
like, Mrs. Mulwray." The living image must bear the like
ness of a mental concept if it is going to be of any use
to Jake. And when Evelyn asks Jake what "it looks like,"
he answers, "Like she knows more than you want her to
tell." Not even one concrete fact has been seen by Jake.
The image he sees is a simile, an abstraction that in turn
leads him to think up more abstractions, such as the girl's
knowledge of what Evelyn does not want known. It is clear
that Jake "sees" symbolically, which is the same as being
blind. He cannot recognize that this time it is he who
has been trapped by the passion to see the image as a
metaphor. But what is most clear still is that Jake is
blind to the fact that the abuse of his visual talents may
lead him to his own tragic encounter with the image.


77
immediately superimposed on the image of a statuette in
the form of a falcon. The initial visual fact of the nar
rative is that the word prevents the eye from seeing the
image clearly. The figure of the falcon is dark and in
the middleground, almost totally hidden from sight. While
the words, white in the foreground, draw the eye's attention,
the figure behind them remains a mystery to the eye, show
ing some but not all of the life that the light can give it.
Since words have taken over the screenmaterializing and
then disintegrating themselves first in the form of the
i
title and subsequently in the form of the creditsthe
figure cannot be immediately verified and clarified by the
eye. The light that belongs to the image is appropriated
by words.
Obviously, in so doing, the words themselves have be
come visual entities, images, in effect. But these images
are inexorably anchored to a meaning. Their primarily
visual characteristics give way to the ambiguity and irony
inherent in all words. In fact, these words are all the
more ironic because they are incapable of shedding their
abstract properties despite the fact that they nourish
themselves not upon other words, but upon the light. The
light gives them their life, but their own verbal proper
ties endow them with a divisive power in the intellectual
context within which they exist. And although they change


78
before the eye, they do so only in relation to themselves,
so that they are not, in the strictest sense, telling a
verbal narrative. Therefore, they remain half image and
half word, clarifying neither their potency as visual
values nor (because as words they only point to specific
concrete acts) their power to retell the story of the word.
The most basic function of these images, then, is to an
nounce, by mere presence, the emergence of the literary
story, or the story of the word, into a medium of light.
But more than that, since they exist in this new medium,
i
they also succeed in creating a basic ironic structure:
images that have verbal properties or, conversely, words
that exist by the power of the light.
But if these image-words exhibit the rudimentary life
of the image so far as they are able to participate in the
most simple form of change, then the figure of the falcon,
still in the middleground, fails to display even this most
elementary of changes. For it remains fixedleaden, in
factannouncing its existence in a world where motion is
not an integral part of the living process. Moreover,
the statuette projects a heavy black shadow into the back
ground, thus directing the eye to a false stereoscopic vi
sion, to a uniform perspectivism that can never exist within
the particularizing activity of the living eye. This form
of the falcon, the representation of that in life which


184
"half" of death meets the half of life to forge a whole new
living phenomenon. In short, Cathy's existence prevents
her from embracing the powers of life. Frank, though,
lives in and through action. Like the camera eye's, his
world is organic and infinitely capable of self-regeneration.
As she attempts to envision the future from her intellec
tual perspective, Cathy asks Frank, "What will happen to
us in time?" And Frank, who has successfully escaped entrap
ment by her rational consciousness, quickly replies, "Time
starts now," and walks back to the car. In the immediate
i
present, all rational notions and ethical questions are
incorporated in action. Frank's very words attest to the
fact that he has exposed himself to the deadlines of the
rational challenge and that he has emerged unscathed, free
from the need to even engage in a verbal bout in defense of
action. The intellectual question is answered with a verbal
act that matches the immediate action of walking toward
the car. Indeed, Frank even accepts the intellect as a
"part" of the living process. He does not have to point
to his act as the answer to Cathy's challenge; he does not
have to verbally direct Cathy to action as a moral alterna
tive. Like the camera, he is free from the powers of ab
stractions; and like it, he, too, sees and acts in the
"now," in beginnings.
As is evident in the dramatic confrontation with
Cathy, the fact of Frank's existence is that his words


4
or as a new hierarchy. Which is to say that there is no
underlying thesis, no basic proposition to be categorically
proved here. Newness, freshness, presupposes discovery,
and the new is only new as long as it is not forced into
categories. And that means in turn that even if the title
of this study announces an explorative inquiry into moral
terrain, ethics are not at stake here. There is nothing
new in seeing something different conforming to old rational
modes, because that only means that the morality comes
first and the vision second; and such an order of priority
turns the hew into the old. To see the private-eye movie
conforming to a rational ethic is not an exploration; it is
more akin to colonization. The old must not be allowed
to weigh down the vision. Pioneer-like, the thing to do
is travel light.
Following the lead of two milennia of literary criti
cism, movie critics have succeeded in creating movie cate
gories. Along with, say, the musical, the gangster story,
and the Western, the private-eye movie has also been made a
"genre." But the explorations of these categories are usually
seen in picture books such as William K. Everson's The
Detective in Film and A Pictorial History of the Western
Film or Harry Hossent's Gangster Movies. Images (though
not still images), of course, are what movies are all about;
and insofar as these books show the image, their value
cannot be questioned. But careful not to tread aesthetic


140
to grow into a unified vision of his world. Dramatically,
therefore, it is Evelyn, the temptress, the ironic "source
of life," who can excite in Jake the will to know the image.
It is Evelyn who can corrupt the innate wisdom of Jake's
eye and can arrest his growth as a man of vision.
Inevitably, Evelyn's pervasive presence in the narra
tive makes an actuality of the possibility of the corruption
of Jake's eye. Jake's entire dramatic relationship with
her (and for that matter the entire verbal aspect of the
narrative) finds its source in Jake's own repeated efforts
to know the truth of Evelyn's abstract existence, to know
the "reality" of her identity at the expense of her exist
ence as an image. His corruption by the passion to know
is most readily illustrated toward the end, at Katherine's
house, when Jake insists on obtaining from Evelyn "the
truth" of Katherine's identity in order that through its
knowledge he can in turn arrive at "the truth" of Evelyn's
past.. "Who is she?" Jake asks. "And don't give me that
crap about your sister because you don't have a sister."
Subsequently, finding Evelyn's answers (alternately, "She's
my daughter" and "my sister") much too disturbing to his
sense of rational order, Jake slaps Evelyn hard across the
face every time she gives him an answer, screaming after
every slap, "I said I want the truth!" So much has Jake
verbally entangled himself with this woman of mystery that
he cannot liberate himself from the penchant to


45
right from wrong, the Op from Flora, Red, or Pogy. As he
did from the beginning, he continues to do as they do, act
as they act. It is the Op's very life (and thus the life
of the narrative) which is at stake here in this activity.
At this stage of the story, neither his loyalty to the
Continental agency, nor the recovery of the money, not even,
in fact, the arrest of Dig Flora are primary considerations
in the Op's range of moral alternatives. He chooses life,
his life. Life becomes the only moral alternative.
Thus, after the little old man that scurries busily
around the1 house tells the Op that he can get him out alive
if he will let him escape, the Op sees "a feeble ray of
light where there hadn't been a dot" (p. 404). Half an
hour before daylight, Big Flora comes to the kitchen to
finish off the Op. But the little old man tells her that
he will take him to the cellar and that he will do the
killing. There, in the literal darkness of the cellar,
the Op can do no more than let life have his way with him.
As a force capable of generating the action, he has reached
his end. He has no choice but to go along with the old
man's scheme. As he had previously seen Red as a "valuable"
entity, as a value contributing to his passion for action,
now he sees the "old gink" as another value contributing to
his very existence. Soon, the old man begins to parade
the hoodlums down to the cellar. First Red and then Pogy.
The Op swiftly knocks them cold with an eighteen-inch lead


166
Unable to complete a single motion from beginning to
end, the eye performs a function that parallels the
activity of Jake's career as a man of the eye. As Jake
deduced from the image and thus denied it its life, so the
camera eye perversely negates the visual world by failing
to unite its powers with the generating force of color in
motion. As is evident by the attention that the camera
pays to Evelyn's motionless face, the eye is more inter
ested in sculpturing the image than it is in moving with
its action. And since it is interested in the motionless-
i
ness of Evelyn's image, it is almost inevitable that, in
time, it, too, get trapped by her vicious talk.
The eye's interest in Evelyn is announced toward the
beginning, at Jake's office, where Evelyn is first seen.
The camera is focused on Jake while he laughingly tells
Walsh and Duffy the "Chinaman" joke he has heard at Barney's
barbershop. When Jake finishes the joke, the camera picks
up the back of Jake's head in the left foreground, Evelyn's
face in the middleground, and her lawyer's in the back
ground. The verbal creature is first seen with the powers
of abstraction at her back, supported, as it were, by an
image whose actual power cannot be seen by the eye. Sub
sequently, the camera begins to pick up the talking image,
moving in the direction of the face that speaks. After
this initial encounter, the primary motion of the eye consists


23
is the forked tongue of both the narrator and Dupin, who
speak in riddles and fail to match the act to the word.
Little surprise that later in the story, as Dupin prepares
to solve the mystery surrounding the murders in the Rue
Morgue, his first assertion is, "We will go and see the
premises with our own eyes" (p. 64). The man to whom ob
servation is a necessity, but who lives in the dark, is
going to see. Like the narrator's, Dupin's life reveals
a wide rift, a crossed existence. Verbally, he asserts
that observation is essential. His own life in the dark-
i
ness, however, contradicts his claim about the necessity to
see.
Further into the narrative it is discovered that Dupin's
inability to clarify his own method of operation is the very
source of the narrator's incapacity to attain unity with
his own narrative. Dupin himself is the great /clue. It is
his own voice, expressing division, angry contention, and
ambiguity, that prevents the narrative from moving smoothly
forward and illuminating the moral activity promised at
the beginning. Consider the following passage as yet another
example of Dupin's inability to clarify his exceptional
faculty: "'They [the police]," he tells the narrator, "have
fallen into the gross but common error of confounding the
unusual with the abstruse. But it is by these deviations from
the plane of the ordinary, that reason feels its way, if


248
high cyclone fence gate is locked. Immediately De Giorgio
suggests that they get a search warrant, but Harry says,
"Looks like we climb," while his fat companion tells him
that he will find another way. Whereas Harry's partners
always have to seek another way into the actionHarry, it
will be remembered, tells Chico to find another entrance
to the alley into which they have followed "Hot Mary's boy
friend"he always goes directly at the action. Whether
it be the darkness of the alley or the high fence, Harry
follows the method of the eye, the undeviating course of
i
action arising out of the passion to make full contact
with the image. Again following the method of direct
action, Harry kicks in the door that reads "Groundskeeper
Private" and begins to look around. He sees the rifle and
notices that the coffee pot is hot. Then, hearing Scorpio's
hurrying, limping steps, he begins to chase the sound
until he sees the image. Through dark corridors, around
corners, to the concrete stands, the action begins its
process of convergence. But whereas the action in the
first episode came together by the vertical dimension of
the cross, the act of convergence in the second episode
entails a descent. Down the dark steps of the stadium,
the camera, Harry, and Scorpio, who is now an image,
create one indivisible act. And everything that descends
converges in the visual. In the middle of the field,
Scorpio is running. Harry shouts for him to stop, but he


83
an object which has no value or power as image, but only as
that which it represents in a world saturated with abstrac
tions. It thus follows that images though they may be (in
the most basic sense of being visible entities in a visible
medium and since they are not spoken words) these verbal
entities violate the life of the image by compelling atten
tion away from the thing itself. Aside from their vertical
motion, they want, as do all words within a rational con
text, to transcend a presentational existence and find a
suitable niche in the darkness. Consequently, the words
correspond' to the condition of the image of the statuette
which, unchanged and incapable of changing, still occupies
the half-darkness of the middleground and still projects
its heavy shadow on the background. Like the figure of the
falcon, the words point to the permanent, to the fixed, and
to the substantial. Just as the image of the statuette
directs the eye to visual perspectivity, so do these words
will the perspective of the past on the story that is about
to unfold.
In their pretense to create history, words create
mystery and, as a result, they reinforce the mythical quali
ties of the image. Inevitably, the imposition of words
upon the fixed image generates a structure of conflict with
both the powers of light and motion as well as with the
achievement of narrative unity. Within a visual process,
within the medium of the moving image enacted by the powers


182
is seen, she is sleeping, her eyes literally shut to the
world around her. Since the heaviness of intellectual
abstractions dictates the extent of her eye's life, it is
unavoidable that she see her world as "bad" and "ugly,"
and that she shut her eye so the image will not "remind"
her of the perversity of seeing.
Since Cathy intellectualizes her vision, she cannot
see the generative powers of the image. And by concentrat
ing exclusively on death, she denies herself the potenti
alities for growth in a world of color. Her failure to
i
marry the powers of the eye to the living image is evident
in this very scene when she is talking to Frank. In the
foreground, the high, golden grass is being swept to and
fro by the wind. The rippling lake in the middle is the
source of the growth and the generation of the foreground
image. In the distant background, industrial machinery is
at work, the machine, too, nourishing itself from the
water. But Cathy is blind to all this. Her life is fixed
on the motionless image that she has seen in the hotel.
Her words attest that her eye has given way to memory. As
she talks, her back is to the lake and her eyes are fixed
on Frank's face. The camera is also doing its thing. It
is at such an angle that Cathy's moving mouth is almost hidden
behind Frank's left shoulder. Both Frank and the camera
see what Cathy can't.


250
eye to do its good act.) And again the eye and the gun
are not used to kill but to stop the escape of the image.
As Harry approaches him, Scorpio screams, "You're trying
to kill me!" But Harry just tells him, "If I had tried
that, your head would be splattered all over this field."
In the ground, along the horizontal plane of the screen,
Harry's eye has testified to the fact that all images
are restricted within the world of the visible; that living
in and by the light, it is ultimately impossible to tran
scend the visible condition without altogether dying. In
i
short, Harry's actions affirm that the will to transcend
the visual condition is no more than the perverse passion
to die. Therefore, only after Harry has finally seen
Scorpio, only after the eye has converged upon the image,
is the action itself beyond the poles of good and evil.
The evil, abstract eye has become an image. And there is
no image of evil or evil image.
For a brief moment after the second episode, then, the
victory of the good eye is clear and decisive. Through
Harry's activity, the narrative conflict created by Scor
pio's wicked vision has been resolved and has been sub
sequently incorporated into a unified, organic act. But
two forces work against the total clarification of the powers
of the eye and the image in the second act of convergence
between Scorpio and Harry. The first is the negative
power of the law exerting itself against the life of the


208
scope, it is also certain that since no face is immediately
visible as a part of the eye, the only fact is that the eye
looking through the scope is as destructive as the camera
eye is creative. The outcome of this second instance of
seeing results in the death of the image. The scope, that
which serves as an extension of the powers of the eye, has
been used to deny the image its motion. Fittingly, the
juxtaposition of the eye with the imagethis first concre
tion of eye and image via the agency of the gun results in
the death of the innocent image; it results, in fact, in a
i
crossed condition. Seeing kills the image. The eye is used
as a lethal weapon aimed at destroying life. Furthermore,
this first relationship between eye, gun, and image consists
of an attempt to fix the image. The eye that sees through
the scope blackens all the other possibilities within its
natural periphery and within the plane of the screen that
it may first magnify the image and then kill it. Therefore
in the initial relationship explored by the camera, the
other eye, the eye that sees through the scope is not a
"public eye" (since it doesn't want to be known), nor is it
an intellectual eye (since in this case there is no ra
tionally pre-established motive involving the visual act).
It is an eye which immediately becomes the dominant destruc
tive force in the narrative. In short, it is an evil eye.
The intellect in the forms of drama or publicity or mystery
has ceased to operate as a pernicious force within the story
of the light. The source of evil is now the eye itself.


157
eye as nothing more than the extension of his deductive pow
ers is the one who is "shocked" by "the truth" of Evelyn's
past. It-is Evelyn who reveals that she has willingly
participated in an incestuous relationship with her father
and that this relationship accounts for the mystery of hers
and Katherine's identity. If even through words, Evelyn
can do what Jake can never do through either the power of
his eye or through his reliance on words, that is,she can
clarify some aspects of the narrative. For not only can
she make clear to Jake the conditions of her past; she can
i
make it clear within the story that Jake is incapable of
clarifying anything by himself.
For the final, ironic fact of Jake's existence as a
man of the eye is that he cannot participate in the visual
action without the aid of a mediating force. Walsh tells
him what the images said, the secretary tells him the history
of the Cross-Mulwray partnership, Yelburton tells him that
the Department is "diverting" some water to irrigate some
orange groves (and Jake believes it!), Evelyn drives him
away from the orange groves and later saves his "aneck"
when she drives him away .from the Mar Vista Rest Home.
Escobar tells Jake that Mulwray was drowned in salt water,
the gardener retrieves the glasses for him after he indi
cates that the water in the pond is ocean water, and,
again, Evelyn tells him the facts about her past as well
as that the glasses that he brings as conclusive evidence


54
the chase sequence. Through the powers of the word, Popeye
has been ordered off the case, Moulderig, the F.B.I. man,
the man of abstraction, succeeds in convincing Walt, Pop-
eye's superior, that Popeye has "no case" at all, that he is
wasting his and everyone else's time. Walt then tells
Popeye, "As of right now, you're off special assignment."
But as Popeye is walking home, Pierre Nicoli, "Frog One's"
hit man, begins to shoot at him from the rooftop of the
apartment building where Popeye lives. Popeye makes his
way up to the rooftop and sees only the empty brass rifle
i
cartridges and the rifle. He quickly descends and begins
to run after Nicoli. He loses him at the "El" station and
then sees his man as he is going into the "El." Though he
shouts for the train to stop, it moves on. Popeye is next
seen on the street. Finally, he commandeers a car and begins
to chase the "El" from below. His eyes are always on the
move, up and ahead, to the moving train and the oncoming
traffic. Meanwhile, the camera cuts from Nicoli and then
to Popeye. It is a constant cross-cutting where the camera
fuses the action between the good eye and the evil force
which has attempted to kill the image.
Ever on the move, Popeye continues to drive through
every obstacle to his passion to converge with the image of
the killer. He stops where the "El" is next scheduled to
stop, but quickly learns that motion will not submit to


134
may become a source operating in behalf of the powers of
the image.
Unlike in "The Maltese Falcon," where the image's
crucial structure provides a base for the exploration of
the different levels of action within the narrative act, in
"Chinatown" it is the visual activity itself around which
all the action is structured. And, specifically, the struc
ture of the visual action resides in the repeated encoun
ters of the eye with the powers of the image. Furthermore,
the visual action in "Chinatown" entails a confrontation
of the eye's power to see the image. In other words, the
visual action consists of an encounter of the eye with its
own powers, with its own energy for a vision of value.
Almost all those who take an active part in the narrative
are at one time or another faced with the vision of the
eye's passion to assert its own life and make love to the
image. Like the camera, Curly, too, is looking at the black
and white stills. Or, for example, Jake has a visual
encounter with the "flaw" in Evelyn's eye. Or it is
Noah Cross who tries to prevent Katherine from seeing her
mother's blown out eye while his own eye is fixed on that
same image of the eye. After such encounters, it is the
choice of the participants in the visual action to see the
powers of vision as whole (and thus the reality of seeing
as a beneficent force for growth) or to see only partially
or not at all (and thus to envision the reality of both


93
the powers of the eye. Through the agency of words, she
wants to prevent Sam from clarifying, from breaking through
the mystery of her verbal existence. "Oh," she says, "I'm
I'm so tired, so tired of lying and making up lies. Not
knowing what is a lie and what's the truth" (p. 112). But
she is not at all weary of living in a world of self-
created mystery. In fact, as the rest of her dramatic
career glaringly illustrates, her statement to the effect
that she has exhausted her capacity for verbal fabrications
is itself a lie. Even at the end, after Gutman, Cairo,
and Wilmer have left, she continues her attempt to hide
behind words in a last effort at blinding Sam. She finally
admits to having killed Archer but says, "oh, sweetheart,
it wasn't only that! [using Sam to fill in for Thursby]
I'd have come back to you sooner or later. From the very
first instance I saw you, I knew" (p. 241). It is Sam,
though, who sees and knows; and what he knows is that she
is incapable of seeing; that, a verbal creature through and
through, she is blinded beyond the possibility of regenera
tion by her insistence in living for abstractions. Totally
unmasked by Sam's vision, stripped of her evil shield, she
falls irredeemably, a victim of her own passion for words.
As Sam tells her, "You never played square with me for half
an hour at a stretch since I've known you!" Brigid never
moved toward a genuine union with Sam; rather, she led him
into the dark maze of mystery and intrigue hoping that he,


271
action, kills the word. In "Bullitt," Chalmers is, in the
end, no more than a disconnected spectator. Though he knows
that all his words have come to nothing, he cannot grow out
of his verbal condition. Like all of Harry's superiors,
Chalmers is only alive in the end to the degree that he is
not physically dead. But the last time that he is seen it
is nighttime. His verbal existence never allows him to see
the dawn that Frank sees at the end of the movie. Thus, as
there is no intellectual force that can emerge from within
a world of color images as a power superior to the visual
phenomenon, so there is no public institution which aside
from its active participants can propose itself as a living
moral option. Even in "Chinatown" where Cross' intellectual
motives so thoroughly succeed in clouding Jake's eye, the
color does not exempt the old patriarch from the vision of
disaster which he has brought upon himself through his
reliance on words. Therefore, if the moral system makes the
escape motion impossible, it also incorporates the energies
of abstraction into creative endeavor. The vision of color
into which the imagination.has emerged in the private-eye
genre is a "light without break/ that reveals merely what
is--no more/ and no less."'*" But beyond the revelatory
powers of the private-eye story in color lies the equally
significant phenomenon that the visual activity of the
1Thom Gunn, "Flying Above California," in Chad Walsh,
ed. Today's Poets (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,
1964) p. 380"


127
suitable medium for "The Maltese Falcon." If it is true
that black and white delineates a world of mystery and'
irony, then it is also certain that such a medium is em
powered to define good and evil in terms that are no doubt
born out of the possibilities within the literary genre,
but which, when translated to a new medium, are capable of
generating moral options within the visual activity it
self. It is in thus rendering this inherent moral sense that
"The Maltese Falcon," burdened though it is with the weight
of words, breaks from subservience to the literary story.
i
Since the fact of the narrative's emergence into a new medi
um singles out the visual story as a unique act, the binary
structure is assimilated by a vision of unity, a genuine
feat of self-generated wholeness. Thus, while the eye is
capable of allowing a figure such as Brigid, the ironic
bridge, to disrupt its clarifying activity, it ultimately
succeeds in illuminating her as a pernicious force. It is,
then, the imagination and only the imagination which is
capable of bridging the chasm created by the crucial image,
or the division between appearance and reality occasioned
by Gutman's presence, or the duality that threatens to
overcome Sam as a result of his involvement with Brigid as
a talking image. And although it is not within the realm
of possibilities available to the imagination to bring about
a union between Sam and Brigid, it certainly lies within
its actualized potentialities to clarify her existence as


BIBLIOGRAPHY
Bachelard, Gaston. On Poetic Imagination and Reverie:
Selections from the Works of Gaston Bachelard.
Trans. Colette Gaudin. Indianapolis: Bobbs-
Merrill, 1971.
Berdyaev, Nicolai. The Meaning of the Creative Act.
Trans. Donald A~. Lowrie. New York: Collier Books,
1962.
The Big Knockover: Selected Stories and Short Novels by
Dashi.ell Hammett. Ed. Lillian Heilman. New York:
Vintage Books, 1972.
Chandler, Raymond. The Big Sleep. 1939; rpt. New York:
Ballantine Books, 1971.
. Farewell, My Lovely. 1940; rpt. New York:
Ballantine Books, 1971.
. The High Window. 1924; rpt. New York:
Ballantine Books, 1971.
. The Little Sister, 1949; rpt. New York:
Ballantine Books, 1971.
. The Long Goodbye. 1953; rpt. New York:
Ballantine Books, 1971.
Critical Theory Since Plato. Ed. Hazard Adams. New York:
Harcourt, Brace, and Jovanovich, 1971.
Dewey, John. Art as Experience. New York: Minton, Balch,
and Co., 1934.
. Human Nature and Conduct: An Introduction to
Social Psychology. New York: Henry Holt, 1922.
Everson, William K. The Detective in Film. Secaucus,
New Jersey: The Citadel Press, 1972.
274


152
people never have to face the fact that at the right time,
the right place, they are capable of anything." Jake, of
course, cdnnot see this complex vision, this capacity to
incorporate the vision of horror into life. Indeed, it is
in his confrontation with Noah Cross that Jake illustrates
how little he is capable of seeing. In contrast to Cross',
Jake's is a simple vision of life. It is a vision of the
black against the white rather than an awareness of the
simultaneous existence of the black and the white to which
Cross' life attests. Jake's is the vision of the black and
i
white image as a tool for deductive thought. Cross' is
the vision of black and white as an inevitable result of
the convergence of good and evil upon one existence. Jake's
is the vision that the fixed and the divided can indeed be
used in order to know "the truth" that is not within the
image's reach to reveal. In short, Jake's is a negative
vision. Cross, on the other hand, tells Jake, "You may
think you know what you're dealing withbut believe me, you
don't." As a man of knowledge, Cross is infinitely more
sophisticated than Jake. It is Cross who really sees that
one is "better off not knowing." But after Cross has hired
Jake to find "Hollis' girlfriend," Jake insists, "If you
want to hire me, I still have to know what the argument
was about." Jake sees in terms of clearly defined oppo
sitesfor instance, in terms of feuding partners. Cross,
however, proving that he is infinitely wiser than Jake,


31
Macbeth or in Paradise Lost, in the Victorian story evil
is incorporated within a rational creature. In fact, the
very existence of evil in these stories is predicated upon
the existence of a thoroughly rational world and thus upon
the power of such a world to define good and bad and to
distinguish right from wrong. Like the hero, the evil
creature thinks. It is capable of as much intellectual
refinement within the scope of the defined wrong as is the
hero within the sphere of the outlined good. Hence the
divisive force manifested in the early versions of the de-
i
tective story are accounted for in the light of a rational
world that can use the intelligence for as much evil as
good.
The dimension of evil added by the Victorian sensi
bility to the detective story becomes standardized in sub
sequent forms. No longer is it just the deductive powers of
the detective which amaze and delight us, but also his
ability to vanquish evil. Therefore, the dominant motif of
even the modern story is the interplay between good and
evil, the armageddon of which we are given a preview in
each story. Indeed, as a pervasive force, the interplay
between good and evil permeates the movies themselves (though
this is not to say that such an interaction has the same
consequences or the same significance in recent stories or
in the movies).


219
inherent in the life of the eye and the image. Altogether
outside a divided structure and liberated to act positively,
the good eye is empowered to cleanse the narrative from the
crossed condition. But the feat of Harry's eye is not to
be achieved just by preventing the dominance of the des
tructive vision, but by bringing the evil eye itself to
where it, too, can be seen, to where its existence as an
image in a world of images cannot possibly be an evil. In
other words, the good eye's connection with Scorpio consists
in making an actual event of the inherent reality that the
i *
evil eye cannot possibly survive without imagesthat in
order to live it must celebrate rather than destroy. (This
basic feat entailed in the activity delineated for the good
eye is at the core of Harry's ease in preventing the escape
of the bank robbers as contrasted with the arduous task of
preventing Scorpio's flight. None of the bank robbers
these "bad guys" get the money first and shoot later and
thus are intellectually motivatedchallenge the power of
the good eye.)
Where the evil eye is on high from the beginning, Harry
climbs to meet evil on its own turf. Out of a dark stairway
and into the light, Harry's face, that which readily endows
him with visual particularity, is seen straight on. Unlike
Scorpio, Harry sees and is also seen. Immediately he begins
to look about. But since his primary clarifying task is to
follow the action initiated by the destructive vision, Harry


7
upon a unified, organic vision. The question of unity,
therefore, is a central concern of this inquiry. It is not
enough to see the continent; it is imperative to see it
whole. Thus the farthest frontier of each story and each
movie marks but the border of the new terrain created by
the next movie.
So if this investigation is true to both its terrain
and its method, then there shall be no question as to whether
or not the voyage has been fruitful. The intensity of the
interaction between critical vision and the visible is what
matters above all else.
Five movies are specifically discussed in this study.
As individual entities, these movies generate a method of
self-clarification which in turn enacts a critical vision
of the development of the private-eye story and of the
private-eye himself as a clarifier of his visual world.
But in order to provide a clearer vision of the evolution
of the genre, the initial chapter begins with a short
discussion of "genre" and of how the term itself operates
in behalf of the entire study. The first chapter also
explores the first detective story, Edgar Allan Poe's
"The Murders in the Rue Morgue," in contrast to a modern
private-I story, Dashiell Hammett's "The Big Knockover."
The aim of this inquiry is twofold. First, it attempts to
trace the growth of the imagination in the detective and


190
the talk was about, Frank smiles and says, "Pal--Hotel
Daniels, 226 Embarcadero Road. State's evidence witness
and we're baby-sitting. Let's go." This is the first in
dication that Frank's talents lie beyond vulnerability to
publicity, that he is not an ambitious man seeking abstract
powers granted to him by the body politic. All that Frank
tells Delgetti is the facts of the case, that the facts
lead to a specific place, and that they must move to get
there. Frank establishes that he is his own man and that
his integrity within his given world has nothing to do with
i
questions of an abstract notion of a public "career," but
with motion and action.
Frank's talk itself emerges out of his initial motion
away from publicity. It is through action that he defines
his private existence. The public role and the private
activity are married in and through a vision of action as
the unifying value. As the agent for the good, Frank acts
in direct opposition to Chalmers' talk, the evil talk seek
ing to do away with the image of action. In yet another
encounter, this time at the hospital, Chalmers is outraged
over the fact that he has "a witness who can't talk." He
blames Frank for Renick's inability to testify and says, "I
shall personally officiate at your public crucifixion if
Ross doesn't recover during the course of the hearings so
I can at least present his deposition. And I assure you
I shall not suffer the consequence of your incompetence.


156
coroner, he proceeds to unravel what proves no more than
another totally fallacious train of inferences aimed at
establishing the murderer's identity. "I'm going to
make it easy for you," he says. "You were jealous, you
had a fight, he fell, he hit his head, it was an accident.
Well, his girl is a witness, and you had to shut her up.
You don't have the guts to harm her, but you got the money
to keep her mouth shut." At this point in the narrative,
where seeing has so conclusively'given way to talk, reason,
and logic, there is nowhere for Jake to go but down the
i
dark path of total abstraction. His free visual activity
degenerated into a mad search for the intellectual truth,
it is inevitable that the clarifying power of the eye dis
appear totally as an active force within the narrative.
Casually, after finally telling him "the truth," Evelyn
says, "These [the glasses] didn't belong to Hollis." This
woman of talk can see enough to determine that the glasses
are bifocals. Out of the concrete particularity of the
image she correctly infers that the glasses could not have
belonged to Mulwray since he did not wear bifocals. (Thus,
as an idealist who couldn't see bifocally, Mulwray becomes
the counterpart of Jake's crossed vision. The innocent,
unpolarized vision died in the beginning of the narrative.)
Jake is proved a visual dolt by, of all people, Evelyn!
Fittingly, the man who has so persistently relied on his


97
abstract aspect of the image that he is after. He assiduously
seeks a oneness with that mysterious entity, itself in
capable of motion, itself fixed precisely as Gutman's in
tellect confines his mobility to the possession of this
image.
Not only is Gutman in a direct dramatic relationship
to the rational qualities of the crucial image insofar as
his passion to know repeats one of the structural attri
butes of the crucial image; but he is also the spokesman
for this dark aspect of the crucial imageliterally, the
i
man who speaks in behalf of its intellectual qualities.
As the man in possession of the knowledge of the image's
past, his intellectual activity repeats the history of the
falcon which imposed itself on the image at the beginning
of the narrative. "What do you know, sir," he asks Sam,
"about the Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem,
later known as the Knights of Rhodes and other things?"
(p. 149). And, as he retells the history of the falcon, he
continues to give evidence that his entire life has been
spent in acquiring the knowledge of the past for material
gain: "These are facts, historical facts; not school book
history, not Mr. Wells's history, but history nevertheless"
(p. 151). It is also evident that his concern with history
is solely connected with the acquisition of material wealth
when he says, "Have you any conception of the extreme, the


277
Whitehead, Alfred North.
in Cosmology. 1929;
1957.
Process and Reality; An Essay
rpt. New York: Harper and Row,


270
end. But the popping eye confirms the moral fact of life in
a world of color. Dying to the light, Popeye declares that
all life is contained in the light.
And of course, since it is empowered to deny its par
ticipants their passion to liberate themselves from its
benevolent force, the light also negates dominance by a
verbal force. Aimed at blurring Sam's vision with talk
about "stuff," Gutman acts as a polar counterpart to Sam's
motions toward the clarification of the image. But in "The
French Connection," the verbal powers as an instrument in
i
the service of Moulderig's intellectual motivations take
the F. B. I. agent nowhere. This agent for an abstract law
enforcement agency who tries verbally to convince everyone
that Popeye has "no case" cannot give concrete evidence
that his words are capable of generating a case all their
own. One time, when he accompanies Popeye in the car as
they follow Sal Boca, Moulderig is in the back seat con
stantly telling Popeye, who is driving, "You're going to
lose him." Subsequently, they get stuck in a traffic jam
and they lose the connection with Sal. And when Moulderig
tries to keep an eye on "Frog One" at The Westbury, he
cannot make the visual connection. The man of abstract
motives, "Frog One," eludes the man of the word, Moulderig,
and none of this action is seen. When Moulderig finally
joins the chase, he is killed not by the "bad guys," but by
the man of the eye himself. Action, and specifically visual


'When Logics die,
The secret of the soil grows through the eye.
Dylan
homas


244
Much more than just a humorous scene in which Harry
has his fun with this most rudimentary of intellectuals,
and indeed' even more than just the first instance where the
eye and the gun come together as an effective power to
illustrate the futility of escape from the visual domain,
this specific act also shows that, as powers for good,
the eye and the gun are efficient forces only in the
presence of the light. Furthermore, this action is also an
introduction to the potentialities inherent in Harry to
carry the saving mission out by himself, without the help
i
of "the cavalry." But if the encounter with the bank
robbers is a prelude to what the good eye and the gun can
accomplish with the aid of the light, it is also a tacit
indication that Harry is not capable of nearly the same
swiftness of action when the light is not present in full
force. Consider, for instance, what happens to Harry at
night when he spots Scorpio coming into the rooftop from
which he is about to make his attempt on the life of the
Catholic priest. On the rooftop where Harry and Chico
wait, there is a revolving neon sign whose letters read from
top to bottom, "Jesus Saves." On one side of the sign, the
words are in blue, on the other they are in red. When Harry
says "Now!" Chico shines the light on Scorpio's face and
Harry begins to shoot with the .458 Magnum. Armed with a
sub-machinegun, Scorpio shoots the spot light off and


Ill
liberated from the word. Not only does his public role
force him into talk, but he repeatedly feels the need to
verbalize his encounters with the image. For instance,
early in the narrative, at the scene of Miles' murder, Sam
displays his visual talents by envisioning the particular
facts of the murder: "Let's see," Sam tells Polhaus.
"Shot up here, huh? Standing like you are, with his back
to the fence. The man who shot him stood here. Went over
backwards, takin' the top of the fence with him, and went
down the hill and got caught on that rock" (p. 23). Sam
i
has "seen" everything that we have just witnessed in the
preceding scene where a revolver appears from the bottom
right hand corner of the screen and fires at Archer, who
falls backwards, breaking the fence. Sam, however, has
translated this visual experience into words. He has
carried out the compulsion to clothe the visual in the garb
of words and thus, by the inherently redundant power of all
words, Sam has momentarily prevented the progress of the
story. Thus, while he is a man of vision, he is also, to
a certain degree, a man of wordsa man who may not feel
the need to know in intellectual terms such as those in
which Polhaus needs to have the image explained, but never
theless a man who must verbalize the image at a level where
its positive clarification is in danger of being obscured
by the passion for words.


256
encounter with Scorpio there is no going back to the past
and there is certainly no aspiration to live as nothing but
a name inscribed at the bottom of a marble slab honoring
the memory of the dead. From Harry's first appearance in
the narrative, the task at hand had been the clarification
of the powers of the eye for good, the cleansing of the
dark impurities that invade the visual activity that he
could offer a vision of the new away from the chaos of the
binary structure. More than just the clarifier of vision,
therefore,' Harry's activity has allowed his growth into the
dimension of genius of the eye. He has become the spirit
of generation and birth made visible. Harry has shown
beyond doubt that the image is never an evil, that its very
existence by its interaction with the eye is beyond
dualities. Harry's activity has further testified that the
only evil eye is the one which shuts itself to the powers of
the image. The eye, Harry has also shown, lives by no
abstract laws. Its power resides solely in its ability to
individualize and unify by opening itself to the life of
the image.
But the ultimate vision of the genius of Harry's
activity, the most glorious feat of this good eye, is to
be seen not in what Harry can do against Scorpio or for him
self, but rather in that which he does in behalf of the
imaginative eye. For if Harry's actions prevent Scorpio


155
Jake, however, persists in making deductions from the
visual. At Katherine's house, after discovering that
Evelyn is going away and having the gardener retrieve the
reflectina image, the glasses, from the salt water pond, Jake
tells Evelyn, "I found these in your backyard in the pond.
They belonged to your husband, didn't they? . Didn't
they?" Again he has completely failed as a man of the eye.
Since his method of action is dictated by the intellectual
motives that he infers from the image, he is too eager to
pin Mulwray's murder on Evelyn. (Of course, one scene
i
which points to the fact that Jake's eye is repeatedly on
the wrong image is at the time when Jake first meets Noah
Cross. Cross is putting on his bifocals to see the fish
that Jake has been served. Jake's eyes are fixed on the
fish. Had he been looking at Cross, Jake would have
realized then, and not much later, that the glasses he
finds in the pond could possibly belong to Cross. Besides,
he could have also noticed, on a number of occasions, that
Mulwray did not wear gold-rimmed glasses, again an instance
of his eye focused on the image that is not relevant to the
clarification of the mystery.) Without waiting for an
answer from Evelyn, he proceeds to assault her with words.
"There is no time to be shocked by the truth," he says.
Then, availing himself of the information he has received
from Escobar, who has in turn received it from Morty, the


CHAPTER TWO
POPEYE'S CONNECTION AND CRITICISM
AS A VISUAL AID
Popeye Doyle has followed the Frenchman into a dimly
lit abandoned warehouse. Suddenly he sees a slight movement
and tells Buddy, his partner, "Frog One' is in that room."
Followed by Buddy, Popeye moves toward a small square of
light at the center of the screen. Popeye sees something
movean indistinguishable image. He quickly empties his
.38 service revolver in the direction of the motion. Both
Popeye and Buddy run toward where Popeye has fired the six
shots and discover that Popeye has killed Moulderig, the
F.B.I. man who had joined them in the case. Visibly dis
mayed, Buddy is saying, "It's Moulderig, you shot Moulderig."
Popeye merely reloads his gun and moves on further past the
doorway where Buddy is kneeling over Moulderig's body.
Doyle's image disappears at the end of yet another lighted
square at the center of the screen. Suddenly a single shot
goes off, the screen goes totally black, and "The French
Connection" ends.
As in the Op's case, the connection is incomplete.
Neither the Op's narrative nor Popeye's story has an end
48


173
sense of good. Accordingly, since the self-generated
vision does not assume an intellectually determined "point
of view" in relation to the image, it follows that the
agent for the action cannot adopt a rational perspective
in relation to the image. The enemy of this camera, of
this private-eye, is publicity, literally the activity of
"making known." Frank's fundamental task entails the
incorporation of the forces of vision available to him in
order that he can grow as an agent capable of clarifying
the activity of the camera. In short, the public man must
i
grow to be a private-eye in his own right through an
activity that matches the initial achievement of the camera
eye. Thus, for instance, Chalmers' penchant for divesting
the image of its inherent power and Cathy's intellectual
morality are abstract forces working against the values of
vision. But these are nevertheless powers that are present
in Frank's world. The clarifying vision of the agent
must therefore emerge from within. That is, as a public
man, Frank cannot reject Cathy or Chalmers as forces that
are alien to his world because he is himself a part of that
world. Frank cannot do to Chalmers or Cathy what Sam does
to Gutman or Brigid when he expels them from the hub of
action that his own privacy generates. His victory, his
vision, must not be attained at the expense of these forces
that clash with his growth; it must be achieved in spite of
them and, indeed, even through an assimilation of them.


276
Robinson, W.R. "If You Don't See, You're Dead: The Immedi
ate Encounter with the Image in 'Hiroshima Mon Amour'
and 'Juliet of the Spirits,' Part I." Contempora,
2, No. 3 (1973), 20-31
. "If You Don't See, You're Dead: The Immedi
ate Encounter with the Image in 'Hiroshima Mon amour'
and 'Juliet of the Spirits,' Part II." Contempora,
2, No. 4 (1973), pp. 11-16, 18-19, and p. 22.
. "Intellect and Imagination in ^he Alexandria
Quartet." Shenandoah, 18, No. 4 (1967), 55-68.
. "Making Sense of the Movies." The Georgia
Review, 23, No. 2 (1969), 148-168.
. "The Birth of Imaginative Man in Part III of
'2001: A Space Odyssey.'" Unpublished Manuscript.
>. "The Imagination of Skin: Some Observations
on the Movies as Striptease." The Film Journal, 1,
No. 2 (1972), 44-53.
. The Movies as a Revolutionary Moral Force,
Part I." Contempora, 1, No. 6 (1971), 15-20.
. "The Movies as a Revolutionary Moral Force,
Part II." Contempora, 2, No. 1 (1972), 26-34.
. "The Way of Life in 'Juliet of the Spirits.'"
Unpublished Manuscript.
and Mary McDermott. "'2001' and the Literary
Sensibility." The Georgia Review, 26, No. 1 (1972),
21-37.
Silver, Isidore. "Police as Folk Heroes." Society,
May 1972, pp. 45-46.
Stevens, Wallace. The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality
and the Imagination. New York: Vintage Books, 1942.
Symons, Julian. Mortal Consequences; A History from the
Detective Story to the Crime Novel. New York:
Schoken Books, 1972.
Warshow, Robert. The Immediate Experience: Movies,
Comics, Theatre, and Other Aspects of Popular Culture.
New York: Atheneum, 1970.


141
intellectually clarify her past. In this scene, his words
point to his final immersion in and his submission to ah
existence whose ultimate aim is to.establish a personal
rational orderan aim which arises not out of the eye, but
out of the imposition of an ego upon the powers of life.
The talking man is no longer the one who said "let sleeping
dogs lie" and whose words illustrated his visual wisdom.
He is the fallen man whose innocent eye has given way to
the corruption of knowledge. He is now the talking will
after the intellectual truth that satisfies the hunger of
i
the self.
Jake's dramatic relationship with Evelyn, though, is
not one in which the capacity of the eye to bring about a
union between it and the image that fascinates it is im
mediately denied in favor of the ego's penchant for knowl
edge. Even before he meets Evelyn, Jake is vulnerable to
the pernicious force of words. His verbal bout with the
banker at Barney's barbershop attests to the fact that Jake
takes words seriously, at least when he is outside of his
private world. Jake reacts to words, and so his tendency
is to fight back with words. Angered, he says to the banker
that he makes "an honest living." Or, even before he has
been trapped by Evelyn's mysteriousness, Jake, consciously
aware of his social role, tells her, "I intend to find out
[who is it that has really hired him]. I'm not supposed to
be the one who's caught with his pants down. So unless it's


30
motive) in "The Purloined Letter" before the Victorians
appropriated it as the central concern of their stories.
But in a world where virtues such as justice and honor
constituted the cornerstones of man's rational aspirations,
evil becomes the suitable foil for an illustration of the
ideal workings of a rational moral system. Thus, the Vic
torian story displays an unparalleled fascination with evil
For example, the culprit in "Murders in the Rue Morgue"
is an orangutan. It has no motive for its actions. As
we have seen, the culprit in "The Hound of the Baskervilles
i
is a savage hound. Here again, there is no real cause, no
rational motive upon which the actions of the hound can be
blamed since it, too, is an irrational creature. Yet in
Doyle's story, there is, as we have also seen above, a
rational force behind the actions of the hound. That force
is Stapleton's cunning. As we move through Holmes' adven
tures, we also find John Clay, the master thief. And then
there is Professor Moriarty, the academic man, the epitome
of reason, who is Holmes' archenemya rational power for
evil waging moral war on the rational power for good.
What this all means, is that in the stories of the later
nineteenth century, evil becomes a force to be reckoned
withthat it is a power threatening the order of things.
The Victorian detective story reflects a major concern of
the literary tradition dating to Beowulf. But, as in


165
Jake arrives at Katherine's, the camera allows the black
ness of the car to encompass its entire periphery and only
after the whole screen has gone dark does it slowly begin
to rise over the hood of the car to show Katherine's
house. The camera is waiting for Jake both times he goes
to the Water Department offices, at the Oak Pass Reservoir
when Jake passes for Ross Yelburton, outside Ida Sessions',
outside Curly's, and outside Evelyn's house the last time
that he goes there to phone Cross. And the times when the
camera moves with Jake, such as when he is climbing the
i
fence at night at the Oak Pass Reservoir of when he is
driving in and around the orange-groves (both times the
"Keep Out" signs are evident) the camera does indeed follow
some of the action, but never all of it. In the first of
these sequences, it is waiting for him, and although it
follows him over the fence and shows him getting trapped
against it by the rushing water, it never shows what
happens to him immediately after he gets his nose cut. The
camera is content with showing him bent in pain holding his
face and then it cuts to his office where he is seen dis
cussing the previous night's events with Duffy and Walsh.
In the second such sequence, at the orange groves, the
camera sees Jake move, but rather than actually follow the
motion, it is conveniently set to see him as he backs
away from the onrushing horse, or as he crashes into the
tree after his right front tire is shot.


197
liveswith Cathy, a potential, if somewhat ironic, source
of generation, and with the gun, the embodiment of "vio
lence and'death." By the end of the narrative Frank has
acted out his statement to Cathy when he said, "That's
where half of it is. You can't walk away from it." He
has stopped his car in the middleground of the screen
between the top of the hill upon which stand the tall
buildings pointing away from the screen, and the bottom
of that incline, it, too, leading away from the action. He
has walked to the side of the street, away from the world

of perspectivity to which the tall building invites him
and away from the darkness at the bottom. As he begins
his last motion, he further confirms action as the narra
tive's unifying force. He sees Cathy, a potential unifying
image. But he sees that she has shut her eyes, that she is
living in the peace of dreams. The gun, too, is a part of
the action, a part of Frank's image. Yet as he discards
the gun, he proves that the activity of the gun is not the
measure of his life as a man of the eye. He looks at his
own image in the mirror (an act that parallels the reflec
tion of his face on Weissberg's rear-view mirror or the
image of his Mustang as it appears on both the side-view
and rear-view mirrors of the killers' Dodge) and thereby
confirms his existence as an agent for both aspects of
the visual action. Like the eye of the camera, which
much earlier saw the image of the image reflected in the


263
as "The Big Knockover" further shows that the interaction
between good and evil is in fact the source for constant
growth within the genre. In "The Big Knockover," the clear-
cut identities of hero and villain disappear. Papadopoulos
saves the Op's life and thus contributes to the actualiza
tion of the narrative. The old man's existence as an evil
power gives way to his activity as a power that furthers
the life of the genre.
And the next step in the growth of the genre is seen
in its emergence into a medium in which direct action in the
form of visual motion is the norm. Out of its passion to
unify, the imagination has gone one step further from the
action of "The Big Knockover." The dualism that is present
in the Op's story by virtue of the story-narrative dichotomy
by virtue of the word as a narrative medium, disappears in
the movies. Moreover, once the imagination finds its way
into the movies, logics die as a critical vehicle. The
action in "The French Connection" does not stand still for
reflection or analysis. The deductive approach created by
definitions of subject and object disappear. Thus, once
more, the death of logic's divisive power gives birth to the
visual and the imaginative as tools for critical exploration
In an early movie such as "The Maltese Falcon," the
primary task of the imagination entails an assimilation of
the possibilities for form within the new medium that have
been actualized in the old literary medium. The imagination


87
Summing up, then, the crucial image divides; and in
the act of bifurcation it announces a binary structure out
of which ll possibilities must emerge, but within which
those same possibilities are doomed to remain. All change
in "The Maltese Falcon" takes place within the limitations
imposed by the divided structure rendered by the crucial
image. Mystery, suspense, and intrigue, traditional ele
ments of the detective story in literature, become more than
just conventional subcategories of the rudimentary plot of
the detective story and are wholly incorporated components
of the principle of irony dominating the narrative. More
over, the crucial image serves as the vehicle for the ex
ploration of distinct patterns of action on the dramatic,
thematic, and cinematic levels, each of which in turn il
lustrates the achievement of the two moral alternatives
implicit in the opposite qualities of the crucial image.
Each level of the narrative opens up a more or less limited
moral territory, or course of action, leading to a clari
fication of the crucial image, which defines good and evil
for itself within the context of the encompassing structure
or medium. The options to which the crucial image invites
the participants in the story emerge out of their commitment
to either see the image or intellectualize it out of the
realm of the visible; to partake in the abundance of life
in a world of light or to return to the beginning, to a
world of history and causality; to move freely without the


245
Harry's eye and the gun are rendered impotent. Scorpio
then begins to shoot wildly at the revolving neon sign.-
The sign is destroyed. This merging of the old and the
new, of word and light; this embodiment of the old morality
in the new medium, the name of the old savior behind the
image of the new redeemer, is obliterated by the action
of the evil eye. As the sign is short-circuited and its
lighted words crumble, so is.Harry's vision rendered power
less once the flood light ceases to act as a vehicle through
which eye and gun can make an image out of the evil eye.
The sequence where it is by far most obvious that
Harry's eye is powerless in the absence of the light is
that in which Harry serves as the bag man taking the two
hundred thousand dollars to Scorpio. To begin, Harry's
eye is at a disadvantage not only because it has to oper
ate in the darkness, but because it is forced to follow a
voice over the telephone. Harry is literally told where to
go; he is forced to follow the word. Moreover, Harry's
mobility is impaired by the very weight of the bag. As
a result, Harry knows that he will need an assistant to
help him get his man. While Harry follows the verbal leads
on foot or by cable car, Chico, who is "wired" to Harry,
follows in the black Ford. Since the man of the light is
led by the word and since listening takes the place of
seeing, it is fitting that the entire motion of this
sequence comes to a halt by the cross. Enveloped by the


104
to excite the motives of this man. Like the others, he
uses words as threatening and aggressive weapons in order
to elicit.an equally aggressive response from Gutman. But
Sam will not get enmeshed in this part that he has just
played. As we see him come out into the hall, he is laugh
ing, wiping his wet palms with a handkerchief and watching
his right hand shake just like a good dramatic actor who
has lived the intensity of the part he has played but who
knows too well that he cannot continue to live the part
after the performance. Sam's distrust of words allows him
to move nimbly through the dramatic level of the narrative
and thus to eschew the narrow, linear path followed by all
those whose words are the essential vehicle taking them
toward the possession of the falcon. It is his natural
suspicion of the power of words which allows him to pierce
through their veil, to dissipate and disintegrate their
force and attain a vision that they are indeed only that
which defines "such stuff as dreams are made on."
Still, within the dramatic action, Sam is not empowered
to fully shed the dead husks of words. Ultimately, while
he can move within and avoid entrapment by an abstract,
verbal world, he cannot grow in it because that world
is initially devoid of the energy to generate change.
Sam's vision has empowered him to clarify the image of the
falcon. And it has also allowed him to see through Brigid's


62
help being, Alain is more than just a traditional evil
character transplanted from the literary to the cinematic
medium. For one thing, as the ending of the narrative illus
trates, he moves as nimbly as Popeye himself. He is an
image to be seen by the popping eye. Which means that in
so being, he, too, is responsible for generating the action.
Popeye, it is clear, cannot generate the visual activity
unless there is a particular image that teases him into the
action. Therefore, while Alain is certainly the source of
evil, he is also an active force, an efficient cause of the
i
action and thus a power for a good that resides outside
rational polarities. He is not the absolute embodiment of
a perverse force such as is found in the literary stories
where evil is absolute and totally pernicious to the order
of civilization. For action, not order, is the summum bonum
in the story of the eye. Action is the very life of the
visual experience. And insofar as Alain contributes to
the visual action, he is a vital force for good. Only the
perennial threat of his triumph oyer the powers of the eye
makes him the central evil figure.
On a street in Brooklyn, the camera focuses on the
joyful faces of black children. They are fascinated with
the image of Santa Claus. The innocent eyes gape in amaze
ment, delighted with the image before them. It is the
innocence of such a vision which Alain and the others like
him seek to corrupt. Meanwhile Buddy, who is posing as a


266
evidence of an unsuccessful attempt to fully cross media
lines.
More than just a possibility, therefore, escape from
the visible is a living alternative in the black-and-white
story. The participants can opt for evil because the dark
ness is always present as a force that acts against the
powers of the light. Despite Sam's vision, Gutman continues
his rationally motivated quest for the material properties
of the falcon, for the darkness of its image. Thus dead to
a world of light, he can proclaim the life of the intellect
i
as the choice which constitutes the reality of his moral
existence. Moreover, Gutman's escape from the man of the
eye signifies that the imagination fails to unite all the
elements that are present in the action. The imagination's
first attempt to create a unified act within the new medium
remains flawed not only because it allows the word to
generate a conflict within the light, but also because it
fails to explore the full potentialities of the new medium.
However, once the imagination sees its way into the
private-eye movie in color, escape is not a living alterna
tive. Moved by nothing rational or dark which makes up a
part of the world in which she lives, Evelyn, unlike Brigid,
can go nowhere as a living entity at the end of "Chinatown."
And unlike Gutman, neither Ross nor Scorpio can proclaim a
life divorced from the visual creation. Color light pro
vides an indivisible medium for the imaginative activity in


96
passion to know is all the more vicious because it unswerv
ingly pursues a narrow linear pattern aimed at the posses
sion and control of an object which the intellect has singled
out as the only value worth living for. Thus, within the
dramatic pattern, Gutman becomes the supreme intellectual
figure. He is both the center of the intellectual activity
and the most avid crusader following the linear search for
the falcon. As such, it is the word which allows Gutman
to be the efficient cause of a pattern of motion which
denies organic growth. He is the one character who has
i
dedicated seventeen years of his life to the acquisition of
the falcon, who has lived totally for the sake of the past.
Gutman's physical appearance itself marks him as a creature
who has amassed a wealth of knowledge concerning the origins
of the falcon. He carries the weight of the falcon's
history and the burden of its abstract value. He knows the
full intellectual value of the falcon. "Do you know what
that bird is, sir?" (p. 136). And later, "If they [Cairo
and Brigid] don't know I'm the only one in the whole, wide,
sweet world who does" (p. 137). Gutman is the dramatic
exponent of the abstract properties of the crucial image.
Gutman alone accurately measures the value of the image in the
abstract mathematics of monetary worth. "Shall we say a
hundred thousand? Will you believe me if I name a sum that
seems the probable minimum?" And further, "What would you
say to a quarter of a million?" (pp. 157-58). It is this


168
Jake disappear into it. Thus, when all the words have been
said and the eye has to confront the image of Evelyn's
dead eye, the eye's vision is similar to Jake's. Its
activity has come to nothing but a vision of itself as an
agent of evil. For the source of Evelyn's ultimate disas
terindeed the total disaster of the narrative as a positive
valueresides in the activity of an eye which chose to
give life to words: an eye which, itself perversely flawed,
chose to image the word rather than make love to the image.
Totally corrupted, this source of generation has now become
i
an evil eye. Willfully dead to the powers of the image, it
perversely destroys the potentialities for a union between
itself and the living powers of the visible creation. In
short, the evil eye has committed suicide.
The eye in "Chinatown" can never act freely as the
agent for the clarification of the living image. The world
of color for which it opted as its medium is denied in
favor of a vision where, plague-like, the black, evil spot
in the greenness of the eye spreads unchecked to prevent
a genuine birth out of the marriage of the eye to the
fertile image. The narrative's is, therefore, the vision of
evil that is born from the self-inflicted death of the eye.
Trapped by words, the eye's activity is concentrated not
just on talk, but on Evelyn's image which becomes the
source of all talk. The levels of action in "Chinatown,"


198
&
round lamp cover, Frank's final act entails, above all, the
eye's vision of its own powers. Looking at the reflection
of his image, he is enacting for the last time the model of
action established by the eye in the beginning.
He lives to see the black and white image, the talking
image and the public image as well as the moving color image.
Whether at the restaurant, where his eye feasts on Cathy's
image (the prelude to the bedroom scene) or at the hotel
where his eye confronts the motionless image of Ann Simmons,
his eye, too, can forgel a living union out of the two halves
i
in which the eye must wholeheartedly participate if it is to
affirm its own as well as the image's power. Frank's is a
private union to the powers of the living creation. His
eye's marriage to all the forms of the light constitutes the
vision of the image as the moral event. For Frank's activity
does not only entail an expulsion of either the public or
the ethical image from the narrative. More than just working
through negation, as does Jake, Frank's achievement resides
in his capacity to act out of his talents as an agent of the
eye--to clarify the value of action as the power of reality.
Thus, if "The Maltese Falcon" is the elementary teacher and
if the wisdom of "Chinatown" lies in its power to clarify
through the absence of the positive powers of the eye,
"Bullitt" exemplifies the potentialities inherent in the
private-eye story to clarify the visual activity positively.
But the quality of the value of Frank's activity as an
agent that clarifies the powers of the eye suffers by virtue


108
declares its mysterious form (and hence its inherently
evil properties) the image itself testifies to its poten
tialities .for freedom from the cleavage of its initial
condition and to its power to achieve unity (and hence
show its own life as an inherent good). Its visual quali
ties assert its potency to become the driving force able to
break out of and away from its crucial existence and to
enact a self-generated process of change that generates
the narrative's power for growth.
Since the intellect alone is incapable of extricating
the narrative from the fixed properties of the crucial
image, it follows that if change is to become an active
power within the narrative actif, in fact, the narrative
is to be born into a new art form leaving behind the cocoon
of the literary story--then change must inevitably occur
within a predominantly visual activity. Vision must, there
fore, be carried out and all the way through by an agent,
an acting force for good whose eye can make a convergence
with the value potentialities of the image. In other
words, as a private-eye story, "The Maltese Falcon" is the
narrative of the growth of Sam's eye, of the development of
his passion to see, and of his eye's capacity to clarify
the image as a private value.
The growth of Sam's visual powers is best illustrated
toward the end of the narrative when he tells Tom Polhaus


195
forever static, cannot withstand the force of the light.
Following the lead of the camera, which had cut away from
talk to the moving airplane, Frank, too, cuts away from the
talk altogether and moves into the "now," into the action
contained within the private world of the jet in the form of
Ross' image. After Frank has killed Ross, Chalmers is
literally driven off as he reads The Wall Street Journal in
the back of his limousine. He has not changed. He has
failed to grow out of an intellectual existence. But he
has stopped working against the action. Frank, on the other
i
hand, has married his living potentialities for change to
a world of color in motion, to a world which freely invites
to visual action and growth out of its inherent powers
of generation.


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
' WHEN LOGICS DIE: MORAL VISION IN
THE PRIVATE-EYE MOVIES
By
Armando J. Prats
i December, 1975
Chairman: William R. Robinson
Major Department: English
A detailed inquiry into the self-generative moral power
of five private-eye movies, this study explores the activity
by which the private-eye illustrates and clarifies both the
medium of the movies and the life in the visible creation.
The study begins with a short explanation of "genre."
Thereafter, two detective stories are examined in terms of
their powers to propel the detective into the cinematic
medium. The first such story, Poe's "The Murders in the
Rue Morgue," is discussed in the light of the narrative's
inherent capacities to illuminate the powers of the detec
tive as an agent for the "moral activity" that the story
itself announces in the beginning. Immediately following
is a brief sketch of the emergence of the interplay be
tween good and evil in the adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
This short discussion illustrates the manner in which such
an interaction becomes the underlying pattern of action for
subsequent private-eye stories. The second literary
narrative discussed in the first chapter is Hammett's "The
viii


21
that moral power. "Observing him in these moods,"
the narrator tells us of Dupin, "I often dwelt meditatively
upon the old philosophy of the Bi-Part Soul, and amused
myself with the fancy of a double Dupinthe creative and
the resolvent" (p. 54). By way of illustrating Dupin's
powers, the narrator can go no further than to indulge in
the notion that Dupin's capacity for moral activity remains
in some misty region that cannot be clarified. Further-
*
more, the narrator himself continues to widen the gap that
separates him from the narrative act by allowing himself
to appear as the opposite of what he is presumably aspiring
to, that is, Dupin's powers. Which is to say, that if it
is the powers of his companion which excite the narrator
to write, he drifts away from a convergence, an "identifi
cation" with those very powers as he persists in finding
them of a divisive rather than a unifying nature. The
narrator "observes" Dupin, yet fails to imagine him as the
unifying force of the narrative. Indulging in what he has
previously denied as having any value whatsoever, he "fan
cies" the old, the abstract, aid the divided. From obser
vation, which, as will be remembered, the narrator held to
be the essential feature distinguishing the superior man
from his fellows, the narrator can do no more than idly
entertain a feeble notion of ancient thought and thereby
reinforce the crossed condition of the narrative.


120
of the narrative these techniques are no more than the end
result of a lazy eye which is indisposed to follow one act
all the way through, exploring its possibilities before it
fully takes it upon itself to follow the ensuing act from
its beginning. There is even an instance where, by way of
showing an automobile in motion, all that the eye is will
ing to do is to focus on a rotating tire. The eye will
not follow the motion all the way, and thus it proves
that its interest in change is minimal, that it is content
with showing the "illusion" of change.) In one sequence,
i
when Sam is moving out on the streets, the camera lets Sam
pass it by so it can fix itself on Wilmer, who stands with
his shoulder against a wall. In yet another sequence, when
Sam is followed into the street, on the taxi, off the car,
and into the alley where Brigid had told Effie she would be
waiting, Sam has gone nowhere; it is a dead end, a "bum
steer." And when Sam leaves Gutman's room and goes to the
dock to see "La Paloma," the ship whose captain is bringing
the falcon, the boat is ablaze and again the action out
side the squares has come to nothing. Thus in the outside
settings where both Sam and the camera go for the action,
Sam is duped and the camera cannot successfully break away
from the confining rooms. As a consequence of its failure
to escape from the boxes that limit its mobility, the eye's
energy is dissipated by its own negation of its potenti
alities for growth.


261
within a rational system, the imagination shows that nothing
exists outside its reach, that, in effect, nothing exists
outside a potential condition to become art.
In a similar manner, the action of a story such as The
Hound of the Baskervilles illustrates Sherlock Holmes' power
to restore a hierarchical social order by detecting the
motive of the criminal. The elements of good and evil are
defined a priori. As such, these conflicting elements are
imposed upon the imagination as a precondition of the
imagination's own power to unify. Nevertheless, the narra-
i
tive act incorporates these opposing forces and forges an
action that is distinct yet inseparable from the contending
rational concepts. But logics are no longer present in a
story such as "The Big Knockover," and when the primordial
fact of the new moral activity in the genre is an action
which is both means and end, then the imagination is no
longer a force that performs the dual function of illus
trating its own moral activity as well as the value of a
rational morality. The divided intellect-imagination re
lationship that exists in the nineteenth century stories is
turned into an organic act where the pluralistic moral
activity of logic dies to give birth to an atomic vision
of form whose moral force does not submit its life to a
power that is greater than itself. Instead, the moral
activity consists of the generation of a specific series of
acts that are indivisible from the activity of the


235
vision, say, "the stuff that dreams are made of," by the
living eye and the image as an uninhibited force for value.)
Self-caused, the motivation of the eye is a motion toward a
convergence with the image at the same time that it pre
supposes a movement away from the divisive powers of the
word.
Alone, therefore, must Harry's eye achieve its redeem
ing task. And certainly a fact of Harry's existence which
empowers him to perform the ultimate clarifying feat is
that, as at man of relations outside those of his professional
life, he is alone from the beginning. Unlike in "The
Maltese Falcon," "Bullitt," or "Chinatown," Harry is never
exposed to an enduring relationship with a female force
which threatens his existence as a man of the eye. There is
no Brigid who seeks to trap Harry into memory and sentiment,
no Evelyn blinding him into a humanistic commitment, no
Cathy challenging Harry to a moral duel. Harry's alone-
ness-(not to be confused with sentimental loneliness or
existential alienation) is a self-contained source of
power that allows him the freedom for active integration
from the beginning. The initial solitary quality of Harry's
existence is established early within the dramatic sub
structure when, at the Mayor's office for the first time,
the Mayor asks Harry whether he has discussed the case with
his wife or sweetheart and Harry answers, "Nobody."
And


163
Ultimately, the eye which had announced its passion
to see in a world of color is incapable of exploring such a
world. One of the indications of its lethargic condition
is to be found in its recurrent failure to move. The
eye will not follow one act all the way through. It will
not immerse itself in the activity of the living image and
follow its changes to an actualization of its inherent
potentialities. Instead, the camera is almost always
awaiting the beginning of an action. Such is the case, for
instance, when, at the restaurant, the camera is already
i
fixed on Jake and then waits for Evelyn to enter its field
of view. It does not move with the natural passion of the
eye to follow the moving image. It is content to stare
and let the image move within the fixed periphery of its
vision. But still more wicked is the camera's outright
refusal to move with its agent. Thus, as Jake leaves' the
table and Evelyn remains seated, the camera stays with
Evelyn's veiled profile as Jake disappears from the
periphery of its vision. (This failure of the camera to
move with the moving image has taken place previously
when, at Evelyn's house, Jake leaves and the camera stays
with Evelyn. Or later, after Jake's confrontation with
Evelyn in the car outside Katherine's house, much the same
occurs, with Jake getting out of the car, saying, "Well, I'm
tired, Mrs. Mulwray," and disappearing from the range of
the eye. The camera turns to Evelyn's face which is


34
"$106,000 Blood Money," the sequel is not to be seen as the
next move that he promises to make at the end of "The Big
Knockover.'" In actuality, his immediate act consists of
writing the story itself. His commitment to continue the
search propels him into the imaginative dimension. What
appears at the end of the story marks the beginning of the
narrative process.
The Op's narrative act is clearer than the narrator's
in "Murders" or than Dr. Watson's in any of his stories.
For one thing, there is no intrusive narrator to stop the
i
action of the story in praise of the deductive or analytic
powers of the super detective. It is the superior man him
self who writes the story. As the Op is the private in
vestigator, the discrete, nameless entity at work in the
case, so he becomes the private I, the very source from
which emanates the narrative act. Here, the imagination no
longer performs the function of servant to the rational
powers of the detectiye. Instead, it operates as the ever-
active source that illustrates the action and carries
forward the active possibilities to their inherent fulfill
ment, to the achievement of unity of action and narrative
method.
From the first words of the narrative, it is discovered
that the Op acts at one with the life of the narrative.
His very first words are, "I found." They are the initial


159
eye has so thoroughly degenerated has his final confronta
tion with the image of the eye. The image that he sees is
the image of the blown out eye. It is the vision which
proves to Jake that the visual activity, that the meeting
of the powers of. the eye and the image is too painful an
experience to endure. At the end, Jake's eyes are fixed on
the image of Evelyn's blood-covered face and he cannot
escape this vision. While Escobar talks to him, Jake's
eyes are still staring at this vision of horror.
What originally was but "something black in the
i
green part," the "flaw" in Evelyn's eye, has grown like a
sinister disease that invades Jake's own eye. Evelyn's
"birthmark" becomes the black mark that fixes Jake in the
world of memory, in a place from which he cannot escape,
in Chinatown. Following Jake's stare, the only other visible
act is that he is forced away from Evelyn's dead image by
both Duffy and Walsh. They flank Jake as they walk up the
center of the screen, themselves flanked by rows of build
ings to their sides, framed, walking toward the blackness
at the center of the screen' until they are completely
engulfed by the darkness. Jake's is not just the vision
that fails to match the model of action established by the
eyeit is not even a vision of black and white. Rather,
it is the vision that, even if he does "as little as pos
sible," or perhaps on account of it, his world is one where
the visual act is the most perverse of all, where the eye
itself is the source of all evil.


39
hoodlums that participated in the knockover, is, like the
Old Man before him, the inciter of the action. For the
time being, he is the Op's one clue to the man he wants.
If he loses the Armenian, he risks losing not only the
mastermind behind the heist, but, most importantly, the
action that will allow him to tell his story. So the Op
follows the youngster everywhere while Jack Counihan, the
young Continental Operative, follows the "skull-cracker"
who is also tailing the Armenian boy.
Then, when all the "greetings" have been delivered
by the Armenian, he and the skull-cracker enter a dilapi
dated rooming house. The boy is out of the Op's sight and
so the Op must wait until he emerges from the building.
But the skull-cracker comes out alone. As the Op prepares
to tail him, he hears a faint scream from the upper level
of the building. The Op tells Jack to tail the skull-
cracker while he goes to see what the scream has already
told him, that the Armenian boy is dead. Close scrutiny
of the room where the boy lies with his throat slit from
ear to ear reveals no clue, "not a thing out of which
information could be squeezed" (p. 369). The Op merely
stands there in the center of the room scratching his chin
and thinking in vain. For a moment, seeing and moving has
come to nothing. He lives in a moving world where the mere
blinking of the eyes may cause him to lose the action. For
now, neither he nor his story can go anywhere.


36
in motion and all the logic in the world will not put them
behind bars.
The morning after Beno's murder, the Op goes to the
offices of Seaman's National for a routine investigation.
A few blocks from the bank offices he again finds himself
in the thick of the action. "Rounding into Montgomery
Street," he says, "I found few sightseers ahead of me. The
middle of the street was filled with trucks, touring cars,
taxisdeserted there. Up in the next blockbetween Bush
and Pine Streetshell was on a holiday" (p. 358). Again
i
the Op has found. Indeed, his ability to tell his story
depends on his capacity to continue to discovernot only
the facts that lead him to the solution of the case, but
the links in the events that allow him to become a man of
the imagination. So he must be a participant in "hell's
holiday," he must get himself dirty as he plays in the game
against evil. And so the Op goes from the start. In his
humorous metaphorical style, he says, "For the next six
hours I was busier than a flea on a fat woman" (p. 359).
Unafraid, unhampered by intellectual reflections, he
dives deep into the action as wholeheartedly as from his
first words he has plunged deeply into the narrative act.
After the initial round of "bloodhounding," the Op
goes to the Continental Agency's office for a conference
with the Old Man, his boss. The Op's description of his


51
gonif11 behind the knockover. Popeye, on the other hand,
knows who the archenemy is relatively early in the narrative.
But what is more, the Op gets to his man by following what
are basically verbal clues which lead to the visual action
(the Old Man telling him that Bluepoint is not the master
mind behind the heist, Sylvia Yount asking for "Red,"
or the words "Big Flora" written in blood on a wall).
On the other hand, the steps leading Popeye to his man are
purely visual. Consider, for instance, when he takes Buddy
out for a drink at the end of their day. Buddy thinks
i
that they are going to the lounge to relax, but Popeye,
who does not know the difference between his duties as a
detective and his life as an active eye, has gone to that
particular nightclub on the "hunch" that the man he has
gone to see, Sal Boca, will lead him to more visual action.
He watches Boca handing out large bills and then waits out
side the lounge until dawn for him and his wife to come out.
He follows them to a street where they change cars (from a
late model Mercury to an old Comet). And even then, he
follows them to their delicatessen, "Sal and Angie's,"
which they use as a "front" for their illegal operations.
Evidently/ Popeye's visual activity differs from the Op's
verbal act. Popeye's lead entails a connection between the
eye and the image which is unmediated by words, analysis,
or even by the ethical concerns of the nineteenth century
stories. And it is in the difference in methods of action


239
ii
As dramatic man, Harry has no verbal existence which
can be analyzed and examined without taking into account
his life as a man of the eye. Almost every word he speaks
draws attention to the primordial presence of the eye
as the dominant power contributing to his growth. For
example, when the helicopter patrolmen lose Scorpio after
he attempts to kill the young black man from the rooftop,
the camera eye cuts away to a night shot of Harry and Chico
as they drive through the streets of the city. Chico asks
Harry, "How did they let him get on the building without
seeing him?" and Harry, who is driving and whose eyes move
as they did in the beginning, answers, "They were probably
talking instead of looking like they were supposed to."
On the streets, away from the restrictive confines of the
legal system and its abstract talk, Harry's words serve
only to point directly to the visual act as the predominant
form of energy in his life. Or again, when Harry and Chico
are on the rooftop overlooking the top of the building
from which they expect Scorpio to make his attempt on the
life of the Catholic priest, Harry is looking through wide-
angle binoculars at what is immediately across. At the
bottom of the building he sees a young couple. Then, as
he raises the field glasses toward the top, he sees a
quarreling middle age couple. Then, still further up, he


183
So Cathy persists in trying to trap Frank into a ver
bal admission that there is nothing but horror in the life
of action. "With you," she says, "living with violence is
a way of lifeliving with violence and death." Ironically,
she is correct when she says that Frank lives by violence,
for at this point in the narrative, Frank has provided
ample evidence of his capacity to incorporate the energies
available to him and to act out of them. And she is partly
accurate when she states that death is "a way of life"
with him, for Frank never dwells in the past, but acts
i
out of the end of every action to make of that end the be
ginning of a new act. Renick's death, for instance, is not
the end of Frank's life as a man of action. He literally
puts the dead body on the move when he calls for an un
marked ambulance to take the body from the hospital to the
morgue. Or the death of the two hit men gives way to the
beginning of a new "lead," Ann Simmons, on which Frank
"wants to move."
Indeed, as Cathy says, Frank's "world is so far from
the one [she] knows." Hers is a knowledge that blinds her
to the world of images. Like Jake's, Cathy's is the vision
of the disastrous powers of the image. Like Jake's, hers,
too, is the vision of death as the sum total of all the
visual activity. For her, as for Jake, the eye is no more
than an instrument that confirms the pervasiveness of evil.
In contrast, Frank's is the undivided vision where the


95
"What is it?" (p. 253). Tom's words serve as the recapitu
lation of the entire dramatic aspect of the narrative. For
the whole verbal pattern is inextricably connected with the
will to know, with the age-old desire to verbalize and in-
tellectualize experiential data because, in a rational
world, sensory experience can never testify to knowledge of
value. Like all the rest, with the exception of Sam, Tom
must intellectually define the abstract value of the object
he sees. He must corrupt the image with a name or an idea
which bears with it a history of cause and effect, or in a
police detective's world, an image which bears a motive.
Tom's question, however, comes at a point in the narrative
where the desire to know has virtually exhausted itself and
begins, in turn, to give way to whatever growth away from
the passion to abstract takes place within the degree of
unity achieved by the narrative act. Nevertheless, Tom's
question seeks to take the narrative back to the heavy
historical past of the falcon. Uneasy with Samis answer
"the stuff that dreams are made of"he dumbfoundedly
mutters, "huh?" (p. 253); still wanting to know, still hop
ing to translate the concrete particular, which his rational
sensibility finds so disturbing, into the symbolic.
Despite the will to knowledge with which the narrative
is so thoroughly filled, knowing has nothing to do with the
expansion of the intellectual powers. On the contrary, the


84
of the light, the word as a power that reinforces the
fixed is irrevocably allied to the powers of evil. Words
are, in effect, evil itself. The verbal powers and the
condition of the fixed image aspire to the death of the
narrative act; they align themselves in direct opposition
to the power of the medium to generate a unified act that
allows it to leave behind the old literary form. Since
they create chaos and confusion, the word and the static
image remain hostile to being incorporated within the light.
They want to tell a story in the old way. As the words
i
themselves say, "to this very day," to the immediate in
stance when they first appear on the screen, the "fate of
the Maltese Falcon remains a mystery." That is all these
words can do within the narrative process, that is, to
proclaim their impotence fon growth through clarification
and for unity through action. They testify only to their
power to re-enact the past while pointing to their obstinacy
to be functionally assimilated into a unified structure
potentially existing in the new medium.
Yet at the same time that the image of the falcon is
burdened with the weight of its past, of its intellectually
determined worth, of its mass, and of its heavy shadow,
it is also that which excites the eye and incites to a
clarifying activity. This basic search to see constitutes
the third level of the structure of irony that begins its


144
it.) The wounds of the past are reopened by this woman who
has, ironically enough, just tried to heal the "nasty"'
cut on Jake's nose. Life has dealt Jake a painful blow,
but he is willing to re-expose his past to Evelyn, who so
obviously relishes this re-enactment. And what is still
more pathetic, Jake cannot even logically understand the
obvious analogy between what has happened and what is happen
ing to him, between Chinatown and Evelyn, the place in the
past and the place in the present.
Visually, Jake cannot discover "what's going on" with
i
Evelyn. He therefore has to resort to being able to "tell."
Thus, at Katherine's house, after he has told Evelyn that
her husband was drowned in salt water, he says, "Just take
my word for it." And then he demands that she explain the
mystery which he seeks to clarify through words: "Now
I want to know how it happened and I want to know why and
I want to know before Escobar gets here because I don't
want to lose my license." Clearly, Jake has reverted to
the method of the detective in literature. He even seizes
upon an abstract motive that incites him to know, namely,
that he doesn't want to lose his license. But the fact
is that at least within this world of talk, Jake's license
has already been lost. For that which gives him the liberty
to free himself from the verbal labyrinth, his eye, has
already been lost to the talk about the past and t the
penchant for rational knowledge that viciously divides


12
"Chinatown." The second aim is to discover the moral value
of the transition made within this movie by the agent when,
working in and for the public, he becomes a private-eye.
The sixth and seventh chapters deal with "Dirty Harry."
As has been mentioned above, the first of these chapters
attempts to illustrate the new vision into which the struc
ture of this movie launches the private-eye story. Con
trasted with the last thqree sequences in "Bullitt," the
first three of "Dirty Harry" clearly point to a new terrain
in the imagination of the private-eye story. The seventh
i
and final chapter is a detailed exploration of dramatic,
thematic, and cinematic aspects of "Dirty Harry" in the
light of the structure as rendered in the first three
sequences of the movie. The conclusion aims at summing
up the moral significance of major themes and dominant
motifs discovered throughout the exploration by retracing
the growth of the imagination in its encounters with the
recurring components of the genre as they appear in the
discussion.


106
vulnerable to Brigid's knowledge, Sam still wants to ex
plain and to be understood: "I won't ["play the sap"]
because all of me wants to, regardless of consequences, and
because you've counted on that with'me, the same as you
counted on that with all the others" (p. 248). Once more
he proves that he has seen through her schemes. This time,
however, his vision is belied by his need to give Brigid
yet another verbal explanation for his actions. And even
if Sam's explanation provides evidence that his motivations
for turning Brigid over aim at the preservation of the life
of the individual, the fact remains that he has seen the
need to indulge in self-justifying talk.
In the end, though, it matters little what Sam's
motives are. The most important fact is that the potential
union between he and Brigid never takes place because for
it to do so, it would have to occur within the dramatic
pattern of the narrative. For Sam to have achieved a
complete union with Brigid he would have had to make an
unqualified commitment to words. Thus the entire narrative
would have regressed to its beginning. But despite his
ability to escape from it, Sam cannot grow out of this
world of talk. He remains on the threshold of the shadows
of emotion and justice. He bears the mark of memory ("I'll
always remember you") and the scars of regret ("I'll have
some rotten nights") indicating conclusively that the power


11
serves to set up the discussion of the dramatic level and
of both the thematic and cinematic patterns in the seventh
chapter. Moreover, for the sake of contrast and clarifi
cation, a subdivision may appear in the chapter that ex
plores a new movie. Thus, the exploration of the cine
matic aspects of "Chinatown" is incorporated in the chapter
on "Bullitt."
"The Maltese Falcon" is specifically discussed in its
relation to the emergence of the private-eye of the Ameri
can literary story into the cinematic medium. Its action,
i
however, is not explored in direct relation to the Hammett
novel. Nevertheless, the inquiry is aimed at a discovery
of the method through which the cinematic imagination
assimilates the elements of the literary story and crosses
media boundaries. Particular attention is given to the
black and white visual structure and to its success in making
the transition from literature. The fourth chapter, dealing
with."Chinatown," seeks to discover the way in which the
model of action changes once the private-eye enters a world
of color. Since "Chinatown" begins with black and white
images, it is a suitable terrain in which to explore the
power of color to generate evolutionary changes in the genre.
A discussion of "Bullitt" serves two distinct purposes.
The first is to show the actualization of the potentiali
ties within a world of color that remain unrealized in


181
recognizes that Frank is not an identifiable character.
Furthermore, the image that Cathy has seen is supposed to
insult Frank. It is supposed to "reach" his humanistic
ethical core and incite him to pass ethical judgment on the
visible creation.
Cathy's dramatization of the image constitutes a
challenge to the life of action. Specifically, the
challenge is intended to elicit words which will justify
Frank's existence in a world where the life of the eye is
vulnerable to ethical principles. Cathy's words seek to
i
awaken a sense of guilt out of the eye's encounter with
the image. Indeed, since Cathy's reproach entails the vision
that seeing is evil, her words cannot but mean that life it
self is evil. But Frank's verbal response to Cathy's indig
nation entails the vision that the end of an image's life
is but a part of the whole vision of life as an endless
activity. "That's where half of it is," he replies. "You
can't walk away from it." Cathy's is a morbid black and
white visionhalf-vision, in fact. For hers is the life
divided between irreconcilable moral opposites, the life
that cannot come to terms with the dead image as only a
part of the living phenomenon. She willfully blinds herself
to death and violence as integral parts of the life process.
Hence her retort to Frank, "I know it's bad, but I don't
have to be reminded of the whole thingthe ugliness
around us." It is not surprising that the last time Cathy


66
referred to as "film theory." It often happens that cri
tical theory is all too willing to violate the immanently
generated world of concrete form in favor of abstract
notions or formulas brought to bear upon the movie under
consideration. Like Alain, who is the bearer of a power
pernicious to the eye, theory more often than not seeks to
control the action by imposing itself on the life of the
image. An art of motion, the movies cannot be made to con
form to static, preconceived intellectual concepts. Action
precludes reflection, so that as Popeye's eye resists the
i
intellectual invasion of "Frog One," so does the narrative
itself resists control by alien powers.
As a narrative, then, a movie's only obligation is
to assert itself as an object of value within its given
medium. Each movie reveals its particular life and demands
that it be seen as a concrete actual occasion. Each creates
its own method of action and dictates its own critical
approach. "Chinatown" operates with a wholly different
critical method than does "Dirty Harry." Thus, the adoption
of abstract theory--at least in an exploration of a private-
eye moviewould result in the eventual discovery that, like
darkness and abstractions, the rational method is also the
enemy of the private-eye; that, like "Frog One," theory,
too, seeks to do away with the particular form of light
witnessed by the eye. Consequently, the literary critic


211
has stopped moving, and only now can the evil eye operate.
Or still later in the narrative, Scorpio orders Harry, who
is taking 'him the ransom money, to stop by the foot of the
cross at Mark. Davidson Park. Clearly, the activity of the
evil eye entails a complex vision. Certainly its primary
function, its basic aim within the narrative, is to destroy.
But its activity also succeeds in creating (the presence of
color notwithstanding) a binary structure, a basic cleavage
between the action of the cinematic eye and its own, be
tween itself as the eye of death and the eye that affirms
i
the life of the image. And beyond the obvious fact that the
evil eye is the instrument that creates the basic structure
of conflict in the narrative, there lies the more subtle
revelation that its perverse activity has no logical motive.
When, for instance, the Chief explains to Chico that
Scorpio's next strike may well be from the same rooftop from
which Scorpio has previously tried to kill the Catholic
priest, the Chief readily seizes upon psychological motives
leading to Scorpio's choice of the same spot. He maintains
that Scorpio is a "super-ego" who wants to see himself
glorified in newspaper headlines: "Scorpio Strikes Again."
But since Scorpio's past is never established, neither
dramatically nor cinematically, psychological motives are
not valid as "reasons" explaining his behavior. And it
would be more than inaccurate to state that his primary
motivation entails material considerations. Scorpio kills


107
of words is, after all, a feeble force, impotent to gen
erate itself out of the old form and to make the transition
into the new.
iii
Within the dramatic level of "The Maltese Falcon,"
talk only succeeds in stunting the visual properties of the
narrative by repeatedly attempting to return the story to
its historic, and ultimately to its literary, source.
Thus, while Brigid is able to generate the dramatic action,
it is her own predisposition toward the word which prevents
her from a union with the genius of the eye. As her own
verbal powers come to nothing positive within the story of
the light, so do all words finally fail as a narrative
force empowered to clarify the vitality of the image.
For even at the end of the story, the words remain anchored
to their essentially tautological quality; they are still
fastened to the ironic and mysterious properties announced
in the beginning by the crucial image.
But if the crucial image possesses both the power to
obscure itself and the will to abstraction aiming at a
vertical ascent from the visible universe, then, simply
because it is first and foremost an image, its visual
qualities proclaim its power to assert itself as a value.
Thus, at the same time that its bifurcated structure


41
alibied up, so there's no reason why he should hide out
on us. We'll let him alone all daygive him time to make
sure he isn't being tailed--and then we'll get behind him
tonight and stay behind him" (p. 377). In contrast to the
police captain, the Op recognizes that he has to allow his
man to move so he may move along with him. Like the
Armenian boy before him, it is now Red O'Leary who provides
the Op with his one link to the action.
After Red emerges from his hotel and goes to Larrouy's,
there is little for the Op to do but to wait for more action
to begin. There, in the same place where he first found,
the action is brewing as all the hoodlums that have been
cheated out of their cut begin to crowd around while they
wait for Bluepoint Vance to appear. As the Op waits for
Red to make his move, it is as if the story is being charged
with electric power for the big igniting moment that will
once more set it in motion. And there he sits, in the
middle of the arena, knowing that if the action is to con
tinue he must stand between Red and the hoodlums and let
Red make his escape so he can continue to follow him. Even
when Bluepoint confronts Red and the action threatens the
Op's very life, he says, "This big chump was too valuable to
lose. We'd have to get ourselves all battered up saving
him from the rewards of his own pig-headedness. There was
no justice in it" (p. 386). Clearly, there is no cause
for the actions of the Op. He does not do what he does in


264
is sure of its point of departure but uncertain of its
destination. Since it is faced with the primary task of
crossing media boundaries, the imagination allows the word
to get in the way of the image. Thus, for instance, while
it is certain that neither Gutman, Cairo, nor Wilmer escape
arrest, it is nevertheless true that their intellectual
passions, specifically aimed at possession, allows them to
generate an action that escapes Sam's eye. Sam has to
telephone Polhaus in order that through the abstract power
that he embodies Tom can check the equally abstract motives
i
of the villains. Working in the black and white visual
action, the image-begetting agent is unavoidably vulnerable
to that aspect of a divided world where he cannot perform
his clarifying feat. In a system polarized into forces
friendly to the eye and by those inimical to it, the private-
eye can only illuminate that part of his world where his
eye can see the image and expose it for what it is. Thus
Sam cannot fully affirm the supremacy of the eye and the
autonomy of the image. But the power of the imagination to
propel the genre into the new medium is sufficient so that
Sam can reveal the life of the eye as a moral option to a
world of abstractionsbe it a rational motive or the
literal darknesswhose pervasive presence offers the par
ticipating images the alternative to growth in the light.
Furthermore, since Brigid, the image which so fascinates
Sam, persists in living through and for words, Sam cannot


65
the legal system and its hierarchical structure. Popeye
is the bearer "of the individual against externally imposed
systems, against the order of all words, roles, and insti-
3
tutions." The moving eye clarifies the image out of a
self-generating source of action that knows no authority
but its own. Acting out of the private center, Popeye
ultimately succeeds in transporting the entire narrative
beyond the poles of good and evil. He turns action itself
into the supreme moral activity, the living visual event
that is the narrative itself.
i
ii
Popeye1s activity extends beyond the screen to invite
us to see as he sees. The visual act beckons to a domain
where images are seen with an accuracy, a precision, which
only their own indiviudal lives can reveal to an eye which,
like Popeye's, is always on the move. Therefore, just as
Popeye's activity succeeds in clarifying and affirming the
living image as a value, so does that very same force suc
ceed in creating its own critical method. In other words,
it is futile to come to this exploration of the life of the
private-eye armed with what is too often reverentially
3
W. R. Robinson, "The Movies as a Revolutionary Moral
Force, Part II," Contmpora, 2, No. 1 (1972), 26-34.


233
that an abstract, corporate body is no match for the actions
of one individual entity. But what Harry is questioning
above all else is the very source of rational morality, the
core of the existence and perpetuation of an abstract
system through abstract means. Naturally, his exhorta
tion to abandon words and to embrace action goes unheeded.
Incensed at Harry's passion for immediate action, the Mayor
shouts, "I gave my word of honor on it and he will not be
molested. And that's a direct order, Callahan." The
authoritative ego from whose mouth issues the word of
i
abstraction wills the ascent of the evil eye--wills, in
effect, that "order" be restored to the community out of
a verbal imperative to blindness. Having willed Scorpio's
escape, the word has completely allied its negative powers
to his passion to die to a world of light. But more sig
nificantly still, the Mayor's will to restore order runs
against the grain of Harry's agency to unify the narrative
act. For the rational order must inevitably come from
without. It is therefore an extraneous force which, if
successful in imposing itself on the action, can do nothing
but divide the narrative from its inherent potentialities
for unity.
Within the verbal pattern, therefore, the narrative
has reached an impasse not unlike the static condition that
was established at the end of the first two sequences. As


174
And still, his task as an agent is the more difficult pre
cisely because he must see privately, because he must see
whole and in color, within the public domain, within the
realm which is forever trying to divide the image by making
it known.
Now, since in the initial shots the camera does not
give way to the imaged words of the names on the office
doors, rational identities and words in general do not
interest it a great deal. As the words of the credits
(present while the camera moves inside the office) disappear
upwards, sideways, downward, their imaged silhouettes
remain, moving to the foreground, disappearing altogether,
and giving way to the images behind them. The word gives
way to the living color, to the new, to the thing itself.
In contrast to "Chinatown," where behind every image there
was the power of the word, in "Bullitt" the process has been
reversed: behind every word there is an image! Further
more, because talk tends to fix the image, the eye tends to
divorce itself from the speaking image. For instance, when
Ross steps off the cab to make a telephone call, the
camera does not get interested in the conversation. Or at
Chalmers' house, the house of talk, the eye is at a low
angle, seeing Frank's image under the arched doorway through
the legs of the talking middle-aged women. Later, when
Frank meets Cathy for dinner, the camera, looking at eye
level from behind a balustraded partition, changes angles


243
chewing on the first bite of the foot-long hot dog, Harry
is out on the street walking toward the bank with his .44
Magnum in hand. He shouts for the robbers to stop. One
of them lets go a shotgun blast and Harry shoots him. The
tan Ford with two men inside charges Harry. He stands
firm, brings the Magnum to eye level, fires two shots
through the windshield, the Ford rams a fire hydrant, and
comes to rest on its side. Through the violent gush of
the water, itself erupting like the action, Harry shoots
again and then once more. He looks into the Ford, sees
i
that the two men are dead, and walks up to the wounded man
by the entrance of the bank. When the man tries to go for
the shotgun Harry tells him that the .44 could blow his
head "clean off." The robber does not "feel lucky" and
gives up. Still, he "gots to know" how many shots are left
in Harry's revolver. Silently, Harry turns around, raises
the gun to the robbers' head, and squeezes the trigger.
The hammer clicks and Harry laughs as he continues to hold
the Magnum in line with his eye. As he turns away the
sounds of "the cavalry's" arrival drown out the impreca
tions of the wounded robber. Despite having killed two
men, Harry's gun is not a perverse instrument serving the
purposes of indiscriminate destruction. In contrast to
the evil eye which aims at doing away with the life of all
images, Harry uses the revolver as a force that stretches
the eye's own range to keep all images in sight.


116
been clarified is not light and mobile but an onerous fix
ture, paradoxically image as well as mass. Out of his 'power
lessness to completely break away from the dominance of the
talking image, Sam's story as the clarifier of the powers of
the eye recapitulates the powerlessness to grow all the way
into a unified condition. As he carries the falcon's
weight, so does he carry the memory of Brigid, the memory
that divides him between past and present, between reflec
tion and action; between the reality of the living process
and the illusion of dead words.
iv
Undoubtedly, "The Maltese Falcon" is a talkie. But
it is, above all else, a movie. And as such, the force of
words, the irony, the mystery, the intrigue, and the
suspense must, in the end, give way to cinematic fact. It
is the primordial deed of the narrative that it takes
place within the life of the light and that the image's
very presence on the silver screen is dictated by the
existence of an eyenot Sam's, but the camera's. As a
result of the crossed condition of the initial image, of
the absence of growth within the dramatic substructure,
and of Sam's limited success as a genius of the eye, it
is to the camera eye itself that is left the feat of
getting the story of the light rightof achieving not


221
water. When the camera eye assumes Harry's view, and, as it
did before, it focuses closely on the pool area, its vision
is cleared-, unmasked and free from the fetters of the
crossed view. The eye sees without having to see the death
of the image. Now aligned with the redeeming eye, the
camera eye returns to the rooftop where Harry sees the brass
shell on the pebbled ground. Not only is the camera eye
free to see without the burden of the cross, but it is eman
cipated to see concrete particularity. In effect guided by
the natural inclinations of the good eye, the camera begins
i
to see the individual and immediate image. As Harry picks
up the cartridge with the point of a pen and puts it inside
the buff-colored envelope, he looks up and sees the written
word on the note stuck on the point of the antenna. Harry's
visual activity has reversed the course of vision initiated
by the camera in the two initial sequences. Where the
camera has seen an aspect of the rifle (the silencer) after
it has read the words on the marble stone, Harry has first
seen a part of the rifle, the empty brass shell, and only
then does he see the written word. This sub-structure of
vision in the third sequence reverses the order of visual
priority enacted in the first two sequences of the movie.
Visual action precedes intellectual vision, so that Harry's
pattern of vision does not recapitulate the binary struc
ture; it does not return to the word as the only good nor
does it signal the devastating power of vision. Instead,


42
the interest of some abstract virtue. So he lives for the
action which he finds "valuable." He is in his business
for the actionnot for any intellectualized notions of
action as a moral good, but for the action as action.
Before Vance can finish telling Nancy Reagan, who is
at Red's table, the details of how lonely she will be with
out Red, he finds himself knocked across the next table by
Red's fist. Volcano-like, the action erupts. The Op,
"blackjack in right hand, gun in left," is already with his
back to the rear-entrance door calling out to Red and Nancy
i
to move his way. Now it is Red who must follow the Op.
They are in it together, and it is an action which the Op
must now generate in order that he can keep on following
his man. The violence that takes place as the Op, Jack,
Red, and Nancy make their exit is indicative of the action
that the Op can generate:
A squint-eyed Portuguese slashed at my neck with a
knife that spoiled my necktie. I caught him over the
ear with the side of my gun before he could get away,
and saw the ear tear loose. A grinning kid of twenty
went down for my legs--football stuff. I felt his
teeth in the knee I pumped up, and felt them break.
A pock-marked mulatto pushed a gun-barrel over the
shoulder of the man in front of him. My blackjack
crunched the arm of the man in front. He winced
sidewise as the mulatto pulled the triggerand
had the side of his face blown away. (p. 388)
In this action, violence is not just a word to denote a
conceptualized form of physical cruelty. It is, rather,
a necessary series of acts upon which life depends. The


43
Op must act in a way that is vital to his life as an active
phenomenon. The "Portuguese" and the "pock-marked mulatto"
are the embodiment of evil not because they would physically
hurt the Op, but because they would prevent him from telling
his story, because their action is aimed at stopping all the
subsequent acts among which the narrative itself figures
as a distinct possibility.
As they get past the rear door and find themselves
in a dark hallway, the Op says, "'We've got to go somewhere'"
(p. 390). As he has to lead Red O'Leary out of the dark,
i
so must he continue the search for the light of those first
words that confirm his having gotten somewhere. While in
the dark the pursuing hoodlums "were talking about getting
lights," it is the Op who, in yet another act of discovery,
finds his way to "A room with two windows through which
came a pale glow from the street lights" (p. 390). Unlike
Dupin and his companion, the Op is not at ease in the dark.
He continues to move past that dim light while carrying
O'Leary's big bulk with him. Paralleling the rhythms in
which we see the Op lose the thread of the action and re
gain it, we now see him move from the light into darkness
again, then up the roof and down a ten-foot jump to the
next building's and up to the next and down a fire escape
running down to a back street while in the confusion the
police and the hoodlums shoot it out amongst themselves.


193
Completely baffled, Chalmers asks, "Who was Renick?" "He
was the man who was shot at the Hotel Daniels," Frank says.
"You sent us to guard the wrong man, Mr. Chalmers." All
that Chalmers values is the name of the image, the rational
identity that can be distilled and publicized from the con
crete visual occasion. But even this black and white image
proves that Chalmers is working on the wrong side of the
street. When he looks, he cannot see, he cannot clarify.
In fact, all that he succeeds in doing when he looks is to
create mystery much the same way in which, early in the
i
story, the hotel doorman succeeds in creating mystery when,
having seen Renick, he reports that he has seen Ross. It
is Frank, therefore, who conclusively proves that he is
working with the living image. From his vision of Renick's
black and white photograph, he moves on to see the living
image in color--to the airport, where the action is.
After the scene at police headquarters, Chalmers, too, is
seen at the airport. But he does not participate in the
action. He is the passive spectator watching the motion,
interested only in the talk that he can obtain from the
image.
As Sam's clarifying feat consisted of seeing through
the "stuff" of intellectual notions about the image,
Frank's ultimate achievement entails the expulsion of Chal
mers' vicious force from the narrative. At the departure
lounge, where Frank is waiting for the Rome-bound plane to


60
Popeye, the word and light, "The Big Knockover" and "The
French Connection," then it follows that the activity it
self generates an equally different relationship between
good and evil. An art of particularity, each private-eye
movie, and each movie for that matter, creates its own sense
of good and evil. In "The French Connection," the two
initial sequences clearly illustrate the power of the new
art form to redefine evil with as much clarity as it re
directs the perception of the good. The first sequence
takes place in Marseilles, in France, the domain of thought,
i
of the cogito, the birthplace of the first detective, the
realm of logic and deduction. The old world is the initial
setting for this story of the private-eye in the new world
and in the new medium. In this old world, Alain ("Frog
One") has ordered Nicoli to kill an image, to violate its
life, its motion, its possibilities. Significantly,
Alain does not even bother to do the killing himself.
Which is to say, that he slights the image. He doesn't care
to see it. And more importantly still, it is never estab
lished that this image who is shot in the face threatens
anything but the intellectual rather than the visual
properties of Alain's image. In other words, all that can
be ascertained from the assassination in the beginning of
the movie is that somehow the man who is killed threatens
the perverse motives of the Frenchman. Thus, just as Alain's


177
Whether it sees Frank and Cathy in bed or by the lake
where Cathy questions Frank's involvement in a world of
"violence"; or whether it sees Ross crashing through the
glass doors at the airport with two shots in his chest, the
camera sees in full splendor. And since the eye sees it
all without inhibitions, it is obvious that the life of the
image does not reside in predetermined notions of aesthe
tics, but in the image's own energy. That is to say,
energyor, more precisely, the energy of lightnurtures
the image. Within the narrative, therefore, violence is
i
not an intellectual concept antithetical to the marriage
of the eye to the living image. The image makes love to the
receptive eye and incites it to live as it lives. Insofar
as the eye interacts with the energies present in life,
violence is a beneficent activity. When the eye sees,
say, Stanton's bloody face or the strangled corpse of Ann
Simmons on the floor of the motel room, it is not acting
out of a rational concern with "man's inhumanity to man."
It is, rather, following the particular action all the way
through. It follows the moving image, Frank, who is present
in both scenes, and sees what Frank's motion leads it to
see. As Frank dips his hand in Stanton's blood, so the
camera eye is immersed in that specific act which is neither
good nor bad, but is. And out of the unmediated inter
action between the eye and the image is born the fact of
vision as a living power. For the morality of this eye


169
such as the activity of the agent of the eye or the visual
action of the camera itself, serve no purpose but that of
recapitulhting the initial depravity of Curly's visual act.
The ultimate vision of reality, arising out of the eye's
encounter with both the living image and itself, entails
the "reality" of death, the vision that all that can emerge
out of seeing is no vision at all. The source, the
imaginative eye, can engender nothing, because the source
itself has died.
In its elementary presence within the narrative, color
is but a decoration, the embellished facade under which
lurks total darkness. But more than a rudimentary misuse of
color, "Chinatown" actively moves but to establish the
powerlessness of the eye to grow into a vision of unity
with its world. This is not to say, however, that the
narrative succeeds in asserting itself as an anti-private-
eye movie, for the only way in which the narrative could
wholly succeed in establishing itself as such an event
would be if it would have never been created. The fact of
its existence in the visible creation affirms the value of
the narrative. As a narrative in color, however, "China
town" can only affirm its value by what it does not rather
than by what it does; by what dies within it father than
by what is born out of an imaginative eye actively exploring
the living powers of the image.


80
Then, recapitulating the structure contained in the
initial frames, the imaged word reappears over the image of
the bird to draw our attention to an event that altogether
aims at violating the life of the narrativethat is, the
words seek to force the narrative back into the past, into
the "history" of "the maltese falcon." "In 1539," the words
read, "the Knight Templars of Malta, paid tribute to Charles
V of Spain, by sending him a Golden Falcon encrusted from
beak to claw with rarest jewels--but pirates seized the
galley carrying the priceless token and the fate of the
Maltese Falcon remains a mystery to this day--"^ And as
if it were not enough that these words seek to deny the
story of change within a world of light, they are all the
more perverse because they ascend from the horizontal world
^"Richard J. Anobile, ed. The Maltese Falcon (New York:
Avon, 1968), p. 8. Subsequent references to the dialogue
of the movie are from this book and will be incorporated
into the text in quotation marks followed by a page number
in parentheses. A note should be made here regarding Mr.
Anobile's contribution to the study of "The Maltese Falcon."
Since his edition of the dialogue is not based on a screen
play, but on the soundtrack itself, the dialogue is sub
jected to somewhat arbitrary punctuation. Furthermore, Mr.
Anobile has included every dramatic nuance in the dialogue.
As a result, such expressions as "er" or "yuh" mar the dia
logue and give it the tone of a comic strip. I have there
fore chosen to omit these expressions. Nevertheless, I
have chosen, for the most part, to let the words and punc
tuation stand as they do in this edition without the need
for emmendations of my own. After all, Mr. Anobile's
slightly less than careful editing of the dialogue is a
tacit tribute to visual predisposition.


149
interests of knowledge.) Again, when Jake announces him
self, "J. J. Gittes to see Mr. Mulwray," both at Mulwray's
office and at his house, he is too late to see anything.
And when at the Oak Pass Reservoir he says to Escobar that
he is "looking for someone" (Mulwray) because he would
"like to talk to him," Jake is late once more (as late, in
fact, as he is at the end of the narrative when his efforts
to save Evelyn also come to nothing). Mulwray is dead, and
neither vision nor talk have revealed anything. Thus,
Jake's previous words to Evelyn, "If I can see him [Mulwray],
I can help him," point to nothing but the basic irony of
his existence as a man of the eye.
But the first significant instance of Jake's inclina
tion to intellectualize the image takes place when he is
looking at the black and white photographs that Walsh has
taken of Noah Cross and Mulwray. Jake is annoyed at not
being able to make intellectual sense from the pictures.
"So what you got?" he asks Walsh, "This?" And then, in an
irritated tone, he says, "My God, Walsh! Is that what you
spent your day doing? . Let me explain something to you,
Walshthis business requires a certain amount of finesse."
Jake, too, seeks to know from the image, and thus there is
no positive vision in his first encounter with the image.
As he "explains" to Walsh, so does he expect the image to
"explain" something to him. What Jake understands as


26
his acts he unifies the narrative, in his indulgence in ver
bal assertions he divides as does the narrator. Where he
succeeds in discovering the culprit, he fails in discover
ing the source of his powers. To quote Wallace Stevens,
Dupin fails to see that "the imagination is a miracle of
logic and that its exquisite divinations are calculations
beyond analysis, as the conclusions of the reason are cal-
2
culations wholly within analysis." Dupin's, the narra
tor's, and, ultimately, the story's own failure lies in
blindness to the fact that as hero and narrator, respec-
i
tively, they live by an act of the imagination, that their
very existence is predicated upon the existence of an
imaginative universe. They fail to see that the essence of
the clarification of their method was to be wholly and clearly
discovered in acts of the imagination rather than in the
empty verbosity of rational notions. As a consequence, the
story ends on a crossed rather than a unified note. The
"moral activity which disentangles" and which the narrator
sets out to clarify cannot extricate itself from the binary
structure of action, the irreconcilable opposites created
by the narrator's and Dupin's intellectual inclinations.
Dupin and the narrator return to their much preferred dark
ness, leaving it up to the narrative itself to be the only
light that shines through the dark filter of duality and to
reveal itself as its own agent of self-clarification.
2
The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagi-
nation (New York: Vintage Books, 1951), p. 154.


82
Furthermore, since they state that the image that is
still seen in the middleground is a mystery, these words
succeed in supporting, indeed, augmenting, the initial
structure of irony inherent in the contrasts within the
opening frames. These words have an aim. As rational tools,
they seek to entrench the narrative in a thoroughly defined
intellectual past; they seek to immerse the story in a first
cause and thus turn the action (which they pretend they are
able to generate by themselves) into a teleological event
into a world that is not self-generated and immanently
organized, but into a discursive cause-and-effect activity
that places a premium on rational reflection to the total
exclusion of visual action. These words seek to elicit
the intellectual conviction that the narrative has a "true"
purpose that is dictated by the power of words to bring the
past to account for the present. And, more perversely
still, these words, themselves the source of irony and con
tradiction, attempt to persuade that only they can explain
the "mystery" of the image when it is they themselves which
stand in the way of an initial clarification of the image
which in turn they alone claim they are empowered to clar
ify!
Therefore, the words aim at the enactment of a story
of motive, of an event in which, abstracted from the light,
action is consequently based upon and limited to a search for


49
consisting of the unqualified triumph of a thoroughly de
fined good over an evil force threatening the existence of
that good: But whereas the Op can turn the open possibili
ties of his story into a narrative act, Popeye can do no
more than disappear into the darkness of the screen. Yet
this is not to say that the Op's story is more complete
than Popeye's. For if the Op's narrative attests to the
powers of the word as an imaginative vehicle whereby the
life of action is affirmed, Popeye's story testifies on
behalf of the vitality of the moving color image to reveal
i
a visual world where the interaction between the eye and
the image has resulted in a narrative activity. Indeed,
almost the entire action of Popeye's story consists of
establishing a visual connection with "Frog One." The follow
ing sequence clearly illustrates Popeye's motivation, that
which literally moves him. He follows the Frenchman into
the Westbury Hotel and out on the street. He loses him, and
then catches a glimpse of him as he turns a corner and en
ters Maia's flower shop. He waits for the Frenchman out
side the shop. Popeye thinks it is just a matter of time
until he has him in sight, but finally when he goes to the
shop, the Frenchman has eluded him once more. Then he
finds him againthis time at the head of the stairway lead
ing down to the subway terminal. Again Popeye loses his
man. But the eye never gives up. Once more he sees the


19
nothing but a verbal game. All that he is doing is invent
ing names when he should be allowing the light of his imagi
nation to'shine upon the narrative process. He plays fast
and loose with everything he touches: analysis, fancy,
inference, ingenuity, observation, the imagination, but
is unwilling to attempt the clarification of any of these.
He fails, for instance, in not even suspecting that, as the
power which unifies, the(imagination cannot but be totally
alien to analysis. He fails to see that the analyticif
one must continue to adhere to the narrator's own term
i
is, if anything, a phase in the imaginative process. The
narrator's own activity shows that while the imagination
may break things down, it certainly does not remain content
with fragmentation. Consider, for instance, the numerous
terms through which he seeks to define and to clarify Dupin's
activity. And then consider the fact that no matter how
contradictory the definitions may appear, they are all con
tained within a unified act of the imagination. Thus, when
compared with the rest of the story, the introduction itself
proves that when the imagination is in its "analytic" or
classifying phase, it does not aim at fixing categories,
but at rendering an indivisible act. In other words,
despite the narrator's attempts at classification, the in
dividual, organic act (of which Dupin's moral activity is a
part) is what matters most.


162
The camera eye, however, is at middle distance, so that it
can show what Jake never sees, that is, Cross putting on
his bifocal gold-rimmed glasses to see the fish. Having
seen this image whole, the eye proves itself more capable
of clarification than Jake's own. It shows its mobility
and its predisposition to take in as much as possible.
The camera has seen something which, had Jake seen it, he
would have perhaps been spared the final disaster.
But in the end, the degree of the eye's clarifying
powers is only marginally greater than Jake's. These
i
scenes where the eye sees what Jake does not are only the
exception rather than the rule. Since the camera attends
primarily to Jake's image, since it has singled him out as
its agent, it is almost unavoidable that its life will tend
to parallel the life of Jake's own eye. This is not to
say that the eye's primordial function is to align itself
exclusively with Jake's own life as a man of vision. The
camera is, however, vitally concerned with Jake's life as
a man of the eye; and it is therefore inescapable that as
the agent's action gives way to talk, as his deductive
powers are favored over the power of his vision, and as
his passion succumbs to pity and sympathy, the activity of
the camera eye comes more and more to invite comparison
with Jake's career as a man of vision. What this means is
that, since the eye so specifically focuses its attention
on Jake, the life of the camera eye cannot but parallel
Jake's own vision of evil.


again, when the police infirmary doctor is treating
Harry's wounded leg he says, "You might experience just a
little discomfort, Harry. If you do, just have your wife
fix a and catching himself, he says, "Sorry, Harry."
Obviously Harry has lost his wife. But it is also clear
that he is not humanistically responsible to anyone. Even
within the dramatic pattern Harry is free to marry his vis
ual talents to the action around him without being held
accountable for his activities to a female figure.
Nevertheless, the woman is present as a verbal force
i
within the narrative in the form of Norma, Chico's wife.
By her own admission, Norma has talked her husband into
leaving the police department. Then, guided by the in
tellectual assumption that Harry is a participant in a
relationship similar to hers with Chico, she asks him,
"Doesn't it drive your wife crazy?" And when Harry just
says "No," she continues to speculate on his marital
affairs: "I'll bet you she got used to it." When Harry
finally says that his wife is dead, she condescendingly
asks for his forgiveness, as if either her words or her
intentions could possibly become the object of consolation
for the loss that she thinks this man feels so deeply. But
Harry just proves that he is capable of turning the in
evitable facts of life into a wisdom all his own. "She
was driving home late one night," he says. "A drunk crossed
the center line. There was no reason for it, really."


170
ii
Out of the motion of an eye exploring a world of color,
"Bullitt" is born. The camera does not have to pull back
from a black and white world. It does not have to choose
color as its medium. The eye moves freely about its
given world. Where the activity of the eye in "Chinatown"
ends with a fixed stare at the black center of the screen
lined by rows of neon signs, "Bullitt" begins with an
emancipated eye moving nimbly through neon-lighted Chicago.
The camera, initiates the action. When the light first hits
the screen, the camera is already moving among the tall
buildings of the city. Soon it finds its way inside one
of those buildings and sees the black and white image of
four heads who are standing still. But as the camera
pulls back, it shows that this image is a reflection
which it sees on a round metal lamp cover. It is an image
of the eye interacting with its own image (the round reflect
ing surface) and its own powers of vision. (The act of
seeing the image of the image, the eye celebrating its own
activity, is again seen when Ross goes into the revolving
doors of the hotel, and when Frank and Eddy walk toward a
glass-covered poster outside a theatre.) But the eye never
dwells on these black and white heads (as it does not get
trapped by the black and white image of the man who sees
Ross drive away from the parking lot). Not only does it


217
Harry's saving vision is as complex as the vision of
evil. To begin, Harry is a man of the law, therefore, like
Frank, he operates inside the dictates of a rational order
that is wholly impotent to deal with the activity of the
eye. But in the beginning, Harry does not bring a heavy
existence as a public man to the story. All that he shows
is that he is a private-eye. Moreover, Harry comes from
outside the binary structure of the first two cinematic acts
at the same time that his presence within the narrative (or
within the public act) announces his activity as one which
i
can readily remain within the realm of possibilities re
siding in the visual creation. His existence as a saving
power entails the initial vision of a finite world in which
the activity of the eye and the image is the only reality.
That is, Harry, like Frank, cannot be above any other image
in order to operate privately within the narrative. But
where the central task confronting Frank consists of his
ability to match his visual action to the model provided for
him by the camera eye, Harry can follow no lead, no pre
existing unifying force. Therefore, he has to take it upon
himself to forge a union out of the division created in the
first two sequences. The camera eye, it is obvious, cannot
save itself. Thus, Harry faces the task of saving the
camera eye at the same time that he has to work with it.
And the only way in which he can do so is by offering his
life as an image to the camera eye and by offering the


124
passion to strip it of its ambiguities or to follow its
motions; by a rational eye at home in the sickness of the
talking imagelacking the love for visual clarification
and, more ironic still, lacking the vitality to make the
transition whole: away from the literary story and into
an unconditional embrace of a world of light.


234
a result, a redeeming force is needed again that it may
liberate the narrative process. And again Harry comes from
outside the two contending powers (the evil eye and the law)
to save the story from its immobile condition. Harry ver
bally announces the final action to be engendered by the
good eye when he tells the Mayor that he can get himself
"another delivery boy" and walks out of the office never to
return. Harry has become a private-eye. Only as such can
he save the narrative, only as an individual free to do his
visual thing can he meet the individual image behind the
i
evil eye. He is now totally alone, without a "force" to
back him up. Furthermore, Harry's last words to the Mayor
also announce the death of the word as a power exerting
itself against the vitality of the image. Harry will
"deliver" no abstraction, no philosophical meaning coming
from this high but powerless hierarchy. There is no
message. In the privacy of his activity as a man of the
eye Harry moves forward, following only the ever-changing
lead provided for the eye by the image. Mo sense of justice
or ethical sensibility motivates Harry to go after Scorpio
when he leaves the Mayor's office. The motive clearly
arises out of the passion to see and clarify. (Not only
is Harry born out of the protective shell of the verbal
structure, but the private-eye story itself has seen the
ultimate possible assimilation of the literary by the
cinematic, of the word as a vehicle for a metaphysical


33
passion for action does not leave him content with return
ing the stolen money to Seaman's National and capturing
most of the thieves that take part in the heist. He must
continue to be the man of action, on the move, because he
recognizes that no amount of sophistication in analytic
thought will lead him to his man. In his commitment to
turning "the city upside down" in the search for his man,
the Op is further indicating that he is not through as a
living entity, that his story is not over. Although an
episode or phase of his life has ended, it has only done
i
so but to begin another.
Yet a further aspect of the modern story is revealed
in the Op's commitment to action. That is, logic has failed
as a rational and moral good. The deductive powers of the
sleuth are insufficient to enable the Op to capture his man.
The fact that he misses the mind at work behind the robbery
attests not to the Op as a man incapable of thought, but
rather to a world where thought takes a secondary place to
action. He lives in a world where the man he follows does
not blunder into a neatly laid trap, but moves nimbly and
elusively, escaping the powers of the most acute deductive
mind.
More signficantly still is the emergence of the Op's
own imaginative feat as a result of the action. Although
the Op tells of how he gets his man in another story,


CONTENTS
Page
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS v
ABSTRACT viii
INTRODUCTION 1
CHAPTER ONE: THE DETECTIVE STORY AS A NARRATIVE GENRE 13
CHAPTER TWQ: POPEYE'S CONNECTION AND CRITICISM AS A
VISUAL AID 48
CHAPTER THREE: LITERATURE AND THE CRUCIAL IMAGE IN "THE
MALTESE FALCON" 74
CHAPTER FOUR: THE VISION OF COLOR AND TIIE BLACK SPOT IN
THE EYE: "CHINATOWN" . 125
CHAPTER FIVE: THE VISION OF COLOR AND THE MARRIAGE
STORY: "BULLITT" 160
CHAPTER SIX: THE SAVING STRUCTURE IN "DIRTY HARRY". . 196
CHAPTER SEVEN: THE GOSPEL OF THE EYE: THE SAVIOR'S
VISION IN "DIRTY HARRY" . 223
CONCLUSION 258
BIBLIOGRAPHY 274
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 278
vii


101
(p. 253). If by the end of the dramatic substructure Gutman
remains the exponent of the abstract dimensions of the cru
cial image, then Sam testifies in behalf of its visual
properties. His final act within the dramatic pattern
singles him out as the one participant in the narrative who
has not been decisively defeated by the powers of abstrac
tion. For Sam's last words are not only a negation of the
deadliness of words in their intellectual sense, but, more
significantly, they attest to his vision through the illusory
qualities of the image. His last act within the dramatic
i
substructure affirms the vision of the image as image and
thus points to the potentialities inherent within him that
empower him to altogether escape from the verbal world.
But Sam does not suddenly grow into this wisdom that
allows him to paraphrase from The Tempest. To a large ex
tent, his talent to grow as an agent for the good resides
in his inherent distrust of all words. So much does Sam
doubt the power of words, that a large part of his dramatic
encounters consist of actual mockery of the verbal assaults
that seek to prevent his growth away from abstractions. For
example, when Tom Polhaus and Lieutenant Dundy subtly
imply that he has killed Thursby, Sam, who does not even
suspect the murder, but who sees through the words of these
policemen, facetiously says, "How'd I kill him? I forget"
(p. 29). And, further mocking their accusation, he proceeds


254
and evil. Now that Harry has successfully reversed the
motions of the evil eye by making it move toward the
light, he is ordered to divest himself of the generating
force embodied in the gun. Harry is in a visual dilemma;
if he drops the gun, he will lose Scorpio's image, but if
he fires, he runs the risk of killing the innocent image and
thus his eye will be tainted and cursed as Scorpio's. And
what is more, Harry's failure to act would entail a de
cisive victory for Scorpio in Harry's own medium--a victory
that would entail the total absence of any force for good
within the world of images and which would indeed be as
perverse an outcome as if there were no narrative at all.
But Scorpio, too, is in a vulnerable position. Literally,
he can go nowhere. The stream at his back, he has run out
of vertical structures that allow him to attempt escape
from the visible. But far more subtle than the lack of a
place to run is the fact that Scorpio, the evil eye, has
become an image'. As such, he is at a disadvantage in the
presence of the genius of the eye. The blast goes off
hitting Scorpio on the shoulder. The self-destructive
image collapses and is once more rendered motionless, as
the innocent image of the boy is liberated. The powers of
the eye have created the positive occasion, the affirma
tive event that proclaims the value of seeing.
It is rather predictable that Harry will shoot Scorpio
at the end. Now an image without a place to escape,


191
And even if there wasn't any, I'm rather certain I can prove
negligence on your part." Not only does the "public
image" threaten the life of the man of action, but the life
of the narrative as well. For, out of his reliance on
talk, Chalmers seeks to redeem his own failure as a public
man by "exposing" the individual as an evil to the social
structure.
But Frank's is again the answer of action. "You be
lieve what you want," he says. "You work your side of the
street and I'll work mine." Since he exists beyond intel-
i
lectual concerns, Frank is free "to work" on the side of
action; he is free to "run the case" as the camera runs the
action from the beginning. In contrast, Chalmers seeks to
run the narrative backward, into history. He aims at re
turning the story of the eye and the moving image to a
source outside all action, to a source which, if only by
virtue of the opening act, resides altogether outside the
possibilities of a marriage of the moving eye with the
powers of the image. For the penchant to publicize is an
aspiration to the condition of history. All of Chalmers'
motivations are aimed at knowing the history of "the organi
zation" in terms that can be clarified only through words.
Thus, through the agency of Chalmers, the word continues
to exemplify the pattern it initiated in the beginning when
Pete announced that he had lost Ross. Since they are
totally divorced from the activity of the private-eye,


WHEN LOGICS DIE: MORAL VISION IN
THE PRIVATE-EYE MOVIES
By
ARMANDO J. PRATS
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL
FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1975


79
moves best and sees with such accuracy--this figure of a
creature that lives by its eye and its mobility and exem
plifies man's passion for freedomcannot see or move; it
cannot grow out of its heavy and static existence. Its
wings are folded and fused to its body. And its eye is
fixed as it is itself fixed on the screen. The statuette
thus seeks to call our attention to a world of perspective
as well as to a world of fixed matter divorced from the
energy of light. It attempts to call attention to its mass;
in fact, it seeks to trap the eye into the illusion of mass.
i
Thus, the visual properties of the figure reinforce
the ironic qualities of the imaged words. When the falcon
is seen in conjunction with the words, the elemental ironic
structure that was announced by the appearance of the image
in the form of the word enters into a second, more sophis
ticated phase. Like the words, the falcon, too, is an
image pointing to something else; it is an image with a
meaning and hence an image that denies its own life by its
very incapacity to change. This image attempts to draw the
eye into a world of substance, literally into a world
where it is in possession of an essential quality upon
which it stands fixed. In short, this image becomes a
symbol. In the critical, literary sense, the falcon's
visual properties seek to translate themselves into no
more than elements from which the rational mode is empowered
to distil abstractions.


194
turn around, Chalmers says, "He's still my witness. I'll
be delighted to let you have him after he testifies tomor
row." And then, after the eye has cut away to the moving
jet and back to the departure lounge, Chalmers says, "The
organization--several murders. Could do us both a great
deal of good." "Bullshit!" Frank says, "Look Chalmers, let's
understand each other. I don't like you. Get the hell out
of here. Now!" His "career" following the career of all
words, Chalmers is doing no more than repeating his initial
will to be, catapulted into the public eye. But since the
primordial fast of Chalmers' existence is dictated by the
power of the light to make him a private image, it is im
possible that he attain his intellectually determined "good"
within a world of individual entities. There is nowhere
for him to go but down his own side of the street, "the hell'
out of" the immediate present of color in motion, into
a "public" activity that can never be a part of the visual
creation.
Like Cathy, Chalmers uses his intellect to envision the
future and drag Frank down the path of abstraction. But
again Frank answers that the present is all there is. It is
the "Now" which again assimilates into its own potentialities
for unity even the most wicked of intellectual concerns.
As the image is subjected to the energies of the light, so
is the word. But whereas the image, infinitely plastic,
can nourish itself from violence and death, the word,


186
Mustang, Frank pursues the hit men through the streets. He
is the generator of the action, in turn supplying the camera
eye with its life. Knowledge, therefore, produces action.
That which is made public by Stanton is turned into the
private by Frank.
Visually, Frank's freedom from talk is signalled when
he is seen standing under the arched doorway of Chalmers'
house. He does not mingle with the talking crowd. But
at the same time that the eye singles out Frank as a man
isolated from words, it attests to his existence in a
world dominated by talk. Therefore, the challenge to Frank's
integrity as a man of action does not only come in the form
of Cathy's moralistic reproach. In fact, the most pernicious
threat is the threat of publicity. Now obviously, Frank is
not a private investigator. He works within a police force
and has a title. He has assistants, Stanton and Delgetti.
He has a superior, Captain Bennet. In the most fundamental
way, therefore, he performs a public role. Yet Frank does
not wear a uniform, so that his image does not represent
an institution. And, unlike Sam or Jake, he does not have
an office. Nor does he have a secretary, such as Effie or
Sophie. Furthermore, Frank does not really act on orders.
True, he is "assigned" to a case, but so are Sam and Jake
assigned to a case when they are hired by Brigid and Ida
Sessions, respectively. And certainly there is an instance


50
fleeting image of his man as he turns to go down another
stairway and into the subway station. As "Frog One" waits
for the subway, Popeye pretends that he is making a phone
call from an adjacent public booth. Then they both enter
the subway. The Frenchman quickly leaves it before it be
gins to move, and seeing him, Popeye also exits. Then they
both go in and again they both come out. Just as the sub
way is to begin its motion, "Frog One" comes out, Popeye
follows, but the Frenchman quickly goes back in as the
automatic doors close on Popeye before he can follow in.
i
Even then, the man of the eye runs after the subway, scream
ing, cursing, throwing his hat down in disgust, looking
at his man, who smiles and waves gently from behind the glass
window of the moving subway.
Clearly, Popeye acts out of the same motivation for
action that moves the Op. And while he may lose his man
in this sequence (a prelude to the final scene) that which
he never loses is his passion to see. Accordingly, the
visual connection is established as an enduring act, as a
perennial activity which becomes the dominant power for
action throughout the narrative, which becomes, indeed,
the narrative itself. But if there are surface similari
ties between the Op's activity and Popeye's motivations,
there are more subtle and basic differences. For one thing,
the Op sees but to get to his man, to arrest the "arch-


137
scene seeing is but a means to knowledge, it follows that
the visual activity denies the inherent value of the image.
But at th same time that Curly cries in utter helpless
ness, "She's no good," Jake condescendingly responds,
"What can I tell you, kid? You're right. When you're
right you're right, and you're right." Obviously, Jake is
amused by Curly's painful vision. To him Curly is a "kid,"
a visual infant who has to be appeased by a mature figure
who is willing to indulge his infantile reactions. And
later, referring specifically to the photographs more than
to Curly's complaint that he cannot afford Jake's fees,
Jake says, "Forget it, will you, Curly? I only brought it
up to illustrate a point." This man who illustrates for
others, who sees for those who are incapable of seeing for
themselves and mediates between the eye and the image is
no doubt aware of the pain that is involved in allowing others
to know through the image. He sees and they interpret what
he sees. And further, he is initially capable of remaining
outside an emotional entanglement with the image. Jake is
thus singled out as the man who can see and avoid entrap
ment by the black and white vision of life. Even dramati
cally, he is the man who can parallel the initial act of
the camera eye by declaring his freedom from a polarized
visual structure. He can see and "forget it." He can come
to grips with the power of the eye and be free of the
devastating force of intellectual abstractions brought to
bear upon the image.


265
achieve a union with her. Like Gutman, she opts for ab
stractions and thus her existence as an image is in constant
opposition- to her verbal passion. As the white and the
black can never converge upon a new and unified act, as the
new medium cannot wholly assimilate the old and forge a
complete union, so Sam can never marry his visual powers
with Brigid's image. Though Brigid is ultimately trapped by
her own reliance on words, she escapes salvation by the man
of the eye.
Nevertheless, even if "The Maltese Falcon" is engen-
i
dered by a literary story, it is obvious that the cinematic
imagination has evolved significant possibilities latent
within the genre. For instance, when Wilmer invades Sam's
"clean, well-lighted place," he never operates effectively
as an agent for Gutman's nefarious motives. Sam slaps him
at will ("When you're slapped you'll take it and like it"),
disarms him (telling Gutman that "a crippled newsie" took
the guns away from him), and finally convinces Gutman to
make Wilmer "the fall guy," the fallen image turned over to
the powers of darkness. But since he lives in and for the
dark half of the divided structure, Gutman escapes a direct
confrontation with the moral powers of the eye. Always
moving against the agent of the light, he succeeds in
escaping the enlightening powers of the private-eye and thus
prevents the full growth of the imagination away from the
abstractions of words. Gutman's escape, in short, is


216
iii
Given the binary stalemate, the initial complex vision
of irony and polarization entailed in the powerlessness
of the first two sequences to propel the narrative toward
the clarification of the positive force of the visual act,
it follows that either the narrative succumbs to total
corruption, or its self-destructive direction is channeled
to the path of light by the presence of a third possibility-
a synthesizing power for new action, a redeeming force from
within, acting in behalf of the imaginative eye. If it is
not to give way to darkness, the narrative act must be re
generated by a genius whose power for rebirth can illuminate
the potentialities for good inherent in the binary structure
But the power must arise from within the possibilities ren
dered in that structure. In other words, the regenerating
force, too, must be an eye. As Scorpio's is a force for
destruction, so must the redeemer's eye live as an alter
native power to darkness and division. As the evil eye
denies the imaginative eye its inherent possibilities for
discovery, so with equal force must the good eye offer a
unity of active life to the imaginative eye. Further, the
good eye must be a self-contained power, the source of in
exhaustible action, moving out of its own center, ever-
inviting the camera eye to join it in its activity. Fol
lowing its natural passion to see, it must not give way to
any outside force seeking to impose itself upon its life.


2
Two years ago, after seeing "Dirty Harry," it occurred
to me that I had had a vision. I had witnessed a moral act.
This heroic image who had been beaten against a concrete
cross by the villain at night had emerged from the darkness
to chase and finally kill the man who had almost killed him.
And then at the end, "High Noon" style, he gave up the badge.
He threw it away in disdain. But I saw that Harry's life
was not all that was at stake in the movie. It was the
%
movie's life. Either Harry got the villain or the villain
got the movie! Harry's actions were not just entertainment,
i
not just two hours' worth of fantasy titillation. I saw
a moral fact. This was my Newtonian apple. I had gone to
see "just another movie" and had witnessed, yes, art, a
deadly serious and wholly beautiful moral event. Through
Harry's heroic agency the life of art and particularly the
life of the movies as a visual phenomenon had been affirmed.
The basic moral vision resided, I saw, in that affirmation
of life.
Now this was not your run of the mill elite "film."
It had no class; and by that I mean that it didn't fit the
categories of the old aesthetic to which even as new an art
form as the movies has already succumbed. The vision was
anti-hierarchical. To use Tom Wolfe's word, the vision
had no place in the "statusphere" of movie "art." But it
was nevertheless morality embodied in an action, wisdom
in motion. All the right elements were there. Perhaps I


81
of the screen. Moved by their inherently abstract quality,
they enact an upward motion into the heavens, compelling
the motion of the eye out of the world of the screen where
the action is. (This juxtaposition of the fixed image and
the abstractive power of the word is again seen in the
following shotan image of a bridge spanning the horizontal
length of the screen with the words "San Francisco" super
imposed on it. This image, therefore, reinforces the struc
ture created by the initial frames. Since the words are
pointing to an abstract entity, that is, the city, incapable
i
of being seen as a particular entity, as well as the name
of a man who chose to ascend from the visual world much like
the words of the "history" rise out of the screen, this
bridge, a unifying structure over the moving waters,
fails to counteract the divisive properties of the initial
image.) Unquestionably, then, the verbal properties of
these rising words hold absolute dominion over their own
visual qualities. Not only do they will themselves out of
the visible creation, but almost each word in this "history"
points to an abstraction: to the year, the crusading
institution, the king with his acquired past and country,
the unspecified monetary worth of the falcon, and, above
all, the statuette's "mysteriousness." These words, it
is evident, want to tell a decidedly verbal story. Abstrac
tions that they are, they exert their power to hold back
the story of the eye, to, in fact, return to the literary
medium.


242
he cannot make him an image. And despite severely limiting
Scorpio's mobility, Harry's own life is jeopardized by
Scorpio's own efforts to efface Harry from the narrative
by repeatedly slamming his face against the concrete
cross. But Harry's own growth, his capacity to incorporate
the energies of the eye and regenerate his own as well as
the camera's eye, gives way to the second episode which
takes place under the bright lights of Kezar Stadium. In
his natural medium, Harry sees the image and prevents its
escape. But of course, as a man of the law, Harry's private
i
action must relent to the dictates of the legal system.
Appropriately, his growth into the final dimension of his
existence as the good eye occurs away from the abstractions
which restrict his clarifying vision.
In the first part of Harry's life as an agent for the
life-affirming powers of the narrative, the vital connec
tion between the eye and the gun is immediately established
verbally at the Mayor's office. But following the verbal
introduction to the generating powers of the gun, Harry
shows that he can turn the verbal into the visual. He has
pulled up his black Ford by the "Burger Den" and asks
Jaffe if the engine of the tan Ford parked by the bank
entrance is still running. He tells Jaffe to look at the
exhaust fumes and then asks him to call the police station
and tell them that there is "a two-eleven in progress," But
before "the cavalry arrives," the alarm goes off. Still


88
yearning to come to a halt, or to become a fixture, jaded
out of all possibilities as a consequence of the pursuit
of a linear motion aimed at as the end of all mobility and
change. Even within the world of irreconcilable opposites
enacted by the crucial image, though, the options still
remain open and clear: the choice entails either a search
for security--for the death ensuing from the literal
securing of the image as an abstractionor for an active
participation in the life of the light.
i
ii
Since its dramatic pattern follows the lead of the
crossed condition established in and by the initial image,
it is inevitable that "The Maltese Falcon" be predominantly
a talkie. The dramatic substructure bears the heavy re
liance on the verbal powers that the historical passage
announces in the beginning. That the narrative thrives on
talk is most evident in the following lines where the talk
is about talk itself. "You're a close-mouth man?" Gutman
asks. And Sam replies, "No. I like to talk." Gutman, in
turn, says, "Talking's something you can't do judiciously,
unless you keep in practice," and then, "I'm a man who likes
to talk" (pp. 130-31). Talk repeatedly invades the screen,
and with every raid upon it, it threatens to debilitate the
powers of the image, for, by the very fact that it takes


118
photograph. Moreover, this eye allows its activity to
be mediated by the words which get in the way of the image.
Initially, it is not interested in actively seeing through
words by way of announcing its passion to generate a story
out of its own vital center. It is but an immobile eye
staring passively at an immobile image.
Then, after the eye finally moves away from both the
word and the fixed image and has seen four different shots
consisting of bridges and buildings, it makes its entrance
into Sam's private world. It has thus moved from an out-
i
side relationship with the image to an inside, center-to-
center connection with it. As a consequence of this change
in relation to the image, the eye immediately proclaims its
power to generate a self-created universe where it and the
image of the private-eye become the integral components of
narrative. It is immediately declared that the world of
the private-eye is the source of the action for the
cinematic eye--that Sam's own turf is the hub of all the
visual acitivity. Once in the realm of concrete particu
larity, the cinematic eye asserts its potential to grow
organically, its ability to interact with an equally indi
vidualized center of energy and the subsequent power of
that activity to move into a world of possibilities that
allow it to enact the new. The first image that it sees
once it has established its center-to-center relationship
with Sam's world is in the form of reversed words.
Potential


CHAPTER FOUR
THE VISION OF COLOR AND THE BLACK SPOT
IN THE EYE: "CHINATOWN"
The story of the cinematic eye is the imaginative act
itself. As the eye provides the lead for the imagination,
so the imaginative activity in turn guides the cinematic
action. In "The Maltese Falcon" the imagination is all
too willing to take the camera into the story of the pri
vate investigator, but it is not wholly successful in turn
ing the verbal narrative into the story of the eye. The
imagination, therefore, cannot totally unify itself with
the new medium. The activities of the eye too readily paral
lel the action in the Hammett story. It is the literary
or dramatic predisposition of the imagination which is at
the core of the failure of "The Maltese Falcon" to emerge
as a wholly new act. Literature lords it over the imagina
tion, so that, as an extraneous force in the new medium,
it almost becomes an imaginative impossibility to achieve
uniqueness of form in the narrative. Imposed upon the life
of the image, the literary debilitates the power of the
cinematic to engender an organic growth process.
125


22
When we are finally introduced to Dupin the character,
we further discover that this man who is endowed with such
superhuman powers for moral good is as inept as the narra
tor himself as a redeemer of the confusion created in the
introduction. For instance, the narrator quotes Dupin as
saying, "... but observation has become with me, of late,
a species of necessity" (p. 56). This analyst, we have been
told, can find a wealth of possibilities in the observable.
*
Yet neither Dupin nor the narrator are ever at ease in the
light. They are, by their own admission, tenants of the
darkness, recluses whose sensibilities are injured by the
light and who consider it a boon to abandon themselves to
random "fancies" which visit them in the dark. The neces
sity for darkness expressed by Dupin seems to have an
obvious priority over the necessity for observation.
In the midst of acts contradicted by words and words
that stifle action, the newspaper account of the murders
repeatedly relating the "voices in angry contention" heard
by all the witnesses at the Rue Morgue becomes more than
just another fact in the case to be unravelled by Dupin.
Those voices become the dominant motif of the narrative.
One ought not to be disturbed by the mystery of the voices
related in the newspaper account. They have been heard
loudly in the introduction. Whereas in the newspaper story
the voices heard by the witnesses were interpreted as de
grees of anger in numerous languages, in the narrative it


129
to the image and grow into a genius of the eye, without
dreams of "stuff" or intellectual concepts divorced from
the living creation, "wild and unpredictable" in the joy
of vision; or, like Gutman, he can devote all of his ener
gies to that which has never before been seen, to that which,
in fact, can never be seen. The black and white image is
the elementary teacher, the foundation for all subsequent
growth into vision. All of the moral possibilities abound
ing within the activity of the private-eye are inherent in
the visual structure of "The Maltese Falcon." For in the
i
world of the private-eye, the presence of an evil power
willing the end of the life of the image is an ever
present source of action and vision. When, for instance,
Gutman drugs Sam, the powers of death are momentarily vic
torious; and that victory entails at once a defeat of the
powers of the eye and of the movie itself as an event that
affirms its own life. But both Sam and the camera arise
out of their inherent power and from their own passion to
see and clarify. And in the end, what the eye sees through
and clarifies is the heavy "stuff" that makes up the dreams
of those who have opted for blindness, who have, indeed,
chosen death.
"The Maltese Falcon" is not only a good private-eye
movie; it is a good movie. And its quality resides not so
much in the fact that it is the first of its kind to make
the transition from the old to the new, as in its living


CONCLUSION
Final Visions of the Private-Eye Movie
Harry's victory over Scorpio illustrates the triumph of
the imagination over the evil powers that prey on the story
of the light. In "Dirty Harry," the basic system of action
in the private-eye movie, that is, the perennial interplay
i
between good and evil, results in the achievement of an
unqualified good in the form of a unified action whose value
resides beyond all polarities. In the end, therefore, the
good is not so much in the fact that Harry defeats Scorpio,
as it is in the emergence of an organic narrative which is
a direct outcome of the interaction between the camera eye,
Harry, and Scorpio. It is true that Harry saves the movie.
But it is equally true that were it not for Scorpio's
activity there would be no movie at all. The interplay be
tween the abstract powers of good and evil generates a
motion which results in a value that is greater than either
of its two abstract components. The armageddon does not end
in a clear and decisive victory of one power over the other.
That which the action of "Dirty Harry" affirms in the end
as the supremely moral value is art.
258


91
that she assumes, she becomes clarified as an image and thus
rendered powerless to trap Sam into playing a part on her
behalf, the part of "the sap.") This necessity to cover
motive with words is most explicitly summed up by Sam's own
statement to Bryant, the district attorney, when he says,
2
"Everybody has something to conceal" (p. 143). This is,
indeed, the sum total of the dramatic action; and the fact
that it is Sam who utters this line is an indication that
though he, too, plays the verbal game, he is infinitely
wiser to the ways of words than those around him, particu-
i
larly Erigid, give him credit for.
At every instance, then, the narrative is riddled with
the mystery of words. And, of course, the saturation of
the dramatic pattern with the chaotic condition which words
create within it is most evident in the dramatic relation
ship between Brigid and Sam. Brigid begins by pretending
to be a respectable young lady whose over-civilized sensi
bilities have been insulted by her younger sister's elope
ment with a married man. But soon after Archer's death,
2
In the Anobile edition, this line appears in the form
of a question. However, there is no evidence in the movie
that Sam's line is delivered as an interrogation. Further
more, since the line is from the novel, and since it appears
in the Hammett story as a declarative sentence, there is no
reason to suppose that Sam is asking what, within the
narrative, would be no more than a rhetorical question.


253
every effort to control the direction of the narrative
has abruptly come to an end.
Nevertheless, he limps toward the rock processing
plant. And when he gets to the building, his motion is
again upward--a final desperate ascent up the wooden steps
leading to the top of the building, Harry appears at the
foot of the stairs and Scorpio fires a shot. Harry fires
back and begins to go up the steps as Scorpio disappears
into the dark passage-way alongside which runs a conveyor
belt. As before, Harry follows into the dark unafraid,
i
but he misses with every shot. The booming blasts of the
.44 only succeed in hiding Scorpio behind clouds of dust.
Then, rather than running in the darkness, Harry jumps
on the conveyor belt. He becomes one with its motion.
Meanwhile, Scorpio has reached the end of the corridor
and has to go down the steps and into the light. The
conveyor belt carries Harry to the light. He descends after
his man, but before he can get to him Scorpio has seized
a boy who is fishing by the stream and orders Harry to
"Drop the fucking gun!" as he points his own automatic to
the boy's head. Again the eye and the gun threaten the
life of the innocent image.
From the moment that Scorpio ascends the steps, the
activity consists of a re-enactment of all the previous
actions leading to the confrontation of the powers of good


192
Chalmers' words can never establish a connection with
the visual center of growth.
But almost immediately after Chalmers leaves the
hospital, Frank chases the killer, who has come to the
hospital to make a second attempt on Renick's life. Down
stairways, into the therapy room, out on the pipe-lined
basement hallways, into the laundry dropp-off room, and
out on the street, Frank, too, loses his man; but rather
than verbalize the loss, his eyes move constantly, still
searching for the image of the hit man. He is working his
"side of the street," which is in the street itself, the
street of visual action. He is literally running the case,
the narrative, to its inherent fulfillment in an active
world.
It is therefore fitting that since Chalmers is the
image saturated with talk (and thus the image perversely
attempting to efface itself from the narrative) that he
also be the blind image incapable of concrete vision. Back
at police headquarters, after the verbal encounter with
Cathy over Ann Simmon's dead image, Frank awaits the Tele
copier report coming from Chicago. When the photograph
comes out of the machine, Chalmers looks at it and says,
"Ross." Chalmers is looking at the black and white image in
black and white terms, that is, at the image and those
properties of it which can be named. Bennet, however, says,
"Albert Edward Renick, used car salesmanChicago."


148
leads into the action; and Jake's visual talents, in turn,
make it possible for him to emerge a new man out of his
visual encounters.
But the action into which Jake's eye leads him is
forever being qualified by talk. Indeed, this talk is all
the more pernicious to Jake's visual growth because, as
his life glaringly illustrates, seeing gives way to the old
mode of the detective. Even if in Jake's story knowing
presupposes vision, it is more precise to say that, in the
end, seeing gives way to the passion to know. As there are
i
numerous examples attesting to Jake's visual talents, so
there is equally ample evidence that the powers of the eye
are used in the interest of knowledge. For instance, when
Jake is looking through Mulwray's desk drawers, the third
one is empty. Vision has come to nothing because Jake is
clearly looking for a verbal clue from which he can know
the motive behind the newspaper scandal connecting him with
Mulwray's love affair. (Conversely, this is what happens
also when he receives Escobar's call telling him that Ida
Sessions wants to see him. Jake goes to Ida's to talk
rather than see and, of course, his act leads to nothing
because she is dead. Equally, when he takes Escobar and
Loach to the ocean shore to show them how the city's water
supply is being wasted, he again shows them nothing. His
attempts "to illustrate" are all too clearly made in the


Special thanks to Dick Rupp, who, long ago and far
away, believed in something like this.
Thanks to the members of the faculty at the University
of Kentucky, especially Joe Bryant, Art Gallaher, Frank
Burke, and Dick Sugg, who could sort of tell this thing
would be written even when they hadn't seen it.
I also wish to express my gratitude to all those
wealthy Italians, and especially to Diego Avegno, as well
as to those poor Cubans, particularly Miguel Diaz and Manuel
Asunsolo, who never quite knew what I was up to, but who
believed in me all the same.
The debt that I owe Bill Robinson cannot be repaid in
a lifetime and must therefore go unspecified.
Becky, what a good girl you were during all those days
when I sweated over the blank pages!
And again, Tonya, is this life's work really enough to
show you?
vi


249
keeps moving. Then the camera quickly cuts to De Giorgio
who is turning on all the lights of the stadium. Struck
by the light, Scorpio stops. A few steps down, and
Harry, the .44 Magnum held in the right hand and the left
hand steadying the right wrist, lets go a booming shot.
Scorpio sprawls helplessly. As Harry approaches him,
Scorpio screams about his rights while Harry asks where
the girl is. Scorpio keeps on screaming as the eye of
the camera pulls away from the scene to a shot of the
entire stadium that shows the two minute images standing
i
in the center of the field.
If the end of the first episode illustrates the vul
nerability of Harry's eye of the darkness and to the forces
of abstraction, then the end of the second stage in the
growth of Harry's visual powers literally enlightens the
possibilities for good that reside within the power of the
eye to bring the abstract into the realm of the visible
to, in effect, make an image out of the evil eye. That
which prevents Scorpio's escape and which, in fact, liter
ally stops him even before Harry's bullet does, is the power
of the light. As Harry is powerless in the dark, so is
Scorpio, once visible, unable to continue his motion away
from a world of light. (Thus, when Rothko is mocking
Harry's "unusual piece of police work," Harry says, "Well,
I had some luck." The "luck" is the miracle of light, the
sudden burst of beneficent energy that has empowered the


135
the image and the eye as viciously devisive, as an evil
appearance divorced from the living process). Given
the first act of the eye, the options are once gain open
to the participants: the eye can eagerly adopt the
full splendor of color in motion as its life source and
thus achieve a vision of process as the reality of the
visible world, or, to varying degrees, it can fix itself
on the image as an abstract value and thus fail to realize
its potentialities for a oneness with the life of the
image.
i
iii
The first dramatic fact enacted by the narrative
announces the agony of seeing. The cluttered black
and white photographs of a man and a woman having sexual
intercourse in the woods are the immediate object of suf
fering for Curly, who has employed Jake to discover whether
or not his wife is unfaithful. Fittingly, the fixed
black and white stills readily become the object of
division. They divide Curly's life from his intellectual
conceptions of his wife's ethical behavior. As such,
they are a destructive force alienating him from participat
ing in the activity initiated by the eye. Consequently,


24
at all, in its search for the true. In investigations such
as we are now pursuing, it should not be so much asked
"'What has occurred,'" as 'what has occurred that has never
occurred before'" (p. 66). Initially, it must be pointed
out that it is reason which, in its penchant for abstract
order, eternally dwells upon the "ordinary." Reason never
seeks to deviate from the order that it has established
from a priori concepts. As such, it is incapable of "feel-
*
ing its way," of moving through and toward the extraordinary.
Second, it follows that if reason cannot deviate from order,
there can 'be no genuine creation. The truth at which Dupin
aims is an exercise performed by the subcategories of reason
such as the analytic and reflective intelligences after
these have been fed a priori principles that remain static
in the fixed order of things. Dupin's efforts at clarifying
his own method remain "abstruse," as abstruse as the previous
endeavor on the part of the narrator to shine a light upon
his friend's method.
However confusingly Dupin may speak of his method, when
he finally does act, he acts at one with the imagination.
The attention that he pays to the rusty nail on the window
casement, to the deep indentations of finger marks on Mme.
L'Espanaye's neck, or to the size of the spread of those
hands on that same neck are vital signs of Dupin's imaginative
inclinations. But that which most clearly points to his


71
promises, namely, the eye's connection with the Frenchman.
Therefore, while a criticism of "The French Connection"
seeks to affirm the life of the narrative, this does not
necessarily mean that it is impossible to see its short
comings as well. Paying close attention to the relations
created by and within the narrative act, it becomes possible
for the critic to envision, or imagine, the failure of
inherent possibilities within the narrative to become living
actualities. Thus seeing that the life of the man of the
eye and the light comes to an abrupt, black end, it is
obvious that the powers of clarification have been denied
their intrinsic potentialities to manifest the full value
of vision.
The critic, too, acts as a clarifier of the activity
of the life in the visible creation. Following the lead of
the private-eye, criticism becomes an enlightening activity.
And as a result of the interaction between the visual pro
cess and the critical imagination, the evaluating activity
renders its own sense of moral vision. For it is the clar
ifying aspect of the imaginative activity which, like the
light itself, enacts the living relationships in Popeye's
world. "We see," says Gaston Bachelard, "an endless
exchange recurring between vision and the visible.


143
But if Jake indicates his receptiveness to the mystery
of Evelyn's abstract existence, it is undoubtedly Evelyn
herself who, for the most part, initiates the verbal en
counters that draw Jake away from the life of the eye. In
bed (but never actually seen making love) Evelyn says, "I
want to know more about you. You really don't like to talk
about the past., do you? . Why does it bother you to
talk about it?" Jake passively submits to this inquisition
concerning his own past, saying, "It bothers everybody who
works thereChinatown. Everybodybut to me it was bad
i
luck." And to Evelyn's insistence that Jake explain "why"
he had bad luck in his past, Jake answers, "You can't
always tell what's going on, like with you." Rather than
leading to a union of the images, the bedroom serves only
as the place where divisive talk is all that happens.
Both Jake and Evelyn are separated from the possibilities
for union available in the present. The intimacy of the
place manifests itself only in Jake's willingness to show
the scars of the past. Still insisting on knowing, Evelyn
asks, "Why was it bad luck?" And Jake replies, "I was
trying to keep someone from being hurt. I ended up making
sure she was hurt." (Shortly thereafter, it is estab
lished that Jake's involvement resulted in "death," just
as his involvement in this particular instance results in
the death of the potentialities for new life inherent within


29
The search for a rational cause in the detective story
of the later nineteenth century points clearly to Victorian
man's search for rational order. All that is and will be
has a reason for existing. Everything exists within the
confines of a rationally preconceived order such as the
Great Chain of Being. It is the supreme moral task of the
detective superman to put all that lies outside the Great
Chain back in its proper place. The "moral activity" of
the Holmesian narrative consists of a commitment to ab
stract order, to an order dictated to the imagination by
i
the rational faculty. As a consequence, the narrative
usually expends most of what little remains of its energy
in the restoration of such an order. The stories succeed in
clarifying nothing about themselves as imaginative acts be
cause they are themselves a part of that abstract order and
because they exist first and foremost to preserve that
order. The stories belong in the place that a rational
civilization has reserved for "culture," moth-eaten examples
for some defunct notion of moral conduct to abide by.
Despite any significant aesthetic growth, however,
the Victorian version of the genre succeeds in adding a new
dimension to the detective story. That is, as a result of
the nineteenth century's highly elaborate ethical system,
evil finds its proper place in the detective story. True,
Poe had introduced the element of evil (and, one might add,


231
as Bressler, Rothko, or the Mayor, though, the Chief says,
"I want an answer. Have you been following that man?" And
Harry in turn replies by verbalizing what has already
been visually established. "Yeah," he says. "I've been
following him on my own time." Like the star that was
superimposed on the visual action in the initial shots,
Harry's star becomes an obstacle to the clarifying powers
of his eye. The star endows him with a public role which
he must performa role whose activity takes place at the
expense of the potential growth of the private visual
i
powers. As Scorpio's own name is taken from the heavenly
bodies, so Harry's star seeks to make of him a man who
must aspire to the heights which, in the end, are nothing
but an irrelevancy to his mission to keep the image within
the visible. Harry's "answer" to the Chief's question is
a clear indication that he is empowered to break out of the
narrow boundaries that are defined for him as a man of the
star. Harry works "on his own time"; he and he alone is
the sum total of the saving vision. As a private rather
than a public eye, he is truly "in charge of the case."
Working by himself, Harry has already begun to move toward
an activity which, outside all "rules" and laws save those
created by a world of light, diffuses itself throughout
the life of the narrative to overcome not only the abstract
dimension of the story, but to once and for all establish


CHAPTER FIVE
THE VISION OF COLOR AND THE
MARRIAGE STORY: "BULLITT"
Despite the total degeneration of Jake's eye, it is
still the eye of the camera which has opted for a world of
color in motion. The camera's initial disengagement from
the black and white and the static is a tacit prelude, an
introduction, to the full clarification of and an uncon
ditional marriage to the living image. All genuine change,
all growth, must emerge out of the bond that is formed by
the eye's receptiveness to the living image. This eye, then,
is that which, Jake notwithstanding, is empowered to show
"what's going on." Since it enacts the narrative, the
camera in effect takes it upon itself to give birth to all
that is new. It assumes the task of getting "what's going
on" going. As a result of this initial act, its achieve
ment as a source for the clarification of the powers of
both the eye and the image depends on its power to carry the
action all the way from the promise of the new to the
realization of that which its activity announces in the
beginning.
16 0


86
frantically scratches the surface of the falcon with a pen
knife in what is the culminating illustration of intellec
tual blindness. Gutman wants to get at the substance of
this image; and, seeing (ironically) that there is nothing
but surface, he shouts, "Fake! It's a phoney!" (p. 224).
Thus, this image that can be seen but whose visual value is
denied in favor of abstraction, becomes the crucial image.
("Crucial" here is used in its primary etymological sense
of a quality which itself begets crossed or contradictory
actions or which, conversely, is unempowered to generate
i
a unified, organic act.) Since it brings to surface the
traditional dichotomy between appearance and reality, this
image creates mystery. The crucial or crossed image (or x)
literally becomes the unknown factor and consequently the
essential element for clarification in terms of the moral
options available to the participants in the story according
to either their visual or rational inclinations. This
crucial image begets intrigue in its capacity to propel
the narrative through a maze of words, a labyrinth of masks
and roles, underneath which lurks either the passion for
clarification (as exemplified by Sam) or the quest for pos
session (as incorporated in Gutman's character). And
finally, the crucial image begets suspense in its inherent
capacity to literally bring the action to a halt according
to whether the potentialities of the eye or the rational
powers are asserted in the end.


63
Street vendor, suddenly breaks into a bar to begin making
arrests. Santa Claus follows. It is Popeye. From behind
this mythic figure of infinite goodness emerges the popping
eye itself. Soon they are chasing a black man who runs out
from behind the bar. The man stabs Buddy in the arm and
escapes, but finally falls and Popeye, still dressed as
Santa Claus though his white beard is off, starts beating
him. The black, a drug peddler like Alain, has been con
quered by the eye. As Alain is to do later, the black
pusher has incited the action. But the result of the second
i *
sequence is that out of the traditional encounter between
mutually opposed forces, the camera eye has magically bred
an action that is outside good and evil, an action that
affirms itself as a living occasion altogether beyond the
field of rational ethics.
As a result of Popeye1s victory at the end of the second
sequence of the movie, it is visually announced that the
private-eye is the clarifier of vision, that it is the eye
which frees from the darkness, which illuminates and
brightens. And the eye clarifies by allowing the images to
move rather than by letting them succumb to the powers of
abstraction. As a clarifier of the powers of vision, it
follows that Popeye acts as an agent for the powers of the
light. In the interplay between good and evil, between
light and dark, he keeps the image on the move by keeping an


172
levels of action in the narrative. It is established in
the opening shots that the moving eye is the vehicle for
exploration. As a result, the growth of those who partici
pate in the action must emerge out of their own passion to
take part in an activity that matches the camera's own zest
for action. Since the eye's initial activity does not give
way to anything but more visual action (Frank is not singled
out as the agent of clarification until well after the eye
has started the action, and the spoken word is not present
as a dramatic aspect of the narrative until still later),
i
the camera readily asserts its own life as an active,
generative power. Nothing mediates between it and the
imagenot the word, not even its agent--so that, from the
beginning, the eye and the powers of the image are free to
grow together.
Therefore, in "Bullitt," the camera's own activity
calls to question the moral problem that is inherent in the
story of an agent for the action who is a member of the
public community. Since the camera establishes the model
of narrative action through an individualized vision of its
universe, it also establishes the morality of the private
vision, the value of the organic entity, the eye, which sees
the image in a center-to-center relationship. The vital
core of the eye as well as the life of the moving image are
the components of the camera's mode of vision. Thus, the
camera creates its own sense of unity and renders its own


240
sees a young woman in black undergarments and boots. He
follows her motion to the right of the screen, where h
loses her.' As he begins to look away, he sees her come back
This time she is naked. He follows her again as she walks
toward the door and by a picture of an obese naked woman.
The girl opens the door to let in the young couple that
Harry saw at the bottom of the building. And still look
ing through the field glasses he says, "You owe it to your
self to live a little, Harry." Seeing is not just an effec
tive method of getting at the evil force. Seeing is living.
i
In this sequence, all the elements of the existence of
Harry's eye, that is, his visual talents, his verbal powers,
and the life of the camera eye itself converge in an act
of celebration of the visual creation. The camera eye that
gave life to the crossed telescopic vision of the evil eye
can also see how the good eye seesmaking love to the image
in motion, following the movements of the redeeming eye as
it sees the image that delights it.
It is also a fact of Harry's existence that as a man
of the eye he is naturally attracted to the light. It is
the light coming from the room which leads Harry to look
at the image of the naked girl. Equally, when the screen
goes dark as he enters the alley into which he has followed
the man with the "tan suitcase," it is the light coming from
"Hot Mary's" room which catches Harry's eye and teases him
into looking in. Again, when Scorpio opens the door leading


25
imaginative propensity is his ability to imagine a creature
which could perform the unusual series of acts that have
taken place at the Rue Morgue. Out of the observable Dupin
has truly created from the extraordinary. He has gone beyond
the order of things and, in so doing, has succeeded in uni
fying out of chaos. The order Dupin creates lies outside
the ordinary. That very unity is the sole testimony of the
imagination's success in creating and organizing, whereas
the reason (as embodied in the police and the witnesses)
can only detect chaos. It is the act of envisioning which
i
accounts for Dupin's superiority. It is such an act which
thrusts the narrative forward, away from the divisive con
dition, and makes it so much more than the jumble of verbal
abstractions encountered in the introduction.
But when the unifying activity has been achieved by
Dupin, we again find him speaking about his method. Like
the narrator, Dupin only succeeds in undermining his
imaginative feat. He makes such absurd statements as,
"Fortunately there is but one mode of reasoning upon the
point" (p. 68), or "My ultimate object is only the truth"
(p. 72). He obviously has not realized that in dealing with
a mystery that presented him with infinite possibilities, he
was not dealing with just one "point." And, just as
obviously, he confuses truth with unity. Or he allows
himself to force a confession from the Maltese sailor for
reasons of "justice" and "honor." So that if through