Newman, playing Ross Macdonald's private eye for the second time (the first was in Harper), embarks on a Deep South excursion through broads, nymphet daughters, twitchy cops, hookers, hoods, and gangsters of a more refined but dangerous sort. As so often with Macdonald, it's the corruption of rich families that is exposed: dominated by a grotesque mother figure (Browne) who is at least morally responsible for their sins, both weak and strong are warped by perversions. What matters in this type of film is not so much the plot as the way in which an atmosphere is created. Unfortunately, Rosenberg directs flatly, hopping from one set piece to the next, disjointedly throwing characters of varying interest across Newman's path, while the latter - in his coarsest performance yet - remains content to wisecrack and ham outrageously. Murray Hamilton scores as the villain, however, and the title sequence offers some sort of compensation.