"Peeper" is a lightly amusing, rapid fire spoof of vintage film noir. Its greatest assets include a witty script by W.D. Richter (based on a novel by Keith Laumer) and the top notch cast which delivers their scores of dialogue in a truly breathless manner. Ultimately it's a little too silly for its own good, and does lose its momentum a few times, but it's still entertaining and good for some real laughs. It sure gets off to a great start with the opening credits, which aren't listed but *spoken*, by Bogart impersonator Guy Marks. Peter Hyams directs with a fair amount of energy, and the movie does have a decent feel for the 1940s period, complemented by Earl Raths' cinematography and Richard Clements' music. It also helps to have the very English Michael Caine in the lead role, and to see him in this sort of setting.
Caine plays Leslie Tucker, a hard luck private eye hired by blustery stranger Anglich (a memorable Michael Constantine) to hire his long lost daughter Anya, who may have grown up to be one of the two daughters in a rich but eccentric family. Those lovely ladies are Ellen (Natalie Wood) and Mianne (Kitty Winn), and Tucker does find himself quite taken with Ellen. Meanwhile, he's constantly being chased and threatened by two goons who are dubbed "torpedoes": Sid, played by the great screen psycho Timothy Carey, and Rosie, played by Don Calfa, who became a fixture in several Hyams movies.
"Peeper" is fun, at least to a degree. The pacing is very, very good, but viewers might have a hard time keeping track of the plot with so much information divulged in such a snappy way. Caine is wonderful, with strong support from Wood, Winn, Constantine, Thayer David as pompous Frank Prendergast, lively Liam Dunn as weaselly lawyer Billy Pate, Dorothy Adams as the Prendergast matriarch, and Robert Ito as a gruff butler.
No, "Peeper" is no "Chinatown", not by a long shot, but fans of the genre and the actors may have a pretty good time with it.