Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Night Moves (1975)


Written by Tim Dirks

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Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Night Moves (1975)

In Arthur Penn's moody, post-Watergate noirish, psychological detective film with the enigmatic title 'Night Moves' - a chess metaphor that may be more significantly renamed 'Knight Moves,' symbolizing the protagonist's chessboard of life in which he was ultimately myopic and 'blind' to the events of his case:

  • in an early scene, middle-aged, chess enthusiast, ex-football player and LA private eye Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) drove up to the Magnolia Theatre marquee advertising Eric Rohmer's New Wave art film My Night at Maud's (1969, Fr.); he made the shocking discovery that his unfaithful wife Ellen Moseby (Susan Clark) was having an affair when he saw her kissing and riding off with another man: crippled Marty Heller (Harris Yulin) who lived in an art-filled Malibu beach house
  • Harry's famous quote when his wife had earlier asked if he would attend the Rohmer film, and he declined: "I saw a Rohmer film once; it was kind of like watching paint dry"
  • the main plot: Harry was investigating a missing persons crime case in the Florida Keys; he had been hired in LA by wasted ex-actress and sexually-liberated studio boss divorcee Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward) to find her daughter, a promiscuous 16 year-old runaway named Delilah "Delly" Grastner (Melanie Griffith in an early role at age 16 or 17) who had been missing for two weeks; it was soon suspected that Delly was seducing her mother's two ex-lovers: stuntman/pilot Marv Ellman (Anthony Costello) and Tom Iverson (John Crawford)
  • Harry first spoke to Delly's former boyfriend Quentin (James Woods), a greasy, suspicious LA mechanic, who led him to visit a film set in New Mexico. There, he spoke to stuntman/pilot Marv and stunt coordinator Joey Ziegler (Edward Binns)
  • Harry was able to track Delly to the Florida Keys, where the liberated Delly was living with her stepfather Tom Iverson and his sexy hippie mistress Paula (singer Jennifer Warren); Delly was first seen unclothed behind a clothesline (similar to Brigitte Bardot's entrance in ...And God Created Woman (1956, Fr.)); she refused to return to California with Moseby: (Delly: "I'm not going back to that bitch!...She doesn't want me. The money! I know Arlene and so does Tom. He hates her as much as I do"); Delly believed that the only reason Arlene wanted her back was to live off her trust fund of $30,000/year, that required them to be living together

Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward)

Marv Ellman (Anthony Costello)
Joey Ziegler (Edward Binns)
Quentin (James Woods)

Tom Iverson (John Crawford)
Paula (Jennifer Warren)
  • during a night-time dive sequence from a glass-bottom boat, the fully-nude Delly discovered a crashed plane with the decomposed remains of a stunt pilot named Marv Ellman, one of Arlene's ex-boyfriends; fish were seen eating at the dead pilot’s eyes; later, it was revealed that either the crash was entirely an accident, or that greasy LA mechanic Quentin (James Woods), Delly's former boyfriend, had monkeyed with the plane's mechanics to sabotage the plane, in order to get back at Marv for stealing Delly away
  • its conclusion: the suspicious death of Delly in LA in a car accident on location at a movie set where she was a stunt extra; the accident was orchestrated by stunt coordinator Joey Ziegler (Edward Binns) who was driving the car and had set Delly's safety belt; further questions were raised about Quentin's part in the murder; was Delly silenced because she knew too much?; Arlene's reaction was one of indifference ("So I'm not grief-stricken. What does that make me?") presumably because she financially benefitted from Delly's death
  • the revelation of the smuggling of pre-Colombian art sculptures and antiquities in Florida by Delly's stepfather Tom (and Paula), who was working in cahoots with pilot Marv Ellman
  • the shocking ending culminating with the deaths of four key individuals in Florida:
    - Tom Iverson murdered Quentin in the dolphin swim area when Quentin threatened to go to the police
    - Tom engaged in a vicious fist-fight with Harry - ending with Iverson knocking himself out at a wooden piling; it was highly likely that Ziegler then killed Tom Iverson - offscreen)
    - Joey Ziegler piloted Tom's yellow Piper Cub seaplane to strafe the water's surface and hit Harry with gunfire; then, the plane's pontoon deliberately hit and killed Paula who was emerging on the surface from scuba diving after retrieving the Mayan artifact from the earlier sunken plane; when the pontoon also struck the inflatable raft carrying the ancient statue, the plane's pontoon's broke off
    - Ziegler's disabled plane (with a wrecked undercarriage) crashed into Tom's boat where Harry was located; through the glass-bottom boat AND the seaplane's window, Harry observed Ziegler caught in the plane's cockpit as he drowned
  • the final image of dying and bruised Harry on Iverson's stranded boat (named "Point of View") circling aimlessly about the Gulf of Mexico wreckage

Crash of Ziegler's Plane into Iverson's Boat

Harry Watched Helplessly as Ziegler Drowned in Plane's Cockpit

Harry's Own Fate

Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman)

Harry's Unfaithful Wife Ellen Moseby (Susan Clark) with Marty Heller (Harris Yulin)
Ellen Moseby

Uninhibited and "Liberated" Delly

Delly's Nighttime Nude Dive and Shocking Discovery of Decomposing Skull of Pilot Marv Ellman

The Mayan Artifact Retrieved From Downed Plane by Paula

Death of Paula - Deliberately Hit by Plane Piloted by Ziegler


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