|Index||6 reviews in total|
This is a fun little detective movie. It actually follows the storyline
of The High Window a lot more closely than the later (and much
inferior) The Brasher Doubloon. I gather that Michael Shayne's
character is quite the wise-ass (he certainly is in this movie), but
that's not too much of a stretch from the original Philip Marlowe, and
Lloyd Nolan is quite enjoyable in the role.
Of course, like all Chandler adaptations, this one moves much too quickly to capture the hot, sticky southern California atmosphere that pervades so many of the original novels. The running time is too short to include every aspect of the novel, of course, and a couple of my favorite parts were left out, but overall, this is far superior to the version of the same novel that came out a few years later starring George Montgomery (The Brasher Doubloon). One of the better "second-tier" 40s mysteries I've seen.
Time to Kill (Herbert I. Leeds, 1942) Lloyd Nolan's final outing as
Michael Shayne, Fox Studios' cocky private eye, is one of the earliest
Raymond Chandler adaptations, drawing its inspiration from The High
Window. Shayne the irrepressible, quick-witted, appealing Nolan
takes on an apparently simple assignment from the wealthy Mrs Murdoch
(Ethel Griffies) and finds the bodies piling up around him. Fox's lack
of faith in the series is evidenced by the slim running time, with this
one playing barely more than an hour. That means you get 56 minutes of
tightly-scripted thriller with a sardonic sense of humour before
the scripters have to cram in a wordy, five-minute explanation of
Chandler's convoluted plot. It's an absolute riot until then, though,
and a return to form after a slightly disappointing sixth outing.
The series opener Michael Shayne, Private Detective is a classic of its type, with a hilarious script and slick, fast-moving direction, making a virtue of its low budget. The second film put him on a train (Sleepers West), the third took him to a theatre (Dressed to Kill) and the fourth and fifth appeared to have been made with spare Charlie Chan screenplays someone had left lying around. There's something of the Warner Oland Chan about the ship-bound Blue, White and Perfect, while The Man Who Wouldn't Die set in a haunted house and with a genuinely ingenious mystery is pure Toler. Just Off Broadway, which had Shayne solving a case whilst sitting on a jury, was less accomplished, but this one ends the Nolan series on a high, effortlessly recapturing the flavour of the first film. Tracing a murky investigation from the second Shayne gets pitched into the mystery fielding the call in his dingy office and reeling off a list of made-up references to the moment he wraps it up, it's a real treat. It's also nice to see Shayne get a girlfriend who can handle him. An extra 10 minutes would have been welcome, allowing the whodunit to be unwrapped in a more leisurely fashion and providing time during the climax for something other than solid exposition, though given half a chance I'm sure Nolan would have spent it all wisecracking anyway.
Time to Kill is a fast-paced, thrilling Michael Shayne mystery adapted
from a Raymond Chandler novel and sped up to fit just inside an hour.
Mrs. Murdock hires Shayne to find her daughter-in-law, a chorus girl
who stole a precious coin from her home. Murdock's son is an odd sort
of fellow who appears now and then to create a sense that Shayne is
being watched, not the sort of guy that could be trusted. When Shayne
meets the daughter-in-law, aptly named Miss Conquest, he discovers a
beautiful girl just as eager to get out of the Murdock family as Mrs.
Murdock is to get her out. Something doesn't quite fit.
Don't blink your eyes or you'll miss something; you have to be able to keep up with this one to truly enjoy it. Maybe some practice with other Lloyd Nolan movies will do the trick.
Nolan gets some great lines and utilizes them well. His tough guy might not be as memorable as Edward G. Robinson's, Humphrey Bogart's, or Dick Powell's, but he gets the job done. He is flanked by a b-movie cast, including the lovely Heather Angel, but don't see b-movie and think you'll be losing out on quality. You don't want your murder mysteries to be polished anyway; the dirtier, the better.
Just a note of correction. On the previous post, the actor cited for
his role in The Brasher Doubloon should be George Montgomery, rather
than Robert Montgomery, who was featured in several films noir of his
own, Lady in the Lake and Ride the Pink Horse, to name a few.
Lloyd Nolan himself can be seen in quite a few noir films, usually, but not always, on the side of the law (House on 92d Street, Somewhere in the Night, and Two Smart People.
It is a shame that The Brasher Doubloon (or Time to Kill, for that matter) have not been released on DVD as yet. Brasher is a 20th Century Fox production and perhaps it will be released in the near future as part of their Fox Film Noir series.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep" is famous for being SO complicated that, when the screenwriters asked the author himself who committed a murder, he couldn't answer! "Time To Kill", based on another Chandler story, plays a lot like that - person A kills person B, who had killed person C, who was working for person D, who had killed person E, and so on. And murder is not the only crime featured here - counterfeiting and blackmail turn up as well. At the same time, this film contains probably more comedy than any previous Michael Shayne outing; the fact that wherever Shayne goes a corpse awaits him, becomes a running gag. And there are some above-B-level performances in this B-level production, particularly from the women (the men are a little harder to tell apart). At the end, it seems that Shayne finally accepts his fate to get married - a fitting farewell for Lloyd Nolan, whose last appearance in the role this was. **1/2 out of 4.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Time To Kill" was Fox's first version of the Raymond Chandler novel, "The High Window", later remade as "The Brasher Doubloon". But in this version, the character of Philip Marlowe is eliminated and Brett Halliday's minor league sleuth, Michael Shayne, substituted. It thus becomes the sixth entrant in the Michael Shayne series, and as such, it is undoubtedly the least worthy of attention. This film was obviously lensed very cheaply and very quickly. The direction is totally undistinguished and production values are considerably less than in the first five films in this series. Both photography and art direction have little to recommend them, the cast is second rate (although Doris Merrick makes an attractive Linda Conquest and Ethel Griffies is certainly a memorable Mrs. Murdoch) and the screenplay is a bowdlerization that has deleted all Chandler's wit, whilst retaining the bare bones of his plot a plot that was pretty weak even to begin with!
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