A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.
This adaptation of the Raymond Chandler novel 'Farewell, My Lovely', renamed for the American market to prevent filmgoers mistaking it for a musical (for which Powell was already famous) has private eye Philip Marlowe hired by Moose Malloy, a petty crook just out of prison after a seven year stretch, to look for his former girlfriend, Velma, who has not been seen for the last six years. The case is tougher than Marlowe expected as his initially promising enquiries lead to a complex web of deceit involving bribery, perjury and theft, and where no one's motivation is obvious, least of all Marlowe's. Written by
Mark Thompson <email@example.com>
"I caught the blackjack right behind my ear. A black pool opened up at my feet. I dived in; it had no bottom."- Phillip Marlowe in MURDER, MY SWEET.
There are plenty of bottomless pools in MURDER, MY SWEET, Edward Dmytryk's outstanding noir. Tapping into a direct line to the dark places of the human psyche, the film raises the curtain on one shadowy scene after another. It leads the viewer on a convoluted trip through a very gloomy and treacherous labyrinth where oily con men, pesky cops, scheming ladies, and at least one gargantuan lovesick Romeo put the down-at-heels private investigator through the wringer.
Moose Malloy's vanished girlfriend (and a tidy retainer) occupies Marlowe at first. Then, when an expensive jade necklace needs retrieving (with another fat fee offered), Marlowe bites again. But suddenly those too deep pools begin to appear.
John Paxton's screenplay has the cast of characters thinking out loud a lot, which helps occasionally. But just as in Raymond Chandler's other overly schematic crime story, THE BIG SLEEP, strict attention must be paid. Yet even if you become confused, you can still revel in Harry J. Wilde's sterling cinematography. (As mentioned in another review, Wilde, along with a slew of other people, including Orson Welles, shot additional scenes for THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS for which he and the others received no credit. As Welles himself intones rather solemnly at that film's conclusion: "Stanley Cortez was the photographer").
The really big draw in MURDER is Dick Powell, not just delivering a career-changing performance (and being the first actor to play Marlowe) but also giving the best interpretation of Marlowe on film- and that includes Bogart's fine outing in Hawks' THE BIG SLEEP(1946), Robert Mitchum's two disappointing films, and Elliot Gould's daring 1973 performance in Altman's THE LONG GOODBYE. Powell projects the detective's weary cynicism and dogged determination without any hint of showy mannerism or overplayed toughness. His presence is completely natural and convincing, far from any Hollywood ham acting.
In addition, MURDER, MY SWEET presents the polished villainy of Otto Kruger, slithering around Powell with his characteristic reptilian menace; Anne Shirley as a spunky good girl who brightens the gloom somewhat; and, on the femme fatale side, the high voltage glare of Claire Trevor, laminated in heavy make-up like a pricey, megawatt doxy. Literally towering over everything is Mike Mazurki's Moose (far more effective than Jack O'Halloran's catatonic trance in Mitchum's FAREWELL, MY LOVELY). Mazurki's silent entrance into Marlowe's office at the beginning sets the uneasy mood where huge, powerful forces stir and then emerge from the darkness.
82 of 94 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?