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Philip Marlowe gets involved when limp-wristed and snidely Leslie Murdock steals a rare doubloon from his mother to give to a newsreel photographer in exchange for film that is being used for blackmail purposes. Marlowe's involvement has him encounter a girl who goes into hysterics when touched by a man; a husband-killing woman; three corpses; a couple of scuffles in which he gets his clock cleaned; a secretary who thinks she has killed her boss, which is the reason Raymond Chandler called his story "The High Window", and a son (who qualifies as a S.O.B. by two definitions) who blackmails his widowed mother. So, what's not to like. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The flop house location for this film was the Gladden Apartments in the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles. Raymond Chandler, who wrote the novel on which this is based, lived in the building 30 years before the film was shot. See more »
Gumshoe Marlowe is hired by a wealthy family to recover a missing gold coin. In the process, he gets entangled in a series of murders tied to a missing strip of film.
The movie is basically a programmer with notable noirish touches, thanks to Gothic director John Brahm. The problem lies with the central casting of a sleekly handsome George Montgomery as the iconic gumshoe Phillip Marlowe.
Simply put, Montgomery's all wrong for Chandler's cheap detective. At 6'3" in finely tailored suits, he looks more like he's ready for a night at the Trocadero than a murder investigation. Now, were he a good enough actor, he might get away with his impersonation of Chandler's sleazy shamus. However, he's not. He spits out lines faster than a machine gun as though they exist only on a script and not from his head. I expect some of the blame for this lies with director Brahm for not coaching him to take a contemplative breath now and again.
It's not really a question of contrasting Montgomery's movie star Marlowe with the accomplished Bogart's or Powell's. It's that his contrived presence subverts the whole idea of the sleazy gumshoe.
The movie itself is an okay mystery, with an outstanding performance from Florence Bates as the imperious matriarch of the Murdock family. She's grouchy enough to make you doubt the whole idea of the kindly grandmother. However, there seems serious confusion over Guild's neurotic house servant, Merle. But whatever her mental problems, they're not serious enough that a few seductive words from our gumshoe Prince Charming can't overcome. Those scenes are about as credible as a faith healer's tent show.
In short, despite some atmospheric touches and an imaginative resolution, the movie remains centrally flawed, and likely the reason Montgomery went from here to a long succession of more suitable westerns.
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