The camera shows Phillip Marlowe's view from the first-person in this adaptation of Raymond Chandler's book. The detective is hired to find a publisher's wife, who is supposed to have run off to Mexico. But the case soon becomes much more complicated as people are murdered. Written by
Ken Yousten <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The entire movie plot unfolds from lead Robert Montgomery's point of view, thus creating a rarity in film: the principal character is only seen on-screen as a reflection in mirrors and windows, and as the narrator speaking directly to the audience. See more »
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YOU Share The Viewpoint of the Crankiest Marlowe in Cinema!
Drawing on his life of crimefighting to write a short story, Raymond Chandler's tough but noble P.I. Philip Marlowe (Robert Montgomery, pulling double duty as actor and director) submits his work to Kingsby Publications, home of such pulp fiction mags as LURID DETECTIVE and MURDER MASTERPIECES. Before he can say "byline," editor Adrienne Fromsett (Audrey Totter) has Marlowe up to his neck in murder, missing dames, and crooked cops -- and you can see things Marlowe's way, literally! Before all those slasher movies came along during the last couple of decades, LADY IN THE LAKE used the subjective camera treatment -- hell, the camera was practically a character in the flick! Throughout most of LADY..., we see everything exactly as Marlowe sees it; the only times we see Marlowe/Montgomery's face is when he looks in a mirror, as well as in a brief prologue, an entrè-acte segment, and an epilogue. In the trailer (featured on the spiffy new DVD version of LADY..., along with an enjoyable and informative commentary track by film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini), MGM's publicity department did its best to push the film as the first interactive movie experience: "MGM presents a Revolutionary motion picture; the most amazing since Talkies began! YOU and ROBERT MONTGOMERY solve a murder mystery together! YOU accept an invitation to a blonde's apartment! YOU get socked in the jaw by a murder suspect!" YOU occasionally start snickering in spite of yourself when the subjective camera gimmick teeters dangerously close to parodying itself, like when Totter moves in for a smooch with Our Hero The Camera. Some of Totter's facial expressions in the first half of the film as she spars verbally with Montgomery are pretty funny, too, though I'm not sure all of them were meant to be (she uses the arched eyebrow technique done so much more effectively later by Eunice Gayson of DR. NO and FROM Russia WITH LOVE, Leonard Nimoy, CQ's Angela Lindvall, The Rock, et al... :-). Having said that, the subjective camera technique works more often than not; in particular, I thought the fight scenes and a harrowing sequence where an injured Marlowe crawls out of his wrecked car worked beautifully. It helps that Steve Fisher provided a good solid screenplay for Raymond Chandler's novel, though Chandler purists were annoyed that the novel's pivotal Little Fawn Lake sequence was relegated to a speech in the recap scene in the middle (apparently they tried to film that scene on location, but the subjective camera treatment proved harder to do in the great outdoors, so they gave up). The performances are quite good overall, including Lloyd Nolan as a dirty cop and an intense dramatic turn by young Jayne Meadows. Montgomery's sardonic snap mostly works well for cynical Marlowe, though he sometimes forgets to tone it down during tender dialogue, making him sound simply cranky. Totter eventually tones down her mugging and becomes genuinely affecting as her Adrienne lets down her guard and begins falling for Marlowe. You may love or hate this LADY..., but if you enjoy mysteries and you're intrigued by offbeat movie-making techniques, give her a try!
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