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Chain-smoking, wisecracking private eye Philip Marlowe drives a buddy from LA to the Tijuana border and returns home to an apartment full of cops who arrest him for abetting the murder of his friend's wife. After Marlowe's release, following the reported suicide in Mexico of his friend, a beautiful woman hires him to locate her alcoholic and mercurial husband. Then, a hoodlum and his muscle visit to tell Marlowe that he owes $350,000, mob money the dead friend took to Mexico. Marlowe tails the hood, who goes to the house of the woman with the temperamental husband. As Marlowe pulls these threads together, his values emerge from beneath the cavalier wisecracking. Written by
During the scene where Marlowe is chasing Mrs. Wade in her top-down Mercedes 450 SL convertible, the car goes from having head rests to having no head rests in various shots. See more »
[Riley is playing Williams and Mercer's "The Long Goodbye" on the piano]
You practicing for the Hit Parade?
Gotta learn this goddamn thing... he thinks it'll beef up the lunch trade.
[surveying the empty bar]
Yeah, I don't see anybody waitin' on line.
As cheap as I work, he cannot lose.
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Not one for those looking for a gripping detective story, but still interesting
Phillip Marlowe is out getting food for his cat at 3am when friend Terry Lennox pops over and asks for a lift to Mexico. Marlowe obliges but returns to his home to find the police waiting for him with stories of Terry murdering his wife and Marlowe being an accessory. Three days later he is released from a holding cell whereupon he learns the news of his friend's suicide and all charges are dropped. Determined to get to the bottom of this open and shut case, Marlowe finds himself involved in the stormy marriage of Roger and Eileen Wade and the criminal activities of Marty Augustine.
Hailed as a classic, this film is actually a bit of hard work crossed with cool style in a plot that gets somewhere but seems to take a long time and a million back roads to get there. It won't be to everyone's tastes as a result because, even though I quite liked it, I must confess that the narrative is hard to follow and hard to particularly care much about. The wit of it is watching Marlowe updated a device that will annoy as many as it pleases. In Gould's laidback and shabby detective we have the opposite of the tough and snappy detectives of the genre, but it sits well within the modern setting of the modern generation (as was) with its hedonism and fads. This is interesting but not the same as a good detective story, which sadly this isn't. If you're not won over by the overall approach then it is unlikely that you will find a lot more to fill the time.
Altman's direction is focused on the style and, although he is fairly respectful to the material in regards what happens, he doesn't go out of his way to make it engaging. Gould fits the role well and enjoys his character. I would have liked more of the complexity underneath to come through to contrast with this surface. He is the film but he is well supported by a hammy show from Sterling and solid turns from Rydell, Pallandt, Gibson and Bouton.
Overall then a difficult film to really like. It has enough of its own style to be interesting but not enough of a hook in the narrative to please a mass audience. Altman's hands are all over the film and I understand why some viewers don't like it for that reason. Not one for those looking for a gripping detective story, but still interesting.
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