After being hired to find an ex-con's former girlfriend, Philip Marlowe is drawn into a deeply complex web of mystery and deceit.After being hired to find an ex-con's former girlfriend, Philip Marlowe is drawn into a deeply complex web of mystery and deceit.After being hired to find an ex-con's former girlfriend, Philip Marlowe is drawn into a deeply complex web of mystery and deceit.
Having recently seen a strange telling of this story in 'The Falcon Takes Over' I decided to go back and see the most famous version. Of course this actually involves going forward in time (the Falcon did it first by almost two years) but it is certainly a step up in quality as this version is much, much better since in the first version it was used as plot fodder within an existing formula. I have not read the book but for me everything works really well here with the right mix of plot, character and atmosphere. As I have admitted before, I'm not the smartest of men on this earth and, as a result, I do get confused by some of this type of film where the twisty plot is not that well explained (The Big Sleep always has me a bit spun) and here at times I was a bit unsure of who was what, but this comes good by the end and is clear with a satisfying ending to the piece. The atmosphere is tough considering the period and is more effective for being built tough on the characters and not by just writing lots of F words into the script. Dmytryk directs really well with the time honoured shadow and use of music, the camera also moves well even if some of the shots look a bit dated (well it has been sixty years this year you know).
The characters are well-written and convincing. Marlowe is a dead beat cool but not so tough and together that it takes away from his status as being a downbeat. Powell is not someone who leaps to mind when I think about the noir genre but he is very good here and gets the character really spot on. Mazurki makes Malloy his own with a firm performance that shows Moose to be strong but also manipulated by the love he totally believes in. Trevor is very good, as are Shirley and Kruger. The dialogue is sharp and tough and all of them do really well with the lines and the characters they have (making them more than pigeon-holed genre clichés) but the film mostly belongs to Powell.
Overall this is a very good film and is miles better than the first filmed version of this story. The film is atmospheric and looks great; the story is not afraid to risk losing the audience and is smart but pulls it all together and didn't lose me totally at any point. The dialogue is tough and quotable and is delivered by a collection of actors giving good performances, headed up by Dick Powell, doing his best to make us think of him first when we think of this story and the character of Marlowe.
- bob the moo
- Dec 4, 2004