This, the second adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel, is much closer to the source text than the original – Murder, My Sweet (1944), which tended to avoid some of the sleazier parts of the plot – but still concerns private eye Philip Marlowe’s attempts to locate Velma, a former dancer at a seedy nightclub and the girlfriend of Moose Malloy, a petty criminal just out of prison. Marlowe finds that once he has taken the case, events conspire to put him in dangerous situations, and he is forced to follow a confusing trail of untruths and double-crosses before he is able to locate Velma.
Mark Thompson <[email protected]>
User Reviews: Stylish remake of the much-filmed Chandler classic. Was Mitchum too old for the rolethat was the rap at the time. In hindsight, I don’t think so, especially when he has that persuasive moment about aging near film’s end. He certainly looks like he’s climbed too many stairs and closed too many bars, but then that creates an unusual amount of pathos that deepens the role. Still and all, the passionate clinches with a sleek young Charlotte Rampling are borderline at best.
This is one of the few successful neo-noirs in my little book. Director Dick Richards and crew manage a funky look just right for the hard-boiled atmosphere of 40’s detective fiction. Marlowe (Mitchum) drifts from one seedy venue to the next in his search for the mysterious Velma. But true to Chandler’s slice-of-life LA, there’s also a glimpse of the high- and-mighty in a Beverly Hills palace worthy of royalty. In fact, Marlowe resembles something of a pilgrim loner navigating greater LA in search of an elusive truth even after he’s forgotten why.
Mitchum, of course, lowkeys all the way, hardly changing expression whether being roughed up by Moose Malloy or nuzzling up to Helen Grayle (Rampling). It has to be one of the more downbeat performances in private eye annals. But my Oscar goes to Sylvia Miles as the ultimate blowzy drunk (Florian). Her house is a mess, her hair is a mess, and her robe never quite fits in revealing ways Marlowe refuses to pick up on. Still and all, a fling with her looks more promising than an interlude with that plastic mannequin Marlowe does cozy up with. At the same time, Jack O’Halloran as the Moose comes across as the kind of pitiable dumb ox who would sacrifice everything for a faithless woman. In fact, the movie boils down oddly to something of a Samson and Delilah update.
But not everything is upside. The dialogue occasionally gets a little too cute, while the DiMaggio running thread seems forced at times. Nonetheless, it’s a worthy version of the popular novel, and I’m just sorry that director Dick Richards hasn’t been more active in the production end of the business. Judging from this film and the under-rated Culpepper Cattle Company, he certainly has the talent. And when an expressionless Marlowe comes to part with his money at movie’s end, we finally glimpse that remote inner terrain and the heart of Chandler’s heartless world.