Movie Review: Murder, My Sweet

Posted: February 19, 2010 in Movie Review, Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

Murder, My Sweet (1944 RKO Radio Pictures, Dir. Edward Dmytryk)

The title was changed because people thought with Dick Powell in the lead it might be a musical. No, that’s a fact actually.

Adapted from Farewell, My Lovely, this is the first time to my knowledge that Philip Marlowe was put on screen as himself. The story was adapted as part of the Falcon Series, but as I understand it a great deal of the book was jettisoned to make it fit the series that had already been made. This movie however, mostly follows the book, but there are some changes made here and there for various reasons. Most those reasons are either for the streamlining of filmmaking, or to clear up some things that the book left dangling.

Dick Powell started doing a lot more detective roles after this.

Along with Double Indemnity, this is one of the big money makers of 1944 and is one of the few movies that fall into the Film Noir category that was appreciated in it’s time. Many of the Film Noir movies were B pictures, getting less money and less acclaim. As a result, they also got less tickets sold at the box office. This was bumped up to an A picture with the inclusion of Dick Powell who was looking to change his image at the time. He had done romantic comedies and musicals up until this point, but he was no longer the young man he had once been. The story seems, at first, a bit complicated because the book it’s based on is actually two or three short stories that have been stitched together. The basic story is that Marlowe is hired first to find the old girlfriend of a thug named Moose Malloy. That goes almost nowhere in almost no time, because Moose isn’t the brightest thing. He is then contracted for a quick bodyguard job to get back a ransomed jade necklace. The exchange goes wrong, the guy Marlowe was supposed to protect gets killed and he starts to look into it. Along the way, he hits a few snags.

It occurs to me that this shot should be larger, because then you’d be able to see what a mess the hall is here. That sort of mess was something of a rareity for the time.

While a lot of the drug references from the book were removed, such as the talk about refer cigarettes is missing entirely, there is a bit of drug use still in the movie. In order to make Marlowe talk, or get him out of the way, the baddies shoot him up with all kinds of stuff. This leads to a genuinely great scene of Marlowe having to run through a short piece of imagery that is almost like watching an expressionist silent era film. He’s pretty messed up, but he manages to get himself together. And then of course after that we get one of my favorite lines of all… “‘Okay Marlowe,’ I said to myself. ‘You’re a tough guy. You’ve been sapped twice, choked, beaten silly with a gun, shot in the arm until you’re crazy as a couple of waltzing mice. Now let’s see you do something really tough – like putting your pants on.'”

Reach out and touch someone.

This is one of the very few film noir movies I’ve seen so far that actually has a first person arrogation and is also one of the few that is actually a by-the-book mystery. It’s got an unconventional mystery story, but it is just a mystery in the end. Despite what most people think, mystery stories and detectives don’t instantly equal a Film Noir and Film Noir covers a vastly wider area than mysteries. Also, as I said, for all the expectations there are very few of them that have the first person voice over telling the story. Most of them become more conventionally subjective, like The Big Sleep for example, but we do have a few things like Lady In the Lake, which sort of goes whole hog in the first person direction making everything first person by using the camera as the main character’s eyes. That one gets a little too First Person Shooter for me though. Actually, to be perfectly honest, it remind me of an early FMV game. And we all know how bad an FMV game can be, don’t we? See this place here for a hint.

Very much an Expressionist Silent Era shot here

Now, where was I? Ah yes! We were doing a movie review. How far had I got? Um… Okay. I really like this version of Marlowe, who seems to be a drastically different person every time a different actor takes over the roll. That’s an odd point, the character in the books is fairly well defined, but he keeps getting adapted in drastically different ways. Not everyone likes this portrayal of Marlowe, but then that’s what’s so great about living in a Democracy isn’t it? I’ve liked most the versions of Marlowe I’ve seen, but I haven’t liked them all. This one is probably my favorite though. At least as I sit here, at this late date, considering it.

Aaaand that was as much skin as you could show at the time.

This is really a worthwhile film to watch, understanding you have either an interest in Film Noir or mystery stories. If you do like that sort of thing, you’ll probably like this one as well. Wow, what a ringing endorsement. If you like this sort of thing, then this is the sort of thing you’ll like! No, no, sit back down. Just listen for a minute. It is a good movie and very enjoyable. It’s got a good story, a neat mystery and good atmosphere. Tell you what, watch the trailer, which can’t be embedded because only commies embed video or something. The DVD is very basic, it has a trailer and a commentary from Alain Silver on it. Good stuff, just wish there was more of it. I got my copy from the Film Noir Classic Collection Volume One, which comes with four other movies that are all good. Not all the sets were like this one, but here they were all winners.

Official Score:
49 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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