Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Format: TCM on DVR
People take a lot of liberties when adapting Raymond Chandler novels to screen. It's not a huge surprise. After all, Chandler's books are winding, complicated, and don't exactly make it easy to translate Marlowe's inner-monologue or exposition in a way that's easy to cram into 90 - 120 minutes and keep the audience with you. To this day, people complain The Big Sleep is "too complicated".
It's been a while since I read The Little Sister, I think the fifth Marlowe novel and the work upon which the studio based Marlowe (1969). Between reading several Chandler novels in a row at that time and years inbetween, not every detail of the plot had stuck with me, but impressions of various characters remained, and as the movie unspooled, it did provide me with a roadmap and certain expectations for the film that gave me a leg up vis-a-vis following the plot and keeping up. A glance at some contemporary reviews suggest that even Ebert and Siskel found it a bit muddled.
Still, the story sticks surprisingly close to the novel, updating some factors for 1969 that would have looked very different in the original setting of 1949. And, I'll argue, while people feel like they've got a grip on Chandler by way of reputation, in practice his novels tend to feel like a morass of detail until the denouement. That's part of the fun (and Hammett did same in books like The Thin Man).
Sunday, July 7, 2019
At long last, I read both The Long Goodbye (1953) and Playback (1958), the last of Raymond Chandler's novels centered upon detective Philip Marlowe.
You'll note a lengthy dry spell between books here, and there's a precipitous drop-off between the two in depth and strength. It's curious as The Long Goodbye feels less like a detective novel and more like an author wrestling with himself, working through the point in his life where he'd enjoyed success and some fame and found neither amounted to much as he was still living with himself as an alcoholic, a writer of genre fiction, and now a widower.*
Friday, January 25, 2019
Format: Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Murder, My Sweet (1944) is a favorite and one of two Dick Powell movies that made me a fan. Based on the classic detective novel Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler (not yet a classic, obvs, at the time), this movie has as many or more twists and turns than The Big Sleep and maybe doesn't have the popping-off-the-screen chemistry of Bogart and Bacall, but Powell feels more like the Philip Marlowe of the books in my book.
Anyway, I promised not to write up every movie this year, and I'm sure I've written this one up before, so aside from adding that Claire Trevor's evening-look with her up-do is something else, I'll just give the movie a solid rec and what I love about Chandler boiled down to work in a movie. Oh, and Mike Mazurki is pretty great.
Saturday, January 5, 2019
Format: Noir Alley TCM on DVR
Viewing: Unknown. 4th? 5th?
Whole books have been written about Double Indemnity (1944), so I'll keep it brief while the more scholarly pursue it's winding journey through the souls of a couple of grifters. And Eddie Muller's intros and outro's were, as ever, insightful, knowledgeable and refreshing.
Friday, December 21, 2018
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
I missed this until just now, but The Big Sleep, one of the best noir films and probably one of the best adaptations of a Raymond Chandler book, turned 70 on August 23. So, my Dad shares a pretty good week with Bacall and Bogart, this being his 70th B-Day and all.
Here's to a hell of a movie and to two terrific actors in one complicated film.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
The Little Sister (1949) is the fifth Raymond Chandler novel starring Phillip Marlowe, the detective character made most famous in The Big Sleep. Clearly written after Chandler's stint in Hollywood (he would team with Billy Wilder during the writing of Double Indemnity), Marlowe's time in LA finally gets him crosswise with Hollywood machinations and mob ties.
A fairly prissy but possibly pretty young woman with the unlikely name Orfamay Quest from Manhattan, Kansas appears at Marlowe's office. She's seeking her brother, Orrin, who has been in LA for a while, but seems to have disappeared. Taking Midwestern thriftiness to extremes, she hires Marlowe at half-price (also, because Marlowe is bored and has no other clients that day) and it soon becomes clear the touchy Orrin may have been in deep into something shady, and, because it's a Chandler mystery, deadly.
Thursday, January 21, 2016
The great thing about novel adaptations back in the day was that they clearly either adapted the movies of books they'd read ten years prior and couldn't remember anymore, or they'd be damned if they were going to finish the book before pounding out a script.
I say this, because I've seen the odd-ball noir detective film, The Lady in the Lake directed by and starring Robert Montgomery at least twice, but more like three times. Why? Well, it's a super strange movie told from a first person POV with a windy plot that takes a surprisingly believable break in the action for Christmas Eve, and features Audrey Totter at her Totter-iest.
|Why, yes, I am going to look right into the camera the whole movie. Why?|
But I don't really want to write a compare-and-contrast of the film and book. First, only one of you has likely even seen this movie (for shaaaaaame...), and, you know, they're two different beasts.
Still, Audrey Totter.
|seriously, this movie is odd, and I totally recommend it|
Thursday, January 14, 2016
I've been thinking a bit about the difference between the Continental Op work, Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. Brighter minds than me have surely covered this - but you're here reading this, so... here we go.
To be sure, there are more similarities than there are differences. Working class detectives working in a shadowy world where wealth buys your way into indulging your perversions and clear of ignominy. Low class hoods are always on the make. Dames who can work an angle have it made, until they don't. And then they wind up cold and stiff. It's not whether everyone you meet has an angle, it's what their angle is - and if they don't have one, they're a chump.
The Continental Op doesn't have a heart of gold, but he's a square guy. He's a brawler, almost always has a gun and will throw some lead around. Sam Spade has a heart in there, too, one that's more likely to fall for a dame than the Continental Op, who knows he's no looker and has reason to distrust any dame that gets too close. But Hammett's detectives never really warm to much of anyone, even when they tell you otherwise. At best, they tolerate others and try not to admit it when any women get too close.
Thursday, September 3, 2015
I haven't read all that much Raymond Chandler. I read The Big Sleep more than a decade ago (specifically when I was trapped in a hotel in Las Vegas the week of 9/11 and I couldn't fly home). And if I've read more than that, I don't really recall. I do remember thinking "I'm more of a Dashiell Hammett guy" after reading The Big Sleep, but sooner or later you want to read some of the other stuff.
Of course you can't be into noir film and not stumble across adaptations of his work and work he adapted into screenplays (see Double Indemnity, where he gets a brief cameo).
But I figured I needed to read some more Philip Marlowe, Chandler's go-to Detective where Hammett had Sam Spade and The Continental Op.
Farewell, My Lovely (1940) is a winding mystery that starts on page 1 as Philip Marlowe fails to mind his own business when he sees a giant of a man, a white guy, walk into an African-American club and start a ruckus. He literally sticks his nose in and gets grabbed by Moose Malloy, a heist-man just paroled and out looking for his ex-girlfriend, Velma. Moose is stronger than he knows, stupidly violent, and single minded, and winds up killing the bar's manager.
In the aftermath, Marlowe gets wrapped up in the case, but no sooner does he decide to bail than he gets hired by a suave gentleman looking for protection as he bargains for the safe return of a lady-friend's hi-jacked jewels. Marlowe doesn't protect him and the gentleman winds up dead, and that, in turn gets Marlowe all the more involved with his failed job. Soon, beautiful dames, crooked cops, mentalists, shady hospitals and honestly illegitimate off-shore gambling operations all play a part. And a bright young daughter of a former police commissioner.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
I've talked about Double Indemnity (1944) before, but I finally purchased the movie on BluRay thanks to a recent release that had a lot of participation from TCM and a short doc with Eddie Muller, James Ellroy and others all talking about the film. And, it cost less than what it would have cost to go to the theater to see the movie when Fathom Events played it when I was in Chicago and couldn't go.
As the commentary on the BluRay sort of barks at you, Double Indemnity set the standard for noir, a form I think of as really cementing maybe 3-5 years later. The form has its origins in both pulp magazines and adaptations of those stories on the big screen like The Maltese Falcon from 1941, but in comparison to even the crime movies of the 1930's and pre-Hays Code, it's just... different. Just as comics had to adapt with the Comics Code Authority in place, and that took them down whole new avenues, I tend to think of a lot of the subtlety of noir stemming from the constrictions of the Hays Code era trying to make sense of post-Depression/ post-WWII life.
Monday, August 13, 2012
Released about 3 months after 1947's Dark Passage*, this movie also employs the first-person-perspective camera-work that somebody must have been wanting to play with at the time. Where Dark Passage abandons the conceit fairly early in the movie, Lady in the Lake (1947) uses the trick more or less for the duration of the film except during a few, brief framing sequences during which Robert Montgomery, as Philip Marlowe, addresses the audience before merging with them in a spot of cinematic magic during which the audience is given a sort of thrill-ride like experience of seeing the film from Marlowe's perspective.
It's an oddball stunt, one easier to pull that the matinee jazz of 3D pictures or smell-o-vision, but Montgomery's direction definitely gives the effort a sort of "check this out!" quality, drawing attention to itself with awkward use of mirror shots that don't accomplish much but remind the audience that we're all watching a movie here - and, boy, isn't THAT cool...?