C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 07/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This one of my favorite movies. Years ago I rented a VHS of it and made a dupe at home. The quality was lousy but I liked it and played it often, but I learned my lession about making unauthorized copies. My daughter's puppy urinated all over the tape. This movie is so good it even survived that.
This is classic noir, with Phillip Marlowe. The plot is about stolen jade, hidden identities, blackmail, love, treachery and murder. The story is complicated, the casting is great, the photography and voice-over narration carry things along. It has style. The ending is satisfying. And the dialogue is some of the best ever written.
Powell broke through into serious roles with this film. Even in all the singing roles he had up to this movie he exuded cocky confidence, and that aspect of his personality is perfect here. As an aside, if you enjoy his singing movies, and I do, watch how he can smile naturally while singing; that's hard.
Claire Trevor, it seems to me, almost always played bruised roses (Stagecoach, Key Largo) or rotting orchids. You cared about her because she was one of life's losers, or you wanted to go to bed with her even knowing you might not wake up in the morning. The scene when we (and Marlowe) first meet her is just as good as the scene when MacMurray first meets Stanwyck in Double Indemnity.
Mike Mazurki as Moose Malloy is great, probably the best role he ever had. He was no actor, but he is effective and sympathetic as a slight pyscho who genuinely is in love; he's starring in his own version of Romeo and Velma.
One of the key ingredients in making this movie work is the dialogue. Quantities of it must have been lifted verbatim from Farewell, My Lovely. When Moose talks about Velma being "cute as lace panties" the imagery is vivid. Raymond Chandler, in my view, is the best author of private eye mysteries yet. If you haven't read him, dive in. Ross Macdonald and Hammett come close, but it's no three-way tie.
See the movie. Read the book.
The DVD transfer is first rate. There's a commentary by a fellow named Alain Silver which is adequate, and not essential to enjoying the film."
"You're not a detective, you're a slot machine."
Westley | Stuck in my head | 12/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dick Powell makes a fine Philip Marlowe in this splendid film noir. The film is based on Raymond Chandler's "Farewell, My Lovely," which marks the second appearance of Marlowe in print. The book was actually adapted once before for an entry in the Falcon series ("The Falcon Takes Over"), which featured George Sanders. That film, however, simply adapted the plot of "Farewell, My Lovely" for the Falcon series; hence, the character is named Gay Lawrence, not Philip Marlowe. So in effect, "Murder, My Sweet" is the first screen appearance of Philip Marlowe. In addition, "The Falcon Takes Over" is a decent but lightweight thriller - not the noir classic of "Murder, My Sweet."
The plot is typically convoluted for a film noir written by Chandler. Marlowe, a somewhat down-on-his-luck private detective, is approached by Moose Malloy, a giant of a man who has just been released from the pokey and is searching for his ex-girlfriend. He reluctantly accepts the case. However, before he can make headway, Marlowe gets a second client, the effete Lindsay Marriott who wants Marlowe to accompany him on a late night pay-off. These two cases quickly become enmeshed and lead to numerous complications and murders.
"Murder, My Sweet" is first-rate film noir in every way. Director Edward Dmytryk (The Caine Mutiny, Crossfire) was one of the best noir film makers of all time, and he uses the conventions of the genre (shadows and unusual lighting, hard-boiled dialogue) with fine subtlety. The cast is also extraordinary - lead by Powell as Marlowe. Arguably, Humphrey Bogart was a more forceful Marlowe two years later in "The Big Sleep." However, Powell is convincing as the straight-shooting but somewhat desperate detective. Furthermore, he's joined by femme fatale Claire Trevor, who is always terrific in this type of hard-bitten role. Screenwriter John Paxton adapted Chandler's novel - managing to save some of the best bits, such as Marlowe's encounter with Mrs. Florian ("She was a charming middle-aged lady with a face like a bucket of mud"). All of the elements really come together for one of the finest noirs ever made, and this DVD transfer is solid.
DVD extras: The original theatrical trailer and an informational, but somewhat boring commentary by Alain Silver, who is a film producer and has written several books on film noir. "
Film Noir 101
M. MOTEN | pittsburgh, pa United States | 11/01/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the movie that hooked me on "Film Noir." I first saw this on the late show while suffereing a killer flu. Even through local TV editing and enough medicine to tranquilize a circus tent, it had me sitting at attention from start to finish. It wasn't until several years later that I got to see it uncut on cable that I got the full effect. Having grown up with Bogart's hard-boiled private eye archetype, Dick Powell was a complete revelation to me. If you double-bill this with Bogart's "Big Sleep," you see at once that Powell truly IS Phillip Marlowe (even Raymond Chandler thought so), and Bogart is much better suited to portray Hammet's colder, meaner Sam Spade. Powell gives Marlowe a vulnerable cynicism as well as a touch of the "everyman," that Bogart wouldn't be able to pull off until later in his career. Powell's background in romantic musicals gives him access to a far deeper emotional range, needed to play the complex and conflicted Marlowe; his cynicism, his humour, his loyalty to his code...it's all there. Powell manages to give extra resonance to some of Chandler's throw-away similes! No wonder he claimed this as his favorite role! The direction by Edward Dmytryk and cinematography by Harry Wild are perfect, giving the film a tight, economical yet alluring vintage "feel". Working on a tight budget, they manage to infuse it with all the seedy, chaotic topography that would serve as the touchtones for every film of this type from "Night of the Hunter" to "Blade Runner." While this isn't the first Noir film, it may well be the best."
Fine adaption of Raymond Chandler's "Farewell, my Lovely"
Matthew Horner | USA | 08/10/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Murder, My Sweet", released in 1944, is a taunt film noir thriller based on Raymond Chandler's novel, "Farewell, My Lovely". The story goes that the studio [RKO] changed the title so that audiences wouldn't think it was yet another Dick Powell musical. Powell, whose career was flagging, wanted a new image, and he certainly got it playing hard-boiled detective Phillip Marlowe. Two years later, Humphrey Bogart became the quintessential Marlowe in "The Big Sleep", but that doesn't change the fact that Powell is himself quite memorable. Marlowe is hired by a playboy to accompany him in the retrieval of a jade necklace he claims was stolen from a wealthy friend of his. At the place where the exchange is to take place, Marlowe is knocked out and awakens to find the man has been murdered. Other new [and unwelcome] clients are also knocking at his door. One is a huge ex-con who is looking for his old girlfriend. Another is the daughter [Anne Shirley] of the man whose wife owned the jade necklace. The woman is Helen Grayle [Claire Trevor], a beautiful, seductive woman with a past. Marlowe, as usual, finds himself surrounded by people whose motives are questionable and often dangerous. He puts himself and others in jeopardy as he relentlessly pursues the truth. Claire Trevor, one of Hollywood's greatest character actresses, gives a fine, edgy performance as Helen. Otto Kruger is deliciously sinister as Jules Amthor, shady underground figure and chief suspect.The Chandler novel was remade in the 1970s using the original title. Robert Mitchum played Marlowe and the remarkable Charlotte Rampling starred as Helen Grayle. This version is more faithful to the book, but I find "Murder, my Sweet" to be a slightly better movie."
A Mastery of Chandler
William Hare | Seattle, Washington | 12/28/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The only thing that must have disappointed Raymond Chandler, who wrote the masterful detective novel "Farewell, My Lovely," on which "Murder, My Sweet" was based, was that it was made at RKO while he was under contract at Paramount two blocks away, making him unable to get involved in the screenplay. He highly praised the finished product, however, even if it was made by the competitor in the neighborhood. Not generally given to lavish praise, Chandler pronounced Dick Powell as the perfect Philip Marlowe. The film was a tour de force for Powell, a former song and dance man seeking to retool his Hollywood career in the direction of a dramatic actor. He delivers the crisp lines, many of which were taken from the pages of Chandler's book, with effortless aplomb.Mike Mazurki, under contract to RKO, lobbied for the part. When director Edward Dmytryk would not offer it to him it was ultimately offered to the famous professional wrestler-actor by none other than studio president Charles Korner."It was a big opportunity for me," he genial actor once told me in an interview. "It was my first big dramatic part, a great opportunity. Dick Powell came up to me before the film started shooting and told me that we should really stick together on this one since we were in the same boat. He explained about making the transition from musicals, where he had made his mark."Powell as Chandler's detective Philip Marlowe and Mazurki as dim-witted and homicidal ex-con Moose Malloy make film magic. Mazurki digs his ham-like hand into Powell early in the film and commands, "Find my Velma!" He is referring to the woman he loved, the dancer he had to leave when he was sent to prison.Powell takes Mazurki's money and launches his pursuit. He eventually runs into the underworld and smooth talking con man Otto Kruger. He also encounters Claire Trevor, formerly Mazurki's Velma and now a rich man's wife with a new identity, but the same outlook as before, sociopathic. Ann Shirley plays the stepdaughter of Trevor. She loves her father and recognizes Trevor as a ruthless opportunist. In the meantime Powell and Shirley begin making music of their own, and continue making it at Fade Out. Trevor has been likened as a femme fatale to Jane Greer in "Out of the Past" and Barbara Stanwyck in "Double Indemnity." The comparisons are apt. All three performers exude a raw and combustible sensuality as ruthless women who know what they want and do not care how they acquire it. "Murder, My Sweet" and the other two aforementioned films rate at the very top of film noir genre."