Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
USA, 1975. EK, ITC Films. Screenplay by David Zelag Goodman, based on the novel by Raymond Chandler. Cinematography by John A. Alonzo. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, George Pappas. Music by David Shire. Production Design by Dean Tavoularis. Costume Design by Sandy Berke Jordan, G. Tony Scarano. Film Editing by Joel Cox, Walter Thompson.
We all know the hard-boiled drill: a straightforward case falls into a private eye’s lap, and his simply looking into it is enough for his life to spiral out of control. While successfully restoring a teenage runaway to the parents who were looking for her, Philip Marlowe (Robert Mitchum) is observed by a tall, recently paroled hood (Jack O’Halloran) who asks him to do a similar job for him. The big lug hasn’t heard from his girlfriend in years and wants to find her, which Marlowe immediately gets to work on and ends up stepping into a deadly whirlpool of corruption and secrets. He starts his search at the nightclub where the missing woman performed and it results in a man getting shot and his employer going missing. He goes in search of an ailing former musician with information on the club owner’s widow (Sylvia Miles), and follows clues pertaining to a very expensive necklace that leads him to a wealthy judge (a cameo by pulp writer Jim Thompson), and his young wife, played to archetypal femme fatale perfection by that queen of smoulderers, Charlotte Rampling. Made during a period of revived popularity for noir-ish entertainment, this is, unlike the ironic, contemporary efforts of films like Night Moves, a wholly sincere tribute to a style of yesteryear that suggests the style of forties cinema, despite being shot in colour, while never feeling gimmicky about it. The shadowy cinematography creates an intoxicating mood, while the host of archetypal characters are filled out by terrific performances, including Rampling, a superb Kate Murtagh as a brothel madam and a delightful Miles supplying Thelma Ritter vibes. Mitchum is a bit past his prime for the lead role, his world-weary manner terrific when he needs to react to corruption but awkward when performing some very soggy scenes of sensuality with his leading lady. He actually comes off more spry in the modern-day adaptation of The Big Sleep which came out three years later, though this is the better film of the two.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Supporting Actress (Sylvia Miles)