Friday, 19 September 2014

Farewell, my Lovely (4½ Stars)

I've got a hat, a coat and a gun. That's it.

This was the first of two films in which Robert Mitchum starred as Philip Marlowe. The other film was "The Big Sleep", made three years later in 1978. The two films are very unlike one another. "The Big Sleep" has a somewhat camp nature, whereas "Farewell, my Lovely" is 100% film noir. The film is made in colour, but most of the scenes take place at night, and even the daytime scenes occur in dark and grubby neighbourhoods. The voice-over is maintained throughout the film, which we see entirely from the detective's perspective. In this film, unlike "The Big Sleep", Philip Marlowe is very human and unable to resist the deadly charms of the femme fatale, the judge's young wife Helen. After she flashes her thighs at him and then sits staring longingly at his crotch he falls helplessly into her arms. Luckily she didn't pull out her gun on him until later in the film.

The plot is much less complex than "The Big Sleep". It takes place in 1941, against the background of the War in Europe and Joe DiMaggio making baseball history. The detective is hired by Moose Malloy, an ex-convict, to find his girlfriend Velma. He's just spent seven years in prison, and the last time she visited him was six years ago. It might sound like a simple case, but as it progresses the people he asks for information are killed one by one by unknown assailants. After the first five bodies have piled up the police suspect Marlowe of murder.

Today is the first time I've watched this film. It certainly won't be the last.

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