Solve a murder mystery together! They are screaming it at you! It is a gimmick but you are solving this mystery with Phillip Marlowe, who is played by Robert Montgomery this time around. We don’t get to see much of him due to the subjective nature in which the movie was filmed, which is in first person, he does a great job representing the snarky, confident, and sarcastic private dick with his voice. With great performances all around, which must have been tough having to act to a camera and not another human, this movie does exactly what it promises. We are all taken on a first person ride through a well told mystery. The film is slightly dated, but not as much as you would think. It holds up over some eighties movies.
The film is shot in the first person view of Phillip Marlowe, down to the very last detail. Montgomery directed this one himself and I think did a masterful job accomplishing what they set out to accomplish. A few scenes feel a little awkward, like when Ms. Fromsett bobs in for a kiss, but overall whether your punching or being punched at, you are really feeling it happen. You never really know what is coming on the periphery so there are some very surprising moments. During the movie I almost couldn’t wait to see what this was going to look like in a car, however, I felt myself getting dizzier as the driving scene went on. Be warned, this film could make people sick. I’ve shown it to many over the years and most are okay, but few have had to look away from time to time.
The filming does do the story some justice, as the mystery gets deeper and the only information Marlowe has, you have. It makes for one of the all-time great reveals, near the end of the movie when the case is finally solved. There are scenes where Robert Montgomery is speaking directly into the camera, but they are very short and are mostly to fill in a story gap that couldn’t be told the way the film was shot. He does look very rigid in these scenes, but it doesn’t take anything away from the film. Such a handsome man, it is a wonder he didn’t do Robert Montgomery the actor a favor as Robert Montgomery the director, and give himself as much screen time as possible. He did make a film in which he would not be able to feature his chin as I’m sure he, and the studio, would have wanted.
Much can be said about the innovative nature in which this movie was made, but a lot must be said about the performance of Audrey Totter. She is the actor we see the most throughout the film and keeps us interested. Her body language and they way she uses her eyes to talk to the camera made the difference in a somewhat stiff film. She is lively and enthusiastic. With the use of the subjective camera, a lot of options can be taken off the table. The performance we got from Audrey Totter was fantastic. She really keeps the movie going as she is character we see the most but know the least about. At least I can say, I kissed her too! As Marlowe, Montgomery brought us the familiar wit and know how we are used to seeing, but we are at somewhat of a loss.
The only time we see him is in a mirror, which loses a little effectiveness after the first few times it is used. The character is well acted and comes off as charming even though we don’t get to see his use of body language like we would in other films in which Marlowe is in, which is a strength of the other films. It does add up to be a good adaptation of a Chandler novel and gave the character a fresh new look and a new take on the story. If you are on a Noir kick of any kind make sure this film is right there in your playlist.