Saturday, September 22, 2007

Lady in the Lake (1946)

A Phillip Marlowe detective mystery before Humphrey Bogart became the Phillip Marlowe of the screen.

I read this book a while ago and it was really get a real sense of place from it which is interesting because none of the movies made from Raymond Chandler's novels seem to happen anywhere - they happen in Anytown, Anywhere.

This adaptation has Phillip introducing himself to us and to the story for FOUR LONG MINUTES at the beginning of the movie - this is something a test screening would have done away with if they had existed in 1946. Phillip explains that you will see the story as he sees it. This seems unexciting until the movie itself rolls and you realize that the characters are all talking to the camera and reacting to the camera like it's Marlowe. We are not going to see Phillip Marlowe in action because you are going to be Phillip Marlowe.

Maybe the purpose of this movie is just to prove how great the Big Sleep is? The plot is hard to follow and makes little sense - but that's true in the Big Sleep, too, and I never cared. In fact, until I saw the deleted scene and understood what the missing information was, it had never bothered me that for half the movie I had no idea what lead Phillip Marlowe was following or what he was figuring out. I was just thrilled to watch Bogey and Bacall in love.

The leading lady's lipstick outlines her lips in an exaggerated way that I can't stand. Lauren Bacall's lips need no exaggeration to wow me.

The list of things I can't stand about this movie is long: the scenes are waaay to slow and full of silly little comedy moments by bit players that could have be cut. At one point an injured Marlowe crawls to a phone booth: we watch him as his hands drag him along the ground slowly toward the phone booth. If this were a key moment or suspense, it would be Hitchcock-esque - but it's not. He gets to the phone booth and makes a call and then passes out. End scene.

Also, Phillip Marlowe seems to like making mean comments to women and, more irritatingly, he insists on referring to women as "females" - as in: "do me a favor and get me everything you can on a female named Mildred Havilland." Ugh.

The acting is pretty lame, but the costumes are great. There is a suit that the femme fatale wears in the second scene which had me thinking about how I could manufacture new clothing from patterns of old movie costumes.

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