A Movie A Day: Quint watches MURDER, MY SWEET (1944) A black pool opened up at my feet... It had no bottom.
Published at: June 24, 2008, 12:22 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
We’re back to noir for a couple flicks, following the unlikely noir star Dick Powell in his turn as Philip Marlowe in 1944’s MURDER, MY SWEET. I say unlikely because the image he has in my mind from the last three AMADs, Busby Berkeley musicals, is very young and carefree. Square even. It’d be like Justin Long doing his thing now and then in 9 years plays a hard-boiled badass and is believable in the role!
MURDER, MY SWEET opens in an interrogation room. Marlowe is getting quizzed and at first I thought he was wearing a blindfold, but it turns out they’re bandages.
This is really smart, actually, because it lets Marlowe tell his story as it unfolds, giving us that traditional private dick noir voiceover.
So, we get a noir tale full of dames, fatales, murder, brutes, coppers, drug-fueled hallucinations, double-crosses, single-crosses and blackjacks to the temple.
The MacGuffin is a missing Jade necklace worth $100,000, but the real drive for Marlowe is figuring out who killed a man who hired him for protection on a payoff run. He figures the man paid him and he didn’t get the job done, so he at least owes him his time in figuring out whodunit.
There are side jobs, seemingly unconnected, that are, of course, connected. A simple giant of a man appropriately named Moose (Mike Mazurki) is looking for a dancer he was in love with. The mastermind uses this to his advantage and fools Moose into being his muscle.
The stand-out sequence in this movie for me was when poor Marlowe is at his lowest. He’s beaten and drugged up with god knows what. Director Edward Dmytryk (THE CAINE MUTINY) really gives us some creepy imagery here… hallucinations of being chased by a man with a hypodermic needle through a series of doors getting smaller and smaller.
It’s a great showcase for Powell as well as Marlowe, through sheer strength of will, battles through the visions and forces himself to get up and essentially walk it off.
A lot of credit needs to go to screenwriter John Paxton (who wrote a future AMAD title CROSSFIRE) for the rapid-fire dialogue and seemingly unending twists and turns. I haven’t read Raymond Chandler’s original story, so I can’t speak to how closely it follows the book, but the movie is well done.
Anne Shirley and Claire Trevor are both beautiful and play the hell out of their roles, Shirley in particular… but I’ve always had a thing for brunettes. Trevor is definitely the more bitchy and noiry of the two, though. She definitely revels in the fatale role, enjoying the manipulation.
Here’s the schedule for the next 7 days:
Tuesday, June 24th: BORN TO KILL (1947)
Wednesday, June 25th: THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)
Thursday, June 26th: TORN CURTAIN (1966)
Friday, June 27th: THE LEFT HANDED GUN (1958)
Saturday, June 28th: CALIGULA (1980)
Sunday, June 29th: THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980)
Monday, June 30th: THE GOOD FATHER (1987)
Tomorrow we have 1947’s noir BORN TO KILL, following Claire Trevor over. We dip into a real hodgepodge of titles for the next couple of weeks, going from THE SOUND OF MUSIC to CALIGULA… lots of ‘80s dramas, comedies and cult films there, too. See you tomorrow!