In this 1946 detective drama, Phillip Marlowe played by Robert Montgomery, is NOT a Bogart. He gets roughed up a lot too. He's a tough guy. He's likes the ladies. He's only seen in mirrors. He's also not fond of murder and is tenacious. The soundtrack, if you want to call it that, is not often heard. Its a chorus of weird wailing.
This film takes place around Christmas. It starts 3 days before Christmas to be exact. The opening credits are displayed with traditional Christmas songs. Very creative beginning to say the least.
I was 19 minutes into this film and beginning to find it either laughable or dreadful. Sometimes both. A film like this is hard to tell without giving it a chance, but by minute 20 my patience was wearing out fast.
In this crime drama, we see what our famous detective Philip Marlowe sees, through his eyes. Its rather distracting for me but an interesting style.
I would rather see a conventionally made film without the nasal sounding Robert Montgomery as the detective. I'm not even sure if it's his voice doing the dialog.
Not a very tough guy to look at either (we see him in a mirror briefly several times). This is NO James Cagney, believe me. I wish it were. Cagney could pull off being a tough detective.
I also was put off by the typical wise guy dialog popular in the day. Fred MacMurry, Bogart and Cagney were famous for the snappy replies, but this Phillip Marlowe immediately comes off as a judgemental jerk.
He's always spoiling for a punch in the face, and by the 19th minute he gets it. Lights out and fade to black. Next scene, he wakes up in jail.
By the way, the first person he investigates in this crime story delivers the punch. Its a laughably presented southerner complete with that good old boy drawl and Superman body.
If a wise guy like Marlowe came into my house making all sorts of wild accusations he'd get a punch from me as well. By the way, he gets sucker punched, so its not entirely his inability to handle himself. At least our detective is not superman. Give the film some credit for that.
Never-the-less, with due respect to the era this film was made, I should ignore all this detail and try to stay with the plot.
The dvd cover art says "You and Robert Montgomery solve a murder mystery together!" The title, however, tells us right away there may be no mystery as to where a murder happened..... the Lady in the Lake.
Ok, she's in the lake. How she got there is the mystery. And why do more deaths occur?
We're warned it is a tricky plot, a film that begins unusually with Marlowe sitting at his office desk warning us about what we are about to see. We learn that for this film he turned writer and submitted his story to a publicist who hires him to find the boss's wife, missing for a month, then two months.
She must smell pretty bad by now, that is, if she's really dead. The husband, Mr. Kingsby, doesn't seem too shook up about her absence.
By the 36th minute of the film, our fast talking and ladie's man is making passes at his female co-star and client Miss Fromsett (Montgomery by his age in this film is no youngster and not particularly handsome either).
He also gets the sexy eye from the receptionist early in the film and again later. (This is too good to be true, a funny and a sexy movie!)
By the way, by now our leading suspect, the southerner, gets another visit by Marlowe but finds him gone. Instead, his landlady is in his house. She's looking for the southerner too and for his rent money. Marlowe poses as a collector looking for a car payment.
He suddenly has our landlady turning from a combative gal to a potential lover, all in one scene! Marlowe is some operator.
Half way through the film our detective manages to get arrested for a drunk driving, murder, striking a police officer, resisting arrest, disturbing a crime scene. He's had flirtations with three women, his first client Miss Fromsett and her receptionist. Then too there is that young landlady, Miss Fallbrook.
Isn't anyone married in this film besides the missing Mrs. Kingsby?
That's about all of this tangled plot I want to reveal. It's about all I want to write as well. This film is pretty much to me a satire or parody of detective stories by today's standards. It didn't intend to be, but that's what it comes off as to me. Sort of like Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.
Not sure what to really think of it other than it made me laugh at some points, with some of the acting and wise-cracking dialog.
Watch it for yourself and decide.
NOTES about the film:
1 Lady in the Lake is a 1947 American noir film that marked the directorial debut of actor Robert Montgomery who also starred in the film. It was an adaptation of the 1944 Raymond Chandler novel The Lady in the Lake.
2 The movie was also rare for having virtually no musical soundtrack.
3 The entire film was seen from the viewpoint of the central character, the detective Philip Marlowe, played by Montgomery. The gimmick was that the audience would see only what the character saw, and MGM in its promotion of the film claimed that it was the first of its kind and the most revolutionary style of film since the introduction of the talkies. (talk is so cheap)
4 An adaptation of the 1944 Raymond Chandler novel The Lady in the Lake. Chandler, a twice Oscar nominated screenwriter who did not author the screenplay for this or any other screen adaptations of his own novels, surprisingly disdained Montgomery's ambition to create a cinematic version of the first person narrative style of his Phillip Marlowe novels.
5 The storyline revolved around a conventional murder mystery similar to many others of the period, however it was notable for the perspective presented to the viewer.
6 The New York Times film critic wrote, "In making the camera an active participant, rather than an off-side reporter, Mr. Montgomery has, however, failed to exploit the full possibilities suggested by this unusual technique. For after a few minutes of seeing a hand reaching toward a door knob, or lighting a cigarette or lifting a glass, or a door moving toward you as though it might come right out of the screen the novelty begins to wear thin."
Robert Montgomery as Philip Marlowe
Audrey Totter as Adrienne Fromsett
Lloyd Nolan as Lt. DeGarmot
Tom Tully as Police Captain Fergus K. Kane
Leon Ames as Derace Kingsby
Jayne Meadows as Mildred Haveland
Richard Simmons as Chris Lavery
Morris Ankrum as Eugene Grayson
Lila Leeds as Receptionist
William Roberts as Artist
Kathleen Lockhart as Mrs. Grayson
Directed by Robert Montgomery
Produced by George Haight
Screenplay by Steve Fisher
Music by David Snell
Cinematography Paul Vogel
Editing by Gene Ruggiero
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) January 23, 1947 (1947-01-23) (United States)
Running time 105 minutes