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USA 1975
Directed by
Dick Richards
95 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Farewell, My Lovely

Dick Richards' remake of the 1944 noir classic Murder. My Sweet is both quite faithful to the original and self-conscious about its “quotational” status.

Even though he is too old for the part (he was 57 at the time) no-one could regret the replacement of Dick Powell from the earlier film by Robert Mitchum in the lead role as Los Angeles private eye, Philip Marlowe, who is hired by paroled convict Moose Malloy (Jack O'Halloran) to find his girlfriend, Velma, a former nightclub dancer.  As in the original Marlowe’s voice-over wryly relates his journey through L. A.'s moral sewers that come out in, where else, but the well-appointed playground of its high society.  

In  terms of plot and dialogue (and, unsurprisingly narration) Richards, with writer David Zelag Goodman, stays largely faithful to the Edward Dmytryk version. Sometimes the gets very close as with Marlowe’s interview with Jesse Florian (Sylvia Miles), sometimes it goes oddly wide of the mark as with Marlowe’s snogging session with Helen Grayle (Charlotte Rampling in Lauren Bacall mode).  In between there is an added act involving Marlowe in a brothel run by an overweight bull dyke which is rather clumsily handled whilst the film's ending is abrupt and also awkward, feeling as if everyone had simply lost interest in doing the thing properly. The sound design is disconcertingl uneven but John A. Alonzo's cinematography and Dean Tavoularis’s production design gives us an impressively lurid, colour-saturated, neon-lit image of ‘40s L.A. 

Whether it is this mix of good and bad or simply the complexity of the plot, the film starts to wear in the latter stages, a summing-up by Marlowe at end of the film’s climax actually serving our flagging attentions well in explaining who did what to who and why.

All up, as a remake there are gains and losses here. Purists will favour the authentic noir style of the black and white original, post-modernists will enjoy the make-over. Everyone should appreciate Robert Mitchum’s improved aptness as Marlowe.




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