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Garp's Franchise Film reviews

TM2YC

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Chandler wrote some original scripts such as the 1946 noir 'The Blue Dahlia' (he got an Oscar nomination for it).

The Star Trek homage would be fun to watch after seeing the real thing:

 

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BONUS: 'Dracula Untold' [2014]

Sometimes touted as the unofficial start of Universal's Dark Universe franchise, 'Dracula Untold' sees Luke Evans play Vlad the Impaler in this historical-fantasy-horror hybrid.

Vlad is being harassed by the Turks. In an attempt to become superhuman, he seeks the consul of a strange pale figure in the caves. On drinking his blood, Vlad has three days of magical powers to defeat the Turks and abstain from consuming human blood or become an immortal monster.

Tonally, 'Dracula Untold' feels very much like 'Dark Prince' [2000], which I've reviewed previously. It takes the legend of Vlad and adds a nonsensical fairy-tale element with the 'Three Days to Break the Curse' plot device. Thus, the film becomes one of suspense. There's little doubt that Vlad will succumb and become Dracula, but it teases the how and why. Evans is good in the lead role, although the writers aren't entirely sure what his character should be. He veers from Hitler to Chamberlain back to Hitler again throughout the film. I suspect they were trying for 'tragic hero' and they come close. But he's not the villain. Charles Dance has that role and sinks his teeth into it (I'm sorry...). Sarah Gadon plays Vlad's wife with parental vigor, and the atmosphere is appropriately dark and moody.

If this was supposed to be Drac's backstory for the abandoned multi-verse - the final contemporary scene suggesting that it was - then it's a strange one. Was Dracula to become a villain later or continue to be the misunderstood loner-hero that's portrayed here? It also comes across as too cerebral to be any way connected to the silly 'Mummy' film that Cruise screwed up three years later. On its own, I enjoyed it, although it doesn't really do anything particularly special, to be honest. Not at all as I expected, though and, after the appalling 'Mummy [2017]', it was a pleasant surprise.
 

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BONUS: 'The Mummy Resurrected' [2014]

Six attractive girls and an eccentric archaeologist enter a tomb, get trapped and start dying in this low budget horror.

It took me a while (I'm not always quick on the uptake) but I finally realised that 'The Mummy Resurrected' was yet another spin on the familiar Bram Stoker tale 'Jewel of the Seven Stars'. I mean, the clues were right there, come to think of it - the father-daughter relationship, and the entrance with the constellation of the Plough/Big Dipper. We're thrown right into the plot with little backstory - who are these six attractive girls, why are they in Egypt, what exactly happened to the father in the prologue and why doesn't anyone trust him? If any of these questions were answered, I missed them. No matter. It's not long before they're all trapped in the tomb, anyway, and the story gets going.

'The Mummy Resurrected' is sort of like 'The Descent' but without the talent. The acting here ranges from awkward to average, though the scriptwriters don't do anyone any favours. As the group are picked off one by one, the girls react with frustration and annoyance, as if they've just dropped their cellphone into the toilet. There isn't any sign of palpable fear as they consider their plight. Trapped in a tomb and our friends keep dying mysteriously? Bummer.

Stuart Rigby plays the father, looking weirdly like a bearded, British Tom Cruise. His job is to appear creepy and incant an Egyptian phrase over and over. Meanwhile, a dodgy-looking mummy shuffles about, breathing on people.

Surprisingly, the sets don't look half bad, and the girls die in a variety of different ways to keep you interested, just. The ending has a "Really? That's it?" quality, which fits with the rest of the film, actually. It's not altogether terrible, just mostly pointless.
 

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BONUS: 'The Falcon takes over' [1942]

 I’m starting my Philip Marlowe franchise with a film that doesn’t actually feature him. ‘The Falcon takes over’ is based on Raymond Chandler’s ‘Farewell, my lovely’ but substitutes George Sanders as Gay Lawrence (The Falcon) in the lead role. The film features the usual array of pulp characters with great names, such as “Goldie” Locke and Moose Malloy. Ostensibly, the film is about missing jewels and murder, but it’s really just an excuse to have some noir-lite with wise-cracking banter.
 
My introduction to George Sanders began with one of the first films I ever remember seeing at the cinema – a re-release of ‘The Jungle Book’ with Sanders voicing Shere Khan. It’s impossible for me to watch him now without that voice conjuring memories of the jutting jaw and giant paws of a tiger. Such nostalgia means I’m incapable of disliking a George Sanders film, even if they are average ones like this.
 
No time is wasted with characterization – this is a 65 minute B-movie after all. This was Sanders third film as the Falcon, and I was lost having never seen the previous two. It seems he is an independent man of means who catches crooks on the side while being devilishly suave with the ladies. Sanders plays the Falcon with a twinkle in his eye that Cary Grant would later copy. He is not taking this seriously, but his enthusiasm and fun is infectious. Allen Jenkins is his sidekick as the aforementioned “Goldie” Locke, with a voice also associated in my mind with a cartoon cat, strangely enough; he was the voice of Officer Dibble in ‘Top Cat’. The banter between the two is entertaining, making another double act shown here unnecessary. There’s the world-weary cop and his simpleton subordinate, which didn’t work for me.
 
And on the film goes, at a cracking pace, introducing dodgy psychics, a femme fatale and a girl reporter hungry for a scoop. I admit I lost the plot about halfway through, but no matter. There’s another fistfight just around the corner, or some more fast-talking back-and-forths to enjoy. It’ll be interesting to see what Dick Powell does with the role and story, with ‘Murder, my sweet’ from 1944 next.
 

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'Murder, my Sweet' [1944]

Dick Powell plays Philip Marlowe in this early film noir. Private Detective Marlowe is hired twice - once to find a missing dame name of Velma, another to accompany a man paying off a ransom. Things don't go well, but are these two events connected somehow..?

While 'The Falcon Takes Over' took Chandler's novel 'Farewell, my Lovely' and turned it into a semi-comic caper, 'Murder, my Sweet' plays it fairly straight. The elements for a hard-boiled noir thriller are here right off the bat: the shadows, the smoke, neon lights and narration that sizzles. The film is told in flashback, with Marlowe relating the events that led him to a dark and smoky interrogation room at the Police station.

Powell does a good job as Marlowe, being quick with the wit but also showing vulnerability and fallibility. He gets clobbered, drugged and seems on the brink of packing it all in more than once; towards the end, he reveals too much, putting his own life in danger. Powell's Marlowe is playful - note the hopscotch in the mansion's hallway - which gives extra nuance to the character I wasn't expecting. The supporting cast are also excellent, including Mike Mazurki as the stereotypical dumb hoodlum, Moose Malloy, and Miles Mander as an elderly husband; Claire Trevor as his wife gets to show great range as her character evolves.

The plot is easier to follow here than 'The Falcon...' - the extra 30 minutes helps - but it still doesn't matter. The rapid-fire banter, the style and atmosphere are what kept me immersed. Of course, part of the problem watching this film many years after it was made is that it seems derivative now - we've seen this stuff so many times - rather than the fresh, exciting impact it would have made at the time. How incredible that must have been.
 

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'Farewell, My Lovely' [1975]

Robert Mitchum steps into Philip Marlowe's gumshoes in this latest version of Raymond Chandler's novel, and the first to plump for the original title.

Mitchum is no stranger to film noir and seems like a good choice for Marlowe on paper. He's world-weary and lugubrious. And, unfortunately, too old for the part by this stage of his career. The film tries to get away with it by making it appear Marlowe is past his prime and willing to take any jobs he's offered. It sort of works, but it changes the dynamics with the other characters, one that the script doesn't bother to touch. Charlotte Rampling plays the ice cool femme fatale, channeling Lauren Bacall to a T, and Jack O'Halloran (later of 'Superman II) has his first ever film role as Moose Malloy. I have an inkling the dumb brute character wasn't too much of a stretch for him, but he does well enough. It is Sylvia Miles who knocks everyone else of the screen, though, as the drunken has-been performer; I wasn't surprised to later learn she was nominated for Best Supporting  Actress that year. (Sylvester Stallone makes an early appearance here too as a silent heavy, so fresh-faced it's almost off-putting.)

The film tries hard to recreate the look of the period, although too often it looked too 'Bugsy Malone' for my liking - a little too cartoony and fake. Still, it's harder-hitting than other previous entries, with more violence, nudity and language, as well as tackling (to an extent) the racism of the time and even a clunky reference to Hitler!

The film follows the plots of the other versions up to the halfway point, then diverges slightly. It's a little messier, but it's not really an easy story to follow anyway. Mitchum doesn't quite stick the landing on much of the quickfire dialogue, coming across as reciting lines rather than the quick-witted responses required. Overall, though, it's a worthy attempt and an interesting counterpoint to Dick Powell's earlier and superior portrayal.
 

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'The Big Sleep' [1946]

Humphrey Bogart playing Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe opposite Lauren Bacall. That may be all you need to know to entice you watch this 1946 classic. Forget the plot, just rejoice in the chemistry, the banter and the atmosphere.

Rarely has there been a film in which virtually every main actor is excellent. Bogart is Marlowe - the quips are effortless, the blood flows ice cold in his veins, yet he still admits to fear when the odds look stacked against him. Women love him - literally throwing themselves at him - but he only has eyes for Bacall. She, naturally, is excellent too - sly, seductive yet brash when necessary. The conversation in the restaurant between them virtually crackles with sexual tension - this was a later reshot scene, too, and the actors were married by this stage.

I watched both the theatrical version and the pre-release version prior to the reshoots a year later. Some of the differences are subtle, but the theatrical release is the winner. A lengthy scene in the DA's office halfway through in the pre-release version is probably the one that could have been kept, as it succinctly sums up the convoluted plot up to that point.

Ah, yes - the plot. If you had trouble keeping up in 'Farewell my Lovely', then you'll fare less well here, I'm afraid. Legend has it that even Chandler didn't quite know what happened to one of the characters when asked. Does it really matter? Not much, to be honest. It's enough to know that shady dealings are occurring and that pretty much everyone is bent. Given time and an ample supply of notepaper, I could possibly work out who did what to whom and why, but I can't say that my enjoyment was any less on both of my viewings without a complete understanding. I'm going to watch the hell out of this film in the future and I don't care whether I get any further with comprehending it or not. I'm just going to sit back and enjoy seeing Bogart and Bacall sizzle.
 

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'The Big Sleep' [1978]

If you've watched the 1946 version of 'The Big Sleep' or read Raymond Chandler's novel and ever though to yourself, "I wonder if this would work if it were set in 1970's English suburbia..?", then director Michael Winner has provided you here with the answer: It would not.

Robert Mitchum plays Philip Marlowe for the second time, but with even less conviction than before. He has a sleepy look anyway, and he shows no sign that he was conscious during the filming. It's a shame, as he has a terrific cast to play with - James Stewart, John Mills, Edward Fox, Sarah Miles, Joan Collins, Oliver Reed, Harry Andrews, Colin Blakeley, Richard Todd and a whole host of I-know-your-face British character actors. How Winner got everyone onboard is extraordinary.

The film plays out very similarly to the more well-known 1946 version, albeit with more license to show more skin as well as delve into aspects that were only hinted at before. Geiger is unequivocally a pornographer here, although the 'dirty books' he makes seem a bit quaint even for the late 70s. The film comes across as a big-budgeted version of the old TV show 'The Sweeney'; I loved seeing the old cars, fashions and even locales of my youth, even when the story wasn't particularly gripping.

Acting is very hit and miss here. Candy Clark as the strung-out Camilla Sternwood is terribly over-the-top, and others, like Mills and Fox, are little more than cameos. Even Reed isn't shown much, although he makes it seem like he's there longer. He is in fine Reed form, brooding, tightly-wound and the most exciting presence overall. Stewart is also excellent, adding lustre to this turd; Sarah Miles is no Bacall and the chemistry with Mitchum is zero, but she's better than Collins, if that needed stating.

The plot isn't much easier to comprehend here either, although Winner at least comes up with an explanation for whatever happened to the chauffeur. Still, why on earth did anyone think this gritty 30s LA thriller could work as a contemporary English film? It's all very odd. I cannot recommend it as being a good film - it isn't - but it's so unusual and with such a great cast that it perhaps requires viewing at least once.
 

TM2YC

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Garp said:
'The Big Sleep' [1978]

If you've watched the 1946 version of 'The Big Sleep' or read Raymond Chandler's novel and ever though to yourself, "I wonder if this would work if it were set in 1970's English suburbia..?", then director Michael Winner has provided you here with the answer: It would not.

...why on earth did anyone think this gritty 30s LA thriller could work as a contemporary English film? It's all very odd. I cannot recommend it as being a good film - it isn't - but it's so unusual and with such a great cast that it perhaps requires viewing at least once.

Intriguing!  I just assumed this one was set in the US because of Mitchum and that's Noir detective standard practice.  What a strange decision.  Now I want to see it, because of and despite your critical view :) .
 

Garp

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TM2YC said:
Garp said:
'The Big Sleep' [1978]

If you've watched the 1946 version of 'The Big Sleep' or read Raymond Chandler's novel and ever though to yourself, "I wonder if this would work if it were set in 1970's English suburbia..?", then director Michael Winner has provided you here with the answer: It would not.

...why on earth did anyone think this gritty 30s LA thriller could work as a contemporary English film? It's all very odd. I cannot recommend it as being a good film - it isn't - but it's so unusual and with such a great cast that it perhaps requires viewing at least once.

Intriguing!  I just assumed this one was set in the US because of Mitchum and that's Noir detective standard practice.  What a strange decision.  Now I want to see it, because of and despite your critical view :) .

Took me by surprise too. I was perhaps harsher than I intended to be because of that, but even so, it just did not work at all for me.
 

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Garp said:
BONUS: 'Dracula Untold' [2014]

Sometimes touted as the unofficial start of Universal's Dark Universe franchise, 'Dracula Untold' sees Luke Evans play Vlad the Impaler in this historical-fantasy-horror hybrid.

Vlad is being harassed by the Turks. In an attempt to become superhuman, he seeks the consul of a strange pale figure in the caves. On drinking his blood, Vlad has three days of magical powers to defeat the Turks and abstain from consuming human blood or become an immortal monster.

Tonally, 'Dracula Untold' feels very much like 'Dark Prince' [2000], which I've reviewed previously. It takes the legend of Vlad and adds a nonsensical fairy-tale element with the 'Three Days to Break the Curse' plot device. Thus, the film becomes one of suspense. There's little doubt that Vlad will succumb and become Dracula, but it teases the how and why. Evans is good in the lead role, although the writers aren't entirely sure what his character should be. He veers from Hitler to Chamberlain back to Hitler again throughout the film. I suspect they were trying for 'tragic hero' and they come close. But he's not the villain. Charles Dance has that role and sinks his teeth into it (I'm sorry...). Sarah Gadon plays Vlad's wife with parental vigor, and the atmosphere is appropriately dark and moody.

If this was supposed to be Drac's backstory for the abandoned multi-verse - the final contemporary scene suggesting that it was - then it's a strange one. Was Dracula to become a villain later or continue to be the misunderstood loner-hero that's portrayed here? It also comes across as too cerebral to be any way connected to the silly 'Mummy' film that Cruise screwed up three years later. On its own, I enjoyed it, although it doesn't really do anything particularly special, to be honest. Not at all as I expected, though and, after the appalling 'Mummy [2017]', it was a pleasant surprise.

I remember when we were 13 my best friend saw this movie and hated it for how "Anti-Turk" it was, but historical inaccuracy aside I'm not sure if that is true :D I still haven't seen it though.

There is a Turkish movie called "Deliler: Fatih'in Fermanı" which is basically a response to Dracula Untold. The heroes are an Ottoman troop, and the villain is Vlad the Impaler, who isn't portrayed as the vampire Dracula but instead an evil tyrant who believes he's the son of God. I've seen this one... my first impressions weren't that positive, but if you've seen Dracula Untold it's definitely worth a watch.
 

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Masirimso17 said:
 There is a Turkish movie called "Deliler: Fatih'in Fermanı" which is basically a response to Dracula Untold. The heroes are an Ottoman troop, and the villain is Vlad the Impaler, who isn't portrayed as the vampire Dracula but instead an evil tyrant who believes he's the son of God. I've seen this one... my first impressions weren't that positive, but if you've seen Dracula Untold it's definitely worth a watch.

Thanks! Found a copy, so I'll check it out this week. Cheers.
 

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'Lady in the Lake' [1947]

Robert Montgomery 'stars in' and directs this unusual version of Raymond Chandler's novel. Unusual as the majority of the movie is filmed from Marlowe's point of view. We see what he sees, focus on what he focuses on, and hear his disembodied voice. The other actors therefore stare directly into the camera as they interact with Montgomery as Marlowe.

This style of filmmaking is relatively unique - I can only think of one other ('Hardcore Henry', on my to-see list) that employs it for the entire length of the movie. After watching 'Lady in the Lake', it's easy for me to see why it hasn't taken off. It's a very limiting perspective. It seems as though we would feel more connected to Marlowe as a character in this way, but the opposite is true. We can't see him react, only the other characters he sees. Everything regarding Marlowe, therefore, must be portrayed through his voice alone, and unfortunately I found Montgomery too bland to feel anything for him.

The direction is clever - there are long takes with cuts usually when the camera pans quickly - and we get glimpses of Montgomery in mirrors on occasions. The items he handles are introduced well on the whole - we see puffs of cigarette smoke emanating from the bottom of the screen, and the driving sequence was well done - but there are too many stretches of static shots with another character speaking directly into the screen. Audrey Totter takes up most of the screen time, and I found the blossoming romance between her and Marlowe to be unconvincing. LLoyd Nolan's dodgy cop was a stand-out here both as a character and his more natural acting 'at' a camera.

The plot isn't so convoluted as other Chandler films, but still has too many characters that are heard but not seen. As an experiment in filmmaking, I enjoyed it, but as a Philip Marlowe depiction, it left me cold, I'm afraid.
 

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BONUS: 'Deliler: Fatih'in Fermanı' AKA 'Vlad the Impaler' [2018]

I don't pretend to be a historian, and I have never studied the conflict between the Turks and the Romanians. I have, however, watched the films 'Dark Prince' [2000] and 'Dracula Untold' [2014] and couldn't help but notice that the Turks weren't exactly portrayed as the heroes therein. Enter, then, 'Deliler' to rebalance the scales.

Or not. If the aforementioned films swing wildly in one direction, 'Deliler' swings wildly in the other. Vlad the Impaler, played by Erkan Petekkaya, is a comically cartoony villain. He has aligned himself with the Catholic church, but mocks the Pope, proclaiming himself to be the true Son of God. He naturally has no love for Muslims either, at one point nailing some poor sod's turban to his head. On the opposite side we have his estranged brother Mehmed (Ruzgar Aksoy) who is an oasis of calm. He is tolerant of other religions, befriends orphaned babies and dislikes killing for killing's sake. He is joined by a small army of misfits - a mute, a wild man who laughs out of context, and a man who likes to wear large wings. Really large. Really get-in-the-way-in-everything-you-do large.

The story amounts to our merry band on a quest to challenge Vlad. It has a 'Fellowship of the Ring' quality about it, as they interact with other folk along the way. The film looks good - the locations are stunning, and the costumes and action scenes are done well. However, at times it does come across as a Renaissance Fayre with a bit more cash.

The film is extremely earnest in its agenda to portray the Ottomans as heroic. I'm sure Turkish cinemas erupted when the army appeared from the smoke of an explosion which seemed to wipe them out. A lighter touch here and there wouldn't have gone amiss for me, although I'm not the demographic they were after. As a counterpoint to 'Dark Prince' and 'Dracula Untold', it is worth watching, and the production values alone kept me interested. Historically accurate? I'll leave that for the scholars.
 

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The Man With No Name[1964]

Eastwood's character was not an "archetype" of the Western hero, he was more of an anti-hero, a cold-blooded bounty hunter who killed people at his own convenience and did it for profit and gain.  That was what made this such a break-through character.  It was precisely because the character was NOT the good guy wearing the white hat that made him so interesting and intriguing to movie audiences.
 

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AlanParker1989 said:
The Man With No Name[1964]

Eastwood's character was not an "archetype" of the Western hero, he was more of an anti-hero, a cold-blooded bounty hunter who killed people at his own convenience and did it for profit and gain.  That was what made this such a break-through character.  It was precisely because the character was NOT the good guy wearing the white hat that made him so interesting and intriguing to movie audiences.

This trilogy is still on my to-watch list. Once I've finished the Philip Marlowe films, I have another grouping of films I'm excited to see, so these will have to continue to wait. I'll be interesting to read your comments, if you watch all of them.
 

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BONUS: 'Time to Kill' [1942]

Lloyd Nolan stars at Private Detective Michael Shayne in this adaptation of Chandler's 'The High Window', later remade as 'The Brasher Doubloon' [1947]. This was the last Shayne film (of 7) with Nolan in the lead role, before the series continued at a new studio with a new actor (another 5 films). Nolan later appeared in another Chandler adaptation, 'Lady in the Lake' [1947] as a crooked cop.

It's perhaps unfair to compare Nolan's Shayne to, say, Bogart's Marlowe. Although the source author is the same, these are decidedly different characters. I haven't seen any of the Shayne films before, so I don't know if 'Time to Kill' is typical of his character or not, but I found Shayne to be a bit too breezy and chipper for my liking. There is not an ounce of grit to be found here. He may be sly and cunning at times (I particularly liked how he evaded being tailed), but Nolan's Shayne is upbeat with no nuance suggesting he can't be trusted. I can't fault his acting, though - Nolan is great with the rapid-fire banter and quips.

The plot comes at you fast and doesn't let up (the film is just over an hour long - people had no time to mess around with unnecessary characterization and the like, not with a war on). It covers all the bases you would expect from a Chandler novel - murders, blackmail, theft and a beautiful blonde. The plot starts off easy to comprehend, but gets more tangled as we spin into the climax. But I'm beginning to see that the plot isn't the point of these films. Does this one make sense? Probably. But the scriptwriters seem to realise it's ridiculous, even playing up Shayne's explanation to the baffled cop - it's very tongue-in-cheek, almost winking at the audience and saying, "Did you get any of that?"

Even so, it's an enjoyable ride. In fact, it's got me wanting to seek out the full 12 film series now. (But of course.)
 

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'The Brasher Doubloon' [1947]

Chandler's novel 'The High Window' hits the big screen a second time, with George Montgomery taking the lead. From the two attempts I've watched, it seems that this book isn't easy to film. The first - 'Time to Kill' [1942] - was a mostly light and breezy affair. Here, the humour is down-played considerably, but nothing else is added to replace it. This is a very flat film, starting with Montgomery as Marlowe.

Montgomery has classic movie star looks, and is an adequate actor, but he is not Marlowe by any stretch. He is far too dapper - you can't imagine this guy getting his hands dirty. There are no stand-outs in the supporting cast either and the whole thing is utterly forgettable. Conrad Janis as the son seems far too young to be capable of anything the story asks of him, and Nancy Guild as the secretary is a limp rag. The plot is more or less the same as 'Time to Kill', perhaps slightly simplified; I don't think they covered the counterfeit angle, though I did fall asleep at one point and may have missed it.

Despite my misgivings about 'Time to Kill', it is the superior adaptation, even if it doesn't exactly feature Philip Marlowe. But then again, Montgomery's portrayal really is just Marlowe in name only. A disappointment.
 

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'Marlowe' [1969]

Philip Marlowe enters the Swingin' Sixties in the form of James Garner and a handful of well-known faces in this entertaining neo-noir.

Director Paul Bogart is able to succeed where Michael Winner was not - making Philip Marlowe a contemporary figure on film. It helps that Garner is such a likeable and accomplished actor, and that I would probably enjoy watching him in anything. Even so, he fits into this world effortlessly. He is rumpled, suspicious and sardonic yet clearly cares for the people intent on making his day a lot worse. The quips feel natural and Garner can hold his own when it comes to action.

The supporting cast is sublime, including Carroll O'Connor in a wonderfully angry dramatic role, Rita Moreno as a Burlesque dancer and, surprisingly, Bruce Lee, doing exactly what you would expect Bruce Lee to do. It's one of the few off-notes, feeling out of place here, but his scenes are still fun nonetheless (his exit off-screen less so - he deserved better). The film feels a little dated in places - the theme tune is terrible, and there are some lounging hippies that probably didn't look right even in 1969 - but these are minor nitpicks.

The film is based on Chandler's novel 'The Little Sister' and Sharon Farrell plays that role, exhibiting an impressive range as the film progresses. The plot is simpler than other Chandler adaptations - there's still the blackmail, murders and double-crosses, of course - but it's another exercise in style over substance. Thankfully, it works here - mostly down to Garner, it has to be said - and TV execs obviously agreed when they went looking for someone to lead 'The Rockford Files' a few years later. Garner doesn't replace Bogart as the quintessential Marlowe, but he's damn close.
 

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'The Long Goodbye' [1973]

Elliott Gould joins the list of actors to portray Philip Marlowe in this atmospheric film. Marlowe gives a lift to an old friend who is later accused of murdering his wife; the friend is then reported dead himself. Meanwhile, Marlowe is hired to find a missing writer. Are these two cases connected somehow..?

I admit, prior to watching this film for the first time, I wasn't sold on the idea of Gould as Marlowe. It didn't feel right to me. I was wrong. Gould takes this well-known figure and makes him his own. He is rumpled and sardonic, yet so likeable and natural. The film feels like director Robert Altman is gently poking fun at the genre, with Marlowe's compulsive chain-smoking and off-the-wall characters such as the entry guard and his impressions of old Hollywood stars. The film has a languid pace, allowing you to absorb the atmosphere of the time and its characters - Marlowe's cat, the drugged-out, semi-clothed neighbors - so that the violence, when it comes, is all the more shocking.

There are so many great touches here. I loved the use of the film's theme song, recorded by different artists in different genres, appearing on radios, over supermarket speakers, or characters humming it; Marlowe's use of his environment to light his matches; his obsession over his tie.

Gould is great here - his quips are genuinely funny and well-placed. It's like he took the best of Bogart and Garner and made something unique but spot-on. Sterling Hayden is marvelous as the drunk writer, and Marty Rydell is appropriately psychotic; women are given less to do here, alas. And is that Arnie as a heavy, stripped to his briefs? Yup.

The story is easy to follow with an ending that surprised me, but probably could be guessed by anyone more familiar with the pulp genre. Highly recommended.
 
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