- Philip Marlowe has traditionally been played by
such macho icons as Bob Mitchum and Humphrey Bogart, who limned a
portrait of a laconic, wisecrackin', tough guy. Eliot Gould kept the
wisecracks, but played the private dick as an eternally chattering
pussy. He did more mumbling in this movie than Milton the
Stapler Guy did in Office Space. Those previous Marlowes were
lady-killers. Gould plays Marlowe as a slob and a chain-smoking douchebag who couldn't get
laid in Vegas with a fistful of hundreds.
- The story takes place in the 1970's instead of
the 1940's, although Marlowe drives a 1940's car. The intention of
the car, of course, is to symbolize Marlowe's anachronistic values
in a world of amorphous morality.
- Director Robert Altman played this about halfway
between a 1940's movie and a parody of 1940's movies. One example:
do you recall how old movies use a single musical theme for a
character, which is played again and again at different tempos or in
different keys depending on the mood of that character? Altman
features a whisky-voiced jazz-blues version of "The Long Goodbye" in
the opening credits to familiarize us with the tune, then uses this
melody as virtually the entire musical score. If Marlowe is in
Mexico, he hears a mariachi version. High school football game? A
marching band version. Funeral? A dirge version in a minor key. And
- Eliot Gould and Sterling Hayden are about the
only professional actors in the cast. The supporting cast features
people like Danish model/socialite Nina van Pallandt, who had never
before appeared in an English-language movie, baseball pitcher Jim
Bouton, concept comic Henry Gibson, and bodybuilder Arnold Strong
(whom we later came to know and love as Schwarzenegger).
DVD info from Amazon.
widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1
featurette with Gould and Altman
featurette with the cinematographer
Although he updated the story and the character to the
70's, Altman did retain certain key elements of the storyline
and Philip Marlowe's personality. The film ends when Marlowe commits
an act which most of us would consider to be a form of immoral
vigilante justice. Yet it is consistent with his belief system and his
own sense of integrity, and that action allows the film to pull back
from campy fun and re-establish the proper noir tone. Marlowe is
supposed to be a guy whose values and standards are higher than those
of the people around him, and Altman manages to convey that. The
original Marlowe didn't belong in seedy, corrupt L.A.. The new
Marlowe, with his cheap J.C. Penney suits, and his inflexible sense of
right and wrong, doesn't belong in the Age of Aquarius.
I think if you just forget that the character is
supposed to be "Philip Marlowe" and allow yourself to view it afresh,
you'll find it an interesting film.
guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of
excellence, about like three and a half stars
from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm
watchability, about like two and a half stars
from the critics. The fives are generally not
worthwhile unless they are really your kind of
material, about like two stars from the critics.
Films under five are generally awful even if you
like that kind of film, equivalent to about one
and a half stars from the critics or less,
depending on just how far below five the rating
guideline: A means the movie is so good it
will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not
good enough to win you over if you hate the
genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an
open mind about this type of film. C means it will only
appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover
appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you
like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if
you love the genre. F means that the film is not only
unappealing across-the-board, but technically
inept as well.
Based on this description, this
film is a C+. Interesting film. A very different approach to the
private eye genre, part serious noir, part high camp, yet
strangely faithful to Marlowe's "outsider" spirit.