Sunday, March 1, 2009
Day Twenty-Six: Murder, My Sweet (1944) - Rank 4/5
For many lovers of the film noir genre, "Double Indemnity" is not only a quintessential benchmark by which so many others are set, but it's also considered to be one of the productions that put the genre on the map. "Murder, My Sweet" follows fast on the heels of its predecessor's success (released a scant three months after "Double Indemnity") and it, too, sets the level high for film noirs that follow.
Detective Philip Marlowe (played well by Dick Powell) is hired by a lug and ex-con by the name of Moose Malloy to track down a dame named Velma (like all great film noirs, it begins simply with a detective and a "simple job"). Once Marlowe begins to investigate Velma's disappearance, he comes wrapped up in a network of lies so complex, I found myself exclaiming aloud as I watched the film: "Is anybody on anybody side?" Otto Kruger adds a nice sinister element to the film, and one of my all-time favorite character actors (and veteran of film noir/gangster films) Mike Mazurki frequently steals the spotlight as the broodish and intimidating Moose.
As I mentioned earlier, this film is an early entry in the film noir genre and stylistically, it shines on a number of occasions. One aspect certainly worth noting are the hallucination scenes. When Marlowe gets to close to the truth, he finds himself injected with a large dose of heroin, leading to a fantastic "dream sequence." To depict a "drug trip" in the 1940's is certainly ballsy on the studio's part and certainly worth noting. My one issue was the manner in which the story was told - it begins with Marlowe sitting in a chair at police headquarters, recalling the drama from the past couple of weeks. I don't like this sense of storytelling, because it diminishes the tension when the going gets tough for the hero. If you know the entire film is a flashback from his point of view, you know he can't ever come into the path of major harm. Still, "Murder, My Sweet" stands as a fine example of cutting-edge film noir, produced when the genre was just getting its start.
I couldn't find a trailer, so check out the opening.