Sunday, October 04, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Murder, My Sweet (1944) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The classic film noir MURDER, MY SWEET (1944) looks better than ever thanks to a sharp-looking new Blu-ray release from the Warner Archive.

Dick Powell stars as Raymond Chandler's hard-boiled private eye Philip Marlowe. It was a famously career-changing role for Powell, with the "tough guy" Marlowe a radical transition from his years in musicals and comedies.

This was my second time to see the movie, and I think I did a better job keeping up with the twisty-turny plot this time around, but even those paying close attention for the movie's 96 minutes can be forgiven for occasionally losing the threads of the mystery! The screenplay, based on Chandler's FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, was by John Paxton.

Late one night Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki) appears in Marlowe's office, wanting Marlowe to track down his missing girlfriend Velma.

Soon Marlowe is also mixed up with a dead client and a missing jade necklace, which leads to the Grayle family, including Mr. Grayle (Miles Mander), his sweet daughter Ann (Anne Shirley), and her duplicitous stepmother Helen (Claire Trevor). Meanwhile Moose is always hulking menacingly in the background. Eventually the threads of Marlowe's cases all come together.

I first reviewed MURDER, MY SWEET on VHS back in 2010, so jumping from VHS to Blu-ray was quite a revelation for this viewer. The details in Harry J. Wild's black and white cinematography look stunning, whether Marlowe is walking through the fog or smoke is wafting up from cigarettes. I'm not sure I'd noticed things previously like the number of bottles in Jessie's (Esther Howard) front yard or the trash on Marlowe's office floor. And the first scene where Moose Malloy appears as a reflection in Marlowe's office window is pure movie magic.

The movie defines "noir style," from the fedoras to L.A.'s Sunset Tower Hotel to slinky Claire Trevor as a classic femme fatale. In fact, it's important to keep in mind that this was one of the earliest films which helped set the template for the film noir look.

The plot may not always be crystal clear, but the movie should be seen for Powell's performance and the noir world created within the movie, and the new Warner Archive Blu-ray is certainly an ideal way to check it out.

MURDER, MY SWEET was directed by Edward Dmytryk. The supporting cast includes Otto Kruger, Douglas Walton, and Donald Douglas.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray contains the extras from the previous DVD release, a trailer and a commentary track by Alain Silver.


Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.


Blogger barrylane said...

You've nailed it. Powell was at his peak, something he sustained for the next ten years or so. He played Marlowe a second time in the premier episode of the Climax series, opposite Teresa Wright and with Cesar Romero, playing in The Long Goodbye. An episode of taste and excellence but noted for Tris Coffin's live and on camera resurrection.

8:52 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for the feedback, Barrylane! That TV episode sounds terrific -- love the cast.

I Googled the Tris Coffin story -- funny stuff but the poor man must have been so embarrassed!

Best wishes,

10:19 PM  
Blogger KC said...

I thought the trash on the hallway floor was a great touch!

1:58 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Wasn't it though?! I was really struck by the set "decoration" on this viewing.

Best wishes,

2:04 PM  

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