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Murder My Sweet

USA 1944
produced by
Adrian Scott for RKO
directed by Edward Dmytryk
starring Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley, Otto Kruger, Mike Mazurki, Miles Mander, Douglas Walton, Don Douglas, Ralf Harolde, Esther Howard
screenplay by John Paxton, based on the novel Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler, music by Roy Webb

Philip Marlowe

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell) is hired by brutish ex-con Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki) to find his girlfriend from 8 years ago, showgirl Velma - an investigation that leads to nothing much, much to the dismay of Moose. Another job promises to be more promising, one Mr. Marriott (Douglas Walton) hires Marlowe to be his bodyguard at some handover of something - Marlowe's not sure what, but Marriott pays well enough for Marlowe not to wonder too much ... but then he's knocked out and Marriott is killed. Back at his office, Marlowe runs into Ann (Anne Shirley), who claims to be a reporter but is really the stepdaughter of Mrs Grayle (Claire Trevor), the woman who tasked Marriott with the handover: He was to buy back a jade necklace that was stolen from her. Marlowe pays a visit to Mrs Grayle, a relatively young woman, and her much older husband (Miles Mander), a immensely rich jade collector. Marlowe soon puts two and two together and figures Mrs Grayle is after her husband's money, not after him. Marlowe soon catches another interested party in the case, Amthor (Otto Kruger), a psychiatrist with a sideline in robbing his rich clients, and surprisingly, the next time Marlowe runs into Moose, Moose drags him to Amthor, who for some reason thinks Marlowe has the jade necklace and tries to force him to produce it, and as Marlowe fails to do just that, Amthor has him drugged and locked away in Dr. Sonderborg's (Ralf Harolde) clinic. Marlowe manages to escape. From here on it gets confusing: Mrs Grayle wants Marlowe to help her kill Amthor, but then Marlowe finds Amthor dead, killed by Moose, Mrs Grayle turns out to be the Velma Moose has been looking for, and Mrs Grayle has actually hired Marriott to kill Marlowe so he wouldn't find her for Moose, but then she killed Marriott but got interrupted when she wanted to kill Marlowe as well. She tries again but gets her just dessert instead, while her husband's allowed to die a hero's death, and for a time it looks as if Marlowe is to take the blame for everything ...

 

Now as with many film noirs of the hard-boiled detective variety, the plot of this one isn't very easy to follow, and truth to be told has its fair share of plotholes and leaps of reason, but the fascination here is more how the story's told than the story itself - and how Murder My Sweet just pushes on and on with twists and turns aplenty is nothing short of fascinating, and its very adult and uncompromising look on things is commendable, as is the film's underlying cynicism. And stlistically this is a film noir almost to perfection, due to its rich play with lights and shadows, predilection for less than scenic scenery, and of course Marlowe's hard-boiled voiceovers. And Dick Powell makes a pretty good Philip Marlowe, even though he would soon be totally overshadowed by Humphrey Bogart's iconic performance in The Big Sleep. What makes the Marlowe in this movie so interesting though is he's in no way bigger than life, is swayed to do certain things that he knows are "wrong" for the right amount of money, and is not above taking advantage of other people - and that all is reflected in Powell's performance rather beautifully.

 

By the way, while Murder My Sweet marked the first big screen appearance of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, the movie's source nocel, Farewell, My Lovely, as been adapted for the screen only two years prior, also by RKO as The Falcon Takes Over, with Marlowe being replaced by British dandy detective The Falcon.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD