Murder, My Sweet (1944)
Probably one of the most "noir" noir pieces of film you could find, "Murder, My Sweet" has a tangible grittiness and also a pleasant abruptness to it that never blinks as the film barrels from complicated circumstances to the obscure and back.
Beginning in a police station under interrogation, "Murder, My Sweet" is told almost entirely in flashback form, with a cigarette stained narration that rivals the bleakness of Martin Sheen's narrative tone from "Apocalypse Now". There is a simplistic and unfussily, simultaneously romantic, way that the film paints a picture. Our main character has simple statements like: "My feet hurt and my head felt like a plumber's rag."
Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell) is a private investigator who gets in too deep and has to solve a case to escape with his dignity, his girl, and his life...wow, haven't seen that before. There is nothing incredibly inventive about the film, but it is possibly one of the most enjoyable piece of noir cinema. It may be based on a pulp novel, but then again, a lot of classics were.
Marlowe is being held by the police and questioned about murders, lots of murders. He takes us back a couple of days so that we can see his version of events and how he came to be sitting in a dark police station in the middle of the night.
Sitting in his office, nearing the heat of the night, Marlowe is confronted by a large man looking for his ex. The man introduces himself as Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki) and his quick temper and dull mind do the talking for him. Marlowe doesn't want to refuse because he doesn't want to have his head caved in, so he goes along. Moose is looking for a girl he knew eight years ago, Velma. This elusive woman appears to be hiding, dead, or out of the country...inaccessible to Marlowe.
But something else is brought into the picture—a mission statue of a bird, oh I'm sorry that's the wrong movie. A jade necklace of a immense value (the characters estimate the cost at $100,000) has been stolen from the wife of a rich man...but more on that later. Marlowe is approached by an eccentric man who wants to hire him as a bodyguard. Marlowe accepts the offer and then feels bad when he gets bumped on the head and his employer gets his face beaten in.
Now his curiosity has been awakened and Marlowe attempts to follow the trail of bread crumbs back to their origins. He meets Ann Grayle (Anne Shirley) and her family. Her step-mother (Claire Trevor) was the one who had the necklace lifted off her in the first place.
Marlowe is lost in the sea of people as is the viewer for most of the movie. It's possible to understand the structure of the plot, but there were times that I found myself just not caring. Blackmailers, drug dealers, singers, prisoners, sadists...it's all too much to take in at some times.
"Murder, My Sweet" does give in to some pretty sensational moments, most of them coming in dreamcscape form with Marlowe's sanity being put on the line. Characters divulge information too easily, Marlowe is too sure of himself, and the film may be over-complicated. That being said, it's almost a non-sensical amount of fun to watch the movie, just for how entertaining it is. It never drags and the scenes flow nicely throughout its entirety.
Sure, it has its problems; but accuracy wasn't exactly the point of the movie. "Murder, My Sweet" is all about the messy, side-effects of a case gone bad; and on that point, I think the film succeeded greatly.
Posted by Micah Jones