A pretty solid noir headed up by a badass Robert Mitchum as the legendary Philip Marlowe. He ain’t no Bogart, and he sure as shit ain’t no Elliot Gould (whose mumbly Marlowe resides with The Dude as my favorite cinematic P.I.’s), but he is fucking Robert Mitchum, and he doesn’t let us forget it. He seduces, snarls, deducts, and recoups like he was born to do it, and you never once question his omnipotence or his effect on the women in the film. James Stewart plays the mysterious old General who hires Marlowe to find a blackmailer; he does not provoke anything in those two scenes other than his legendary status, and how much more evocative his face was in his youth. Candy Clark and Sarah Miles fare better as his flighty daughters who have as many skeletons in their closet as any girl that rich, and Oliver Reed bounces around as a nefarious underworld figure. The film never treads too far from its detective story roots, and the sideshow gallery-esque presentation of characters becomes tedious after a while, especially knowing how convoluted the story became in the 1946 version. The dialogue reminds one of Chandler, while never quite reaching the same quality. The 70′s era London environment is the most unusual part of the production, and it thoroughly works; the film would not retain interest if it took place in L.A., or even anywhere stateside.
Recommended for fans of noir or Robert Mitchum. All else should stay clear; she’s a dry one, and you’ll be bored to tears.
P.S. This is from the director of Death Wish 1-3 and The Mechanic, several of my favorite Charles Bronson films…this is a better made movie, but I’d rewatch any of those over this one.