9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A fine movie...and it's possible to enjoy Altman's Philip Marlowe as much as Chandler's Philip Marlowe,
This review is from: The Long Goodbye [DVD] (1973) (DVD)Terry Lennox has a problem. He's in trouble and needs help getting out of the country. Who else can he go to than one of his best friends, Philip Marlowe? All he asks is that Marlowe drive him down to Tijuana...right now. Marlowe, a private eye who probably has few good friends other than Lennox, does it. When Marlowe gets back hours later, he's picked up by the cops, knocked around, jailed and finally released. It seems Terry's wife has been beaten to death and the police want to know where Terry is. Marlowe doesn't believe that his friend is a killer and decides he'll look into the case. He also is hired by the sexy Eileen Wade to find her missing husband, the aging alcoholic writer Roger Wade. Funny, Marlowe finally decides, that the Wades live very close to the Lennox house in an exclusive, gated Malibu enclave (with a private cop at the gate who does a good imitation of Barbara Stanwyck). Then Marlowe is forced into a private conversation with the gangster Marty Augustine...something about a missing $50,000 of Augustine's that Lennox supposedly had and that Augustine wants back. Marlowe is taught how vicious Augustine can be in one violent act so startling it'll make your stress level rise every time Augustine shows up. Marlowe finally puts all the pieces together, slowly and persistently, until he finds himself in Mexico for probably the last time.
Is this really Philip Marlowe we're watching? Well, it's Robert Altman's Philip Marlowe, which means Raymond Chandler probably wouldn't recognize him. Is this a bad thing? Not at all. Altman (and Elliot Gould as Marlowe) has put his own imprint on the iconic gumshoe. Marlowe is often just confused by things. He's laid back, quizzical, good-natured in a reasonably skeptical way, not quite a loser, maybe not too smart the first time around but he learns and he is not going to stop looking for answers. The mystery has a vague resemblance to the bones of Chandler's book, but Altman isn't as much concerned with the trajectory of Mrs. Lennoxes murder as he is with the interplay of Marlowe and those he meets, and in how the story evolves from that interplay.
Altman put together a vivid cast. Gould would probably be glaringly miscast as a Marlowe played tough and straight. As Altman's Marlowe, however, he's the glue that holds the movie together and provides that strange Altman mixture of almost sly humor and drama. The byplay between Marlowe and his hungry cat and between Marlowe and the three luscious yoga practitioners in the next apartment lets us settle into this new-model Marlowe. Sterling Hayden as Roger Wade gives a roaring, dynamic, foul-mouthed performance. The scenes he shares with the small, precise and sleazy Dr. Verringer played by Henry Gibson are almost surreal in the disparity between the two actors' physical sizes and acting styles. Gibson, with a terrible comb-over, holds his own. When he slaps Hayden full in the face, it's almost as startling as what Augustine does with a glass Coke bottle. Nina Van Pallandt does a fine job as the complex and compelling Eileen Wade. We're no more sure of her game than Marlowe is, but he's got enough sense not to fall for her. Jim Boulton as Terry Lennox doesn't have a lot of screen time, but you'll remember him.
The end of the movie, when Marlowe puts the pieces together and provides his own sad justice, left me thinking...but about what, I'm not sure. About the nature of friendship, I guess...how friendship doesn't necessarily work both ways, even when you think it does. Altman has given us a first-rate movie that goes well beyond a private eye caper. Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe is a fine creation. So is Robert Altman's. This is a film worth watching several times.
The movie has a slightly washed out look which was created purposefully by Altman and his cinematographer, Vilmos Zsigmond. There are several extras which I didn't sample, including a discussion with Altman and Gould.