Starring: Dick Powell, Anne Shirley; Director: Edward Dmytryk
Murder, My Sweet is a beautifully directed film noir adapted by Edward Dmytryk from Raymond Chandler’s novel “Farewell, My Lovely.” A man named Phillip Marlowe (Powell), with bandaged eyes, tells his case to the cops. It seems people where killed and Marlowe is a suspect. Marlowe’s account revolves around him, a private detective, who is hired by a man named “Moose” just out of prison to find his former love, Velma. It does not take long for Marlowe to learn of Velma’s death. As the investigation continues Marlowe becomes involved in a twisted case involving a stolen jade necklace; the theft of which leads to evidence of Velma‘s involvement. The necklace’s owner, a wealthy old man, and his much younger wife urge Marlow to aid in its recovery. The second half of the film feels like a strange fever dream, fading in and out of strange intrigue. Marlowe then begins to tangle deeper and deeper, becoming involved with parties on all sides of this bizarre web. Until the end, where Marlowe is left believe he is the last man standing after a bloody standoff where all of the suspects in the chaos seem to kill each other. Since he is blinded by the burn of gunpowder from having his face to close to a firing gun, he is unable to identify any survivors to the police.
The film highlights 1930’s Hollywood in lovely night shots, with chaotic neon floating before the shadowy black of the city’s buildings. Stunning contrast in the shots make this black and white classic one of the more stunning beauties of the era. While many, if not most, urban films of the time kept the cameras inside of sound stages, Dmytryk took those of Murder, My Sweet to the streets. There was no such thing as High Definition then, so he decides to use contrast to highlight the details. To do this he films the buildings at night when their lights are shining. This gives the film a much greater scope, and its brave direction make it one of the most important films in the category of cinematic art.
Overall the plot of Murder, My Sweet could seem just a little confusing. For a classic thriller it has a large cast of characters that are pulled in and out of the story, forced to interact with each other. Each character’s motive is suspect, and this includes Phillip Marlowe as well. In a story where so many crimes occur, and so many victims and villains arise, it can be difficult to sift through the madness. That is what this movie a twisting and layered thriller. It may leave you scratching your head at times, but it is worth the confusion to experience the films strange and stunning conclusion.