Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Philip Marlowe Movie Week: Marlowe

Hey cats and kittens welcome back for Day 2 of Philip Marlowe Movie Week. Now while I felt that Robert Montgomery would not have been my choice for Marlowe he did meet the task of the character despite his slightly flat performance. But let us journey to the year 1969 instead. Away from the black and whites that captured the mystique of the film noir but we will give Metro-color a chance. What happens when our favorite peeper gets a missing person's case which ties into a martial arts master giving his office the Johnny Depp makeover followed by a double homicide? A whole lot of trouble. This is Marlowe.

Your autograph, Bruce Lee or it's two to the liver!!!

Based on Chandler's exceptional 1949 novel The Little Sister our star studded cast unwind the tale of a missing brother leading to blackmail a double homicide with an ice pick and more than a few pummels for our favorite flatfoot.

Our story opens with Marlowe casing the shabby hippie commune looking for Orrin Quest (Roger Newman of The Edge of the Night, Guiding Light, Annie Hall and Passions) Marlowe (James Garner of The Great Escape, Maverick, The Rockford Files, Murphy's Romance, Fire in the Sky, My Fellow Americans and The Notebook) hired a dishy young thing Orfamay Quest (Sharon Farrell of Man from U.N.C.L.E., A Lovely Way to Die, The Love Machine, It's Alive, Hawaii Five-O and The Stunt Man) whose coy demeanor seems off to Marlowe needs him to find her missing brother as the family has not heard from him in over a month.

With a milk run of a case Marlowe is not expecting anything spectacular for his time but oh brother is he ever wrong. The trail is not very warm but does provide with a few lead of two fellas that may or may not know anything to this mysterious Orrin. Running into a resident of the commune Grant Hicks (Jackie Coogan of The Kid, Mesa of Lost Women, Cowboy G-Men and The Addams Family) who knows more than he is saying but doesn't really admit to knowing Orrin. After conversing and smacking the manager for a pass key, our sleuth goes back to see the manager only find the hotel ledger missing sheets and the manager taking the ten count nap from here to eternity with an ice pick driven into his neck. Presumably he was mistaken for an ice block.

Marlowe talks to the last man the manager did turning out to be a Doctor Largardie (Paul Stevens of The Mask, Another World, Patton and Battle for the Planet of the Apes) who does not deny but doesn't confirm his chat with the manager and he drops the name Grant Hicks when he is off the case. Ms. Quest is making her way out as Hicks calls Marlowe for some info from another hotel just five minutes from his office. With a new lead in the works Marlowe is back on the case when checking with the hotel dick (bodyguard/detective you pervs) to clarify if the call was kosher. The door is unlocked and Hicks seems disposed of when Marlowe is bonked on the head with a .32 with the owner of a pair of dishy legs driving a high end Jaguar convertible in the heart of a recession??

Lt. Archie Bunker wants another beer.

His run-in with the local law via Lieutenant French (Carrol O Connor of Point Blank, Kelly's Heroes, All in the Family, Archie Bunker's Place, In the Heat of the Night and Mad About You) lead to Grant Hicks not being who he claimed an a low ranking skell with delusions of grandeur and a claim ticket for a photo lab. Marlowe's honey gives him a license plate for the jag turning out to be starlet Mavis Wald (Gayle Hunnicutt of Scorpio, Target, The Legend of Hell House, Philip Marlowe, Private Eye and Savage in the Orient). The claim check leads to some racy snaps of Mavis making a bit of face time with a notorious man. Chatting with Mavis' friend Dolores (Rita Moreno of Singin' in the Rain, Westside Story, The Electric Company, Oz and Happily Divorced) and offers his assistance to the sticky situation Ms. Wald is in.

Is Orrin's disappearance and two stiffs connected with Ms Wald? Will there be more bodies to be found and will one of them be Marlowe's?

A few tidbits about the film now. The late Roger Ebert found this film to flip flop from comedy to hard boiled detective while I myself felt it kept the tone of the character. Marlowe has a sharp mind and a smart lip that gets him into more scrapes than most. Apparently Ebert would have preferred it star Humphrey Bogart and it be written by Faulkner rather than Garner's approach.

This is also the first appearance to the American viewing audience of this martial artist fellow Bruce Lee or something other. I hear he may have been in films and TV. Yes I am kidding! Unclench already! He gets to play a villain strong arm which is tough for a guy at 5'7" but I would probably crap my pants this man sent to whip my ass. Bruce also supplied his own clothes he got from Rodeo Drive because the costumes looked not his style. I can respect that. 

Director Paul Bogart (no relation to Humphrey) who worked primarily in TV series and TV movies was really on the ball as this was only his second movie and kept the film fast paced and loose. Now while that may not have been the route Howard Hawks would have chosen, it does not make it any less valid nor this any less Marlowe through and through.

Sorry, we don't have any openings for Rockford right now.