Lady in the Lake

1946

Crime / Film-Noir / Mystery / Thriller

5
IMDb Rating 6.5/10 10 6444 6.4K

Top cast

Lloyd Nolan as Lt. DeGarmot
Kathleen Lockhart as Mrs. Grayson
Robert Montgomery as Phillip Marlowe
Leon Ames as Derrace Kingsby
720p.BLU
943.77 MB
960*720
English 2.0
NR
29.97 fps
1 hr 42 min
Seeds 18

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by bmacv 7 / 10

Chandler supplies grapes – pinot noir? – for film experiment of doubtful vintage

For a suspense writer whose observations of mid-20th-century Los Angeles proved so gimlet-eyed that he has been enshrined as the city's unofficial bard, Raymond Chandler had a bumpy fling with Hollywood. The first of his five major novels to be filmed during the classic period of film noir, Farewell, My Lovely was first turned into an installment in the Falcon series of programmers, then into Edward Dmytryk's 1944 Murder, My Sweet (a success, but too short; to do justice to Chandler's atmospherics and milieu demands longer time spans than the movies allot them).

From 1946, probably the most adroit blending of style and content taken from his works was Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep. But its popularity, then and now, owes as much to the chemistry between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall – and to the frisky, irreverent tone Hawks brought to the movie – as to Chandler, whose outlook was one of dispassionate observation tinged with disgust.

The following year, The Brasher Doubloon, from the book The High Window, can be deemed a failure. That leaves the odd case of The Lady in the Lake, also from ‘47, which Robert Montgomery, starring as Philip Marlowe, ill-advisedly decided to direct himself. The movie labors under two huge handicaps: one of technique, the other of tone.

Cited often (and often by those who may not have actually seen the movie) for its subjective use of the-camera-as-character, The Lady in The Lake flounders on an idea that may have sounded good when initially floated but had to have looked bad once the first rushes came in.

Except for an explanatory prologue (the necessity for which should have raised red flags) or in scenes where he's caught in a window or mirror, Montgomery's Marlowe remains unseen. We, through the camera lens, are the detective. Conceivably, this gimmick might have worked at a later date, when swift, lithe Steadicams were part of Hollywood's technical arsenal. But in1947, the camera lumbers along as though it were being shoved through wet sand. As a result the pace slows to deadening, as though a senescent Marlowe were tracking down clues from the rail of an aluminum walker.

In consequence, time that might profitably been expended on filling in missing pieces of the puzzle gets wasted on Marlowe's getting from point A to point B. Vital and evocative parts of Chandler's novel take place in the summer resort areas of Puma Point and Little Fawn Lake; that snail of a camera, however, was not up to a hike in the great outdoors, so the movie preserves none of them.

And in tossing away chunks of the novels to accommodate budgets and shooting schedules, movie versions (like this one) mistake Chandler's strengths, which did not lay in plot. (The scriptwriters on The Big Sleep, including William Faulkner, couldn't figure out who killed one of the characters, so they asked Chandler, who didn't know either.)

His strengths were in weaving intricate webs of duplicity and deceit shot through with corruption and dread. That was heavy fare for Hollywood – even during the noir cycle. So stories tended to be simplified and atmosphere lightened: the freighted response gave way to the wisecrack, suggestive tension between two characters turned into a meet-cute, the brooding loner became a red-blooded American joe.

So, in The Lady in The Lake, the icy and questionable Adrienne Fromsett of the book (Audrey Totter) is now a sassy minx to Marlowe's snappy man-about-town, and so on. The plot deals with Marlowe's attempts to find a missing woman (an off-screen character whom the Christmas-card credits, in a droll fit of Francophone humor, call Ellay Mort).

Is a verdict possible? Some viewers find the movie's conceits and distortions amateurish and self-congratulating, while others overlook them to find a vintage mystery from postwar vaults. The Lady in The Lake remains a flawed experiment that over the years has developed its own distinctive – if not quite distinguished – period bouquet.

Reviewed by michaelRokeefe 6 / 10

Ten dollars a day and expenses.

Striking camera work letting the viewer see through the eyes of hard-boiled detective Philip Marlowe(Robert Montgomery). This is an intriguing Raymond Chandler tale that has the "private dick" solving a murder while seeking a missing socialite. Montgomery directs himself and is primarily only seen in a scene looking in a mirror. Novelty of the camera work is clever and makes YOU part of the movie. Its pretty cool finding the clues. Very apt cast featuring Audrey Totter, Lloyd Nolan, Leon Ames and Jane Meadows. Fun to watch.

Reviewed by dtb 7 / 10

YOU Share The Viewpoint of the Crankiest Marlowe in Cinema!

Drawing on his life of crimefighting to write a short story, Raymond Chandler's tough but noble P.I. Philip Marlowe (Robert Montgomery, pulling double duty as actor and director) submits his work to Kingsby Publications, home of such pulp fiction mags as LURID DETECTIVE and MURDER MASTERPIECES. Before he can say "byline," editor Adrienne Fromsett (Audrey Totter) has Marlowe up to his neck in murder, missing dames, and crooked cops -- and you can see things Marlowe's way, literally! Before all those slasher movies came along during the last couple of decades, LADY IN THE LAKE used the subjective camera treatment -- hell, the camera was practically a character in the flick! Throughout most of LADY..., we see everything exactly as Marlowe sees it; the only times we see Marlowe/Montgomery's face is when he looks in a mirror, as well as in a brief prologue, an entrè-acte segment, and an epilogue. In the trailer (featured on the spiffy new DVD version of LADY..., along with an enjoyable and informative commentary track by film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini), MGM's publicity department did its best to push the film as the first interactive movie experience: "MGM presents a Revolutionary motion picture; the most amazing since Talkies began! YOU and ROBERT MONTGOMERY solve a murder mystery together! YOU accept an invitation to a blonde's apartment! YOU get socked in the jaw by a murder suspect!" YOU occasionally start snickering in spite of yourself when the subjective camera gimmick teeters dangerously close to parodying itself, like when Totter moves in for a smooch with Our Hero The Camera. Some of Totter's facial expressions in the first half of the film as she spars verbally with Montgomery are pretty funny, too, though I'm not sure all of them were meant to be (she uses the arched eyebrow technique done so much more effectively later by Eunice Gayson of DR. NO and FROM Russia WITH LOVE, Leonard Nimoy, CQ's Angela Lindvall, The Rock, et al... :-). Having said that, the subjective camera technique works more often than not; in particular, I thought the fight scenes and a harrowing sequence where an injured Marlowe crawls out of his wrecked car worked beautifully. It helps that Steve Fisher provided a good solid screenplay for Raymond Chandler's novel, though Chandler purists were annoyed that the novel's pivotal Little Fawn Lake sequence was relegated to a speech in the recap scene in the middle (apparently they tried to film that scene on location, but the subjective camera treatment proved harder to do in the great outdoors, so they gave up). The performances are quite good overall, including Lloyd Nolan as a dirty cop and an intense dramatic turn by young Jayne Meadows. Montgomery's sardonic snap mostly works well for cynical Marlowe, though he sometimes forgets to tone it down during tender dialogue, making him sound simply cranky. Totter eventually tones down her mugging and becomes genuinely affecting as her Adrienne lets down her guard and begins falling for Marlowe. You may love or hate this LADY..., but if you enjoy mysteries and you're intrigued by offbeat movie-making techniques, give her a try!

Read more IMDb reviews

1 Comment

Be the first to leave a comment