Murder, My Sweet (1944)

Genres - Mystery, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Detective Film, Film Noir  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Michael Costello

Edward Dmytryk's sharp, skillfully made noir arguably captures the wit and verbal fluency of Raymond Chandler's style more faithfully than any of the other films made from his books. One of the key early noirs, it revived the career of Powell, who was by then eager to escape his choir-boy image. Through the use of voice-over narration, the film is able to retain the writer's vision of rot beneath the cheery surfaces of the City of Angels, as the sardonic detective keeps up a running commentary on the far from angelic gallery of characters. While his disdain is evenly spread, he reserves his greatest contempt for Otto Kruger's quack "psychic advisor," a precursor to New Age con artists of more modern vintage. Hired by a Frankenstein-like ex-con to find his old girl friend, Powell's Marlowe seems to either get cold-cocked or drugged in every other scene, a state of affairs he comes to regard with bemused detachment. A sequence in which Marlowe has been fed some malign psychoactive substance now seems especially funny due to the now less-than-frightening special effects. Unlike most noirs, in which the protagonist is overwhelmed by a nightmarish sense of disorientation, Chandler's detective has the wit of the only sane man in a world gone mad. Powell is perfect as the snarky, semi-tough hero, and Claire Trevor makes a slyly elusive femme fatale.