Review for The Long Goodbye
Reaching into my pile of unsolicited discs, which I previously never had the time to review, I find the film that I most wanted to watch and review at the time, only I never could find the opportunity, although that is still a relative desire, given how few hard-boiled film noir features I have in my collection. Believe it or not, this is the first Philip Marlowe movie that I have seen, and given that there have been some ten movies, and a similar number of TV outings, I think I have been missing out. At this point, my only exposure to the genre is through its parodies, although it doesn’t help that I always mix up the author with the character, Raymond Chandler and Philip Marlowe.
Philip Marlowe is the kind of guy who can’t even fool his cat, which makes him an unlikely private detective to say the least. When his friend Terry Lennox shows up, looking for a ride south of the border, Marlowe doesn’t stop to ask any questions, not even about the scratches and bruises. The next thing he knows, Marlowe is under arrest, being questioned about the murder of Terry’s wife Sylvia. He remains circumspect, but three days later, he’s a free man, given the suicide and final confession of Terry in Mexico. But Marlowe’s troubles aren’t over yet. One thing, he doesn’t believe that pat murder-suicide explanation, especially given that there’s a mob boss leaning on Marlowe to find the $350,000 of his money that Terry had on him. And worse, he can’t find his cat...
The Long Goodbye gets a 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p transfer with a PCM 1.0 Mono English soundtrack, along with optional English subtitles. It’s a pretty decent transfer, clear and sharp and with good detail, a pretty straightforward presentation of the original film with little if any post processing. The film has a slightly subdued palette for a story set in California, and there is a degree of hazy softness as well, all of which looks like original creative choices. Contrast isn’t too hot, and there is the odd moment of flicker, but by far the most obvious flaw is a hole in the print around the 1 hour 15 minute mark for about thirty seconds. The dialogue is clear, while John Williams crafts an evocative jazzy score around the film’s theme.
The disc boots to an animated menu.
In the setup menu, you’ll also find an Isolated Music & Effects track also in PCM 1.0 mono. The rest of the extras are in the dedicated extras menu.
Rip Van Marlowe lasts 24:35 and is a retrospective look at the film.
Robert Altman: Giggle and Give In is a portrait of the director, a Channel 4 Cinefile episode which lasts 56:31.
In the Interviews you’ll find the following...
Elliot Gould Discusses The Long Goodbye (53:05)
Vilmos Zsigmond Flashes The Long Goodbye (14:23)
David Thompson on Robert Altman (21:04)
Tom Williams on Raymond Chandler (14:29)
Maxim Jabukowski on Hard Boiled Fiction (14:33)
Finally there is the Theatrical Trailer (2:£0), and Radio Spots (3:24).
The film certainly gets a rich set of extra features to go with it on this disc, but I’m not too certain whether I like it or not. Certainly it held my attention for the duration last night, and the story was compelling enough. I also appreciated the snappy dialogue, and naturalistic and understated performances. One of the clichés of this particular genre is the overpowering, main character narration, and thankfully, The Long Goodbye avoids it by making its Philip Marlowe the kind of guy who talks to himself, although it’s less a narration than it is reactions to situations. Either way, it was refreshing enough to pique my interest.
The Long Goodbye, among other genres is also categorised as a comedy. It’s a very black and dry comedy if so, as while I might have recognised the irony of some situations, at no point was I moved to laugh, not even during the very idiosyncratic prologue, a scene completely stolen by the cat, as it bullied Marlowe into getting it the desired feline cuisine. The sight of Arnold Schwarzenegger in an early film appearance did raise a smile though. The film is all about the characters, an unlikeable bunch if ever there was one. The cops are dirty, everyone is dishonest and has an agenda, and if anyone’s doing Marlowe a favour, it’s bound to lead to trouble.
Marlowe is a man who is behind the curve for much of the story, hoodwinked by his friend Terry and playing catch up thereafter. His instinct is to trust his friend, even when it turns out that he is a suspect in his wife’s murder. That sense of outraged disbelief is compounded when Terry turns up dead with a note confessing to the crime. It’s pure luck that he gets a case in the gated community where Terry and Sylvia lived. He’s hired by a woman to find her alcoholic author husband, but it turns out that they knew Terry and Sylvia. At the same time, an obnoxious mob boss shows up, wanting the money that Terry took from him, and given that Marlowe was the last to see him, he assumes that Marlowe knows where the money is.
This is more an atmospheric film than anything with significant violence, but it’s the edgy feel to the story, and it’s the dialogue that has the ironic and sharp wit, that all drives the film’s energy. But there are a couple of moments of brutality, all the more jarring with how unexpected they are, and the age rating is most certainly earned. It’s the climax of the film that really makes the viewing experience worthwhile, one of those moments that shock the viewers out of their comfort zone, and makes you look back at the film and re-evaluate the character of Philip Marlowe. The Long Goodbye is an interesting film, and I certainly didn’t regret spending some time in its company, but something about it didn’t quite click with me; it’s one of those crime thrillers that relies a little too much on convenient coincidence to make its story work, and that kind of diminished it for me. It’s still well worth a watch though.