I've been a Raymond Chandler fan ever since high school (which was, kids, a long time ago). There have been a bunch of movies based on his work, some better than others. This one had been stuck in my Netflix queue for years, and I finally decided to bump it up to the top, even though the Netflix algorithm predicted mediocrity. How bad could it be?
As it turns out, Netflix's rating was overgenerous. It was be just horrible. Easily the worst Chandler flick I've seen. (And, yes, I've seen The Long Goodbye.)
Made in 1947, its technique was experimental: most of the movie was filmed from the point of view of Chandler's private-eye hero, Philip Marlowe. We see him occasionally in mirrors, and in a few spots he narrates the movie directly, speaking to the camera. This first-person POV might have been interesting and fun, but the execution here is clumsy and artificial. When the other actors talk to Marlowe, they speak and react directly to the camera; none of them look like they're interacting with an actual person. At one point Marlowe and another character talk to each other while both are looking in a mirror, which is just weird.
And that's far from the only awful thing.
The movie's opening titles are accompanied by Christmas carols.
For no reason.
Chandler's Marlowe is a sharp-eyed cynical observer of humanity,
handy with a wisecrack. The
movie's Marlowe seems just peevish and unpleasant.
A minor female character from Chandler's book is given a major
role and becomes a love interest for Marlowe. This is both (a)
stupid, and (b) unbelievable, because he spends most of the
movie insulting her and treating her as a suspect.
In the book, critical parts of the plot take place at the Lake.
As you might expect, because it's in the title. In the
movie, Marlowe goes to the Lake, but we never see him there.
He just talks about what happened when he returns to L.A.