Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Film Review: FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975, Dick Richards)

Stars: 4.5 of 5.
Running Time: 95 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Robert Mitchum, Harry Dean Stanton, Sylvester Stallone, Joe Spinell (MANIAC!, THE GODFATHER), Jack O' Halloran (SUPERMAN II, HERO AND THE TERROR), Charlotte Rampling (SWIMMING POOL, THE VERDICT, ZARDOZ), Kate Murtagh (THE CAR, FAMILY PLOT), Anthony Zerbe (COOL HAND LUKE, THE DEAD ZONE, KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK), John Ireland (SPARTACUS, RED RIVER, WAXWORK II), Jerry Bruckheimer (!, here co-producing).
Tag-lines: "I need another drink...I need a lot of life insurance...I need a vacation....and all I got is a coat, a hat, and a gun!"
Best one-liner: "The house itself wasn't much. It was smaller than Buckingham Palace and probably had fewer windows than the Chrysler building." AND "I sparred with the night clerk for a couple of minutes, but it was like trying to open a sardine can after you broke off the metal lip. There was something about Abraham Lincoln's picture that loosened him up. "

FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975), proceeds as if the contemporary wave of neo-noir (THE LONG GOODBYE, CHINATOWN, NIGHT MOVES) had never happened- and why should it? It's exactly like a 40’s noir that happened to be made in the 70’s (with only slight variances in violence, sexuality, and envelope-pushing), and smack dab in the middle is the legendary 'Ole Rumple Eyes himself (Bob Mitchum) as Philip Marlowe.

Now, MURDER, MY SWEET (the original adaptation of this Chandler tale) can’t really be touched, but FAREWELL, MY LOVELY manages to come damned close. Mitchum truly doesn’t give a shit as he encounters a rogue’s gallery of noir archetypes from how ya doin’ thug Sylvester Stallone,

to prickly cop Harry Dean Stanton,

to ravishing ingenue Charlotte Rampling to two-bit hood Joe Spinell (MANIAC!) to sympathetic palooka Jack O’Halloran (Non from SUPERMAN II). (And special mention must be given here to O'Halloran; he exudes serious pathos in a role (Moose Malloy) could have easily devolved into caricature. Mike Mazurki is perfect in MURDER, MY SWEET, but you rarely feel for him like you do for O'Halloran. Bravo!)

Prison matron Mom Smackley from SWITCHBLADE SISTERS is even in on the action, slapping the shit out of Mitchum in one scene, and then cathartically getting slugged in the face by Mitchum in return. Mitchum is on fire. He cracks wise, sings a few bars a cappella, has stiff exchanges with children,

Mitchum doesn't give a shit about ANYTHING. You really think he feels any differently about kids?

drinks heavily, and gets forcibly hopped up on smack (with a 40’s-style drug trip sequence).

Mitchum on smack. Smack kinda makes Mitchum look like James Karen.

Although my favorite parts might be the ridiculously awkward banter and rough-and-tumble antics between Mitchum and the Newsie. I feel like they were all done in one take, cause Mitchum was probably uncomfortable laying his hands on a man in any context other than knocking the shit out of him.

There’s also a few times in the film that Mitchum is, surprisingly, required to look like he ‘cares’ about something.

Mitchum kind of cares when you crumple his hat. See THUNDER ROAD. Click on photo for an enlarged view.

He kind of looks off into the distance, wistfully, and you totally believe it, but I can’t help but feel that those moments were brought about by the director threatening to bring about harm to Mitchum’s gin stash. Anyway, Mitchum reprised the role 3 years later in the slightly ridiculous but very entertaining remake of THE BIG SLEEP, but make no mistake, FAREWELL, MY LOVELY is quality. Four and a half stars.

-Sean Gill

1 comment:

Rick L. said...

Maybe my favorite movie. You left out a couple key characters: Sylvia Miles aka Jesse Florian who lived in a dried out brown house with a dried out brown lawn. What a way to live. And John Ireland aka Lt. Nulty aka Snow White. Best line:
Det. Billy Rolfe: How long should we wait?
Lt. Nulty: Until you make lieutenant.