Speaking of Mitchum – Get out your VCR

farewell_my_lovelyAs mentioned in my piece on The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Robert Mitchum was in another noir in 1975 called Farewell, My Lovely. So far no DVD release has come for this overlooked film from the cycle of 70’s noirs.  It’s a color film version of the Raymond Chandler potboiler, set in 1941 L.A.  Mitchum plays private eye Philip Marlowe, of course, but the supporting cast is excellent also, including Harry Dean Stanton, Charlotte Rampling and Sylvia Miles.

Directed by Dick Richards, a former Life photographer, the film is an updating to 70’s realism of an old story from the days of the dark, sinister dream-world noir style. The period L.A. of this film stands out much more than it would in earlier films, and feels much more lifelike. The noir lighting style is employed, but here in dazzling reds and shadows of all colors, for the first time you get a sense of things as they looked for real. Neon signs jump out of the night, and sidewalks are washed in color. Broad daylight is, well, broad daylight. Refreshing.

Polanski‘s Chinatown, Altman‘s Long Goodbye, Penn‘s Night Moves, Kulik‘s Shamus and Benton‘s Late Show are the other stand-out films of the 70’s that revisit the 40’s private eye film and reinterpret it for their own time. The 40’s paranoia becomes 70’s cynicism and the made in studio picture becomes a location feature. All are very successful and worthwhile films, but Farewell is somehow the most perfect balance of style and revision, and is made more poignant by the presence of the aging Mitchum, who seems  a more world-weary version of Marlowe than he would as a younger man.

big sleep picHe also appears as Marlowe in Michael Winner‘s 1978 The Big Sleep, an all-too-flawed remake of the nearly perfect 1945 Howard Hawks film of the same name with Bogie and Bacall. Winner’s film is mostly forgettable but for Mitchum, who tries his best but is undone by the director’s ineptitude and the film’s overdone approach to updating, so far as to set the film in England with an overly-jazzy score. Worth mentioning on this subject of The Big Sleep, the 1973 Buzz Kulik film Shamus, starring Burt Reynolds as private eye Shamus McCoy, has a great homage to the Hawks original. It’s a replay of the scene where Bogart stakes out the shop across the way and “whiles” away the afternoon with a nice young lady and a pocket bottle of rye, except no whiskey and much more sleazy talk. Really fun.

Both Mitchum films are in the non-DVD limboland, but Acme Video, the only place that cares, has them available for you to watch on cassette, so dust off your VCR.

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