Lady In The Lake Review

Image for Lady In The Lake

LA private eye Phillip Marlowe is hired to find the runaway wife of magazine publisher Derace Kingsby. A female corpse turns up in a California lake near Kingsby’s holiday cabin, but is identified as Muriel Chess, wife of the caretaker, rather than Cryst


Like The Thief, the silent (rather, dialogue-free) film made in 1952 and Scent of Mystery, the first (and only) feature in Smell-o-Vision, this stands as a monument to the inadvisability of saddling an entire film with a technically interesting but ultimately pointless gimmick.

Most adaptations of Raymond Chandler's Marlowe novels try to adapt the author's distinctive voice with a first-person narration, but Robert Montgomery - who stars as 'Phillip' Marlowe and directs - shoots the entire film through a subjective camera, effectively casting the audience as the private eye, warning us to pay attention to clues and not trust any of the suspects. Though a few moments - when Marlowe is punched in the face by a thug or kissed by Audrey Totter - work well in the 'lion in your lap' manner favoured by 3-D movies, the trick soon wears thin, prompting audiences to recall that people do not see the world in black and white with elegant panning camera movements and a lush music track.

If you get past the tricksiness, this is a fine adaptation of the novel - though uncredited, Chandler worked on the script, the only time he tried to adapt one of his books for the screen, and is responsible for the in-jokes about the pulp magazine business - with Totter especially good in shoulderpads as the tart heroine and familiar grouch Lloyd Nolan excellent as the desperate, crooked cop in the case.

Superb performances in this taut thriller.

More from Empire