Book Review – KILLER IN THE RAIN (1964) by Raymond Chandler

KILLER IN THE RAIN (1964) ***½
by Raymond Chandler
First published by Hamish Hamilton, 1964
This edition: published by Penguin Books, 1979, 432pp.
ISBN: 0-14-00-2445-X

Image result for killer in the rain raymond chandlerBlurb: None of these eight stories features Philip Marlowe. He came later. But every one of them already has the deadly Chandler elan that made Philip Marlowe the coolest, toughest private eye ever.

These stories were written whilst Raymond Chandler was honing his craft in the pulp magazines of the 1930s. Seven of the eight were published before his fist novel, The Big Sleep (1939). The detective featured in each is a prototype for Philip Marlowe. Chandler’s detective was always used as an observer and a tool to move the plot, rather than a fully fledged character in his own right. As the books progressed Chandler finessed the Marlowe character to make him more rounded resulting in the masterpiece that was The Long Goodbye (1953). Whilst most of Chandler’s short stories were re-published (in collections such as The Simple Art of Murder and Trouble is My Business, these stories were held back until 1964, after Chandler’s death, as the plots had been re-used by Chandler in some of his novels.

The first story, Killer in the Rain (Black Mask, January 1935) **** is recognisable as the blackmail plot element used in The Big Sleep. Here the troubled young Carmen Dravec would become Carmen Sternwood and gain a sister. Dravec is a doting surrogate father and a heavy rather than the proud General Sternwood. Steiner would become Geiger, Joe Marty would become Joe Brody and Guy Slade would become Eddie Mars. The plot would be expanded for the novel, but many of the elements are here making the story a fascinating read. It lacks the rhythm of prose Chandler would bring to his novels, but the bones of his later style are evident here. The Man Who Liked Dogs (Black Mask, March 1936) ***½  is as hard-boiled and violent as Chandler gets. The story is a straight forward search for a missing woman instigated by in centring around a missing police dog. The  two are tied in with a notorious gangster and corrupt police force. There are scenes in a bogus medical institution and a finale on a gambling boat with a bloody shoot-out resolution. Scenes would be re-used in Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely and themes in The Little Sister. The story has lots of twists and action, but it again lacks the poetic prose style of Chandler’s later work. Chandler’s detective is named here as Carmady, one of several name try-outs through his short prose. The Curtain (Black Mask, September 1936) **** became the Rusty Regan (here O’Mara) part of the plot for The Big Sleep. It features recognisable version of General Sternwood and his daughter Vivian. A psychotic 10-year old son for Vivian in this story would be replaced by a sister, Carmen, in the subsequent novel – fusing the character of the son with that of Carmen Dravec in Killer in the Rain. Additionally its opening, concerning a drunken acquaintance of Carmady, was to form the central relationship to his best novel, The Long Goodbye. This is an assured story, well-written and containing more obvious examples of Chandler’s prose style. An action-packed finale acted as a rehearsal for that in The Big SleepTry the Girl (Black Mask, January 1937) **** is a fast-paced and well-written warm-up for  the main plot of Farewell, My Lovely with an giant ex-con seeking his lost girl, whilst Mandarin’s Jade (Dime Detective Magazine, November 1937) ***½ does the same for its sub-plot of the attempted recovery of a stolen necklace. Both stories again feature John Dalmas. In the novel the two stories would be inter-related, showing how cleverly Chandler cannibalised his own plots.  Both show Chandler becoming increasingly confident with his prose style. Bay City Blues (Dime Detective Magazine, November 1937) *** is a little convoluted in its plotting of Dalmas investigating the apparent suicide of a doctor’s wife. Elements form the story were used in his novel Lady in the Lake. The next story would be the key basis for that novel and share the same title. Here, however, The Lady in the Lake (Dime Detective Magazine, January 1939) ***½ overly telegraphs the solution to its mystery plot of a man looking to track down his missing and unfaithful wife, but is otherwise a great vehicle for Chandler’s gift with dialogue. Chandler would rework elements of the plot, and characters (here given different names) as well as using the same mountain lake location for No Crime in the Mountains (Detective Story Magazine, September 1941) *** in which he uses the name of John Evans for his LA based PI, but the plot is less successfully developed than in the previous story.

Taken as a whole these stories are fascinating as embryonic versions of what were to become classic and highly influential  crime mystery novels.

Film Review – DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)

Image result for double indemnityDouble Indemnity (1944; USA; B&W; 107m) *****  d. Billy Wilder; w. Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler; ph. John F. Seitz; m. Miklós Rózsa.  Cast: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Porter Hall, Jean Heather, Tom Powers, Gig Young, Richard Gaines, Fortunio Bonanova, Edmund Cobb, Byron Barr, John Philliber, Clarence Muse, Bess Flowers, Sam McDaniel. An insurance rep lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator’s suspicions. Classic and highly influential film noir with a tight script, hardboiled and witty dialogue and first-rate performances. Stanwyck is the deceptive, but alluring, femme fatale and MacMurray the smitten salesman. Robinson is superb as the eccentric investigator. Based on the novel by James M. Cain. Remade as a TV Movie in 1973. [PG]

Film Review – THE LONG GOODBYE (1973)

Image result for THE LONG GOODBYE 1973 BLU-RAYLong Goodbye, The (1973; USA; Technicolor; 112m) ***  d. Robert Altman; w. Leigh Brackett; ph. Vilmos Zsigmond; m. John Williams.  Cast: Elliott Gould, Nina Van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, Mark Rydell, Henry Gibson, David Arkin, Jim Bouton, Warren Berlinger, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rutanya Alda, Jo Ann Brody, Vincent Palmieri, Pancho Cordova, Enrique Lucero, George Wyner. Detective Philip Marlowe tries to help a friend who is accused of murdering his wife. Altman re-imagines Raymond Chandler’s classic novel in a contemporary setting with Gould portraying Marlowe as a detective out-of-his time. The gimmick allows Altman to pass comment on the degradation of society and the values of life, but in doing so he sucks the power from Chandler’s original story. There are some nice directorial touches and improvised set-pieces, but this will ultimately only fully please those fully attuned to the director’s surreal vision. Schwarzenegger, who plays a bodyguard, has no lines in the film. [18]

Liam Neeson set to be eighth big-screen Philip Marlowe

Reports Image result for liam neesonhave been issued of the casting of Liam Neeson to play Raymond Chandler’s iconic private eye Philip Marlowe in an adaptation of Benjamin Black’s (pseudonym of John Banville) novel The Black-Eyed Blonde. Neeson will follow in the footsteps of Dick Powell (Murder, My Sweet in 1944), Humphrey Bogart (The Big Sleep in 1946), Rober Montgomery (Lady in the Lake in 1947), George Montgomery (The Brasher Doubloon also in 1947), James Garner (Marlowe in 1968), Elliott Gould (The Long Goodbye in 1973) and Robert Mitchum (Farewell, My Lovely in 1975 and The Big Sleep in 1978).

The script has been written by William Monahan (The Departed) who commented, “The book by Benjamin Black was a pleasure to adapt, and with Marlowe there’s no chance of even being asked to do it left-handed. You have to do Chandler justice, carry a very particular flame, or stay home.”

The adaptation, like the 1968 adaptation of The Little Sister is at this time simply titled Marlowe, will be brought to the screen by Nickel City Pictures and producer Gary Levinson.

Film Review – THE BRASHER DOUBLOON (1947)

Image result for the brasher doubloonBrasher Doubloon, The (1947; USA; B&W; 72m) ∗∗½  d. John Brahm; w. Dorothy Bennett, Leonard Praskins; ph. Lloyd Ahern; m. David Buttolph.  Cast: George Montgomery, Nancy Guild, Conrad Janis, Roy Roberts, Fritz Kortner, Florence Bates, Marvin Miller. Philip Marlowe gets involved when limp-wristed and snidely heir steals a rare doubloon from his mother to give to a newsreel photographer in exchange for film that is being used for blackmail purposes. Mystery has some effective moments, but this is ultimately an uneven adaptation with Montgomery lacking the cynical edge required as Marlowe.  Based on the novel “The High Window” by Raymond Chandler. Previously filmed as TIME TO KILL (1942). Aka: THE HIGH WINDOW. [PG]

Film Review – THE BIG SLEEP (1946)

Big Sleep, The (1946; USA; B&W; 114m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. Howard Hawks; w. William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman; ph. Sidney Hickox; m. Max Steiner.  Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely, Martha Vickers, Dorothy Malone, Peggy Knudsen, Regis Toomey, Charles Waldron, Charles D. Brown, Bob Steele, Elisha Cook Jr., Louis Jean Heydt. Private detective Philip Marlowe is hired by a rich family. Before the complex case is over, he’s seen murder, blackmail, and what might be love. Classic film noir is a convoluted mystery given a huge cinematic presence through Hawks’ masterful direction and the sizzling chemistry between Bogart and Bacall. Brilliantly written pacey and combative dialogue is peppered with wisecracks delivered by a strong cast. Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler. Originally filmed in 1944, wasn’t released until two years later. Some prints derive from a slightly different early preview version (116m) with alternate footage. Remade in 1978. [PG]

Film Review – MURDER, MY SWEET (1944)

Murder, My Sweet (1944; USA; B&W; 95m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Edward Dmytryk; w. John Paxton; ph. Harry J. Wild; m. Roy Webb.  Cast: Dick Powell, Anne Shirley, Mike Mazurki, Claire Trevor, Otto Kruger, Miles Mander, Douglas Walton, Donald Douglas, Ralf Harolde, Esther Howard, Jack Carr, Ralph Dunn, George Anderson, Paul Phillips, Larry Wheat. After being hired to find an ex-con’s former girlfriend, Philip Marlowe is drawn into a deeply complex web of mystery and deceit. Densely plotted and stylishly filmed mystery with Powell making a strong impression as a pre-Bogart Philip Marlowe. Proved to be hugely influential on the film noir genre with its use of voiceover, night-time settings, adventurous framing, seedy characters and hardboiled dialogue. Based on the novel “Farewell, My Lovely” by Raymond Chandler, the title used for its UK release. Filmed previously as THE FALCON TAKES OVER (1942) and remade as FAREWELL, MY LOVELY in 1975. [PG]

Book Review – THE BLACK-EYED BLONDE (2014)

THE BLACK-EYED BLONDE by BENJAMIN BLACK (2014, Picador, Paperback, 290pp) ∗∗∗∗
      BlurbMaybe it was time I forgot about Nico Peterson, and his sister, and the Cahuilla Club, and Clare Cavendish. Clare? The rest would be easy to put out of my mind, but not the black-eyed blonde . . . It is the early 1950s. In Los Angeles, Private Detective Philip Marlowe is as restless and lonely as ever, and business is a little slow. Then a new client arrives: young, beautiful, and expensively dressed, Clare Cavendish wants Marlowe to find her former lover, a man named Nico Peterson. Soon Marlowe will find himself not only under the spell of the Black-Eyed Blonde; but tangling with one of Bay City’s richest families – and developing a singular appreciation for how far they will go to protect their fortune . . .

untitled-benjamin-black-7-marlowe-978144723670201John Banville, under the pseudonym of Benjamin Black, takes on the mantle of continuing the literary cases of Philip Marlowe. I’m a huge fan of Raymond Chandler and his iconic creation. Chandler added depth to his hero as the series progressed peaking with the extraordinary The Long Goodbye (1953). It is from that book that Black takes his lead here.

What starts out as a straight-forward mystery becomes linked to events in Marlowe’s past as he unravels the case surrounding the supposed death of a rich socialite’s lover. All is not as it seems and the mystery, which initially unfolds at a steady pace, gathers momentum in its closing chapters through to its surprise conclusion. Black proves himself to be a worthy successor to Chandler and Marlowe is in good hands.

Book Review – THE LITTLE SISTER (1949) by Raymond Chandler

THE LITTLE SISTER by RAYMOND CHANDLER (1949, Hamish Hamilton /Penguin Books Ltd., Paperback, 2010 edition, 298pp) ∗∗∗∗
Blurb: Her name is Orfamay Quest and she’s come all the way from Manhattan, Kansas, to find her missing brother Orrin. Or leastways that’s what she tells PI Philip Marlowe, offering him a measly twenty bucks for the privilege. But Marlowe’s feeling charitable – though it’s not long before he wishes he wasn’t so sweet. You see, Orrin’s trail leads Marlowe to luscious movie starlets, uppity gangsters, suspicious cops and corpses with ice picks jammed in their necks. When trouble comes calling, sometimes it’s best to pretend to be out . . .

9780241954324The Little Sister is Chandler’s fifth Philip Marlowe novel and alongside his next book, The Long Goodbye, shows Marlowe at his most lonely, world-weary and vulnerable. The plot is a complex tangle but concentrates on a core group of characters – all of them fuelled by selfish greed. Chandler takes a number of opportunities for social commentary and displays an obvious dislike for the Hollywood industry which makes gods out of fakes.

The dialogue has a biting wit to it that shows Chandler increasingly digging beneath the surface and replacing what was once seen as mere cynicism with a darker melancholy. Marlowe in particular seems to be fighting his own self-doubts and solitude. The mystery itself weaves in twists and turns as one would expect but almost becomes secondary to Marlowe’s increasing hostility to all around him.

As such the novel will satisfy hard-boiled mystery buffs. For connoisseurs this novel represents a further step in Chandler’s desire to add more substance to his stories. He would go on to take this approach to its extreme with his classic The Long Goodbye.

Film Review – FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975)

FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975, E. K. Corporation/ITC, USA, 100 mins, Colour, 1.85:1, Mono, Cert: 15, Mystery) ∗∗∗∗
     Starring: Robert Mitchum (Philip Marlowe), Charlotte Rampling (Mrs. Helen Grayle), John Ireland (Lt. Nulty), Sylvia Miles (Mrs. Jessie Florian), Anthony Zerbe(Laird Brunette), Harry Dean Stanton (Billy Rolfe), Jack O’Halloran (Moose Malloy), Joe Spinell (Nick), Sylvester Stallone (Jonnie), Kate Murtagh (Frances Amthor), John O’Leary (Lindsay Marriott), Walter McGinn (Tommy Ray), Burton Gilliam (Cowboy), Jim Thompson (Mr. Baxter Wilson Grayle), Jimmie Archer (Georgie).
      Producer: George Pappas, Jerry Bruckheimer; Director: Dick Richards; Writer: David Zelag Goodman (based on the novel by Raymond Chandler); Director of Photography: John A. Alonzo (Technicolor); Music: David Shire; Film Editor: Walter Thompson, Joel Cox; Production Designer: Dean Tavoularis, Art Director: Angelo Graham; Set Decorator: Bob Nelson; Costume Designer: Tony Scarano, Silvio Scarano, Sandra Berke.

Farewell-My-Lovely-DVD-69883Delightful version of Raymond Chandler’s classic 1940 novel, previously filmed as THE FALCON TAKES OVER (1942) and MURDER MY SWEET (1945). Mitchum is a perfect world-weary Marlowe, despite his age and Richards creates an authentic translation of the author’s prose.

Marlowe is hired by oversized ex-con Moose Malloy (O’Halloran) to trace the girl he has not seen for seven years. What follows is a twisting tale of deceit, spiced with witty dialogue and colourful characters. The period detail is also excellent with the dark photography (by Alonzo who also worked on the previous year’s genre classic Chinatown) and mournful music score adding considerably to the mood.

In a strong supporting cast, Miles (nominated for a supporting actress Academy Award) scores heavily as a booze-soaked ex-dancer and Ireland is imposing as the seemingly only honest cop, Nulty. Also impressive is Murtagh as the butch madam of a brothel who also gets the better of Marlowe physically. Some of the other performances are more variable – former boxer O’Halloran is physically imposing as Moose, but delivers his lines with a stiffness that matches his build. Rampling manages to create some sexual tension, but lacks the finesse for this type of role of a Lauren Bacall or Veronica Lake.

Richards’ pacing of the story is well-judged and his work on this meticulously designed film is supported by editors Thompson and Cox in retaining a sense of clarity and flow through the complex plot twists.

The film’s success led to Mitchum playing Marlowe again in the less successful remake of THE BIG SLEEP in 1978, which bizarrely switched location from 1940s LA to 1970s London.