Disappearance or Murder?
Lady in the Lake (1946) is a completely different type of film. It is based on a Phillip Marlowe story by Raymond Chandler, but is filmed from our main character, Private Detective Marlowe’s, point of view.
All the camera angles are at the actor/director’s, Robert Montgomery’s, eye level, you never see Marlowe (Montgomery) unless he looks in a mirror or window, and the camera only moves and looks at what he is looking at.
It is an interesting interpretation but it can also be extremely unnerving as all the other characters are looking at Marlowe, and therefore staring right at you.
However, while this style is interesting this does harm the film in other ways. We never see Robert Montgomery’s face, expressions, or get that kind of interaction with him as a character. Contrasting it to Humphrey Bogarts’ earlier depiction this one pales in comparison. In some ways it is like reading text messages or emails, you have to judge his emotions solely on his tone of voice and whether he is serious, being sarcastic, kidding, etc.
This is very different from the way films were done and in a lot of ways is similar to a video game, with you having the point of view of the main character.
The films starts off with private detective Phillip Marlowe trying to make some extra money (and keep from getting injured), by selling a story based on an old case to Kingsby Publications. They call him in, but they aren’t interested in publishing his work, instead Adrienne Fromsett (Audrey Totter), hires him to locate Chrystal Kingsby, the wife of her boss, Derace Kingsby. Fromsett is doing this without Derace’s knowledge as she wants proof his wife is cheating on him to encourage him to leave his wife and hopefully marry her.
Marlowe begins the case and of course, nothing about this case is as simple as it seems. He goes to see Chris Lavery (Dick Simmons), Chrystal’s boyfriend, and who she supposedly ran off with. When Marlowe does question him, Lavery gives suspicious slip of the tongue; he says Chrystal was a beautiful woman, later changing to is. What does he know? Marlowe tries to question him further but is sucker punched and knocked out.
I do like this scene when he is punched and then the whole screen goes woozy as he is reeling from that interaction.
Afterwards he wakes up in a police cell and trades a few barbs with the officers. He particularly does not like Captain Kane.
He and Adrienne end up falling for each other (of course as it is Marlowe, he always has to be with someone), but it is an interesting relationship. They start off hating each other and trading barbs, but then out of nowhere she falls for his “charm” and they end up together.
The twist at the end is really good. You think you have it all figured out and then are hit with the truth of what really happened. Definitely recommend as it is a very unique film.
For more film noir, go to Dark Times on the Ranch: Ramrod (1947)
For more mysteries, go to Mysteries & Meddling Kids: Austin & Ally (2015)