Robert Altman’s film version of Raymond Chandler’s novel is an uneven mixture of insider satire on the gumshow film genre, gratuitous brutality, and sledgehammer whimsy.
Leigh Brackett adapted the Chandler book; she, Jules Furthman and William Faulkner scripted Chandler’s The Big Sleep . Herein, the Philip Marlowe character becomes embroiled in a Malibu murder, stolen money, the apparent death of his best friend, and compounded double-cross.
No longer the sardonic idealist, Marlowe has become part Walter Mitty. Elliott Gould keeps a low dramatic profile throughout as a passive catalyst. Nina Van Pallandt makes an American film bow as the wife of dried-up author Sterling Hayden (Dan Blocker was to have been cast, and his passing is tributed in an end title card ‘with special remembrance’), whose periodic disappearances include a visit to Henry Gibson’s high-priced sanatorium.
Mark Rydell returns to acting after a decade of directing to play a kooky criminal, whose twisted mind runs to bashing in the face of Jo Ann Brody with a soft drink bottle.