The Long Goodbye (1973) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I enjoyed this quirky update of the 1940's private eye formula, but if you are a genre purist, or a big fan of Raymond Chandler's mysteries, you may want to be aware of the following:


Marlowe's neighbor's are four women who do topless yoga.
  1. Philip Marlowe has traditionally been played by such macho icons as Bob Mitchum and Humphrey Bogart, who limned a portrait of a laconic, wisecrackin', tough guy. Eliot Gould kept the wisecracks, but played the private dick as an eternally chattering pussy.  He did more mumbling in this movie than Milton the Stapler Guy did in Office Space. Those previous Marlowes were lady-killers. Gould plays Marlowe as a slob and a chain-smoking douchebag who couldn't get laid in Vegas with a fistful of hundreds.
  2. The story takes place in the 1970's instead of the 1940's, although Marlowe drives a 1940's car. The intention of the car, of course, is to symbolize Marlowe's anachronistic values in a world of amorphous morality.
  3. Director Robert Altman played this about halfway between a 1940's movie and a parody of 1940's movies. One example: do you recall how old movies use a single musical theme for a character, which is played again and again at different tempos or in different keys depending on the mood of that character? Altman features a whisky-voiced jazz-blues version of "The Long Goodbye" in the opening credits to familiarize us with the tune, then uses this melody as virtually the entire musical score. If Marlowe is in Mexico, he hears a mariachi version. High school football game? A marching band version. Funeral? A dirge version in a minor key. And so forth.
  4. Eliot Gould and Sterling Hayden are about the only professional actors in the cast. The supporting cast features people like Danish model/socialite Nina van Pallandt, who had never before appeared in an English-language movie, baseball pitcher Jim Bouton, concept comic Henry Gibson, and bodybuilder Arnold Strong (whom we later came to know and love as Schwarzenegger).

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1

  • featurette with Gould and Altman

  • featurette with the cinematographer

Although he updated the story and the character to the 70's, Altman did retain certain key elements of the storyline and Philip Marlowe's personality. The film ends when Marlowe commits an act which most of us would consider to be a form of immoral vigilante justice. Yet it is consistent with his belief system and his own sense of integrity, and that action allows the film to pull back from campy fun and re-establish the proper noir tone. Marlowe is supposed to be a guy whose values and standards are higher than those of the people around him, and Altman manages to convey that. The original Marlowe didn't belong in seedy, corrupt L.A.. The new Marlowe, with his cheap J.C. Penney suits, and his inflexible sense of right and wrong, doesn't belong in the Age of Aquarius.

I think if you just forget that the character is supposed to be "Philip Marlowe" and allow yourself to view it afresh, you'll find it an interesting film. 

The Critics Vote

  • BBC 4/5

The People Vote ...


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Interesting film. A very different approach to the private eye genre, part serious noir, part high camp, yet strangely faithful to Marlowe's "outsider" spirit.

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