Private eye Philip Marlowe investigates a case of blackmail involving the two wild daughters of a rich general, a pornographer and a gangster.
I thrice went to Michael Winner's Holland Park home for lunch. I wish I could say I remembered more about these visits, but the hospitality was clearly designed to ensure that I didn't! He was a charming and engaging man who had an entertaining anecdote for just about every occasion. For this remake of the 1946 classic, he has certainly assembled a strong cast. Robert Mitchum takes on the private eye "Philip Marlowe" character and the story moves to Britain where his services are sought by the invalid "General Sternwood" (James Stewart) who is concerned that his rather libertine daughters are vulnerable to blackmail. Once such investigation discovers that though blackmail was, indeed, on the table - there is a far more deadly and sinister topic for his talents - the disappearance of the general's son-in-law "Rusty Regan". There are hoodlums, gangsters, petty thieves who are all in his sights as he tries to get to the bottom of whom is doing what to whom - and why! Oliver Reed and Sara Miles (who always looked as if she were treading a very fine line between sanity and madness) contribute quite well to the mix, but Joan Collins and Richard Boone much less so, and the narrative (from Mitchum) is way too wordy. The ending is sort of sprung upon us, and I felt just a bit short-changed by the whole thing. Colour photography can sometimes be a real enemy of noir thrillers. The monochrome style, lighting, shading and a good score frequently does much of the heavy lifting if the story is a bit light. Here, Winner has none of that to fall back on, and what we end up with is really more notable for whom he cast rather than for what we saw.