Merry Christmas for no good reason:
That’s a kind way of saying it’s interesting, different, and not entirely successful. But it answers the question “why don’t more movies try a first-person perspective? You know, where the character is the camera and everyone’s talking to him? That would be awesome and you’d never get sick of it.
“Lady in the Lake” is a Raymond Chandler novel, a Marlowe tale, one of the great hard-boiled detectives of 40s fiction. People would have keenly anticipated a new Marlowe movie, the way we look forward to a Bond picture. Various actors had their run at the part; some people like Dick Powell, but he wasn’t rugged enough. Bogart was great, but he was Bogartlowe, just as he was Humphrey Spade - the personality swamps the part. But he had the tone, the presence, the confidence, the aloofness, the sense of a code. On the radio he was played with suave romantic elan by Gerlad Mohr, a different interpretation. Then there’s creepy unblinking Marlowe, played here by Robert Montgomery:
Really. He doesn’t blink during the entire introduction, it seems. He addresses us as Marlowe, detective and writer - yes, writer - who decided to type up a tale and take it to a publishing house. Then the camera goes inside his head and we spend the rest of the movie looking out his eyes. A first-person detective story.
The effect is enjoyable . . .
Soon enough we meet the woman with whom Marlowe will tangle - and brother, if ever there was someone born to look straight at the camera and react to dialogue with growing fury, it’s our gal Audrey Totter.
I don't like your tone, Mr. Marlowe. In fact I'm quite sure of that.
Oh, let's let bygones be bygones. Here's a fellow who will advance the plot, which really hasn't been going anywhere:
But as soon as they're alone, it's back to glowering:
Then Marlowe pays a visit to a genial plot-device who looks at him . . . .
We meet the cop who hates him but doesn't show it yet . . .
We go back to Audrey's apartment, and hello, a mirror!
They come in handy after a beating:
Then it's more of the high-beams . . . .
. . . and a look of pure disgust.
Someday I'll watch the movie with the sound off. It would help, really; Montgomery isn't very good, and as one critic on imdb noted, he's cranky. He's just cranky all the way through. He's supposed to sound hard-boiled and cynical and all the usual traits of the genre, but he just sounds like a sarcastic pill with a nagging headache.
Worth watching? Sure. It's quite unusual, as I said, and there's a reason it didn't catch on. Most of the movie consists of people talking or waiting to talk, or reacting - and if it's not a Totter reaction, it's just filling time.