After several adaptations by RKO Pictures of Raymond Chandler’s work that barely resembled the legendary writer’s source material, producer Adrian Scott finally managed to create a faithful one that captured the author’s wit and charm while also shaving down the book’s convoluted plot into something coherent. 1945’s Murder, My Sweet is based on Farewell, My Lovely (1940), the second Philip Marlowe mystery. I guess the marketing folks at RKO thought “Sweet” was a more effective pet name than “Lovely.” The film is certainly one of the most clearest versions of Chandler’s vision, even if its noble private eye yarn would later feel old-hat in the world of noir.
I’m taking a break from molls and smart-mouthed hoods today to write about a good ol’ fashioned “dark house” mystery: The Spiral Staircase. I saw it for the first time last night and am pretty hyped about it, so I have to get this review of my chest. Directed by German transplant Robert Siodmak and shot in balls-out expressionistic mode by shadow meister Nicholas Musuraca, the film is a masterful exercise in suspense with a helluva one-two punch at the climax. The atmosphere in this one is almost inconceivably dark. It’s like sticking your face in a can of black paint, then trying to make your way through a large house. It’s a powerful visual experience wrapped around a wicked little mystery. And I haven’t seen a staircase captured so passionately since Odessa.