The Lady in the Lake

The Lady in the Lake (1947) movie poster

(1947) director Robert Montgomery
viewed: 10/05/10

A film noir adapted for the screen from a novel by Raymond Chandler, The Lady in the Lake stands out as unique due to an inventive, if not particularly effective, cinematic technique, shooting the film as if through the eyes of the main character, private detective Philip Marlowe.

Actually, star and director Robert Montgomery, as Marlowe, addresses the audience directly at the beginning to introduce the concept, posing to the viewers, to see if they can solve the murder based on just the same things that he sees.  Outside of these brief moments of addressing the audience directly, Montgomery is only caught in glimpses in mirrors, usually in very convoluted set-ups to get him on screen at all. 

The technique rules the film considerably, limiting it, giving it the strange situation of the main female lead, Audrey Totter, addressing herself to the camera as if it was Marlowe himself, which she does pretty well, all things considered. 

Interestingly, later in 1947, another film noir would take this approach for the beginning of its story.  In Dark Passage, adapted from a David Goodis novel and starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, the film opens through the eyes of Bogart’s character, who undergoes an underground facial reconstruction surgery to “give him a new face”, so the idea that you don’t see his face in the beginning is so that Bogart’s distinctive voice let’s you know it’s him but you don’t have to see another actor playing the role before the surgery.

In all, the story is typical detective fare, nothing utterly notable.  It’s not a bad film, more of a quirk.  An attempt at something novel, but not every strange technique is always successful.

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