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Murder, My Sweet

Warner Archive // Unrated // September 15, 2015
List Price: $21.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted September 10, 2015 | E-mail the Author

Based on Raymond Chandler's 1940 novel Farewell, My Lovely, Edward Dmytryk's Murder, My Sweet (1944) is one of the most faithful and enduring adaptations of private detective Philip Marlowe, who appeared in several dozen novels, films, and radio/TV productions during the last eight decades. This twisting film noir stars Dick Powell as Marlowe in a role played completely against type, enough so that the film's name was toughened up to remind audiences that Powell was no longer the soft crooner they'd been seeing on the big screen for years. Full of witty comebacks, world-weary narration and other elements that must've felt new and fresh in 1944, Murder, My Sweet has survived a sea of imitators during the last 70+ years and remains a taut, entertaining mystery from start to finish.

Not surprisingly, the film's initial premise---Marlowe is hired by towering Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki, Dark City) to track down former girlfriend Velma Valento, who disappeared during Malloy's time in prison---is only the tip of the iceberg. Before long, Marlowe's digging unearths even more questions: alcoholic widow Jessie Florian (Esther Howard) claims that Valento is dead, a valuable jade necklace has gone missing, a client of the detective turns up dead, and a mysterious woman runs away from the crime scene. Marlowe's almost in over his head...but since his clients are more than willing to pay, he keeps digging. Bribery, blackmail, and at least one medically-induced coma lie ahead.

A lot goes on during Murder, My Sweet; at times, it's almost too much for this adaptation's brisk 95-minute lifespan. To the film's credit, it routinely does a fantastic job attempting to keep things straight by letting the tough-talking, charismatic Marlowe be our window into the underworld...and though his magnetic presence almost borders on parody in hindsight, it's only because it's been copied so much during the last several decades. Constant twists and turns will keep first-time viewers on their toes, but don't be surprised if you can't piece it all together the first time through: Murder, My Sweet has a little trouble keeping all its balls in the air, especially during its somewhat overcooked second act. Nonetheless, the film's strong performances and intriguing narrative provide enough fuel for the fire, while its interesting visual flourishes and deep, shadowy atmosphere make almost every corner irresistible.

Warner Bros.' 2004 DVD was repackaged as part of their Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 1 (not to be confused with these two boxed sets); since then, Warner Archives re-released it as a made-to-order DVD in the last year. This Blu-ray edition makes use of a sparkling new transfer created from the original camera negative, resulting in a smoother presentation of Murder, My Sweet that's no longer plagued by as many scratches, scuffs, and source material inconsistencies. The extras aren't as new and fresh, but at least nothing's missing this time around.

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

Warner Archives has a solid reputation for serving up quality transfers and Murder, My Sweet is no exception. This is a solid 1080p, 1.37:1 presentation that easily outpaces the 2004 DVD in every department. Textures are stronger, image detail more noticeable. Dirt and debris are still present on some occasions, but the overall image is cleaner than anticipated; the film's interesting visual flourishes led to problem areas on the DVD, but they're more consistent in quality here. Contrast and black levels are stable and digital imperfections (excessive DNR, interlacing, compression artifacts, etc.) don't seem to be an issue. Darkness and atmosphere are such a major part of Murder, My Sweet that this improved image yields a more satisfying and effective experience overall; in short, nothing of importance is lost in the shadows. Without question, this is a fine effort that fans and first-timers should appreciate.

DISCLAIMER: This images featured in this review are promotional in nature and do not represent the Blu-ray's 1080p source image.

Not surprisingly, the DTS-HD Master Audio track (presented in 2.0 mono) does what it can with the source material. Dialogue is clean and crisp, background details are balanced nicely and the score rarely fights for attention. The only potential drawbacks, such as a thin high end and modest dynamic range, are undoubtedly due to the original elements. Anyone familiar with films from this era should know what they're getting and, in that respect, Murder, My Sweet won't disappoint. Thankfully, optional English subtitles are included for the deaf and hearing impaired.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

Though predictably low on style points, Warner Bros.' standard interface is clean, easy to navigate and loads quickly. Sub-menus have been included for extras and subtitle setup, but not chapter selection. This dual-layered, region-free disc is housed in a standard keepcase with attractive disc and cover art. No inserts or slipcovers are included.

Bonus Features

Just the two supplements from Warner Bros.' 2004 DVD; these include an extremely dry (but occasionally interesting) Audio Commentary by author and film noir expert Alain Silver, as well as the film's extremely rough-looking Theatrical Trailer presented in standard definition. Both recycled extras are presented without optional subtitles or captions.

Final Thoughts

One of film noir's most influential standouts, Murder, My Sweet remains entertaining and accessible more than 70 years later. Dick Powell's rugged, charismatic lead performance provides more than enough weight for everything to revolve around, even though the ever-twisting plot has a bit of trouble keeping things straight from start to finish. Warner Archives' new Blu-ray offers a much-needed A/V upgrade over their parent company's own 2004 DVD, resulting in a more fluid viewing experience that highlight's the film's smoky atmosphere and visual flourishes. Murder, My Sweet comes firmly Recommended to die-hard fans, though newcomers may want to rent it first.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.
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