Farewell My Lovely (1944)

Directed by Edward Dmytryk

LA by night, and the mean streets are deserted. Private eye Philip Marlowe is so down on his luck you can see the seat of his pants shining through. Ex-con Moose Molloy approaches Marlowe to help find his true love. Marlowe needs the dough, but the path leads to nervous millionaire Grayle and his sexy young wife. Before you can say "You do know how to whistle.. Marlowe is up to his homburg in blackmail, theft and murder. Just an ordinary day.

Farewell My Lovely is archetypal 1940s film noir, with its scheming blondes, shady characters and half-lit lives. On a cleaned up print, and back on the big screen, it looks striking. But it is, frankly, a baffling choice for restoration. For a start, Dick Powell's Marlowe is too glib. He tosses off the one-liners with all the comprehension of an answerphone. Plot-wise, Farewell My Lovely comes across as a bargain basement hybrid of Double Indemnity and The Big Sleep, but Claire Trevor's blonde is no substitute for the shimmering sensuality of Lana Turner. And you may think you've had your fill of Humphrey Bogart as a private eye, but boy, do you miss the Hump when he ain't around.

On paper, Farewell My Lovely has everything you want from the genre: a plot that makes The Usual Suspects read like a recipe for boiled eggs; a hard-bitten hero and a brace of femmes-fatale. But it just doesn't click. It is too static, and lacks the fluency of The Big Sleep. There is also none of the affection for minor characters which John Huston brought to The Maltese Falcon.

Film noir never goes away, it just edges further back into the shadows. The trouble with Farewell My Lovely is that there is too much light where there should be dark.