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  • Private investigator Philip Marlowe is approached by a friend, Terry Lennox, who is in a bit of a jam. Marlowe helps him get to Mexico but the next day his friend's wife turns up dead. The police hold Marlowe but then release him once Terry Lennox is found dead in Mexico - suicide. To the cops it is an open-and-shut case of murder-suicide but Marlowe doesn't believe that to be the case. Marlowe then is hired by the wife of wealthy author Roger Wade to find her husband. The Wades were neighbours of the Lennoxes. A powerful mob boss also leans on him to find the large sum of money Terry Lennox was transporting for him. Could all these events be connected?

    Robert Altman directs a movie based on a Raymond Chandler novel, and it's a mixed bag.

    Starts off very well with some humorous scenes and dialogue and a fair amount of intrigue. The middle-to-end sections lack focus, however, and, while it is never dull, the movie feels like it is drifting to a lacklustre conclusion. The intrigue just seems to get sucked out of the movie in that segment. In addition, the theme song gets played in just about every situation and in various forms - it gets very irritating, very quickly.

    Ends well though, with a good twist and a powerful conclusion.

    A new take on Philip Marlowe from Elliott Gould - he is hardly Humphrey Bogart and he's not trying to be. Altman's Philip Marlowe is the dishevelled, anti-social chain-smoking anti-hero rather than the suave, confident hero that Bogart portrayed. For the most part, it works, though at times I wished for the coolness and wise-cracks of Bogie.

    Supporting cast are fine. Sterling Hayden is great as the larger-than-life, Ernest Hemingway/John Huston-esque Roger Wade.

    Not the Philip Marlowe of the Bogart movies, but it'll do.
  • I admit, when I first viewed "The Long Goodbye", in 1973, I didn't like the film; the signature Altman touches (rambling storyline, cartoonish characters, dialog that fades in and out) seemed ill-suited to a hard-boiled detective movie, and Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe? No WAY! Bogie had been perfect, Dick Powell, nearly as good, but "M.A.S.H.'s" 'Trapper John'? Too ethnic, too 'hip', too 'Altman'! Well, seeing it again, nearly 34 years later, I now realize I was totally wrong! The film is brilliant, a carefully-crafted color Noir, with Gould truly remarkable as a man of morals in a period (the 1970s) lacking morality. Perhaps it isn't Raymond Chandler, but I don't think he'd have minded Altman's 'spin', at all! In the first sequence of the film, Marlowe's cat wakes him to be fed; out of cat food, the detective drives to an all-night grocery, only to discover the cat's favorite brand is out of stock, so he attempts to fool the cat, emptying another brand into an empty can of 'her' food. The cat isn't fooled by the deception, however, and runs away, for good...

    A simple scene, one I thought was simply Altman quirkiness, in '73...but, in fact, it neatly foreshadows the major theme of the film: betrayal by a friend, and the price. As events unfold, Marlowe would uncover treachery, a multitude of lies, and self-serving, amoral characters attempting to 'fool' him...with his resolution decisive, abrupt, and totally unexpected! The casting is first-rate. Elliott Gould, Altman's only choice as Marlowe, actually works extremely well, BECAUSE he is against 'type'. Mumbling, bemused, a cigarette eternally between his lips, he gives the detective a blue-collar integrity that plays beautifully off the snobbish Malibu 'suspects'. And what an array of characters they are! From a grandiosely 'over-the-top' alcoholic writer (Sterling Hayden, in a role intended for Dan Blocker, who passed away, before filming began), to his sophisticated, long-suffering wife (Nina Van Pallandt), to a thuggish Jewish gangster attempting to be genteel (Mark Rydell), to a smug health guru (Henry Gibson), to Marlowe's cocky childhood buddy (Jim Bouton)...everyone has an agenda, and the detective must plow through all the deception, to uncover the truth.

    There are a couple of notable cameos; Arnold Schwarzenegger, in only his second film, displays his massive physique, as a silent, mustached henchman; and David Carradine plays a philosophical cell mate, after Marlowe 'cracks wise' to the cops.

    The film was a failure when released; Altman blamed poor marketing, with the studio promoting it as a 'traditional' detective flick, and audiences (including me) expecting a Bogart-like Marlowe. Time has, however, allowed the movie to succeed on it's own merits, and it is, today, considered a classic.

    So please give the film a second look...You may discover a new favorite, in an old film!
  • Phillip Marlowe is out getting food for his cat at 3am when friend Terry Lennox pops over and asks for a lift to Mexico. Marlowe obliges but returns to his home to find the police waiting for him with stories of Terry murdering his wife and Marlowe being an accessory. Three days later he is released from a holding cell whereupon he learns the news of his friend's suicide and all charges are dropped. Determined to get to the bottom of this open and shut case, Marlowe finds himself involved in the stormy marriage of Roger and Eileen Wade and the criminal activities of Marty Augustine.

    Hailed as a classic, this film is actually a bit of hard work crossed with cool style in a plot that gets somewhere but seems to take a long time and a million back roads to get there. It won't be to everyone's tastes as a result because, even though I quite liked it, I must confess that the narrative is hard to follow and hard to particularly care much about. The wit of it is watching Marlowe updated – a device that will annoy as many as it pleases. In Gould's laidback and shabby detective we have the opposite of the tough and snappy detectives of the genre, but it sits well within the modern setting of the modern generation (as was) with its hedonism and fads. This is interesting but not the same as a good detective story, which sadly this isn't. If you're not won over by the overall approach then it is unlikely that you will find a lot more to fill the time.

    Altman's direction is focused on the style and, although he is fairly respectful to the material in regards what happens, he doesn't go out of his way to make it engaging. Gould fits the role well and enjoys his character. I would have liked more of the complexity underneath to come through to contrast with this surface. He is the film but he is well supported by a hammy show from Sterling and solid turns from Rydell, Pallandt, Gibson and Bouton.

    Overall then a difficult film to really like. It has enough of its own style to be interesting but not enough of a hook in the narrative to please a mass audience. Altman's hands are all over the film and I understand why some viewers don't like it for that reason. Not one for those looking for a gripping detective story, but still interesting.
  • Much like the 30's jazz music that opens the movie, The Long Goodbye appears on the surface to take its cue from classic film noir. No surprise here, it is based after all on the Raymond Chandler novel by the same name, Chandler as iconic a figure in the noir realm as you're likely to get and responsible for some of the most distinctly classic moments of the genre (Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, also Strangers on a Train for Hitchcock). But instead of rehashing styles and themes from a bygone era of film-making, Altman instead takes Chandler's film noir of wandering, and hangs on it his own unique take.

    Elliot Gould is Phillip Marlowe. Scruffy, sardonic and alienated private dick with a smart mouth and a cigarette eternally glued to his lips. Altman's twist? He's cool but not the suave kind that would impress dames in the 40's, the Bogart kind. He seems constantly out of place, a bit phased, doomed to observe and comment in his witty repartee on what's going on around him or just let the chips fall where they may. And they do.

    Chandler's story is one of his very best. All the staples of noir are present, simultaneously fulfilling the promise of a Phillip Marlowe film and in the same time preparing the ground for Altman's take on it; murder, missing money, unhappy marriages, a private eye hired to investigate. The works. Sprawling and convoluted like the best of noirs usually are. The dialogue crackling with inventiveness, shedding tough guy lingo for a sense of playfulness, rolling in and out of the picture in a stream-of-consciousness way.

    Some of the twists and characters seem to carry a sense of seething malice, a fleeting glimpse on the seamy underbelly of the Great American Beast, the scars and ugliness of Hollywood showing behind a faded facade of glamour, an escalating creepiness factor that recalls the later works of David Lynch, predating him by a good number of years as it does. The mousey Dr. Verringe and the whole clinic subplot reminded me of Lost Highway for example.

    What really elevates The Long Goodbye in another level is Altman's direction and he has Vilmos Zsigmond with him. This is only my second Altman picture (after McCabe and Mrs. Miller) but 2 hours in his presence were enough to leave an indelible sense that I'm watching the work of a master on top of his craft. Altman's camera is always on the move, slowly panning and floating in and out of the frame, picking up details, guiding the eye but never getting in the middle of the story or screaming for attention. The whole thing has a natural, subdued feel to it, what with the unobtrusive lighting and bleached-out, hazy look; no glitz or glamour here. Only the faded, long-gone impression of it. This is a world we are enmeshed in that surrounds from all sides with hazy reflection.

    The Long Goodbye is both a fantastic and somewhat hidden gem of 70's crime cinema and also one of the missing links in the evolution of noir, all the way from Sunset Blvd. to Mullholland Drive. You must visit at some point.
  • It's true. You can't have mixed feelings about The Long Good-bye; you'll either love it or hate it. I started the movie with what I pretended was an open mind, but a secret hope that I'd be fully justified in hating it. In my defense, The Maltese Falcon is my favorite movie and Bogie is my favorite actor. Noir is my favorite film genre and I love Howard Hawk's The Big Sleep wihich had Bogart as the definitive Marlowe.

    Altman's take on Chandler's other book with private eye Marlowe, The Long Good-bye, updates the action to the 1970's. He introduces a very 70's theme song and finds as different an actor as he can from Bogart for the role of Marlowe. From the opening frame, Elliot Gould plays Marlowe like a push-over. He's a man who constantly mutters to himself, suffers nervous tics, can't even fool his cat, is afraid of dog's and seems to be the only man not attracted to his sexy hippie neighbors despite their friendliness towards him and obvious promiscuousness.

    However, Gould really creates a unique persona with the way he walks, talks, wise-cracks and operates. He becomes a believable person - which is why the uncharacteristic ending is so impacting. The photography, especially the night scenes, are beautifully filmed. The theme music plays everywhere - a Mexican funeral, a doorbell, a car radio etc and with different singers. There are other layers of flesh added to the telling that really work - like the compound security guards impressions of James Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck, Cary Grant and best of all Walter Brennan aka Stumpy from Rio Bravo.

    This movie worked great for me and the plot, intricate though it was, was understandable. I will not compare this Marlowe to Bogart's, but do find it admirable that Altman just stuck to the goal of making a good movie without trying to ape or make obvious references to the noir genre.
  • writers_reign26 November 2009
    Warning: Spoilers
    The movies got around to adapting Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels fairly early. The first in the series, The Big Sleep, was published in 1939 followed fairly quickly by Farewell, My Lovely, The High Window and The Lady In The Lake and by 1947 all four had been filmed - twice each in the case of the latter two. By common consensus George Montgomery was the worst Marlowe and the film in which he took the role, The High Window the worst adaptation. That held good until Robert Altman decided he was qualified to reinvent Chandler and Boy! did he get a wrong number. I can't name one single aspect that says 'Chandler' in this piece of crap. Elliot Gould resembles Chandler's Philip Marlowe a tad less than Tom Cruise resembles Shakespeare's King Lear. Not that this is necessarily Gould's fault. Presumably he played the role as directed just as equally presumably Leigh Brackett - who had, of course, co-written the screenplay for the Bogie/Hawks version of The Big Sleep - wrote this Marlowe as instructed by Altman. I don't object to any director for whatever reason making a travesty of an accepted genre but I do object when a director acquires the rights of a well-known, well-loved novel and throws out virtually everything that made it great in the first place. Why not simply write and/or commission an Original Screenplay and have done with it. This Marlowe is phony from shot #1. Clearly inspired by Paul Newman's Harper, who was shown as a slob from the off, this Marlowe is portrayed hungover, chain-smoking and living in something one level up from a rat hole. Chandler's Marlowe on the other hand always maintained a tidy apartment and cooked real meals. It's a small point I agree but, as John O'Hara once said if you get the small things right you'll get the big things right. The very first line of the novel reads: The first time I saw Terry Lennox he was drunk in a Rolls Royce outside the Players restaurant. From this Chandler explores the growing friendship between the two men. Here, Lennox turns up at Marlowe's apartment out of the blue about two reels in, displaying nothing of the breeding and raffish charm that made Marlowe invest time in him. The link between Lennox and the Wades is clumsy and inept here where it was subtle in the novel. Lennox' military past in which he was one of three men on a wartime mission is omitted and a gangster who wasn't in the book is substituted for the two that were. Neither is there any mention of Lennox' father-in-law, Harlan Potter, to say nothing of his other daughter who Marlowe would actually marry in a later novel. The final insult is, of course, to have Marlowe, conceived and written as a modern day knight, doing his best to right the world's wrongs, kill Lennox in cold blood. The sooner this is turned into banjo pics the better.
  • The very embodiment of '70s Hollywood genre revisionism, Robert Altman's film of The Long Goodbye stands as one of his most accessible, wittily misanthropic films, and probably the finest performance of Elliot Gould's career to date.

    A warning for Raymond Chandler purists: you probably won't like this film. Altman and screenwriter Leigh Brackett had quite a task in adapting Chandler's second-last novel to the screen, for in it the 'knight errant' Phillip Marlowe comes over more like a prudish sap. Altman and Brackett have streamlined the narrative, removed peripheral characters, and – crucially – transformed Marlowe into a murkier, more comically ambiguous protagonist.

    In Altman's and Gould's hands, Marlowe is laconically relaxed, murmuring, alternately amused and annoyed at the world. Like Chandler's hero, he is an outsider, a spectator, everywhere he goes. Unlike the literary Marlowe, Gould's character seems washed up on the shores of an unfamiliar land, his nobility as crumpled and stale as his suit.

    Along for the ride are the archetypal Chandler villains and victims: self-hating celebrities, young wives trapped in loveless marriages, crooked doctors, low-rent psychopathic gangsters, bored cops, flunkies lost out of time. Typically, the milieux Marlowe moves in range from the affluence of the Malibu Colony to the cells of the County Jail. Altman, however, wishes to make a film in and about 1973; the film is shot through with the psychic reverberations of the end of hippiedom and the remoteness of the 'Me Generation'.

    Another Altman touch is his openly expressed contempt for Hollywood and its conventions. As if to acknowledge the artificiality of a private detective story in the midst of 1970s Los Angeles, the film is suffused with jokey references to cinema. Bookended with 'Hooray for Hollywood', the film shows gatekeepers impersonating movie stars, characters changing their names for added class, hoods enacting movie clichés simply because that's where they learnt to behave. Even Marlowe himself refers to the artifice when talking to the cops: 'Is this where I'm supposed to say 'What's all this about?' and he says 'Shut up, I ask the questions' ?'

    As for the supporting cast, Sterling Hayden shines out as the beleaguered novelist Roger Wade. There is more than a touch of Hemingway in Hayden's bluff, blustering, vulnerable old hack. Baseball champ and sportscaster Jim Bouton is casually mysterious as Marlowe's friend Terry Lennox, Laugh-In alumnus Henry Gibson is suitably greasy as Dr Verringer, actor/director Mark Rydell (best known for 'On Golden Pond') is convincingly chilling as gangster Marty Augustine, and Nina van Pallandt lends a dignified, defiant pathos to her role as Eileen Wade.

    Special note must be made of Vilmos Zsigmond's tremendous photography, employing his early 'flashing' style of exposure to lend Los Angeles a suitably sultry, bleached-out aura. Also deserving attention is John Williams' ingeniously minimalist score. Comprised solely of pseudo-source music, the score is a myriad of variations on a single song, appearing here as supermarket muzak, there as a party singalong, elsewhere as a late night radio tune.

    The film's controversial ending is utterly antithetical to Chandler's vision. The message from Altman, however, is loud and clear: Chandler's world no longer exists – if indeed it ever did.
  • I am familiar with the Raymond Chandler type of detective even though I have not read this particular book. I was curious to see how Elliott Gould would fit in to the preconceptions I had of Phillip Marlowe.

    I wasn't impressed with his style. He didn't seem hard enough. The constant chain-smoking seemed contrived. He seemed lackadaisical.

    Then I looked at the director - Robert Altman, the Hollywood-hating director that went against type. Everything made sense. The constant Hollywood references in the movie, and the private eye that hung around with bare-breasted hippies still stuck in the Summer of Love.

    Done in between Mash and Nashville, it is particularly Altman. It is a caricature of Marlowe, and, in that sense, Gould fits perfectly. I am not happy with the film, but I understand.

    The cinematography was great and the sound tract was superb. Sterling Hayden (Dr. Strangelove) was great as the Hemingwayesque writer, and Nina Van Pallandt (Clifford Irving's mistress for you literary types) was also very good as his wife.

    Good Altman, but not a good Marlowe. See Bogey in The Big Sleep for the best example of how that should be done.
  • Critically-acclaimed modern noir from director Robert Altman, a rather rambling adaptation of Raymond Chandler's novel, has drowsy, early-a.m. atmosphere and rumpled panache to spare, but a dreary plot and characters to contend with. Elliott Gould does the gumshoe genre proud with his portrayal of Philip Marlowe, bachelor detective in present-day Southern California, but the murder investigation he's involved with here isn't engrossing or suspenseful, and the eccentrics who dot the cast aren't amusing--just dull. Evocative cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond is a definite plus, yet Altman's decision to play this material so deadpan and low-key results in a 'sleeper' of the worst sort. *1/2 from ****
  • With The Long Goodbye Elliot Gould joins the ranks of distinguished players who have been Raymond Chandler's famous private detective. He might not be the tough guy as Bogart, Mitchum, and Powell were, but he's deadly. Never more so than in the very end of this film.

    As in many classic Marlowe stories separate cases that Marlowe is hired for are really connected. In The Long Goodbye, Gould does a favor for friend Jim Bouton by driving him to the airport. Later on Bouton's wife is found murdered and it is reported that Bouton committed suicide in Mexico.

    Gould is also hired by Nina Van Pallandt to find her dissolute writer husband Sterling Hayden. And gangster Mark Rydell wants Gould to locate some missing money of his. All that and Gould's cat goes missing.

    Contemporary Los Angeles is photographed nicely in The Long Goodbye. Of the cast my favorite is Sterling Hayden who drinks a lot and has lost his muse for writing. He's also lost a bit else as well.

    Raymond Chandler fans should be pleased.
  • Easily one of Altman's best films and an early precursor to other films later in the decade by the director. The Long Goodbye is a fine transition in style to Altmans later films like "Nashville" and "A Wedding" Elliot Gould does an outstanding job portraying the outre detective Phillip Marlowe, using his mumbling, bumbling, smart ass speaking style, as a technique to keep the film under the illusion that everything is in motion, like the ocean waves in the film, Marlowe speaks in a sort of beatnik type "Daddy-O" style combined with a smooth talking private eye, and the result works perfectly. The film works like it is timed by a metronome, it rolls along, seamlessly in a way that only Altman can achieve, and like the rhythm of the waves and Marlowe's speech, the camera is constantly in motion as well. The roving camera does an excellent job of allowing the viewer to feel as though they are witnessing more action than actually exists on screen.

    Wade (Sterling Hayden) is a fantastic Hemingway-esque writer in the film. Hayden's size and booming voice, in conjunction with his alcoholism and potential brutality, lend an aroma of unpredictableness to his character. Wade's beautiful wife, who has a mysterious bruise on her face, is like a timid, loyal animal, subjected to the whims of her over bearing master. Henry Gibson, who plays Wade's doctor, is excellent as a sort of despotic mouse, who frightens an elephant into conforming to his will, this irony is one of the films intriguing, bizarre twists.

    This film works well as a character study, and is one of the best films of the seventies. A must see for every student of film. 9/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    For some reason, there are a lot of old Hollywood references in "The Long Goodbye", an updated view of the old private detective film noir genre with none other than Elliot Gould cast in the role of Raymond Chandler's P.I. Philip Marlowe. The opening scene has an extended sequence of Gould dealing with his hungry cat's quest for a certain brand of cat food, picking up brownie mix for the pothead women next door and finally taking an old pal to Tijuana. All this in the middle of the night. If the lack of sleep is going to be his excuse for the stupid dialog he is forced to recite for the next two hours, then he has my forgiveness.

    But when he finds himself in jail for questioning in regards to his pal's alleged murder of his wife, then after three days ends up searching for the aging writer husband (Sterling Hayden) of the film's femme fatal (Nina Van Pallandt) whom he locates in a wacky mental institution run by none other than Henry Gibson. That is certainly no Laugh-Inn that Hayden is stuck in, and for the rest of the film, every type of red herring character comes on, including mobsters who make everybody in a room take off their clothes for no apparent reason other than to stress naked truth. Among those in the room is the future "Governator" himself, Arnold Schwartznegger, who fortunately has no lines to recite so he has more time to flex. Somehow, all this is tied to the murder of the pal's wife, and the suicide/confession found by him in Mexico which has allegedly closed the case.

    Film Noir is probably my favorite genre in classic movies, so when Hollywood occasionally (to this day) turns them out, I am looking forward to the twists and turns they take, and don't always expect reality. I love the hard, sometimes silly dialog and the femme fatals and the red herrings and certainly the dark photography and twists and turns of whatever city they happen to be in. But in the case of "The Long Goodbye", I couldn't buy any of it, even though it does feature some excellent camera work by the legendary Vilmos Zsigmond. It seemed that the screenplay was patchwork from the worst of the film noirs, and that the acting was as high as the neighbors next to where Gould lives. It is a sad statement to make that the cat who runs away got the best deal here. If the old Hollywood references were a love letter from director Robert Altman, it never resonates. The inclusion of "Horray For Hollywood" as the song over the opening credits also makes absolutely no sense.
  • Apparently when The Long Goodbye was released, many critics thought it was a parody. Perhaps Altman should have set out to lampoon Marlowe, he couldn't have done any more damage to the reputation of Chandler's superb novel.

    Putting aside comparisons with the original work, as a film The Long Goodbye makes painful viewing. The casting is bizarre; Elliot Gould in no way conjures up Marlowe. The contemporary setting is incongruous; Marlowe's cynicism and barbs are very much tied to his age. As is his chain-smoking - Gould's constant lighting and relighting of his ciggies here just seems ludicrous. The seventies setting does allow Altman to throw in some topless co-ed neighbours, apparently for the titillation (no pun intended) of the crew.

    The production value is questionable. Gould mumbles his lines and a lot of it seems dubbed. Even then, you have to strain to hear the dialogue much of the time. The film has a cheesy, made-for-TV look that is not all down to being made in the 1970s.

    All great directors have their flops, and Altman is no exception. Peter Biskind cites rumours that Altman was drunk much of the time on set. I can only assume he was out of his skull shooting this one.
  • You do NOT expect a nice, polished Barnaby Jones sort of private eye when you see a Philip Marlowe movie. You expect a wisecracking jerk. But here in "The Long Goodbye" you get an amazing Philip Marlowe...one who is grubbier, earthlier and just plain nasty! The ending, in particular, is a VERY different sort of Marlowe...and I actually liked this.

    Now the film COULD have tried to replicate the Marlow of the earlier films...such as as he was performed by the likes of Bogart, George Sanders or Robert Montgomery. Instead, they went for a far less handsome guy (sorry Mr. Gould...but the film was NOT designed to make you look handsome) who was at least as sarcastic...but also far more morally ambiguous. I think not trying to replicate these earlier films was a brave and smart decision in hindsight.

    I could try explaining the plot but, frankly, it's very confusing and complicated. Now it all comes together great at the end...but how the journey gets there isn't easy to explain....just see the film. Excellent direction, excellent acting and an excellent script. I particularly liked the amazing performance by Sterling Hayden but Elliott Gould was also surprisingly good and I think it's probably his best film. All in all, well worth your time.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is an attempt to revive the Philip Marlowe character and place him in the context of early 70s America. As scripted by Leigh Bracket, the film's got all the ingredients of a solid detective noir. But as directed by Robert Altman, it's a bit too self-conscious and post-modern to really do its fundamental job.

    The oddity originates right away, with the relatively effete Elliott Gould playing the gumshoe detective. He makes some very strange decisions that Altman blithely allows him to get away with, like smearing his face with magic fingerprinting ink that somehow leaves enough residue to cover his entire face and give him an opportunity to perform a Jolson impression. This isn't nearly as studied as the Walter Brennan impression offered by the Malibu gate guard. The movie pretty much wallows in this type of post-modernism, as in "ha ha, here's a movie that's about movies." I find it quickly tiring.

    What's great about the movie is Sterling Hayden's performance, intimidating and endearing in his big bushy beard and looking like a man not comfortable in his own body. He re-enacts the scenario from "A Star is Born" with such zeal that we want to believe it's actually the first time we've seen it. His long conversation with Marlowe (whom he calls "Marlboro Man") on the beach is the absolute high point of the movie.

    What's really horrible about the movie is Nina Van Pallandt's excruciatingly one dimensional performance as Hayden's wandering wife. She's so lacking in basic appeal and screen presence that her function as a "femme fatale" is completely subverted.

    Too many things in this movie feel arbitrary, as if the film-makers were just enjoying their own cleverness. What the point with the hippie neighbors was, I really don't know. It didn't enhance the movie, it is just a colorful distraction. The basic conceit of the movie, that Marlowe is basically the same person from the stories while the world around him has changed, is distracting and fills no real purpose other than novelty. If a real P.I. drove around in that 1940s automobile, I don't think it would be very easy for him to go incognito. Still, the movie kept my attention. Most of the performances outside of Van Pallandt's are excellent, but the visual style of the movie is very bland.
  • Elliott Gould offers up one of his most amusing performances as Raymond Chandlers' private eye character Philip Marlowe. Marlowe is visited in the wee hours of the morning by his friend Terry Lennox (baseball player Jim Bouton). He does his friend a favour by driving him all the way to Tijuana. Some time after that, he learns that, in fact, Terry's wife Sylvia is dead, presumably killed by Terry, who has also offed himself. Then he is hired for a supposedly simple case: find Roger Wade (Sterling Hayden), a boozy writer, for his wife Eileen (Nina van Pallandt). In the time-honoured tradition of detective fiction, Marlowe will discover that the separate stories turn out to be connected.

    Filmmaker Robert Altmans' take on the whole Neo-Noir genre does take some getting used to. It's a lot more irreverent, and goofy, than some people will expect. Devotees of Chandler and classic film noir will likely be dismayed. Scripted by the legendary Leigh Brackett, the dialogue does flow from the mouths of the cast with real ease, and it is reasonably entertaining to watch as this thing develops. After a while, however, even a viewer such as this one can see where the story is headed.

    Goulds' version of Marlowe is a real change of pace. He's a quirky, hip, unflappable wise-ass who's willing to head to an all-night supermarket to obtain the only brand of cat food that his pet will eat. And he's just one memorable character in this interesting stew of a film. Hayden plays his washed-up writer for everything that it's worth. Film director Mark Rydell ("The Rose") is clearly relishing his meaty acting role as a brutal Jewish gangster. Henry Gibson ("The Blues Brothers") is an effective weasel as a doctor who expects to be PAID for his services. Danish actress Van Pallandt is alluring as the femme fatale of the piece. And there are a couple of very familiar faces in small roles: Jack Riley ('The Bob Newhart Show'), Rutanya Alda ("Mommie Dearest"), David Carradine as a chatty convict, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of Rydells' goons.

    Set in a sunny but rather seedy California of the 70s (complete with spacey hippie neighbours for Marlowe), this is an entertainingly convoluted tale, and a rather slowly paced one, but it always remains...interesting. It's definitely an unusual spin on the typical noir film.

    Seven out of 10.
  • That most expert of genre benders -- Robert Altman -- takes aim at the noir detective film in this delightfully creative and witty adaptation of the Raymond Chandler novel.

    Altman -- not to mention Elliott Gould, who delivers a wonderfully whacked-out performance as Chandler staple Philip Marlowe -- gives us a hero who's right at home in the drifter, "everything goes" environment of 1970s L.A. His mumbled refrain throughout the film is "It's o.k. with me," a refrain that sees him through all manner of confrontations, some of them life threatening. The plot is one of those convoluted puzzles for which films noir are known, having something to do with Marlowe's close friend, Terry Lennox, turning up dead in Mexico after supposedly murdering his wife. Marlowe, unable to believe that his friend would be capable of such an act, can't let the case drop even though the police want him to. And of course, in true noir fashion, he's hired for a separate case that at first seems to have nothing to do with the other but eventually turns out to be connected, involving the wife (Nina van Pallandt) of a suicidal novelist (Sterling Hayden, giving a frightening and intense performance).

    But, also true to film noir (and true as well of most Altman films), none of this plot really matters as much as the movie's tone, so artist and genre find themselves perfectly matched. Over the course of the film, we realize that Marlowe is the only honest person in this crooked version of contemporary L.A., and he begins to seem like more of a relic from a past decade, a shuffling gumshoe that might be at home in a Warners crime film from the 40s, but who is woefully under equipped to handle the dirty dealings of the present. That is until a shocking and cold-blooded finale, in which Marlowe proves himself to be a bit more resourceful than we had given him credit for.

    There's a hip quality to "The Long Goodbye" -- it's a sustained joke of a film that Altman pulls off beautifully. Our introduction to Marlowe finds him going off in the middle of the night in search of his cat's favorite brand of pet food, and then trying to trick the cat into eating a brand it's not used to. This endears us to him, and we stay endeared to him for the rest of the film, thanks largely to the way Gould plays him. The film looks great too; Altman's frequent collaborator on his early 70s pictures, Vilmos Zsigmond, does cinematography honors. And John Williams composed a great theme song, that plays in numerous variations throughout the film and contributes a running gag to the proceedings, popping up at one point as the funeral dirge being played by a Mexican band and at another as the tinkling tune of a doorbell.

    I've liked "The Long Goodbye" more and more every time I've seen it, and have quickly come to the conclusion that it's one of Altman's best.

    Grade: A
  • Usually smoking, and sometimes smirking, Elliott Gould mumbles and stumbles his way through Altman's re-invention of this gumshoe novel by Raymond Chandler. The film's unexpectedly interesting ending suggests a good story, but you'd never know it from the film's plot, which rambles and meanders, seemingly without purpose, a pointless talk-fest wherein Marlowe interacts with the cops, a femme fatale, a buddy who wants to disappear, and assorted hoods and mobsters. It's all rather sordid and seedy as you would expect, except that it's brought up to date, for 1973, and in its "hipness" and sophistication becomes something of a parody of 1940's private-eye flicks. Gould's Marlowe is annoyingly smug, with a too casual manner. And I found none of the other characters to be sympathetic or likable.

    The dialogue and the acting are stilted and self-conscious. In one party sequence that takes place on the beach, Dr. Verringer (Henry Gibson) insists that he get his money. The guests stand around, as if they are movie extras brought in for this one day of shooting. The viewer can easily imagine microphones just over the heads of the principal actors, and personnel just off-screen, waiting for Altman to yell: "Cut". Along with other scenes, it looks forced and staged.

    The film's best attribute is its cinematography. I especially like the sequence showing human figures retreating into the surf at night. Combined with the sound of ocean waves, it makes for an interesting segment.

    Some viewers love this film because of Altman's direction and Gould's performance. Others hate it because it so deviates from Chandler's original story. I personally did not like the film, mostly because of Marlowe, himself, and because of the tangled and convoluted plot, populated by loquacious characters who I found totally not interesting.
  • The first time I saw this movie was back in the seventies and this was the film that won me over to Robert Altman's great works in the American cinema.

    Granted, at the time of the movie's release Raymond Chandler purists naturally didn't appreciate the transformation his knight errant private eye underwent. But nowadays, the viewer must see the film for its great direction, terrific performances, Leigh Brackett's excellent screenplay and the fine cinematography. Not to mention simply the challenge of understanding a truly baffling plot. As in all of Altman's works, this one is peppered with offbeat characters and subtle (and some not-so subtle) situations that positively take you by surprise. As a maverick figure in Hollywood, Altman made sure "iconoclast" was stamped all over this film, it's a true nose-thumbing at every institution that Hollywood reveres; idealistic movie heroes, neat happy-ever-after endings, big budget spectacles, dependable money-making conventions and all around ass-kissing.

    But the real treat here is, of course, Elliott Gould, and I don't believe that it's the best thing he's ever done on screen, as many think. He's certainly turned out even better performances than this one throughout the past 3 decades. But yet, in The Long Goodbye, Gould is just so much fun to watch, especially when he's being interrogated by the police or just muttering lines like, "He's got a girl, I got a cat" or "a melon convention" when he gives up trying to get his topless next-door neighbors' attention.

    An interesting thing to note at the end of the film - we see the back shot of Marlowe walking away and that to me, was the private eye's closing shot, but then we have a front shot of Elliott Gould who begins playing his harmonica and then continues on up the road doing his little number, dancing a jig, etc. And to me that shows where Marlowe left off and where Gould takes over. So they weren't one and the same after all. Once again, a statement to those who would be too quick to take the Marlowe myth seriously.

    The Long Goodbye is vintage Altman, a masterwork to be savoured forever.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The first and only screen rendering of 'The Long Goodbye' is not Grandma's vision of Philip Marlowe, but it's a break from convention that pays off. Innovative for its time in both direction and cinematography, the film still holds considerable weight in an era when detective stories have dropped off the radar.

    Adapted from a screenplay by Leigh Brackett of 'The Big Sleep' fame, Robert Altman's 1973 thriller bases itself on an imaginative premise that succeeds thanks to excellent directing and the versatility of its cast. As Altman has many times explained, the 1940ish Philip Marlowe wakes up one morning to find himself in early 1970s Los Angeles, a city drenched in LSD, yoga, and capitalism gone mad. The hardboiled storytelling of Chandler is stood on its head, becoming a sort of expressionist montage: Marlowe adrift in a society he doesn't understand and can't be bothered trying to figure out.

    In this film, as in others inspired by Chandler, character development becomes more important than plot because so much is happening. 'The Long Goodbye' uses the formula of a private detective who is misled and sent full circle. After an early-morning struggle with his cat, Marlowe drives his other 'friend' Terry Lennox (Jim Bouton) to the Mexican border and is soon taken into custody by the police, who explain that Lennox's wife had been murdered. Marlowe is released from jail and reads in a newspaper of Terry's apparent suicide in Mexico. While disbelieving either story - it's his 'friend' after all - Marlowe is called on a new case to the Malibu development where Terry lived. The client is Eileen Wade (Nina Van Pallandt), whose drunk author-husband Roger (Sterling Hayden) wandered off to a rehab facility without telling her. Marlowe's investigation hits some potholes when a local drug boss (Mark Rydell) jockeys for several thousand dollars in cash that Lennox toted across the border and Marlowe knew nothing about. Leigh Brackett ties up the loose ends in uncanny fashion, with an ending different from the original novel and quite surprising.

    Chandler purists will find this movie hard to swallow, especially the opening half-hour when all detective story conventions are flipped into the trash. Elliott Gould, who paired with Altman in 1970's MASH, is not the dynamic, suave Marlowe of other films. Instead, he is an unkempt crackpot who finds solace in his pet cat and drives around in an old, bulky Lincoln convertible. The Gould version of Marlowe is okay at his work, but only good enough to stay in one piece or as few chunks as humanly possible. He smokes incessantly, is bewildered by those around him, and can't win the respect of anybody. While a Marlowe of this type is hard to imagine, Chandler's novel actually supplies the needed atmosphere for Altman's idea to work. 'The Long Goodbye' is another Chandler tale with a bewildering series of events, where characters brush, collide, and overlap. The L.A. of Chandler is so overloaded with deceit that you have to forget action and start concentrating on motive.

    The Long Goodbye's outstanding feature is its look as a pseudo-noir, if such a thing were possible. The visuals by cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (including his use of 'post-flash' technique) give this film a subdued tone, reminding us that Marlowe was created in the past but is living and breathing in the present. There is a certain Deco feel to the movie, emphasizing straight lines and pastel colors. The use of Malibu locations helps retain an exotic look for Chandler's story, much like his palm tree-filled backgrounds of the 40s.

    Style leads the way in Altman-directed films, which bring strong love or intense hatred from viewers. There are indeed moments when we're begging Altman to step away and let the movie take care of itself. Altman's use of a free-moving camera may be as distracting to an audience as this initially was to the actors. The film's theme song by John Williams and Johnny Mercer is pleasing and fits the mood nicely, but it's just about the only melody heard. It keeps changing form based on the situation - sometimes a jazz theme, sometimes a funeral march, sometimes a doorbell ringing. The soundtrack, which Altman admitted was a 'conceit,' is in need of diversifying itself and reaches a point of overkill. But on the whole, this film is a leader of early 1970s craftsmanship and Chandler's writings never fail to generate sparks.

    MGM Home Entertainment outdid itself when releasing its DVD of 'The Long Goodbye' in 2002. The film is nicely presented in widescreen with Dolby enhancement of the original mono track; French 'dubbing' is provided, along with subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. MGM supplies featurette interviews with Altman, Gould, and Vilmos Zsigmond, who first photographed with Altman on 'McCabe and Mrs. Miller' in 1971. Also reprinted is a 1973 American Cinematographer article on Zsigmond's post-flash photography that was revolutionary for its day. Completing this disc are the original theatrical trailer and five radio commercials used during The Long Goodbye's advertising campaign. For fans of Altman and the detective genre, you can't go wrong with an unusually full disc from the MGM penny-pinchers.

    *** out of 4
  • Certainly Elliott Gould's best performance in skin of detective Marlowe , a neo noir and one most impressive picture from the seventies made by the great Robert Altman, a odd screenplay provides a fantastic character inserted in the future time, Marlowe actually belong to the past, clearly out of time, wise implied to audience unnoticed for many, but main proposal and message from the picture, however it wasn't materialesed as such, Marlowe a never ending smoking man, in all place and every single scene is very unusual aspect to enhance the lead role, apart from that some star casting made a fine acting as Sterling Hayden who comes alive again!!

    Resume:

    First watch: 2017 / How many: 1 / Source: DVD / Rating: 8.5
  • jboothmillard12 September 2013
    Warning: Spoilers
    I remember seeing the DVD cover for this film a few times, with the leading actor walking on a beach, I assumed it was some kind of domestic drama, but it was in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die so it didn't really matter, from director Robert Altman (MASH, Nashville, The Player). Basically Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould), the chain- smoking, wisecracking private investigator is visited late on night by his close friend Terry Lennox (Jim Bouton) who wants to get a lift from Los Angeles to the California–Mexico border at Tijuana. After doing this Marlowe is greeted by two cops who tell him that Lennox is accused of murdering his wealthy wife Sylvia, and he is arrested when he refuses to give them any information, but he is released three days when Lennox is found in Mexico to have committed suicide. The case seems pretty open and shut, but Marlowe suspects more is going on, but in the meantime platinum-blonde Eileen Wade (Nina van Pallandt), wife of alcoholic and writers' block suffering novelist Roger Wade (Sterling Hayden), has hired him to find her husband who has gone missing, he has binged on alcohol and disappeared before, but never longer than a day or two. While investigating, visiting "private" rich detoxification alcoholics and drug addiction clinics, Marlowe finds out the Wades knew the Lennoxes, so he believes there was something else to the murder of Sylvia and the suicide of Terry. He also crosses paths with Marty Augustine (Mark Rydell), the ruthless gangster who Lennox took money from which he wants back, he does manage to recover the money and travels back to Mexico, and there Marlowe finally uncovers the truth and solves the case. Also starring Henry Gibson as Dr. Verringer, David Arkin as Harry, Warren Berlinger as Morgan, Jo Ann Brody as Jo Ann Eggenweiler, Stephen 'Steve' Coit as Detective Farmer and Jack Knight as Mabel. Elliott is odd casting but certainly likable with his alternative approach to the character played previously by the likes of Dick Powell and Humphrey Bogart, I can see why it might be considered semi-spoof because of the amusing nature about it, I confess I was confused most of the time, but I could just about follow the investigative stuff, and it worked alright as a thriller-esque story, so its a worthwhile detective drama. Good!
  • There is nothing to recommend this movie. My wife watched it with me and concurs in that evaluation. I have not read the book on which it is based, so I judge it as a stand-alone effort.

    The plot is silly in concept and routine in execution (e.g., the PI's oh-so-cool and combative way of talking to the police), the characters are flat, the dialog is trite, the acting is uninspired, the incidentals are distracting (the topless girls, the chain smoking). Even the music is tedious. One description I saw before watching it said it is a "send-up" of the detective genre, implying humor. There is no humor anywhere. If it is intended as a spoof, it fails.

    A complete waste of two hours.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Philip Marlowe, the iconic private detective of the 1940s, wakes up to find himself in the 1970s. His first case is to feed his cat, and so he spends the first ten minutes of Robert Altman's "The Long Goodbye" scheming to placate his feline. In the apartment next-door several naked women cavort sexually, but Marlowe isn't interested. This is neither the permanently horny Humphrey Bogart of "The Big Sleep" nor a sexless modern update rendered impotent by female empowerment and women's liberation. No, this is a noir hero who suffers modern consciousness. He's long withdrawn from a world he no longer cares about.

    Already we see Altman deconstructing both Marlowe and noir, peeling back the layers and undermining the familiar. Altman teases Marlowe, egging his movie with inside jokes, and doing his best to show the adolescent idyll in "Philip Marlowe" pictures. Altman's Marlowe has a cat instead of girlfriends, gives tips to the thugs tailing him and is always being caught up in real-life games, like the gatekeeper at the Malibu Colony who does Hollywood impersonations, or the film's soundtrack, which contains countless variations of the "The Long Goodbye", a mocking tune which plays in clubs, on the radio, in a Mexican band and even on a home doorbell. If, as Camus says, "irony is the force that overwhelms mythical value", then it is the aim of Altman's playful film to destabilise noir tradition. But it is not only "noir myths" that are being undermined, it is Marlowe's very world view that is being challenged.

    Two events kick the story into motion. The first is Marlowe losing his cat. The great joke of "The Long Goodbye" is the way Altman populates his streets, landscapes and dialogue with references to cats and dogs. Marlowe sees the world in terms of absolutes and binaries, docile cats and hostile dogs, and so when his feline goes missing, he understandably fears for its safety. Meanwhile, as Marlowe tends to his cat, his best friend Terry Lennox talks to a Malibu security guard with a penchant for mimicking movie stars. "Just remember that you don't understand!" Terry effectively tells the guard. This is Altman's direct instruction to both Marlowe and his audience. Later, when Terry later goes missing and is implicated in a crime, Marlowe is the only person in the film who fights for his innocence. He still cares. To other characters, his lack of apathy seems quaint.

    Significantly, Jim Bouton, the baseball player who plays Terry Lennox, was famously nicknamed "Bulldog". Meanwhile Marlowe's other buddy, his cat, disappears when Bulldog appears. One has not scared the other off. They are one and the same.

    The film proceeds along playful lines until a single Coca-Cola bottle, rammed hard into the face of a beautiful young girl, turns parody into the real thing. Recalling Altman's use of Coca Cola bottles in "Thieves Like Us", the mundane swiftly turns sinister. And so Marlowe leaves his self-imposed bubble and enters the world one last time, his mission to redeem his friend. When he eventually learns that Terry is really guilty of crimes (reversing Marlowe's cat's refusal to be duped by fake-brand cat food), Marlowe ruthlessly shoots his buddy in the head. Now long past disillusionment, Marlowe skips off down the road, "Hooray for Hollywood" blasting on the soundtrack. There's no victory here, only a sort of further disregard and total disenchantment.

    And so Altman has inverted classic noir alienation. Faced with the greed, insanity, lust, vanity, self-delusion, lies, drunkenness, ineffectuality, ambition, murder, larceny and social climbing of others, Marlowe's mantra throughout the film was a casual: "It's okay with me." He knows the world is scum, but experiences no self-loathing as he isn't a part of it.

    But when Terry Lennox is revealed to be a criminal, it's suddenly "not okay" with Marlowe. And so the noir hero now suffers the double helix of modern consciousness. Like the Malibu security guard who does countless impersonations, Marlowe knows everyone disguises their real thoughts and intentions by the roles they take on. Marlowe's flaw is that he, in his idealism, refuses to abide by this, and so appears inept to everyone else. Thus, whilst most noirs use the voice-over to let the hero explain his thoughts, Altman's Marlowe never actually speaks to the audience. Instead, as a solitary modern man does, he mumbles to himself constantly. He has his own outdated moral code, his own sealed off world, wearing 40s suits and driving an antique car. Any man adhering to such a code, Altman contends, will experience dysfunction living and working in modern Los Angeles, a place of lies, false facades and cinema itself. Yes, Marlowe's anachronistic personality operates as his moral salvation, but it is also the root cause of his lack of success.

    Aesthetically, the film differs from most other noirs. Altman's restless camera becomes a metaphor for both Marlowe's quest and the audience's confusion, always looking for a solution. There is no safe place to stand, no clear perspective from which to view the mystery.

    The film's big flaw is its final act. Marlowe wakes up in a hospital next to a goofy patient, chases comically after a car and then finds himself in Mexico where, in a brilliantly brutal scene, he guns down Terry Lennox. The contrasts, the pacing, are a bit grating. One wishes for a more drawn out showdown, some kind of meatier ending, but of course Altman's immediacy is the film's very point. Marlowe learns the truth and promptly makes a decision. The message is clear: "That ain't fine my me."

    8.5/10 – Once subversive, Altman's revolution has now become canonical. Marlowe may think he's cut himself off from the world, but he's no match for, say, Jeffrey Lebowski. Lebowski's so obsolete he has a mythical cowboy narrating for him.
  • Chain-smoking, scruffy, grumbling private eye Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) has his cat and hot chicks neighbors. He gives a ride to his friend Terry Lennox to the Tijuana border. The cops arrest Marlowe with a trumped up charge. They suspect Lennox of murdering his wife. Then they release Marlowe after Lennox's suicide in Mexico. Eileen Wade (Nina van Pallandt) hires him to find her alcoholic husband Roger (Sterling Hayden) who's been gone for a week. He tracks Roger down under the control of Dr. Verringer (Henry Gibson). Then hoodlum Marty Augustine (Mark Rydell) and his men rough up Marlowe trashing his place demanding the $350k that Lennox was suppose to deliver to Mexico City. Marlowe follows Augustine back to the Wades as he tries to put these different threads together.

    Director Robert Altman gives a naturalistic feel to this Raymond Chandler character. It's his beautifully unique take. The whole thing is an interesting puzzle wrapped in the Altman style. His style of long cross-talking scenes is in full use. It's not the normal noir style. Elliott Gould is an unusual choice for this hard-boiled icon. He doesn't project a tough guy but he excels at the world-wearied beaten down guy.
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