Thursday, 12 May 2016

The Lady in the Lake

Brace yourself for a sock on the jaw – below, actor Dick Simmons delivers a sucker punch in the 1947 film The Lady in the Lake... I'm currently reading Simon Callow's Road to Xanadu and matters have turned to Orson Welles' proposed film adaptation of Heart of Darkness which was to be filmed from the viewpoint of the main character Charles Marlow. Fascinating to ponder what Welles might have conjured up and with that in mind I dug out my copy of Robert Montgomery’s Lady in the Lake, an adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel seen thru the eyes of another Marlow, private eye Philip, on the trail of a missing dame. Chandler called the film "a cheap Hollywood trick" and I can appreciate his misgivings, the plot turns are ultimately undone by the distractions of the subjective camera - cigarette smoke wafts out from the bottom of the frame, Audrey Totter moves in unnervingly close for a smooch and everyone speaks directly to the screen (to rather eerie effect). Evidently MGM were not about to get bogged down by the enormous technical complexities that defeated Heart of Darkness, and the Lady in the Lake experiment feels awfully contained - almost completely studio-bound, and forgoing long takes for shorter cuts joined by whip pans, the subterfuge is however unconvincing. One unexpected point of interest for me was the striking choral score by Maurice Goldman which dare I say has a touch of Lux Aeterna about it, several years before Ligeti conceived the piece. The Warners DVD comes with a commentary track which I must delve into to hear more about this interesting curio.


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