Lady in the Lake

A mirror temporarily derails the subjective camera: Robert Montgomery as Philip Marlowe and Audrey Totter as Adrienne Fromsett in Lady in the Lake (dir. Robert Montgomery, 1947).

Lady in the Lake is a bizarre, in many ways unsuccessful film, but there are things about it that are brilliant. The opening credits, with their schmaltzy, Capra-like holiday placards that finally clear away to reveal a revolver; Audrey Totter's heroically sustained performance, which veers wildly between pathos and slapstick (her eyebrow-enhanced reaction shots to Montgomery's needling are priceless); the eerie all-choir soundtrack; the business--not in Chandler's novel--about Marlowe wanting to be a pulp writer. Also, once you surrender to the painful gimmickiness of the subjective camera, you can relax enough to admire the challenge it presents to the actors, of having to play through all those long, unbroken shots. The worst thing about it overall is Montgomery himself. He's simply unconvincing as Marlowe. He's too much the suave cocktail type, and when he addresses the audience directly as narrator, it's embarrassing.