Found that this was on Netflix streaming so I watched it the other night. I've seen this film at its first release in theaters and maybe once or twice on TV years ago so I gave it a whirl since all I remember is Gould's laid back take on Marlowe and the fact that he drives a 40's Lincoln in 70's LA .
I'd devoured all of Raymond Chandlers novels way back when, and I've been revisiting them recently, but I haven't gotten to The Long Goodbye yet so I can't really compare novel to film.
That said I enjoyed watching Altman's updated take on Chandler, though its more an anti-Marlowe anti PI film than anything else. Altman deconstructs the PI film pretty much like Altman deconstructed the Western. Gould doesn't have the requisite office which most PI films usually feature, instead we meet him in a nice 30's era hillside apartment, and Gould seems to be a mumbling, sleepwalking PI more reactive than proactive, quirky, he can't fool his cat and he all but ignores the bevy of topless beauties that live across the way. He drives a late 40's Lincoln convertible for an incongruous effect, what sane PI would drive that, it sticks out like a sore thumb and it wouldn't be able to keep up with a 70's vehicle. Its anachronistic, symbolic of the equally anachronistic image of the iconic PI, all probably part of Altman's shtick, his M.O., at that period in his creative life.
Gould & Van Pallandt
Story is Marlowe's buddy Terry shows up at Marlowes hillside digs early in the AM with fingernail gouges in his cheek and a leather satchel. He asks Marlowe to drive him to the Mexican border no questions asked. Marlowe does and then later is questioned by LAPD because Lenox's convertible is found in his parking space and Lenox's wife is found dead with her face smashed in. After being released from custody because of Lenox's apparent suicide South of the border, Marlowe is visited by gangster Marty Augustine his girlfriend and his crew of dunces they are looking for Lenox also it seems that he absconded with payoff money. Marlowe then receives a cryptic note in the mail from Mexico containing an apology and a 5.000 dollar bill.
This sets Marlowe off on "the case" and if you forget the Chandler root, its an entertaining sort of PI film spoof.
The only real set that's interesting is Marlowe's sort of Art Deco digs, but this film does have a great score that remains with you once the film is over. Seeing Sterling Hayden is a hoot, Nina Van Pallandt looks as if she is always wearing a maternity dress and takes the anti Femme Fatale role, Henry Gibson is good as the quack MD as is Jim Bouton as Lenox, and Mark Rydell is a hoot as nutbag Marty Augustine. As a stand alone film its an 8/10. Streaming on Netfilx