A fine, and often overlooked, Philip Marlowe incarnation
US / 60 minutes / color with bw credits / Mirage, Propaganda, Showtime Dir: Agnieszka Holland Pr: Stuart Cornfeld, William Horberg Scr: Alan Trustman Story: “Red Wind” (1938 Dime Detective) by Raymond Chandler Cine: Robert Brinkmann Cast: Danny Glover, Kelly Lynch, Dan Hedaya, Ron Rifkin, Miguel Sandoval, Nick Sadler, Ralph Ahn, Bennet Guillory, Tyrin Turner, Valeria Golino.
This was the final episode of the HBO/Showtime series Fallen Angels (retitled Perfect Crimes when shown in the UK), created by William Horberg, which ran for two seasons, in 1993 (six episodes) and 1995 (nine episodes). The stories were based on works by classic or, in a couple of cases, modern masters of the hardboiled. Most of the episodes were about a half-hour long; this series envoi runs for double that.
The Santa Ana—the Red Wind—is covering everything and everyone in Southern California with dust, not least PI Philip Marlowe (Glover). Seeking relief in a beer in a near-deserted bar across the street from the hotel where he lives, he has his evening ruined when the drunk at the end of the bar, Al (Sadler), suddenly stands up and puts a bullet through the head of a guy called Waldo Ratigan (Guillory), who has just stormed in looking for a blonde in a bolero jacket.
Lew Petrolle (Tyrin Turner) welcomes Marlowe to his bar.
The bar owner, Lew Petrolle (Turner), calls the cops, who arrive in the form of the savage, corrupt, bigoted Detective-Lieutenant Sam Copernik (Hedaya) and his good-cop counterpart Detective Ybarra (Sandoval). Copernik’s a bull whom it’s easy to dislike; not only does he rob Waldo’s corpse of all the money and valuables he can find on it, he has strong opinions, as he tells Ybarra: “What is this town coming to? A spic cop and a nig private detective.”
Copernik (Dan Hedaya) examines Marlowe’s credentials.
Having told the cops all he knows, Marlowe is on the way back to his hotel room when he runs into the blonde with the bolero jacket, Lola Barsaly (Lynch). He advises her to keep out of things, and she takes refuge in his room. She’s there when Al arrives, having decided to rub out the witnesses to his murder of Waldo, and she saves Marlowe’s life. Marlowe decks Al, calls the cops and gets Lola clear, then agrees with Copernik that he can claim the credit for the pinch. But the oafish Copernik almost immediately loses the perp . . .
A nervous Lola (Kelly Lynch) invades Marlowe’s hotel room . . .
Al (Nick Sadler) sticks up Marlowe (Danny Glover).
There’s more murder and mayhem down the track as Marlowe unravels a complex case of blackmail: Waldo, the Barsalys’ ex-chauffeur, was blackmailing both Lola over a gift of pearls from a now-dead lover, Stan Phillips, and Lola’s husband, Frank C. Barsaly (Rifkin), over his gift of a pricey watch to his floozy, Eugenie Kolchenko (Golino). Complicating matters is that Marlowe discovers that he likes Frank and is falling in love with Lola . . . and wouldn’t strongly object to a piece of Eugenie, either.
Marlowe (Danny Glover) meets Eugenie.
Frank (Ron Rifkin) explains his side of the story.
Eugenie (Valeria Golino) does some tearful floozying.
At the same time, Marlowe has to avoid crazy Al, still gunning for him, and the almost equally crazy Copernik, who’d like nothing better than to stitch up Marlowe for something, anything, and thereby take him out of the picture: after all, Marlowe witnessed Copernik’s crimes as well as Al’s.
Ybarra (Miguel Sandoval) senses partner Copernik is trying to doublecross him.
The story’s shot in an interesting limited color palette, with filters most often shifting everything to the reds; I was tempted to adjust my replay to monochrome just to see what it would look like, but even without that I was convinced of the cinematography’s loyalties to classic-era film noir; just to remind us, there are also stretches of voiceover from Glover/Marlowe, outlining his thoughts. (The preamble spoken over the sumptuously black-and-white opening credits was done, as for several others in the series, by Miguel Ferrer.)
Glover received an Emmy nomination for his role, and very deservedly so—he’s one of the better Marlowes I’ve watched—but he’s given strong support by Sandoval and especially Rifkin and Hedaya. The latter appeared in several other Fallen Angels episodes, but is likely best known in noirish circles for his smallish but significant part in The USUAL SUSPECTS (1995) as Jeff Rabin. Lynch is quite effective as the femme fatale, although really she’s given little more to do than look alluring in an innocent-abroad sort of way (even though it’s obvious she’s no innocent, and quite prepared to deceive and manipulate). Sadler and Golino ham things up more than a little, as the crazed gunman and the eager floozy respectively; in Golino’s case this seems complementary to her characterization but in Sadler’s it seems a bit cheesy.
Lola (Kelly Lynch) phones up Marlowe with an offer he has no wish to refuse.
The adaptation is moderately faithful to the source novella, although there are some odd little changes that seem pointless: why, for example, did “Waldo” become the forename of Waldo Ratigan rather than the nickname of Joseph Coates? And, while the story gives an explanation as to why Waldo might have committed a murder (not described above), the adaptation leaves it as a puzzling loose end.
Chandler’s story “Red Wind” was adapted also in 1986 for the Powers Boothe-led series Philip Marlowe, Private Eye, which ran for two seasons (1983, 1986) on HBO; oddly enough, it was the final episode of that show, too.