After MURDER, MY SWEET/’44 turned into a ‘sleeper hit’ for RKO*, Edward Dmytryk, Adrian Scott & John Paxton (helmer, producer, writer) reunited with ‘the new’ Dick Powell (tougher, chewier than ‘the old’ lightweight Powell) for a follow-up film noir. But without the narrative order imposed by a Raymond Chandler tale, style & attitude were redoubled to fill the dramatic vacuum and the ultra-hard-boiled manner implodes . . . in a good way. Even compared with the celebrated confusion of murder mysteries like GILDA/’46 and THE BIG SLEEP/’46, this film's web of secret relationships & deadly lies are positively impenetrable; Powell ends the film with an offer to explain all the bodies to the Argentinian police as a sort of living scorecard. And why not? He’s the chump who’s been tracking down the fascist killer of his French wife all the way from Europe to South America, finding something nasty under every rock, and with the conks on the head to prove it. Dmytryk, normally a solid-citizen sort of director, gets off to a straightforward start, but loosens up considerably once he notices the arbitrary nature of the action. Same for a tasty crew of supporting male character actors (ladies less tasty), especially Walter Slezak as a shifty henchman happy to work either side of the fence. Just don’t expect him to last out the film.
DOUBLE-BILL: *Everything’s a little stiffer in MURDER, MY SWEET, but the plot adds up.