One of the most enduring figures of the American New Wave era (New Hollywood), Robert Altman was one of Hollywood’s most non-conformist filmmakers. With a use of overlapping dialogue, a highly mobile camera and subversive attitude to the genres he tackled, Altman created a complex and dynamic body of work including the likes of M*A*S*H (1970), McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Nashville (1975) and The Player (1992), just to name a few. Following on the heels of his only horror film, Images (1972), the director took on the noir genre with an adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. Kino had previously released the movie on Blu-ray – via a distribution deal with MGM – in 2015, but the label has revisited the movie for a brand new release.
The Production: 4/5
When private eye Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) takes up his friend Terry Lennox’s (former New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton) offer to drive him to Mexico, he soon finds out that no good deed goes unpunished. That’s made clear when he finds out that his friend murdered his wife and then killed himself. Unsatisfied with both the police and the press media’s conclusions, Marlowe seeks out the answers for himself, crossing paths with a sexy blonde (Nina Van Pallandt), her alcoholic writer husband (Sterling Hayden), a secretive doctor (Henry Gibson) and a disturbed gangster (Mark Rydell) wanting a suitcase full of stolen money. It all adds up to one of the most bizarre cases that Marlowe will ever take up, stumbling through every twist and turn that the City of the Angels can throw at him.
For his take on Raymond Chandler’s iconic private eye, Robert Altman imbues The Long Goodbye with his trademark style. First, Altman and screenwriter Leigh Brackett eschew the novel’s post-WWII 1950’s setting by updating it to the present day 1970’s Los Angeles. Second, he brings his gift of multi-layered sound and knack for improvisation and in the process creates an atmosphere that’s both realistic as well as a bit atypical for the neo-noir genre; the work of the legendary cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond – with whom Altman worked with previously on Images (1972) – shouldn’t be overlooked here either, as it also plays a big hand in creating the atmosphere. All of this put together creates a cohesive whole that leans into the genre’s roots and style while simultaneously pushes against the grain in creating a send-up of the very genre; whether or not you’re receptive to this take will largely depend on your tastes. Although it’s overlooked in the larger canon of Robert Altman’s work, The Long Goodbye still bears the hallmarks of his idiosyncratic style that has grown in stature over the years since its initial release; further buttressing this is the fact that the movie was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry just last year.
Elliott Gould has one of his best roles here with his eclectic take on Philip Marlowe; the film helped to relaunch his career after a two-year absence following the failure of Ingmar Bergman’s The Touch (1971). Sterling Hayden has the film’s other great part here as the alcoholic author Roger Wade (Dan Blocker was originally cast but died before filming began); he and Gould ad-libbed much of their dialogue in the scenes they shared together. Robert Altman also selected four cast members that played against their usual type: singer – and former romantic interest of Clifford Irving – Nina Van Pallandt as the sultry Eileen, former baseball pitcher (plus author of Ball Four and co-creator of Big League Chew gum) Jim Bouton as Terry Lennox, film director Mark Rydell as the loose cannon gangster Marty Augustine and longtime Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In regular Henry Gibson as the secretive Dr. Verringer; of the three, only Gibson would go on to work with Altman after this movie. Rounding out the cast here are Altman regular David Arkin as Harry, Jerry Jones and John S. Davies as a pair of detectives investigating the murder of Lennox’s wife, Jack Riley as the bar’s piano player, Warren Berlinger as another of Marlowe’s friends and Ken Sansom as the Malibu Colony’s security guard with a knack for celebrity impressions; look for an uncredited Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of Augustine’s hoods, Kate Murtagh – Supertramp fans should recognize her as the waitress “Libby” on the cover of the group’s Breakfast in America album – as a nurse at the private clinic, the director as an ambulance driver and David Carradine as the prisoner Socrates, sharing the same cell as Marlowe.
3D Rating: NA
The film is presented in its original 2:35:1 aspect ratio, taken from a brand new 4K master created for this release. Film grain is organic, with fine details, color palette and shadows given a faithful representation; the transfer does open with the original United Artists/Transamerica logo, seen for the first time on home video since its initial theatrical release. There’s minimal problems like dirt, scratches, tears or vertical lines present, which makes this release likely the best the movie will ever look on home video, easily surpassing all previous incarnations on DVD and Blu-ray.
The film’s original mono soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Dialogue is both strong and clear, with the sound mix and John Williams’ jazzy score also given a faithful representation; there’s minimal cases of distortion, crackling, popping or hissing present. Overall, this is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video.
Special Features: 5/5
Commentary by film historian Tim Lucas – Newly recorded for this release, Lucas goes over the background on the film’s production, cast and crew, film locations and the source material itself.
Rip Van Marlowe (24:34) – Carried over from the 2003 MGM DVD and the previous 2015 Kino Blu-ray, director Robert Altman and actor Elliott Gould share their memories in making the movie.
Vilmos Zsigmond Flashes The Long Goodbye (14:24) – Also brought over from the previous MGM DVD and Kino Blu-ray, Zsigmond talks about working on the movie, including using variable flashing in post-production.
David Thompson on Robert Altman (21:03) – Carried over from the 2013 Arrow Academy Region B Blu-ray release, Altman’s career leading up to the movie – as well as the movie itself – is examined.
Tom Williams on Raymond Chandler (14:28) – Also ported over from the Arrow Blu-ray, the life and career of the noir author is dissected and discussed.
Maxim Jakubowski on Hard Boiled Fiction (14:32) – Brought over from the Arrow Blu-ray, a look at the genre of hard-boiled mysteries – as the title of this featurette suggests – and where Chandler’s source material fits in in relation to the movie adaptation.
1973 American Cinematographer article by Edward Lipnick on Zsigmond’s work on the movie, including the variable flashing technique, presented as a still gallery.
Trailers from Hell with Josh Olson (2:42)
Theatrical Trailer #1 (2:32)
Theatrical Trailer #2 (2:51)
TV Spot (0:31)
Radio Spots (5) (3:25)
Bonus KLSC Trailers – Busting, The Silent Partner & Winter Kills
While it divided critics and got a lukewarm reception at the box office during its first release, The Long Goodbye has survived over the years as one of the more persuasive cases of Robert Altman’s distinctive touch in storytelling. Kino has bested their own Blu-ray release with a terrific HD transfer and a great slate of special features carried over from previous home video releases. Very highly recommended and absolutely worth picking up if you missed out on the previous Kino Blu-ray.
Amazon.com: The Long Goodbye : Elliott Gould, Nina Van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, Mark Rydell, Henry Gibson, David Arkin, Jim Bouton, Warren Berlinger, Jo Ann Brody, Stephen Coit, David Carradine, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert Altman: Movies & TV
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