Underneath this Veronica Lake–Alan Ladd thriller (1946) lies Raymond Chandler‘s only original screenplay—a suitably hard-nosed affair about a war vet whose homecoming coincides with the murder of his unfaithful wife. Though it has the Chandler flavor and occasionally captures the feel of his sunbaked Los Angeles, the film falters under the uncertain, visually uninventive direction of George Marshall—wildly miscast here, when any vaguely sympathetic hack from Stuart Heisler to Frank Tuttle would have been just fine. With William Bendix and Howard da Silva.
Billy Wilder‘s emphatically tasteless 1981 comedy about death, sex, and friendship is more trenchant than funny—though it probably has more laughs than any of his films after The Fortune Cookie. It pits a death seeker (suicidal TV censor Jack Lemmon) against a death dealer (coolheaded hit man Walter Matthau) in a battle for a grain or two of human companionship, a victory confirmed over a corpse. Though it’s clearly an old man’s film, it’s hardly serene and settled: Wilder is in a curmudgeonly rage about everything in sight, from sexual repression to sexual liberation, from Today’s Youth to Yesterday’s Codger. But instead of the sentimental cop-out that usually closes his films, Wilder has isolated an impossibly tiny center of real value and belief, an optimism that is extremely moving in its microscopic dimensions. With Paula Prentiss and (a brilliant idea gone spectacularly wrong) Klaus Kinski as the head of a sex clinic.