Originally aired in 1983 and 1986, Philip Marlowe, Private Eye was an early attempt at original programing by HBO. It ran two short seasons and totaled 11 episodes. Powers Boothe stars as Philip Marlowe, a wise cracking, hard drinking, tough talking, out for justice P.I.
Each episode features a tale very loosely based on one of Raymond Chandler’s short stories. Overall Boothe’s Philip Marlowe is nowhere near as cynical as Chandler’s version. Boothe’s Marlowe is actually a very likable guy. But he is tough as nails and able to take a hard punch or two. Whether he’s shot at, sapped or beaten by the mob he stays on the case.
The eleven episodes are filled with dames, dolls and femme fatales. The bad guys include henchmen, mobsters, gamblers, hitmen, dirty cops, corrupt politicians and gangsters. In each episode Boothe delivers plenty of hardboiled voice over narration to move the stories along. And there is an abundance of snappy Raymond Chandler like dialogue. The following are some great examples from the show.
“I’m a bad girl Mr. Marlowe. I don’t need money, men bring it to me, tied up with a ribbon.”
“Beat it before I punch your teeth down your throat. “
“I’ve got great faith you could be rehabilitated. After they electrocute you,”
Overall I really love each episode, some are better than others but they are all rather enjoyable. As a bonus a great jazz score helps to set the mood of the episodes. The only real downside, at times, is the show’s obvious low-budget. In places the show is a bit hampered by poor 1980’s production values and mediocre acting by some of the supporting cast. These are really just minor issues. The star here is Powers Boothe and his strong performances really carry the series. The second season vastly improved on the production values and featured a more film noirish look.
I was fortunate enough to have seen the original episodes back in the 1980’s when they first aired. The series, and Powers Boothe, made a huge impact on me. Boothe as Marlowe is my favorite portrayal of the character. A few years ago when I discovered that all of the episodes were collected in a three dvd set I was ecstatic. Of the eleven episodes my favorites include The Pencil, Spanish Blood, Guns At Cyrano’s and Red Wind. I would highly recommend this series for fans of mysteries, P.I. stores, film noir and Powers Boothe.