This is the only mainstream feature ever to have been shot in its entirety with the subjective camera. Which means that you, the viewer, sees everything just as the hero Philip Marlowe does. Every so often the camera pauses by a mirror and looking at you in the reflection is Robert Montgomery, who also directed, for it is he who is playing Marlowe.
It’s an original idea, but the general treatment of Raymond Chandler’s private-eye thriller is not. Chandler’s mystery plots were always somewhat labyrinthine, with missing persons, corpses and red herrings multiplying by the truckload, but less fun is had from his narrative intricacy than Howard Hawks had achieved with his far superior version of another Marlowe tale, "The Big Sleep", released a short while earlier in 1946.
The limitations of the method also impose a straitjacket on the treatment. The oddness of every character directly addressing the camera is eventually less noticeable until a heavy takes a swing or a femme fatale puckers her lips for a smooch, at which point it all seems extraordinarily arch and contrived. Even more bizarrely Marlowe lights a cigarette and smoke billows into the lens. The necessity for long, seamless takes is also at odds with the noir thriller genre which calls for rapid editing.
Lloyd Nolan and Tom Tully are hard-edged as two police detectives who impinge on Marlowe’s efforts to trace the missing wife of a magazine proprietor (Leon Ames) at the behest of the editor (Audrey Totter).