A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.
P.I. Philip Marlowe's hired by a wealthy general to find out and stop his daughter, Carmen from being blackmailed over gambling debts, Marlowe finds himself deep within a web of love triangles, blackmail, murder, gambling, and organised crime. With help from Vivian (another of the general's daughters), Marlowe hatches a plot to free the family from this web and trap the real culprit.Written by
The fussy persona that Marlowe adopts upon arriving in Geiger's bookstore has been a subject of argument for years; Lauren Bacall said that Humphrey Bogart came up with it while Howard Hawks claimed in interviews that it was his idea. What both of them failed to notice is that it was in the original book ("I had my horn-rimmed glasses on. I put my voice high and let a bird twitter in it."); all Bogart did was elaborate on it. See more »
When Marlowe first enters the Acme Book store, the side of the sign hanging on the entrance door facing the street is blank. But when the bookstore employee closes the door the side of the sign facing the street now reads "Closed". See more »
When Marlowe asks the Acme Book store employee if she knows anything about rare books, she is holding a pencil with the pointed writing edge pointing toward Marlowe. But on the very next cut after she answers, "You could try me", the eraser edge of the pencil is now pointing toward Marlowe. See more »
Both the preview version and the theatrical release are available on DVD. The running times of each are similar but there are actually over 20m of differences between the two versions - the impact of the changes is to beef up the Bogart/Bacall romance angle and make it much sexier. The preview version comes across as much duller than the better-known theatrical release print which has been made a genuine classic by the re-shooting and re-editing. The major differences are:
preview version has extra footage of Bogart searching Geiger's house where he has found Bacall's sister in a drugged state. This doesn't reveal any new information and was deleted for pacing reasons in the theatrical print.
preview version has different footage when Bogart takes the drugged sister back to her mansion. Theatrical print removes some of this and replaces it with a new scene set in Bacall's bedroom in which she and Bogie exchange some great, racy dialogue. This new scene considerably alters the tone of the film.
preview version has a scene in which Bacall visits Bogie's office wearing a veil and they talk a lot. Bacall's agent particularly objected to this veil. The theatrical print removes the scene entirely and replaces it with a new one with the couple set in a restaurant which has much sexier dialogue and innuendo (to do with racehorses among other things).
the preview version has a long-ish dialogue scene in the DA's office which explains a lot of the plot details although it goes on too long and slows the film's pace. Scene has been removed entirely from the theatrical print.
the theatrical print has an additional scene in which Bacall's psycho sister tries to seduce Bogie in his apartment. He rebuffs her. This scene was in the original novel and is important in explaining who really killed the chauffeur. In the preview print, the absence of this scene makes it unclear why Bogie knows that the sister is a psychopath at the finale.
the scene in which Bogie is tied up with Bacall and Eddie Mars' wife was completely re-shot for the theatrical release with a different actress playing Mars' wife. The theatrical release edit emphasizes the Bacall/Bogie pairing more and has additional close-ups of Bacall.
THE BIG SLEEP has a reputation for being a film that gets lost in its own complexity and which fails to clearly identify all the perpetrators of all the murders that litter its scenes. There is a certain truth to this: like the Raymond Chandler novel on which it is based, the plot is extremely complicated, and it requires the viewer to mentally track an unexpected number of characters--including two characters that never appear on screen, a pivotal character who doesn't actually have any lines, and a character who is frequently mentioned but doesn't appear until near the film's conclusion. There is not, however, as much truth to the accusation that the film never exposes all the killers: only one killer is not specifically identified, but even so his identity is very clearly implied.
All this having been said, THE BIG SLEEP is one helluva movie. In general, the story concerns the wealthy Sternwood family, which consists of an aging father and two "pretty and pretty wild" daughters--one of whom, Carmen, is being victimized by a blackmailer. P.I. Philip Marlowe is hired to get rid of the blackmailer, but an unexpected murder complicates matters... and touches off a series of killings by a number of parties who have covert interests in the Sternwood family.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the film is that you don't actually have to pick apart the complicated story in order to enjoy it. The script is famous for its witty lines and sleek sexual innuendo--much of it lifted directly from Chandler's novel--and the cast is a dream come true. Philip Marlowe would be played by a great many actors, but none of them ever bested Humphrey Bogart, who splendidly captures the feel of Chandler's original creation; with the role of Vivien Sternwood Lauren Bacall gives what might be the finest performance of her screen career; and the chemistry between the two is everything you've ever heard. The supporting cast is superlative, all the way from Martha Vickers' neurotic turn as Carmen Sternwood to Bob Steele's purring hit-man Canino. There's simply not a false note to be found any where. Although the film really pre-dates the film noir movement the entire look of THE BIG SLEEP anticipates noir to a remarkable degree--it would be tremendously influential--and director Hawks gives everything a sharp edge from start to finish.
Two versions of THE BIG SLEEP are included on the DVD: the film as it was originally shot and the film as it was released to theatres in 1946. The actual differences between the two are fairly slight, but they prove significant. Although the original version is somewhat easier to follow in terms of story, it lacks the flash that makes the theatrical version such a memorable experience; it is easy to see why Hawks elected to rescript and reshoot several key scenes as well as add new ones, and both newcomers and old fans will have fun comparing the two. The DVD also includes an enjoyable documentary on the differences between the films and the motivations behind them.
I don't usually comment on picture quality unless there is a glaring issue, but several reviewers have noted portions of this print have a flicker or seem a bit washed out. I noticed these problems, but I can't say that they in any way distracted from my enjoyment of the film, and they certainly don't prevent me from recommending it--be it on the big screen, television, video or this DVD. And I recommend it very, very strongly indeed.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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