The Big Sleep Reviews
I will reserve complete judgment until I see the original cut with a slower pace and more salacious tone. But, phew, what a bloody headache.
Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) was a private detective generally working in Los Angeles. This character would serve as the progenitor and template for the hard-boiled, tough as nails detectives that would follow. Most cinematic historians agree that Humphrey Bogart was ideal for the role, sentiment almost universally accepted by the fans. Story such as these would also form the foundation for the Golden age of film noir genre moviemaking that although it began in Germany found its best examples United States. As the story begins Marlowe is summoned to the luxurious home of his newest client, General Sternwood (Charles Waldron). The general was quite wealthy is engaged the services of Marlowe in order to locate the resolution of his daughter, Carmen's (Martha Vickers) other sizable gambling debts owed to Gwynn Geiger (Theodore von Eltz), proprietor of the A.J. Geiger bookstore, the front for the gambling operation. On his way out Marlowe is stopped by the general's older daughter, Mrs. Vivian Rutledge (Lauren Bacall), who warns the effective the father's real motives of being hidden from. A father is actually interesting finding the location of a young friend of his, Sean Regan, mysteriously disappeared a month earlier.
Most delightful aspects of the film noir mystery is how it demands the audience pay attention to the plot and keep track of the intricacies of what the characters are doing. Absolutely nothing straightforward and very few of the characters are what they seem on the surface. When Marlowe starts his investigation by going to the rare bookstore he notices that Geiger's assistant, Agnes Louzier (Sonia Darrin) is watching the store as Geiger slips out. Marlowe follows Geiger back to his home in and while lurking outside he is gunshots within. There followed by a woman screaming from smaller to break in. Once inside he notices Geiger's body in nearby common in a drug status of stupor. There is also the hidden camera and a show from a round of ammunition. He takes Carmen to her home by the time he returns to the Geiger residence the crime scene had been cleaned up in the body is now gone. He subsequently learns that Sternwood's, chauffeur (Owen Taylor), has been found dead with this car the driven off the pier.
Is that every single character is acting in a suspicious fashion and bodies continued to pile up further implicating an increasing number of suspects. Motives abound with everything from jealousy to self-vindication. Illegal battling operation is ideal for pulling in a number of shady characters such as Joe Brody ( Louis Jean Heydt) any mind the gangster, Eddie Mars (John Ridgely). When Marlowe follows Vivian she winds up in Brodie's house he finds the gambler armed Vivian and Agnes hiding. Carmen burst in and demands photographs that had been used to blackmail her. Marlowe intervenes retaining the pictures while sending Vivian and Agnes back home. Pacing of this film is impeccable balancing the urgency of the main situations with the need for a romance to slowly develop between Marlowe and Vivian. It is not so much a romance in the traditional sense but truly the film noir format is a visceral attraction than either one of them can or wants to deny. The scenes between them are considered so sensual for the time the people were afraid that the movie would violate the Hayes law, the codified standard for what would be considered moral behavior in a movie. This resulted in many changes from the book including Geiger's involvement with pornography and being a homosexual.
The romance between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall did effective performances on screen. He gave a palpable chemistry between the actors in the scenes that they shared, something that even talented actors such as themselves would be able to so completely infuse in their performances. It should be kept in mind that the relationship between both Bogart and Bacall is that Humphrey Bogart was 47 at the time of the shooting while Ms. Bacall was only 22. Although obviously commonplace such December may romances was considered quite scandalous Raymond Chandler was one of the best mystery writers in the world and many thought it would be impossible to bring his novels screen. They were thickly leaving the numerous subplots and ample twist and turns. There is also a significant amount of sensual material that the studios apartment of Standards and Practices were not allowed on film. Fortunately the director of this movie, Howard Hawks, was one of the greatest filmmakers of his time. Occasionally back by millionaire Howard Hughes, Hawks was able to push the envelope far more than most directors in Hollywood. His previous experience with skirting the restrictions set by both the studio and the federal government, included the 1932 original version of 'Scarface' which are mild by contemporary standards including those that apply to the remake, the film that use made in 1922 was nothing short of scandalous and was banned in many locations. There is any man was able to bring a root Raymond Chandler novel to life it would be someone both the talent and intestinal fortitude of Howard Hawks. The terms classic and time was often tossed around with regard to films but very few of them are as well earned on marriage as this movie. It was inducted into the national registry for film preservation and recognition of its cultural significance. These now there is a version with the technical specifications up to the standards of the content.
As an extra treat the 1945 alternate edit of the film is also restored and provided as added content. The version followed a far more linear narrative and was the director's original edit. It had been lost until in the late 1990's it was discovered in the UCLA Film and Television Archive. That cut had been used entertain the troops serving in the South Pacific. Benefactors deeply committed to film preservation including Hugh Hefner, raised the capital to bring the film back to its original glory. Subsequently it enjoyed a brief resurrection on the art house circuit in 1997. The accompanied documentary detailing the differences is also provided here. Warner Brothers is to be lauded for exhibiting such immeasurable respect for not only the value of film as a means of artistic expression but for all of us who have devoted much of our lives to enjoying movies.
Nothing against Hawks here; there is great direction in every scene and the acting is beyond phenomenal. The screenwriters deserve appraisal as well since they have put together a very intricate story which happens to work, even if you can't decipher it on first viewing. Films that make the audience have to think and pay attention usually deserve merit; look at the television show The Wire, for instance. Every detail is there for a reason even if it is difficult to grasp on first viewing. However, with a television show it is easy to fill in gaps of what you may miss in the scenes or even the episodes to follow, but with a film that is just under two hours and as complex as The Big Sleep you NEED to rewatch it. Films with rewatchability is one thing, but films that require you to rewatch them are not necessarily fun experiences. Important maybe, but not fun.
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall are very convincing in their roles. They make the film bearable to watch. There is also some excitement in the film as there are little bits of action when you hear a gunshot or see somebody gunned down. With this film being somewhat action-oriented it makes up for the fact that you cannot follow the plot the first time (but only slightly).
Give this film a shot if it sounds like something you might revisit, but do not be surprised if you're scratching your head through the duration of the film.