The Big Sleep (1946)
"The Big Sleep" has a lot in common with 1944's "To Have and Have Not". It has the same director, the same two stars, both movies were based on novels, and William Faulkner had a hand in bringing the books to screen. What does this mean? It means that throughout the entire film, I was making comparisons between the two films, which shouldn't have happened.
They are both stand alone movies and should be viewed as such....anyways.
Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) is a private investigator and he needs to find a little bird statue worth a lot of money....er...wait, that's something else entirely. No, Marlowe has been hired by General Sternwood to try to hunt down the man who has been blackmailing the General's daughter. If the blackmailer happens to get dropped on his head a few times, oh well, that's not too bad.
Marlowe is a Sam Spade and James Bond type character. He's uber-smooth and he's not afraid to bruise his knuckles to get a point across. Ever the ladies' man, he barely needs to be in a room with a woman without them throwing themselves at him...he's not complaining.
In his effort to find this blackmailer, he has to find an antique bookshop, act like a book-worm, drink some brandy, and smoke a whole lot of cigarettes.
He becomes interested with the General's other daughter, Vivian (Lauren Bacall) and her missing husband. Something is amiss in the state of Denmark.
"The Big Sleep" is a noir, crime, mystery, suspense piece. Parts of it are glorious fun and others remind us that Bogart and Bacall have made better movies together.
Too many characters flood the screen. By the time we get to a brother's wife's nephew's cousin's next door neighbor, we have flown through way too many people in way too short of a time to make me care about anything. Then again, I could have just not been paying attention...I'll give you that, but I doubt that's the reason.
Shot in a great-looking black and white, "The Big Sleep" is also inferior to "The Big Heat"—the two pictures sharing a lot more than just the closeness of their titles.
It's a shame that everything in "The Big Sleep" can be referenced to greater works, because it just makes the film look bad.
This film isn't bad. It's not great cinema, but it certainly isn't bad.
I will say this—the film is manipulative. It takes quick turns and fast edits imply a long passage of time has occurred. Time is something that the film doesn't have a great hold on. How long has it been? Hours? Weeks? Days?
Based on the novel of the same name by Raymond Chandler "The Big Sleep" seems like a movie that didn't quite do its source material justice. I was reminded of the works by John le Carré...once you get to the interesting parts of his novels, you forget why you're here.
This is a work that merited being split up into two movies.
Bogart looks sickly in the movie, like maybe he should lay off the brandies and cigarettes—Bacall also sings, which is a shame because her operatic voice leaves a lot to be desired. She fortes when she should have pianissimo-ed...oh so punny.
"The Big Sleep" is fun because of the banter between the two stars. It could be William Faulkner to credit for this. This and "To Have and Have Not" are both miles more entertaining than As I Lay Dying no matter what my English professor would have tried to tell you.
Score: 3 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones