June 21, 2017

The Big Sleep (1946).

Review #951: The Big Sleep.

Humphrey Bogart (Philip Marlowe), Lauren Bacall (Vivian Sternwood Rutledge), John Ridgely (Eddie Mars), Martha Vickers (Carmen Sternwood), Dorothy Malone (Acme Bookstore proprietress), Peggy Knudsen (Mona Mars), Regis Toomey (Chief Inspector Bernie Ohls), Charles Waldron (General Sternwood), Charles D. Brown (Norris), Bob Steele (Lash Canino), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Harry Jones), Louis Jean Heydt (Joe Brody), and Sonia Darrin (Agnes Lowzier) Directed by Howard Hawks.

This is the first film I've watched that was directed by Howard Hawks (he had done uncredited rewrites to The Thing from Another World (#519), and it is debatable on whether he had directed the film), and he does a good job at making a classic film noir. This was based off the Raymond Chandler crime novel of the same name, with the screenplay written by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett & Jules Furthman; as such, the lines are snappy and effective at making for an incredibly capable thriller. The appeal of the movie is seeing the investigation is executed and not merely just seeing it be solved (Chandler himself was asked by the filmmakers who killed the chauffeur - he responded that he didn't know), with Bogart being quite adept at being the hard-boiled wisecracking detective without any real missteps. Bacall does a fine job in this dazzling role filled with spunk and charisma, and her chemistry with Bogart is undeniably entertaining to watch, in part because of how easy they flow together while on screen together, with the racehorse dialogue being quite suggestive along with energetic. Ridgely does a fine adversarial job; Vickers manages to make her loopy character stand out quite nicely. The rest of the cast are pretty convincing in their roles (such as Malone and Steele), serving finely when compared to the dynamic of Bogart-Bacall, which stands out almost as much as the mystery itself. The movie operates at its own pace, and while it may be a bit hard to follow at times the movie has an undeniable amount of fun entertainment to it all.

This movie was filmed prior to the end of World War II, but it was not released until after Warner Bros. released their backlog of war-related films. There are two versions of the movie. One cut (released only to troops in the South Pacific) lasts 114 minutes, while the released cut lasted 116 minutes. There are differences between the two versions, with scenes added in order to play up the Bogart-Bacall dynamic and portions were re-shot (one key scene cut involves Marlowe and a D.A in conversation); a consequence of this is that Pat Clark was unavailable for the re-shots, so Peggy Knudsen replaced her in the film. In any case, the earlier version apparently is more linear in plot but has less of Bogart-Bacall, so take that for what it's worth. It isn't a perfect movie, but it is at the very least a classic that should watched at least once for anyone who likes film noir, like I do.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

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