The Big Sleep

1978

Crime / Drama / Mystery / Thriller

6
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled 26%
IMDb Rating 5.9 10 3375

Synopsis


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Director

Cast

James Stewart as General Sternwood
Joan Collins as Agnes Lozelle
Oliver Reed as Eddie Mars
Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
825.68 MB
1280*720
English
NR
23.976 fps
1hr 39 min
P/S 5 / 15
1.57 GB
1904*1072
English
NR
23.976 fps
1hr 39 min
P/S 3 / 13

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by James Hitchcock 6 / 10

No Substitute for the Original

In recent years we have seen a number of Hollywood remakes of classic British crime films, such as 'Get Carter', 'The Italian Job' and, most recently, 'The Ladykillers', a phenomenon that has aroused some critical comment, especially in Britain. This film shows that, nearly thirty years ago, this same phenomenon was happening in reverse, and the British were remaking classic American crime movies.

The plot broadly follows that of the 1946 film, with the striking exception that the action takes place in London rather than Los Angeles. This does not, however, mean that the original has been completely anglicised. Both Philip Marlowe and General Sternwood are American expatriates living in London rather than Englishmen, and they are played by two of Hollywood's biggest stars, Robert Mitchum and James Stewart. With the exception of Richard Boone as Canino and Candy Clark as Sternwood's younger daughter, the other main parts are all played by British actors.

The film was clearly made as homage to the famous Humphrey Bogart classic, and it is inevitable that comparisons will be made between the two. In some respects, in fact, the later film is superior to, or at least as good as, the earlier one. (I have not read Raymond Chandler's novel, so I cannot say which film is closer to the original source material). The 1946 film is a fine one, but it is not perfect and has a number of weaknesses, not least its insanely complicated plot containing threads that are never developed and events that are never explained. The plot of the 1978 film, while complex enough, is somewhat easier to follow than that of its predecessor. To the purist Bogart fan there can be no substitute for the original, but to anyone else Robert Mitchum, himself a fine exponent of the film noir style during the early part of his career in the forties and fifties, seems like the best possible replacement. He is, of course, older than Bogart was when he played the role, and his portrayal of the character is perhaps less cynical and more thoughtful, but it is a perfectly acceptable interpretation. There are also good performances from Stewart in the cameo role of Sternwood, from Oliver Reed and from Joan Collins.

As a whole, however, the film does not live up to the standard of the original. Certainly, not all the actors are as good as their 1946 counterparts (Sarah Miles, for example, is no Lauren Bacall), but the main reason for its comparative failure goes deeper. The Bogart movie is perhaps the quintessential film noir, a film that one watches less for its plot, or even for its acting, than for its unique atmosphere of cynicism, menace and dubious glamour. An important factor in creating that atmosphere is its dark, brooding black-and-white photography. Unfortunately, in the late seventies the use of black-and-white was generally regarded as the equivalent of hanging a sign on the cinema door saying 'Warning! Art-house Movie! Intellectuals Only!' A few established auteur directors such as Woody Allen ('Manhattan') and Martin Scorsese ('Raging Bull') could get away with using monochrome, but there was no way that the studio would allow such latitude to Michael Winner, a director generally associated with violent commercial thrillers. So colour it had to be. In fact, the photography of London and the English countryside is quite attractive, but it is no substitute for the authentic film noir look.

I mentioned that the atmosphere of the earlier film was also one of dubious glamour; besides Bacall it has a large number of other strikingly beautiful but sinister women (some of them only in minor roles). The later film cannot compete in this respect. With the exception of Joan Collins (who could do sultry but sinister glamour in spades, even in her mid-forties), none of the female characters has the required touch of the femme fatale about her.

As a London-based crime thriller, Winner's 'The Big Sleep' is not a bad film; it is better than most of its director's other thrillers and better than a lot of other British films from the seventies. As homage to its namesake, however, it falls some way short of its aims. 6/10

Reviewed by Robert-Lander 8 / 10

As a literary adaptation, it is superior to the Bogart version

You may regard the 1946 version as a classic because of the Bogart-Bacall pairing. As a literary adaptation, this version, however, is much better.

First of all, the plot stays true to the novel, whereas the older version had a plot ruined by the restrictions of the Hayes code, so that it contains numerous loose ends and unexplained developments.

Secondly, Robert Mitchum impersonates Marlowe much better that Humphrey Bogart. Bogart essentially recycles his role of Sam Spade in "The Maltese Falcon". Yet, Spade and Marlowe are very different characters. While Spade is a cynic who just barely remembers the remnants of morality (and Bogart is brilliant in that role), Marlowe is way beyond that point. He walks around people in a distanced, almost detached way. Only when he spots a glimpse of humanity in his fellow men, he is willing to engage himself (as with General Sternwood in "The Big Sleep"). Mitchum plays this character with great understatement, as it should be done, while Bogart makes Marlowe just another hard-boiled detective, which could be replaced by any other one.

Finally, both Sarah Miles and Candy Clark (while not being necessarily great actresses) bring over the lunacy of the Sternwood daughters beautifully. While the scenes between Bacall and Bogart a great, they are out of place in this plot, in which there is no place left for romance. It might have been appropriate for the characters of Marlowe and Linda Loring in "The Long Goodbye", but hardly in a movie adaption of a novel, in which Marlowe remarks "both Sternwood women were giving him hell".

So, while this movie transfers the plot to another time and another place, it is a much better adaption of the novel than the version often regarded as a classic.

Reviewed by skysaxon 7 / 10

It's not the 1946 original but a lot of fun nonetheless

While I haven't read the novel upon which 'The Big Sleep' is based, I have seen the Bogart version. I really love the original. Bogie-Bacall - what's not to love? However, that version does suffer from Hays Code puritanism that robbed the edge from much of human desires and sexual foibles that obviously suppressed some of the underlying desires and sexual motives.

That's where the 1978 version excels - and fails. Let's start with the fails. In the original, the scenes in the bookshops near the beginning rule with Bogie's use of humour and the electric suggested tryst with Dorothy Malone's character. Sometimes the suggestion can be erotic enough. Perhaps that's why this version skips the fun and the implied sex for another more mundane approach.

The other fail is the atmosphere. This version lacks any. The original's shadows and textures evoked each scene and created moods. This version lacks any specific mood to instead tell a story in almost a heightened reality. The direction does the same, relying on straight-ahead narrative more like a TV movie than a theatrical film.

There's so much more here that succeeds. Despite his age, Mitchum is a fine Marlow, more cynical and world-weary than Bogart's version. The script is sharp, full of humour and wry observations. The biggest improvement is the depiction of sex. Freed of the tyranny of the forties' censorship, scenes like Carmen naked and stoned are much more realistic and make a more satisfying treatment, even if the innuendo is not as predominant.

OK, it's not the classic it could've been. It's still a decent flick to rent or watch on cable. Marlowe is solid, Candy Clark is wonderfully loony, Joan Collins is pure kitsch, Richard Boone plays the essence of evil. It's good to see James Stewart, even if his gentle disposition doesn't quite match the demeanour of a General. The supporting cast are almost uniformly intriguing and fun to watch. And what a cast!

The Big Sleep may be no masterpiece but it is great fun. Relax your expectations and enjoy it for what is - fine entertainment.

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