L.A. private eye Philip Marlowe takes on a blackmail case...and a trail peopled with murderers, pornographers, nightclub rogues, the spoiled rich and more. Humphrey Bogart plays Raymond Chandlers' legendary gumshoe and di... more »rector Howard Hawks serves up snappy character encounters (particularly involving Lauren Bacall), brisk pace and atmosphere galore in the certified classic.« less
"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 hitman Canino. There's simply not a false note to be found anywhere. 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 video or this DVD. And I recommend it very, very strongly indeed."
The Big Sleep is Double Pleasure!
Joe Oliver | Nacogdoches, TX United States | 02/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Two...Two... Two Movies in One," could be the ad line for this wonderful DVD. Warner clearly understands that DVDs should offer the customer something new other than just a new play format. Here we get a two-sided disc containing both versions of this movie: a pre-release cut from 1944, seen mostly by servicemen oversees; and, the 1946 release, recut with reshot scenes to promote the chemistry between Bogart and Bacall (she had become a star between '44 and '46). This would be enough to justify buying this DVD, but Warner goes even further, providing an insightful documentary explaining the cuts and changes between the two movie versions--it's like being in a very good film appreciation class. While most DVDs seem overpriced to me, this one may be underpriced--especially considering it's one of the most intriging movies ever made. After watching both versions of the film, and also the documentary, I still don't fully understand the plot, but this movie really is all about atmosphere, dialogue and great acting. A wonderful addition to any movie collection."
Not To Be Missed!
Erik Rupp | Southern California | 04/22/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you haven't already seen THE BIG SLEEP, buy this DVD now! If you have, but don't own this DVD release, buy it now! Why? Both the 1946 classic and the pre-release 1945 edit are on this disc. The differences are quite interesting. The 1946 version shows Bogart (as Philip Marlowe) as the epitome of "Cool" in every situation, even when he has a gun pulled on him or is getting beaten up. Lauren Bacall comes off much better in the 1946 version as well, as she shows the spark that was seen in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT. The 1945 version has a few scenes cut from the 1946 version which are quite good, and is actually a little easier to follow. Whichever version you watch, THE BIG SLEEP is one of the greatest movies ever in the "Film Noir" or detective "Murder Mystery" genres. The disc also includes a documentary on the making of the film, and the differences between the two versions, which is very interesting. The picture and sound quality are actually quite good, as any flaws in the picture are so minor that they would not be noticed unless you're watching for them, and not watching the movie itself. As stated before, if you don't already own this DVD, BUY IT NOW! It's a classic movie and an outstanding package!"
A Noir Masterpiece
Bobby Underwood | Manly NSW, Australia | 06/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Big Sleep" is one of the most unique adaptations of a detective novel ever brought to the screen. Watching this film is one of the true joys of being a film buff. This is extraordinary entertainment that grabs your attention quickly and holds it until the final shot. It is exciting and engaging, and a favorite of all detective film fans.
Director Howard Hawks turned Raymond Chandler's most popular story into an absolutely mesmerizing celluloid masterpiece. Chandler's complex novel was adapted for the screen by William Faulkner, and while we may never know for sure who committed one of the murders in this blurry crime noir, like all Hawks' films, it is so incredibly entertaining we really don't care. It is full of sharp dialog and dreamy images comparable to being slipped a "mickey." One critic actually compared it to a hangover.
The story itself moves at a terrific clip, and there is so much going on you might get lost if you blink. Humphry Bogart is Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, and from the moment he arrives to talk to General Sternwood and gets mixed up with his daughters this is a film classic.
One would think with a young and sultry Bacall getting tangled up with Bogart for the first time, they would be everything in this film; they are not, however. Bacall portrays the General's sultry older daughter, Vivian, but it is the sexy and thumb-sucking Carmen whom Marlowe meets first.
Martha Vickers gives a performance that has you thinking about her throughout, even when she isn't present. She steals every scene she is in and is one of the most memorable dolls in noir history. This was Vickers' finest moment on film and forever earned her a place in movie history.
The story takes off quickly as the very sick Sternwood wants Marlowe to look into a little matter involving blackmail and his daughters. But as Marlowe follows the trail of gambling debts, he finds one body after another and spends all his energy trying to extricate Carmen and Vivian from the mess.
Marlowe and Vivian have a spark that gives him incentive to get the job done, but he may not be able to head off the rollercoaster headed for the little kitten, Carmen, who may turn out to have some very large claws. Dorothy Malone has a brief but sexy role as a clerk who shares more than a drink with Marlowe.
Hawks filmed this as a moody dream of dialog and images hard to forget. Bogart's Marlowe has his hands full trying to keep Carmen out of trouble. And the sparks that begin to fly between he and Carmen's big sister, Vivian, may not be enough to overcome her involvement with some of the players for the other team.
Trying to find a way to keep the fast-rising body count from getting any higher, while at the same time keeping Vivian and her little sister Carmen in the clear, will take some dangerous turns for Marlowe.
Bacall has never been more beautiful or inviting than when she is slumped down in the seat of Bogart's car, just waiting for him to kiss her. You have to see this film to really appreciate it. No description could ever do it justice. You'll never see anything else like it in American cinema. A true noir classic, and one of Howard Hawks' many masterpieces."
Masterpiece ruined by flawed transfer to DVD
Bobby Underwood | 04/08/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The re-mastering of this great 1945-46 film to DVD is flawed by frequent flickering on the right side of the screen, causing a loss of contrast so that a portion of the picture looks slightly greyish and washed-out. You can already spot this going on during the opening credits of the film, both in the 1946 version on Side A and in the 1945 "pre-release" version on Side B. Although this flaw comes and goes in both versions -- now you see it, now you don't -- it might prove particularly annoying to Bogart fans who've been waiting for this classic to finally be presented in as perfect a way as possible, which was certainly the intention, I'm sure, of the Warner Bros. arm of Turner Entertainment in packaging the two versions together with a little documentary that outlines the differences between them. So, we've all been let down a bit here by some technical carelessness which, nevertheless, could have been corrected if someone in Turner's quality control dept. had taken the trouble to look at the final product before giving it to the public! [Note: For definite places to spot the washed-out flicker problem, check the DVD by going to Chapter 7, 23:20 or so, Bogart's first visit to Geiger's house; chapter 13, at Geiger's house again in wonderful scene between Bogart and head-draped Martha Vickers; chapters 23 through 25, the stuff with Harry Jones and Canino, and chap. 31, the final showdown at Geiger's house.]"