Good attempt at remaking a classic...
Mark Savary | Seattle, WA | 04/23/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The Big Sleep" is now and forever shall be Humphrey Bogart's movie. There's just no way around that.Mitchum's great, as usual, but the British setting made me think of the Duke movie, "Brannigan". If you like "Brannigan" (I admit, I do), you'll like this version of "The Big Sleep". I suppose the producers had to make the location different to set it aprt from the 1946 film (also, British moneyman Lord Lew Grade financed the film; the Brits seem to have a quirky appreciation for our cowboys and private eye heroes).However, this 1978 effort is worth a viewing for Marlowe fans. Mitchum captures the detective's character very well. Oliver Reed is a very menacing Eddie Mars, and just listening to his lines delivered in Reed's Shakesperian whispered hiss makes Reed the picture of the smooth and scary gangster. Jimmy Stewart is in his golden years here, a big star just doing his thing. We only see him in two scenes, and they're fair. This was about the time he was guest-starring in features like "The Magic of Lassie", "Airport '77", and other big, overblown, movies packed with familiar faces and stars of yesteryear. Joan Collins also looks to have been added only for name value here.Candy Clark is sexy and nubile enough (and nude often enough), as the troubled younger daughter Camilla, but although she plays the part well, she comes off as a little more spacey than incorrigable in this 70's Marlowe. Sarah Miles isn't really interesting or even all that sexy as the older sister Charlotte. She wasn't very convincing, and probably the weakest cast member. This is unfortunate, because Charlotte is an important character who is supposed to move the plot along.As for the film itself, I think overall it was pretty good, but the modern setting (and being set in Britain), work against the Marlowe mystique. If you can get past those elements, and perhaps have not seen the classic Bogart film, this version will probably be more entertaining. I liked the opening and closing sequences, and the effort put forward throughout the film to bring Marlowe back and into then-modern times.One thing that did not make sense was the proliferation of firearms in modern day Britain, which is just not as believable as a film set in 1940's America. Also, the scandal involving the nude photos, drug use, and the sexual antics of the younger daughter doesn't hold up well here.The movie tries very hard, and is engaging enough for the casual viewer. There are even a few plot twists that diviate from the original film. If you are a big Marlowe fan, you may not be too pleased with the 70's re-make qualities on display, "50 pounds a day plus expenses", and other Britishisms/moderisms. On the other hand, if you want a good Mitchum detective movie, this one will fit the bill."
Robert Mitchum IS Philip Marlowe
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 09/06/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Unhampered by Production Code restraints, this 1978 version of Raymond Chandler's novel is more faithful to its source material than the 1946 classic with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Viewed today, the contemporary London setting works in director Michael Winner's favor. Of course, the film's raison d'être is Robert Mitchum's second go-round as Philip Marlowe - an iconic portrayal that perfectly captures the world-weary spirit of Chandler's famous detective. An excellent supporting cast includes a poignant appearance by James Stewart as General Sternwood. The 1978 "Big Sleep" will not erase memories of Bogie and Bacall, yet it makes a surprisingly effective companion piece."
A Bloody Good Rendition
Tristan MacAvery | Rochester, NY USA | 07/08/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I've watched this film a dozen times or more, and each time I find more things to recommend it as an adaptation of the book. Read that carefully: It's an adaptation of the book. It's got some clinkers, and it has indeed been transferred from pre-1940s Los Angeles to late 1970s London. Strangely, however, Chandler's novel proves as sturdy as Shakespeare, in terms of being re-adapted in a new setting.
Much of the dialog comes directly from the book, which is a fascinating and huge "plus" to the film. Despite various nuances that clearly put it into modern times, there is a strong sense of the original Philip Marlowe here. Remember that "The Big Sleep" didn't have nearly the amount of gunplay that other hard-boiled detective stories had; therefore, placing it in England, where the general population is less likely to carry a gun around than our own NRA-poisoned America, wasn't a bad idea at all.
Another point: Part of the film's plot revolves around pornography, which doesn't make anyone in this country even blink anymore (we get language and near-nudity on prime time, these days). In England, where there is still something of a caste system whether it's admitted or not, the porn becomes a bit more of a big deal -- which makes it sensible for Marlowe to be called in on the case.
Some reviews have blamed the movie for being confusing. I suggest that those reviewers go back and read the book, which is the source of the highly entwined plot twists. Considering how much the book weaves in and around itself, Michael Winner is to be offered some serious kudos for doing so well with the film.
It's great to see so many stars and well-known actors appearing in the film. Oliver Reed makes an interesting Eddie Mars, a character who thinks he's more dangerous than he really is. Harry Andrews as Norris (the butler) is quintessentially British in his attitude, showing a quiet approval of Marlowe's (Robert Mitchum) rough nature. Sarah Miles and Candy Clark play the troublesome Sternwood daughters with the right amount of faintly (or fully) drugged vacuousness; the former is trying to keep a secret by constantly hinting about it, and the latter is completely crazy.
A flawed gem, but a gem nonetheless. Highly watchable (repeatedly), and somehow every bit worthy of Chandler -- much more so than DiCaprio's mildly psychotic version of "Romeo and Juliet" is worthy of Shakespeare."
So It's Not Bogie and Bacall; It Still Works
Stephanie DePue | Carolina Beach, NC USA | 03/03/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The American movie star Robert Mitchum headlines the 1978 English-made adaptation of Californian Raymond Chandler's famous noir novel, "The Big Sleep," generally considered an inferior remake of the 1946 American-made adaptation of the same novel, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. In any case, the plot centers on private investigator Marlowe, called to the aid of a rich family, the Sternwoods, who are being blackmailed. It then meanders to many highways and byways.
The 1946 American version is a classic of film noir, and an enduring entry in the Bogie/Bacall canon. But can we look at it a bit more closely? It's a Howard Hawks production, from Warner Brothers Studios. It is, of course, in black and white: Warners' made everything in black and white. And who says a noir film can't be done in color? What about the later "Body Heat," "Against All Odds," or "The Long Goodbye?" Or the famous trio of noir pictures from the far side of the pond, "Mona Lisa," "Get Carter," and "The Long Good Friday?"
Hawks and Warners' did spring for famous novelist William Faulkner as head screenwriter on the picture. But it could hardly be more obvious that what all three wanted was simply a follow-up vehicle for Bogie and Bacall, who'd just burned up the screen in "To Have And To Have Not." From looking at the picture, a case can be made that any story would have done them, as long as it showcased the studio's new golden couple, and they sure didn't throw money up on the screen. Black and white. Filmed totally on the back lot: General Sternwood is supposed to be rich, yet we never see the exterior of his house, only interiors. In fact, almost the entire movie is shot in interiors. The picture had Bogie and Bacall, all right; Martha Vickers and Dorothy Malone in important supporting parts. Beyond that, you'll notice Warners' didn't even send over their usual suspects on the A list of supporting players, the people you see in "Casablanca." Only supporting players you've ever heard of are Elisha Cook and Bob Steele. However, Warners' did send over a half-dozen young studio starlets, whose sole purpose seems to be making eyes at Bogie, as if they needed to underline his attractiveness to the female sex. And the studio stops the movie cold so Bacall can sing a sexy song: hey, it worked in "To Have and To Have Not."
Let's take a closer look at the English version. Sir Lew Grade did spend money on the picture. He moved it to England, well, okay. He filmed it in color, horrors. He and Michael Winner, the director/screenwriter do open the story up, showing us exteriors, the English countryside, scenes of London. Nothing wrong with that. It's not as claustrophobic as the '46 version-- must film noir be claustrophobic? Some elements of the book and the Bogart treatment don't play as well as they did; the child pornography in the bookstore, the porn its owner is making of Carmen Sternwood, the bookstore owner's gay lover. They were hardly earth-shattering in 1970's England. In fact, it's popularly thought that England was awash in that stuff at that time. So the movie loses some force there.
Many people consider Mitchum too old to play Marlowe, and he was, by a couple of decades. But the humanity of his lived-in fact adds a dimension of feeling to the picture. His fancy car, suits and Rolex watch? It's a puzzlement. Many people also consider Sarah Miles to be no Lauren Bacall, and she wasn't. Furthermore, if there's a hairdressers' hell, that's where her hairdresser belongs; her clothes are kind of clunky, too. But Charles Waldron, who played the General in '46, is no Jimmy Stewart, who played the General in '78. The Warners' butler, Charles D. Brown, was no Harry Andrews, the British. The Warners' Eddie Mars, John Ridgely, was no Oliver Reed. The Warners' Mona Mars, Peggy Knudsen, was no Diana Quick. The Warners' Bernie Ohls, Regis Toomie, was no Sir John Mills. The Warners' Joe Brody, Louis Jean Heyd, was no Edward Fox. The Warners' Agnes, Dorothy Malone, in fact, was no Joan Collins. The Warners' Bob Steele, as Lash Canino, sorry, but he was no Richard Boone. The Warners' Jonesie, actually, Elisha Cook, was no Colin Blakely, either. And then there's Richard Todd as the English Commander Blake. Candy Clark in the English Carmen role, well, she gets naked, and Martha Vickers' is the class act.
Basically, these are two different pictures, made with different aims, and by different philosophies. The Mitchum picture has stood up to the test of time, as has Bogart's. A lot of people will tell you the English take is truer to Chandler's book than is Hollywood's. (Though neither movie can solve the mystery of Owen Taylor, the Sternwood family chauffeur, found in the family limo, in the water, dead) Then again, the author Chandler, who cobbled together three short stories to make this book, never did solve that bit himself. In sum, the English ending is much truer to the book's than is Hollywood's. After all, the book and movies are called "The Big Sleep," and they are, at their heart, about the disappearance of Rusty Regan, and where he might be.