THE BIG SLEEP

A kiss is still a kiss (1946)
With Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Martha Vickers, John Ridgely, Dorothy Malone, Elisha Cook, Jr.
Directed by Howard Hawks
Black and White
Reviewed by JL and JB

    What you've heard about THE BIG SLEEP is true: it's a great film that makes no sense.  Yeah, you can follow the overall basic plot, but you might not figure out how they got from point A to point B, and don't trouble yourself trying to figure out who killed who or what that Geiger guy is selling out of his bookstore.  Just enjoy Bogey and Bacall at their steamiest, the film's definitive detective-noir atmosphere, and some of the most suggestive wit the censors would allow.  Two vastly different edits of THE BIG SLEEP exist, one completed in 1945, the other featuring new material shot in 1946.  The first is easier to understand, the second is more fun.  Both are available on the same DVD.  5 - JL


Bogey and Baby     I have seen THE BIG SLEEP about a half dozen times in my life and each time I tell myself I am going to figure it all out, but it never happens.  I love Sherlock Holmes mysteries, where one person is killed or something important is missing and Holmes goes around sniffing out clues until he has it figured out.  But this film? Too many characters, too many names to remember, too many things being investigated.   By the time Elisha Cook Jr. and Bob Steele show up toward the end,  I've lost track of who or what Bogey is looking for and why. Yet, THE BIG SLEEP ranks with the greatest of all Warner Brothers films.  It's at least four movies in one: an essential film noir, an essential mystery, an essential Bogey film, and an essential Bogey and Bacall film.  The dialogue defines the term double entendre, with hardly a character, not even the butler, willing to say exactly what is on his mind.  The one caveat is that, although it is a mystery, it won't give you that satisfying moment when everything becomes clear.  By the time Bogey is explaining it all to Bacall in the final scene, your reaction will not be so much "Oh, I see" as "Excuse me... what?".  And if you want to drive trivia buffs completely nuts, ask them who played Shawn Regan in THE BIG SLEEP.

     I haven't yet seen the 1945 version.  A BIG SLEEP that makes sense?  Sounds like one of them commie plots or something to me.  4½ - JB

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HOW TO WRITE FOR BOGEY

"Convenient the door being open when you didn't have a key, eh?"
"Yeah, it was, wasn't it... by the way, how'd you happen to have one?"
"That any of your business?"
"I could make it my business."
"I could make your business mine."
"Oh, you wouldn't like it, the pay's too small."

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