movie film review | chris tookey

Big Sleep

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  Big Sleep Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
9.40 /10
Humphrey Bogart , Lauren Bacall , John Ridgely
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Directed by: Howard Hawks
Written by: William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman from Raymond Chandler's novel

Released: 1946
Genre: CRIME
Origin: US
Colour: BW
Length: 114

In one of the great opening scenes of cinema, a cynical Los Angeles private eye (Humphrey Bogart, pictured right) is hired by a wheelchair-bound millionaire (Charles Waldron), worn out by a life of wealthy decadence, to protect his wayward daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers) who may well be a dope fiend, and shows every sign of being a nymphomaniac.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Several murders and baffling plot-twists later, the detective finds himself falling in love with Carmen's older, divorced sister Vivien (Lauren Bacall, pictured left). But is she in league with the gangster (John Ridgely) who Marlowe suspects is trying to kill him?

Howard Hawks's marvellous film of Raymond Chandler's terrific thriller. It is hard to believe that contemporary critics were shocked by the extremely restrained violence - the trade paper, Kine Weekly, described it as "a bloodbath" - or by its demurely veiled hints of moral corruption.

Modern viewers are more likely to notice that the camerawork is static by modern standards, that Hawks's determination to make Marlowe irresistible to virtally every woman he meets is a tad overdone, and that the plot is as hard to follow as ever.

But Bogie is on top form - and no wonder, with material like this. The script is a joy throughout, with quickfire, wisecracking dialogue that puts modern equivalents to shame, and loads of suspense even if we're not sure what's happening, or why. Bacall, of course, is drop-dead gorgeous, and the scenes between her and Bogart are a reminder that the sexiest scenes in cinema are often those where both parties keep their clothes on.

American Puritanism meant that some of the novel's explicit decadence was deleted, but there are enough hints for the audience to supply the missing information. Famously, the plot is so complex that not even the writers knew why the chauffeur was killed, or who did it; but frankly, with a script this witty and full of suspense, does it matter? Remarkably, the film did not receive even one Oscar nomination.

"Neither the author, nor the writer, nor myself knew who killed who."

(Howard Hawks)

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