Big Sleep

Big Sleep

4.3 13
Director: Howard Hawks

Cast: Howard Hawks, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Trevor Bardette

     
 

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Warner Home Video's release of The Big Sleep is what DVD should, ideally, be about. The way the movie is treated, the care that has been taken in presenting the two very different cuts of the movie, and the history explaining why the movie exists in two substantially different versions is exactly what DVD viewers will happily pay their money to own -- aSee more details below

Overview

Warner Home Video's release of The Big Sleep is what DVD should, ideally, be about. The way the movie is treated, the care that has been taken in presenting the two very different cuts of the movie, and the history explaining why the movie exists in two substantially different versions is exactly what DVD viewers will happily pay their money to own -- a five-star treatment of a five-star movie. The Big Sleep was issued in its official 1946 version in a fair laserdisc edition at the end of the 1980s, with no extras to speak of. In the interim, between the late '80s and the end of the '90s, was the official issue to theaters of what is known as the 1945 "pre-release" version of the movie (which was known to exist for decades, but had never been made available). That version of the movie contains 18 minutes of material that was either removed altogether or reshot, and both it and the familiar 1946 version are included on the DVD, one film to a side, along with a 16-minute documentary that compares the differences between the two cuts of the movie. The first part of the documentary is enjoyable enough, though the second half, loaded with excerpts from the two versions of the film, will probably confuse many people. Both sides of the disc come with the same menu and supplements, including the original trailer, which is cleverly built around a couple of shots from the film itself and Humphrey Bogart stepping out of character to glance through the original Raymond Chandler novel. The menu opens automatically and is easy to maneuver around, and the special feature function is straightforward and simple to use. Each side is broken down into 32 chapters, but the chaptering has been carefully done (and equally well labeled) to delineate the differences in the two versions of the movie. The two different versions of the movie are what really count, however, and they are fascinating to watch. The 1945 pre-release version is a less fiercely sexual film, but also an easier movie to comprehend -- it's a fine, tense, complicated, but fairly straightforward detective movie that probably would have been a reasonable success if released, despite some unbelievably bad decisions made in connection with Lauren Bacall's wardrobe in a couple of scenes, some unflattering camera angles, and a few scenes that were never explored fully for their potential, all of which was fixed in the reshooting that took place over a year later. In the process, some of the logic that made the 1945 version of the movie a brilliant detective movie was also stripped out, including one scene in the district attorney's office that not only explained a lot of the movie's action, but which, if it had been left in, would have been the granddaddy of all cinematic tales of corruption in Los Angeles' law enforcement for decades to come, right through to Chinatown and L.A. Confidential. Instead, Howard Hawks and the studio decided to let the characters and personalities, rather than the story, drive the movie, and to get Bogart and Bacall to play those characters to the hilt. The result, the familiar 1946 version, is more overt in its sexual attraction between Bogart and Bacall (who had become husband and wife in the time between the initial shooting and the retakes), and more fun -- like a roller-coaster ride with lots of sexual banter between two of the riders -- without any letup or flagging of its pace. The 1946 version also looks and sounds better than the laserdisc ever did. The presence of the 1945 version is essential, however, to understanding how the final cut of the film evolved -- it is doubtful that Hawks or Warner Bros. would have felt sufficiently comfortable reshaping the movie the way they finally did without first creating the best "straight" detective story possible.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Monica McIntyre
The world of The Big Sleep, Howard Hawks's classic 1946 film noir, seduces with its moody atmosphere and singularly cool romantic pessimism. Based on the Raymond Chandler novel and adapted by a team of writers that included William Faulkner, the story is notoriously convoluted. But who cares when you've got the legendary chemistry between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall? As Philip Marlowe, private eye, Bogie drops wisecracks and upholds honor in lurid L.A. while trying to sort out the troubles of a retired general's daughter. When Marlowe meets the general's other daughter, Vivian (Bacall), his interest in the case -- and the body count -- increases. Hawks's no-nonsense visual style and the lush black-and-white imagery fit Max Steiner's expressionistic score like a raked fedora. Laced with irresistibly cynical humor and sexual suggestiveness, The Big Sleep is riveting entertainment all the way to the final fade-out.
All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep is one of the most influential detective movies ever to come out of Hollywood, ranking with John Huston's The Maltese Falcon, which also starred Humphrey Bogart. What makes the film's success astonishing is that it had a troubled post-production history, requiring extensive reshooting, and a script that, in its final version, is so filled with blind alleys and red herrings that no one was exactly sure what the movie was about. The original Raymond Chandler novel had one of that author's more impenetrable plots, with a series of murders that constitute more of a web than a chain, and included key details, involving drug use and pornography, that had to be soft-pedalled in the movie. In the final cut of the film and the final draft of the script, no one ever explains who killed chauffeur Owen Taylor, and it's almost impossible to tell why fully a third of the other killings in the movie took place. Moreover, if it is important to the viewer to know what Arthur Gwynn Geiger is selling out of his bookstore, one has to read the book to find out. Hawks breezed past all of these potential problems by letting the dialogue and the action spill out so fast that one barely had time to acknowledge, much less absorb, a new fact or plot element before the next one was upon the viewer. Where he did slow down was in the fiercely sexual repartee between Bogart's Philip Marlowe and Lauren Bacall's Mrs. Rutledge, one of the most blatant displays of pre-coital jousting in a mainstream Hollywood movie at that time. The irony, for a movie that was ahead of its time, is that it was nearly two years late getting out to the public, as it was pulled and reshot after initial screenings, increasing Bacall's role, among other changes. The result was a mystery that remained mysterious, but also a cutting-edge movie with a razor-sharp sexual edge. And it turned out that this mattered a lot more than finding out who killed Owen Taylor.

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Product Details

Release Date:
02/15/2000
UPC:
0012569502628
Original Release:
1946
Rating:
NR
Source:
Warner Home Video
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[B&W]
Sound:
[monaural]
Time:
3:50:00
Sales rank:
85,988

Special Features

Documentary: "The Big Sleep Comparisons 1945-1946" featuring Robert Gitt of U.C.L.A.; Interactive menus; Production notes; Theatrical trailer; Scene access; Subtitles: English & Français

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Humphrey Bogart Philip Marlowe
Lauren Bacall Vivian Sternwood Rutledge
Trevor Bardette Art Huck
Joy Barlowe Taxi Driver
John Ridgely Eddie Mars
Martha Vickers Carmen Sternwood
Charles D. Brown Norris, The Butler
Dorothy Malone Book Seller
Elisha Cook Harry Jones
Peggy Knudsen Mona Mars
Sonia Darrin Agnes Lowzier
Regis Toomey Bernie Olds
Tom Fadden Sidney
James Flavin Captain Cronjager [1945 version only]
Louis Jean Heydt Joe Brody
Tom Raffery Carol Lundgren
Bob Steele Canino
Theodore Von Eltz Arthur Gwynne Geiger
Ben Welden Pete
Deannie Best Waitress
Tanis Chandler Waitress
Jack Chefe Croupier
Joseph Crehan Medical Examiner
Thomas E. Jackson District Attorney Wilde
Lorraine Miller Hat Check Girl
Forbes Murray Furtive Man
Shelby Payne Cigarette Girl
Jack Perry Mars' Thug
Emmett Vogan Deputy Sheriff
Charles Waldron General Sternwood
Paul Weber Mars' Thug

Technical Credits
Howard Hawks Director,Producer
Leigh Brackett Screenwriter
Robert Burks Special Effects
Roy Davidson Special Effects
William Faulkner Screenwriter
Leo F. Forbstein Musical Direction/Supervision
Jules Furthman Screenwriter
Sidney Hickox Cinematographer
Robert B. Lee Sound/Sound Designer
Warren Lynch Special Effects
Fred MacLean Set Decoration/Design
Christian Nyby Editor
Leah Rhodes Costumes/Costume Designer
Max Steiner Score Composer
Jack L. Warner Executive Producer
Perc Westmore Makeup
Carl Jules Weyl Art Director
Raymond Chandler Source Author

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Scene Index

Side #2
0. Side A.
1. Credits. [1:00]
2. Weaning needed. [1:43]
3. The general's daughter. [6:18]
4. Handling Vivian. [4:04]
5. The book collector. [2:00]
6. The Acme Books lady. [3:41]
7. House on Laverne Terrace. [5:40]
8. Harsh words for a special delivery. [2:48]
9. Missing. [1:28]
10. Body in a Packard. [3:23]
11. Office visit. [5:35]
12. Tail job. [4:11]
13. Menance from Mars. [4:18]
14. Everybody comes to Brady's. [6:48]
15. Death at the door. [3:50]
16. Hitman...clobbered. [3:56]
17. Racy talk. [5:04]
18. Tears Flowed like Wine. [4:41]
19. Lucky lady. [1:56]
20. Parking lot rescue. [2:21]
21. Kiss and not tell. [2:06]
22. Carmen bites. [1:23]
23. Our way of saying lay off. [6:02]
24. One right guy to another. [2:29]
25. Unfunny drink. [5:14]
26. Rendezvous with Agnes. [1:22]
27. Spray job. [2:58]
28. Unsetting Mrs. Mars. [3:48]
29. Confronting Canino. [3:34]
30. Taking an awful chance. [3:26]
31. Another death at the door. [4:22]
32. Nothing he can't fix. [2:07]
Menu Group #1 with 32 chapter(s) covering 01:56:12
1. Credits. [1:00]
2. Weaning needed. [1:43]
3. The general's daughter. [6:18]
4. Handling Vivian. [4:04]
5. The book collector. [2:00]
6. The Acme Books lady. [3:41]
7. House on Laverne Terrace. [7:26]
8. Bringing Carmen home. [1:36]
9. Missing. [1:28]
10. Body in a Packard. [3:47]
11. Tail job. [2:23]
12. Office visit. [5:37]
13. Menace from Mars. [6:08]
14. Everybody comes to Brady's. [6:14]
15. Death at the door. [4:24]
16. Hitman...clobbered. [4:04]
17. Recap at the DA's office. [6:04]
18. Completely closed?. [2:39]
19. Tears Flowed like Wine. [1:58]
20. Lucky lady. [4:38]
21. Parking lot rescue. [2:18]
22. Kiss and not tell. [2:04]
23. Our way of saying lay off. [5:03]
24. One right guy to another. [2:29]
25. Unfunny drink. [5:14]
26. Rendezvous with Agnes. [1:14]
27. Spray job. [3:28]
28. Upsetting Mrs. Mars. [3:26]
29. Confronting Canino. [3:34]
30. Taking an awful chance. [3:26]
31. Another death at the door. [4:22]
32. Nothing he can't fix. [2:06]

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