During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.
Another week, another movie, and another Bogart-playing-Bogart role to talk about. 1946’s “The Big Sleep” stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in yet another film noir, hard-boiled detective story. We preferred it to “The Maltese Falcon” but not enough to really love it.
For giggles, we watched the trailer for “The Big Sleep” as one of the bonus features on the DVD. It, along with the movie’s claims to being violent, are very out-of-date. With the amount of censorship involved here, this movie is about as sexy and violent as a high school play.
That’s not a detraction, per say, but after reading some of the changes from the book it is based on, “The Big Sleep” cuts out nudity and a homosexual relationship. Despite hard-boiled detective movies focus on greater grit, realism, and less savory (i.e. realer) people, it is important to still remember what was and wasn’t considered appropriate for films of the time. “The Big Sleep” is non-alcoholic beer: pointless.
The film opens with a great set of legs seen above. It is amazing how chaste older movies are when compared to more modern films. Seeing that much leg was both unexpected and blush-worthy despite being tamer than anything I could see going to the grocery store. It made me better understanding the marketing in the trailer.
Judging the movie on its own, it was okay. As confusing as it could be with the rapid introduction and departure of its characters as they weaved in and out of guilt or suspicion, I was never bored. I would place it second of all the Bogart movies we have watched thus far (behind “Casablanca”).
That said, it is hardly a compliment. As much as I like to hear him speak his peculiar detective jive, Humphrey Bogart’s range has been mostly non-existent so far. He is good at playing the detective, but I am bored of it. In a moment of subterfuge in “The Big Sleep”, he does put on glasses, adopt an accent, and pretends to be interested in non-existent rare books. I enjoyed those scenes far more than anything else he did in the film.
His co-star, Lauren Bacall, was similarly dull. I enjoyed that she didn’t seem helpless or like a damsel, for the most part. She does get captured but she turns it around on her own. Other than her smolder and dark voice, she doesn’t inspire me to seek out some of her other work like past female leads in this project. Diane and I both preferred the book seller across the street from the film’s first murder victim. She was a sexy woman with glasses who knew how to close a shop in the afternoon when a strange man comes by with whiskey and mystery.
I have heard of Lauren Bacall’s other films with her husband Humphrey Bogart – “To Have and Have Not”, “Dark Passage”, “Key Largo” – but they aren’t in this collection. From our enthusiasm, I bet you can guess if we will seek them out anytime soon.
I am unsure what else to say. “The Big Sleep” is action-packed and doesn’t seem to over stay its welcome. At the same time, Bogart plays it safe, Bacall plays it boring, and the screenplay is a wet rag twisted dry by its plot. I am hoping “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” redeems Bogart for me. It is the movie after next. Otherwise, for us, he’s a product of his time rather than a timeless star of the big screen.
For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.