I frankly have avoided this film for years. It’s not that I don’t like Bogie—he’s good for the occasional anti-hero. But I really didn’t care for The Maltese Falcon and that film and this were strongly connected in my mind. They were both Bogie noir based on classic detective novels of the 30s. So if I disliked the one, I should dislike the other, right?
Not at all. The big difference for me comes in the main characters: Sam Spade v. Philip Marlowe. Frankly, Sam Spade has few redeeming qualities, and I strongly disliked him. It must be to Bogie’s credit that just as much as I disliked his Sam Spade, I really enjoyed his Philip Marlowe. Marlowe was funny, smart, laughs easily and is much more enjoyable to spend time with. And he doesn’t consider violence the first resort, especially in dealing with women. I appreciate that.
Technical—5/5--In all probability, another aspect I really appreciated about The Big Sleep over MF is the direction in general. Howard Hawks is one of my favorite directors and I love his dialogue-filled, constantly moving films. This isn’t as frantic as some of his films, but it certainly has his touch. Having William Faulkner as a writer for this film couldn’t hurt, either. The script is smart and the dialogue rich. And, most of all, the film was humorous throughout, which I didn’t expect, although I should have with Hawks at the helm.
Interest—4/5—Although most of the other characters aren’t as interesting as Marlowe, of course Bacall is fantastic and the plot is interesting. I can’t say that I was as interested in the mystery itself, but it was fun getting there.
Tension—4/5—There are some real tense moments in there, especially in a couple of the shootouts and in the involvement of Bacall’s sister.
Characters—3/5—It’s difficult to pinpoint my feeling of the characters of this film. Frankly, few of them were believable. They were all movie stereotypes (and I recognize that this film helped to create some of these stereotypes) except for Marlowe, who wasn’t really the hard-boiled detective, or perhaps he was but didn’t always act like it.
Emotional—3/5— Because I didn’t buy most of the characters, their dilemmas weren’t very compelling for me. Certainly I was tense when someone got shot, but overall it didn’t matter.
Theme—2/5—I didn’t really catch much of a theme here.
Ethics—3/5—I don’t think the movie is encouraging us to think about ethics, other than the illegality of shooting people for financial reasons. There is a moment in the DA’s office where Marlowe’s style of solving a crime is held against a police procedure. The main thing seems to be that Marlowe’s style, although he lies, leaves dead bodies around, spends questionable time with women and sets people up to be shot, but he gets the job done (and he has friends in high places). That seems to be good enough for the DA, so it should be good enough for us? Hmmmm.
The real ethical question: Should Bacall be smoking? In public?
Personal—3/5—I related to Marlowe’s easygoing style, although it is not my own, and I did relate to his use of humor to ease tensions.
A good movie, really enjoyable. One I will probably watch again. But it wasn’t so enjoyable that I’d put it in my top 100.