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The Big Sleep (1978)



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This remake of Raymond Chandler's classic detective story is actually more faithful to the story than Howard Hawks' 1946 Bogart classic -- which makes the one major departure all the more enigmatic, namely, transplanting the story from Los Angeles to London. It's a creative decision that doesn't make any sense to me, except perhaps to try something different purely for the sake of it, or to distance it from the 1946 film. Transplanting the story like cripples for the seedy atmosphere the story requires.

Philip Marlowe is played by Robert Mitchum, and he does a good job, though he did better in 1975's Farewell, My Lovely, a much better film. This one has small pleasures for Chandler fans interested in seeing scenes played out as he wrote them, but the film suffers grievously from Michael Winner's unsure directorial hand. He doesn't seem to know how to tell this kind of story. I kept feeling like he didn't know how to guide the actors or where to put the camera. There's no atmosphere here -- nothing to intrigue the viewer and tighten the tension. Granted, it's tough living up to one of the best and best-known detective films of all time, which smouldered with the hidden fears and passions of the characters, but this film doesn't really manage to establish itself in its own right. It's a shame, because the talent and material are here -- they just aren't assembled well.

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