The Big Sleep (1978 film)

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The Big Sleep
Big sleep poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Winner
Produced by Jerry Bick
Lew Grade
Elliott Kastner
Bernard Williams
Michael Winner
Screenplay by Michael Winner
Based on The Big Sleep 
by Raymond Chandler
Starring Robert Mitchum
Sarah Miles
Richard Boone
Candy Clark
Joan Collins
Edward Fox
James Stewart
Narrated by Robert Mitchum
Music by Jerry Fielding
Cinematography Robert Paynter
Edited by Frederick Wilson
Production
company
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • 13 March 1978 (1978-03-13)
Running time
99 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Big Sleep is a 1978 film remake, the second film version of Raymond Chandler's 1939 novel of the same name. The picture was directed by Michael Winner and stars Robert Mitchum in his second feature film portrayal of the detective Philip Marlowe. The cast includes Sarah Miles, Candy Clark, Joan Collins, and Oliver Reed, also featuring James Stewart as General Sternwood.[1]

The story's setting was changed from 1930s Los Angeles to present-day London. The film contained material more explicit than what could only be hinted at in the 1946 version, such as homosexuality, pornography and nudity. Mitchum was 60 at the time of filming, far older than Chandler's 33-year-old Marlowe (or the 1946 film's 38-year-old Marlowe played by a 46-year-old Bogart).

Plot[edit]

In modern-day England, private detective Philip Marlowe (Robert Mitchum) is asked to the stately home of General Sternwood (James Stewart), who hires Marlowe to learn who is blackmailing him. While at the mansion, he meets the General's spoiled and inquisitive daughter Charlotte (Sarah Miles) and wild younger daughter Camilla (Candy Clark).

Marlowe's investigation of the homosexual pornographer Arthur Geiger (John Justin) leads him to Geiger's employee, Agnes Lozelle (Joan Collins), and to a man she has taken up with, Joe Brody (Edward Fox). He also discovers Camilla at the scene of Geiger's murder, where she has posed for nude photographs, and takes her home safely to a grateful Charlotte.

Returning to the crime scene, Marlowe is interrupted by gambler Eddie Mars (Oliver Reed), who owns the house where Geiger's body was found. Mars's wife Mona hasn't been seen in a while and may have run off with Charlotte's missing husband, Rusty Regan (David Savile). And due to Charlotte Regan's gambling debts, Mars appears to have a hold over Charlotte as well.

Camilla tries to get her pictures back from Brody, who now is in possession of them. Marlowe intervenes but Brody is shot and killed by someone unseen.

A man named Harry Jones (Colin Blakely) comes to Marlowe with a proposition. He is working with Agnes now and she is willing to sell information as to Mrs. Mars' whereabouts. But on the night Marlowe shows up for their meeting, Harry is poisoned by Lash Canino (Richard Boone), a hit man who is working for Eddie Mars.

Marlowe pays Agnes for the address. He tracks down Canino at a remote garage, where he is overpowered and taken prisoner. Mars' supposedly missing wife Mona (Diana Quick) is there as well. At a moment when Canino is out, Marlowe persuades her to set him free. In a shootout, he then kills Canino.

Camilla Sternwood appears to be grateful to Marlowe, but she ends up pointing a gun at him. Marlowe was prepared for this and had put in blanks. It turns out that the emotionally disturbed Camilla was behind the disappearance of her sister's husband Rusty and that Charlotte had covered everything up with Eddie Mars' help.

After confronting Charlotte with the facts, Marlowe tells her to have Camilla hospitalised. He then drives away from the Sternwood residence the same way he came in, hoping that the gravely ill General will never know the truth about his two wicked daughters.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Mitchum had also portrayed Philip Marlowe three years earlier in Farewell, My Lovely, although that film was shot as a period piece rather than set in the present day. Mitchum remains the only actor to play the character in more than one movie, although he is not the only actor to play Marlowe more than once, Dick Powell having portrayed him in an episode of Climax! adapting The Long Goodbye as well as in several radio plays, and Powers Boothe in a series of 1986 dramas made for HBO.

Actors who had earlier played Marlowe in feature-length films include Powell (1944), Humphrey Bogart (1946), Robert Montgomery (1947), George Montgomery (1947), James Garner (1969) and Elliott Gould (1973). Marlowe would be played by James Caan in the 1998 television film Poodle Springs.

Critical response[edit]

The film opened to mostly mixed to negative reviews – many felt that the film was inferior to the 1946 version, and wondered why the setting was inexplicably changed from Los Angeles to London, England. While some critics thought the film better captured the dark touches of Chandler's novel, they felt director Michael Winner didn't give the film the edge that Dick Richards had given Farewell, My Lovely three years' prior.

References[edit]

External links[edit]