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31. The Big Sleep (1946) – Howard Hawks

Private detective Philip Marlowe is hired by a rich family. Before the complex case is over, he’s seen murder, blackmail, and what might be love.

Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep is easily one of my favourite film noir movies, yet in principle there are lots of elements from the genre missing. For a start the movie isn’t all that dark in truth and there ain’t no abstract camera angles like The Third Man. The use of flashbacks is absent, and our lead protagnist is not a drunk womanzier.

But there is something about The Big Sleep that keeps drawing me back into the movie, over more “classic” film noir’s like D.O.A, The Maltease Falcon and Double Indemnity.

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Is it the confusing mystery plot which I try to unravel with every viewing but I never seem to come away with any firm answers? The Big Sleep is a complex and extremely confusing murder mystery where I fully believe the characters in the film don’t have a clue who the killer is either.

Yet, the movie is still extremely exciting and moves along with a fine and witty pace. It’s the characters that keep us interested, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall light up the screen with their red hot chemistry.

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This article was first posted on April 22, 2007