REWIND — #242: The Big Sleep (1946), again

For this brief series of blogs, I’ll be re-watching some films I’ve dismissed as unworthy of a top 250 film list, just in case my first take was flawed, hypercritical, or distracted. I’m no expert, but sometimes certain movies that people like actually suck.  Here’s to second chances.

If it’s important to you, you can read my original post about this movie here.

When and how did I watch this?

February 8th and 9th, 2017, on FandangoNOW.

Had I seen this film already?

Yes, August 27th and 28th, 2015, on a random site on my laptop.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

My previous take: “Bogart and Bacall.  Once again, I had high expectations….Too complicated; it was like trying to improve a mousetrap. The leads are okay, but I felt like I didn’t know who or what was going on otherwise.  I had to read a summary afterward to figure out what I’d seen. I love intricate movies, but it felt like someone poured me a suicide from 7-Eleven and said I should like it.”

This was rather early in my movie quest, and I didn’t really understand the genre or movie era as I could say I do now. However, a Slurpee suicide still sounds pretty awful.

What do I know about it now?

Not much has changed regarding my opinion of the complicated plot. Even on the TV and with captions on, I felt I could not keep up with the whirlwind screenplay, and it became clear that I needed to see this film several times, probably not unlike moviegoers in the 40s did, seeing the “Bogart and Bacall” call on the marquee and buying a ticket every other day to “see it again”.  The film really idolizes Bogart and his side-of-the-mouth delivery; every girl he talks to seems to be drawn to him, and it kind of turns into a babe fest from the start.  However, once things slow down, he and Bacall share unspeakable chemistry, throwing zingers back and forth in rapid succession — see any episode of “Gilmore Girls” to get an idea — sometimes appreciative, and sometimes poison-tipped and hilarious. They lean into talking names and motives and money occasionally, and later on they kiss after a few cute lines of dialogue.  Every once in a while, someone gets shot, although I’m never entirely certain why.  I’m not sure who the bad guys are in the end. The lighting is nice, though probably assisted by the constancy of smoke-filled rooms.

What are some themes in the film?

Murder, blackmail, film noir movies — there’s a scene where someone says, “Would you like me to count to three like the movies?” Later, Bogart ironically echoes this line.

Did this affect me personally?

I laughed quite a bit.  Many of the lines are snappy and memorable.

Why is this ranked #242?

“Because Humphrey Bogart is a tough guy and Lauren Bacall is a babe.  Otherwise, no clue.”

My opinion hasn’t changed.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She sat and watched some of the last ten or fifteen minutes, and agreed that the dialogue is sharp.

Would I watch it again?

“No.” Well, I did watch it again, and I’m still alive.  Unless I need a fix of babe-ified librarians and one-liners to give people in tough-guy situations, however, I won’t need to watch it again. I’ve had my fill.

Would I recommend it to a friend?


Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

In writing, I didn’t reject this film from my personal re-rank upon first viewing, but it appears it fell out of favor over time.  I gave it another shot, and I think it stands up as a legend of cinema on star power alone. I guess there’s some cult following attached to it, but I still don’t get it.  I now feel it’s better than some others on the list, but it’s still a weak entry due to a convoluted screenplay and a lack of magnetic characters beyond the exalted Bogart role. I gained a greater respect for Bogart after watching Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but this version of him feels like a wooden caricature of the untouchable film noir P.I., but with a database of cool comebacks at his disposal.

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