The Big Sleep

This week, the lovely Krissie (Anne Stuart) joined us for the discussion, set on defending one of her favorite movies. Reactions were mixed, and there were complications in the audio (a tech gremlin kept stopping the recordings) but despite all, we pulled out a fun and (we hope) marginally informative podcast. We also honed our approach to defining/rating mysteries, so there’s that.

Story: The charming Phillip Marlowe is hired by a dying millionaire to find out who’s blackmailing his youngest, and craziest, daughter. In the process, Marlowe gets tangled up in murder, gangsters, rare book sellers and Lauren Bacall.

Detective: Phillip Marlowe

Release Date: August 31, 1946

Writer: Raymond Chandler (book); William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman (screenplay)

Source: The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler

Is it a mystery?

Detective as protagonist?
Lani: Absolutely. It starts right where the trouble starts, when Phillip Marlowe is called in to help a sick old man get his youngest daughter out of trouble. Problem is, the youngest daughter likes trouble. A lot.

Murderer as antagonist?
Lani: Yep. It’s quite a tangled web the bad guy weaves, and sometimes it’s hard to follow all the threads, but they do all lead—eventually—to the same bad guy.

Conflict created by mystery/murder?
Lani: Yes, the conflict is based on Marlowe wanting to get to the bottom of it all, and the murderer wanting him to keep his nose out of it.

Is it a good mystery?

Fair play with all the clues given?
Lani: Yes, although many of the clues were pretty hard to follow at times.

Solved using deduction, not luck?
Lani: Yes; no cheap tricks for Marlowe.

All threads pertaining to the mystery pull together at the end?
Lani: This is where The Big Sleep falls apart. At the end, it’s still ambiguous as to who the murderer is, which I think is a big drawback for a mystery. And no one knows what the hell happened to the poor chauffeur.

Our Ratings and Breakdown:

Jenny says: ? Pops
Mystery: ?, Craft: ?, Suspense: ?, Romance: ?

Lani says: 3.5 Pops
Mystery: 4, Craft: 4, Suspense: 3, Romance: 3


3 responses to “The Big Sleep”

  1. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen it so many times, but I’m not confused about the chauffeur. 1) Chauffeur kills Geiger for film of Carmen. 2) Brody kills chauffeur for film of Carmen. 3) Geiger’s boyfriend kills Brody because he thinks Brody killed Geiger. And then we go back to what happened to Sean Regan, and Canino kills Harry so he won’t give Marlowe information. I personally do feel satisfaction when Eddie gets it at the end. I think this is confusing primarily because there’s a different killer for every corpse, and none of them are working together. In my experience with mysteries, if there’s more than one killer, they’re a team/partners.

    If you can get hold of the original cut of this it’s worth watching. It was actually shot in ’44, but then put on the shelf so the studio could release all its war movies before the end of WWII. Then they went back and re-shot a lot of the Bogart and Bacall scenes, mostly to help her career, and they wanted more sexual tension. In the process, they cut out a scene in the DA’s office where Marlowe is explaining all the bodies up to that point, and I think that scene helps somewhat, clarity-wise. But I still watch the theatrical version because I enjoy it more.

  2. I’ve seen this before, several years ago, so I had this in the background while I knitted. Oops, I think I should’ve paid more attention. Yep, there’s a complexity to the plot that I don’t think you could do anymore in a book or a movie. Or if you did, you’d need to make sure the camera was following the clues so that the viewer could keep up. I was just a wee bit lost some of the time.

  3. I literally watched this just before, twice, and I have to say that it is not fair play. It is a jumbled mess, with two blackmailings on at one time and barely any clues.