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One story, two great versions

August 17, 2014

So I finally finished reading The Big Sleep a few weeks ago and got around to watching the film last night.

Have to say that despite the story’s age, it still holds up pretty well, much like a Bond story. So the plot follows Private Eye Philip Marlowe as he tracks down a blackmailer for a dying rich man, General Sternwood, however things get complicated as people start to die. The book tells the story in first person and we hear most of Marlowe’s inner thoughts about the people, the case and such. One thing for sure is that he is a little overconfident and probably wouldn’t be too resistant to alcoholism, but he’s witty and clever. He’s likable yet nasty; the last chapter of the book had me gasp in joy, albeit slightly guiltily. His analogies throughout are funny and inventive, the character comes alive immediately and you start to understand his job and his lifestyle. As this is Raymond Chandler’s first novel there are some difficult sentences that may have needed some rearranging, but compared to all the great lines and moody settings, there’re pretty minor hiccups.

The film version, starring Humphrey Bogart as Phillip Marlowe chops down a lot of the scenes yet is still very faithful to the original novel. Whilst his voice is not quite how imagined it would sound, he fully understands the pace and witty tone of Marlowe and the back and forth between himself and other characters really shines yet it manages to maintain the seriousness of the situation in which Marlowe and the rest of the characters are in. The rest of the characters are pretty stand out too, such as Vivian (oldest daughter of Sternwood, played by Lauren Bacall), who was almost exactly how I envisioned her when reading the book, very commanding and in control. The other being Canino, really menacing and well portrayed in a particular scene near the end. One issue I have is that some of the tense and moody scenes from the book have been cut down to mere seconds and feel a little rushed, but I suppose thoughts and actions run at a different time frame so things that seemed slower in the book would realistically be much shorter in real life. Another tiny issue I have is that the forth act of the book was crammed into the third act of the film, making the ending seem rushed, good, but still a little rushed. This is minor stuff however, when the film is shot so nicely and the rainy scenes look so good. The shadows on the faces and the dark streets in some scenes are why I love noir so much; that sense of life and mystery lurking in offices and apartment buildings and dark alleys.

One day I’ll read another Raymond Chandler novel and maybe try some different writers who tell great stories in one of my favourite genres. I hope to be half as good as them.

Kcorym 🙂

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