My gosh, what can you say about Humphrey Bogart at this point? I mean, this is a guy who still embodies classic Hollywood in the most iconic way as to be truly a legend among legends. His tough guy persona and many of his lines from movies are forever etched into the unconscious of cinema itself. I am absolutely fascinated with Bogart and I must credit him for helping me first fall in love with classic films. I have to admit that I wasn't immediately drawn in by older movies and was actually kind of resistant at first. I remember working my first video store job (at a Blockbuster) in high school and working with a guy that I didn't particular get along with. We were by no means adversaries, but he and I didn't click so well. He had a sort of aristocratic name (which I honestly can't recall) and a general air of pretense about him. That pretense was compounded by the fact that he chose THE MALTESE FALCON as his pick for our "staff picks" section. I don't even remember if I had seen the film all the way through, but I was sure it was a stuffy and antiquated curio that had nothing to do with contemporary cinema. What can I say, I was sixteen or seventeen and still had a lot to learn. So for a good four or five years after that, I got it in my head to avoid THE MALTESE FALCON and Bogart in general. It wasn't until I was in college and took my first film theory class that I suddenly began to realize what I had been missing out on. My film theory professor loved Howard Hawks and she made a point of showing us not only his some of his westerns, but also things like HIS GIRL FRIDAY and more. It was when she showed us TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT that things finally started to click for me. Not only was Bogart as amazing as he had been reputed to be, but I found myself immediately crushing on Lauren Bacall. She was so sexy and so flirtatious as to be completely irresistible. When we moved on to THE BIG SLEEP in class, I was completely hooked. I began buying these films on VHS (there was no DVD or Blu-ray at the time) and bringing them home with me on my winter breaks to show to my family. I became obsessed with older movies from that point on and I have never looked back.
THE BIG SLEEP is an endlessly watchable movie. There's that famous (and perhaps apocryphal) tale of Hawks going to Raymond Chandler (on whose book the film is based) to ask him who killed the chauffeur character and Chandler said he didn't know. It is a gloriously labyrinthine world that Hawks drops us into in THE BIG SLEEP and it is made all the more obtuse by the fact that the film was made during the years when the production code was firmly in place. Thus, many of the seedier goings-on in the movie must be carefully and quietly referred to in veiled ways. The production code couldn't stop everything though and as we know, the clever screenwriters of the period (in this case - William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman) made it a point to circumvent the code as often and as cleverly as they could. There are many double entendres here, but the most remarkably racy conversation in the movie is ostensibly about horses. In one of the movies most memorable bits, Bogart and Bacall carry on what is maybe the most explicit chats about sex disguised as something else:
I'll leave you with this last clip which is one of my favorites from any movie and one that I used as my outgoing answering machine message in college for a long time:
In addition to a nice looking new transfer (the previous Warner Bros DVD was pretty shoddy), this disc ports over a several supplements including:
-The 1945 Alternate Version of the film.
-THE BIG SLEEP comparisons 1946/1946.
-Introduction by Robert Gitt.