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UK 1978
Directed by
Michael Winner
99 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Big Sleep, The (1978)

Why anyone would remake Howard Hawks’ iconic 1946 film noir is a mystery.  The answer in Michael Winner’s case seems to be a complete lack of competence.

Made for British television, specifically Lew Grade's ITV conglomerate, the story is transposed from 1940s LA to 1970s London, from black and white seediness to a Country Life picturesqueness and a grab-bag of headlining English and UK actors are pressed into service to careen us through the notoriously convoluted plot of Chandler’s novel.

If the complete jettisoning of the noir style in favour of an interior decor magazine aesthetic is the most bizarre global change most of the performance are staggeringly bad. The worst offenders are Edward Fox as a gun-wielding blackmailer, Sarah Miles in the Lauren Bacall role plays sultry a like a repertory coquette and the less said about Candy Clark as the kooky younger sister the better.  An incongruously cast and clearly healthy James Stewart fails to be remotely convincing as the dying General Sherwood. 

In the lead Robert Mitchum, who played Marlowe in the reasonably effective 1975 British version of Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely (originally made in Hollywood in 1944 as Murder My Sweet) is his usual world-weary self but he might as well have played against a green screen for all the connection between him and anything going on around him with the possible exception of Oliver Reed's deliciously campy Eddie Mars. 

In itself Winner's film is not good, as a remake it is awful.




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