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[Comments] (3) The Violence-Screen's All-Time Rocker-Shocker!: That's the heavily-hyphenated tagline for The Big Sleep, which we borrowed from Andrew and watched in our ongoing orgy of pre-move borrowed media consumption. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a "violence-screen", but they had all sorts of weird movie gimmicks back then.

We put the DVD in upside down and ended up watching the unreleased 1945 version of the movie, which included long dialogueless scenes which were presumably the ones not written by William Faulkner. Most memorable is the text adventure-like scene where Humphrey Bogart is snooping around a house, finds some keys, unlocks a desk with one of the keys, finds a box in one of the drawers of the desk, takes it out of the desk, unlocks the box with another one of the keys, and takes out a book of ciphers. Next scene: he's in his office trying to solve the ciphers! What's next, the Towers of Hanoi?

Afterwards we found out that we'd seen the 'wrong' version of the movie so we flipped the disc and saw some of the scenes that were added before the movie's 1946 release. They were better than the cut text adventure scene, but not by much since their only purpose was to save Lauren Bacall's career with crude sexual innuendo. (I am not making this up; that's more or less the reason given by the UCLA film professor who guided us through the 1946 scenes on one of the bonus features.)

There's a lot of stuff that happens in this movie, and Sumana kept getting tired so we had to take it in shifts. It was worth it, though. Strong characterization, great cinematography, nicely confusing plot. It also has good Marxesque comedy bits, like one where Lauren Bacall's need to call the police loses out to her insatiable desire to participate in telephone comedy routines.

No NYCB discussion of this movie would be complete without a comparison to The Big Lebowski. IMDB trivia claims that the latter movie actually has more in common with The Long Goodbye, which I haven't seen. But there's nearly a complete mapping from the characters in The Big Sleep to characters in The Big Lebowski, and some of the themes are similar, so I think the relationship is like that between O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the Odyssey.

I think The Big Lebowski is a better movie than The Big Sleep; it's not as complicated, per se, but it's more complex. It has more interesting things in it. Sumana became agitated when I made this statement, so I'll qualify it by saying that my judgement might be different if I'd seen the 1946 version first. Incidentally, I recently saw a tremendously patronizing Big Lebowski "Achiever's Edition" boxed set for sale and was very glad that no one got me that for Christmas.

Bonus: The Big Sleep includes a hot bookstore clerk who takes off her glasses and lets down her hair and -- bam! -- she's milquetoast and not that hot after all! How do they do that? Why do they do that?

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Posted by Brendan at Thu Dec 29 2005 21:56

"I think you should take your glasses off. Oh, ah... never mind. Hair down. Maybe if you let your hair--whoa. Back up. Let's put that right back up."

Posted by Leonard at Thu Dec 29 2005 22:13

Yeah, I was trying to think of a way to work that in, but this entry was already long and wide-ranging enough. Plus I think Kitty isn't terribly hot in any glasses/hair combination.

Posted by Kristofer Straub at Sat Dec 31 2005 06:29

I saw The Long Goodbye and The Big Sleep in a film class, and yeah, Long Goodbye is kinda similar to Lebowski, in that the main characters are both detective bums who end up somewhere they shouldn't be. I don't remember a lot of The Long Goodbye, except for some pot-smoking naked girls. And the title theme.

Also, give me that bookstore clerk over Bacall any day!

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