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A Detective Masterpiece
on 13 January 2003
This film is absolutely mesmerizing, a masterpiece full of sharp dialog and a plot so complex not even Raymond Chandler could tell you who commited one of the murders. Bogart is Detective Philip Marlowe and from the moment he arrives to talk to General Sternwood and gets mixed up with his daughters this is a film classic.
Bacall is the sultry older sister, but it is sexy and thumb sucking little sister Martha Vickers he meets first. As he tells Sternwood, "Yeah, we met. She tried to sit in my lap and I was standing up". This is all about gambling debts and murder, all of which leads to Eddie Mars and Carmen (Vickers). But there are more twist and turns here than a rollercoaster, and it moves just about as fast. If you blink, be prepared to start over.
Howard Hawks made a masterpiece here. It is the finest straightforward detective novel ever put on celluloid. William Faulkner adapted Raymond Chandler's greatest literary achievement for Hawks and the whole thing is filmed as a fast moving dream of dialog and images hard to forget. One critic likened it to a huge hangover. That is a perfect description of this film.
Bogart's Marlowe has his hands full trying to keep Carmen out of trouble she may already be in to deep to get out of, and the sparks between he and Bacall may just ignite if he can figure out a way to keep the fast rising body count from getting any higher while keeping himself alive. Bacall has never been more beautiful or inviting than when she is slumped down in the seat of Bogart's car, just waiting for him to kiss her.
You have to see this film to really appreciate it. You'll never see anything else like it in American cinema. Pick up this one as soon as you can.