BIG SLEEP, THE (director/writer: Michael Winner; screenwriter: from the novel by Raymond Chandler; cinematographer: Robert Paynter; editor: Freddie Wilson; music: Jerry Fielding; cast:  Robert Mitchum (Philip Marlowe), Sarah Miles (Charlotte Sternwood), Richard Boone (Lash Canino), Candy Clark (Camilla Sternwood), Joan Collins (Agnes Lozelle), John Justin (Geiger), Edward Fox (Joe Brody), John Mills (Inspector Carson ), James Stewart (General Sternwood), Oliver Reed (Eddie Mars), Harry Andrews (Norris), Diana Qick (Mona), Don Henderson (Lou), Martin Potter (Owen Taylor), David Savile (Rusty Regan), Simon Turner (Karl Lundgren), Colin Blakely (Harry Jones); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Elliott Kastner/Michael Winner; Avid Home Entertainment; 1978-UK)

"Unnecessary but still enjoyable color remake."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Michael Winner ("Scorpio"/"Parting Shots"/"Death Wish") is writer and director of the unnecessary but still enjoyable color remake of Raymond Chandler's novel, that was a classic film noir directed in 1946 by Howard Hawks. Instead of being set in California during the 1940s, Winner's film is set in England during the 1970s. It also has Robert Mitchum playing the world-weary American private detective Philip Marlowe, the role gloriously played by Bogart.

Philip Marlowe is asked by the crippled wealthy retired American General Sternwood (James Stewart) to the palatial Sternwood estate in London to investigate that he's being blackmailed by a shady bookstore owner (John Justin) over the porn photos of his nutcase younger daughter Camilla (Candy Clark). But the honest sleuth soon discovers through all the deceit that there might be a more important story behind this about the disappearance of Rusty Regan, who is married to the general's older wild-eyed daughter Charlotte (Sarah Miles) and has been missing for a month. Rusty's a gun-runner for the IRA and was well-liked by the General, who is perplexed his drinking buddy would run off without saying goodbye. Meanwhile Marlowe learns that Camilla is not operating with all her marbles, and is a nymphomaniac who becomes homicidal when her sexual advances are rejected.

Winner's version follows the novel's story line more faithfully, but to its detriment it eliminates the original's seediness, subtleties, menace and camp in order to be more clear-cut in its storytelling. Though it comes up with a more lucid story line, it pays an enormous price as it loses the funk of its character portrayals that made the original a classic.

Oliver Reed is grand as the foppish casino owner gangster Eddie Mars, who has a strange secret relationship going on with the unbalanced Charlotte--who is hooked on gambling. Richard Boone is terrific as the sinister American gangster Lash Canino, hired by Mars to do his strong-arm dirty work. Joan Collins is perfectly suited for her sexy user book clerk role, who wants to get in on the action of getting paid for blackmail info and doesn't care who she hurts. And, Edward Fox is Joe Brody, Camilla's ex-lover, a sleazy bookie who needs money and doesn't mind getting into the blackmail racket to get the dough.

REVIEWED ON 12/29/2010       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"