Philip Marlowe (Robert Mitchum) is hired by the wealthy General Sternwood (James Stewart) to find out who is blackmailing him. The General, like Marlowe, is an American living in England. Unlike Marlowe, the General has two spoiled daughters, Charlotte (Sarah Miles) and Camilla (Candy Clark). Charlotte wants to know if her father hired him to find her missing husband Rusty Regan (David Savile). Marlowe doesn’t reveal the reason but says it has nothing to do with Rusty.

Marlowe follows up a lead to a bookseller, Arthur Geiger (John Justin). He follows Geiger to a house. Shots from inside the house bring Marlowe running. He finds Geiger dead and Camilla naked and drugged. It appears Geiger had been photographing Camilla for more blackmail, but someone killed him and took the film. Marlowe takes her home. When he returns to the house the body is gone. Eddie Mars (Oliver Reed) owns a gambling casino and the house that Geiger rented.

In Marlowe’s investigation he learns that Eddie Mars’ wife, Mona Grant (Diana Quick), disappeared the same time as Rusty Regan. Popular belief is that they ran off together. Marlowe isn’t looking for Rusty, just blackmailers and it seems there is a new one on the horizon. Marlowe learns that Geiger’s employee, Agnes Lozelle (Joan Collins), and her partner, Joe Brody (Edward Fox), have taken up where Geiger left off. Marlowe gets the pictures, but Brody ends up dead. Marlowe catches Brody’s killer, Karl Lundgren (Simon Fisher-Turner), and turns him over to the police. The pictures get burned and Marlowe gets his payment. Case closed, almost.

“The Big Sleep” was released in 1978 and was directed by Michael Winner. It is a crime mystery and considered a neo-noir film. This is the second time Raymond Chandler’s 1939 novel was adapted to film. The first was in 1946 when Humphrey Bogart played the hardboiled detective. This is the second time Robert Mitchum played Marlowe. The first was in “Farewell My Lovely” 1975. The film takes place in 1970’s London instead of 1940’s Los Angeles.

The plot is very confusing. That’s because there’s more than one crime going on. Besides everyone getting murdered the main plot lines are the blackmail concerning Camilla’s nude pictures and the disappearance of Rusty Regan. Keeping that in mind the plot is still confusing. The story has a lot of characters, not all of them important or long lasting. There is also a lot of misdirection and dead ends. Everyone is guilty of something so when they start dropping like flies it’s not exactly heart wrenching or surprising.

The movie is good but there are aspects that lower it to mediocre. Changing the setting of the story from Los Angeles in the forties to England in the seventies takes a lot of the noir feeling out of it, as does the color verses the black and white of the original 1946 version. Although Robert Mitchum makes a really good Philip Marlow it’s not the same as Humphrey Bogart, especially when on screen with Lauren Bacall. Mitchum and Sarah Miles don’t exactly sizzle despite the fact that Miles and Mitchum had an affair in 1970 when they were making “Ryan’s Daughter” 1970.

Mitchum was arrested and convicted for possession of marijuana in 1948. He spent two weeks in jail and two years on probation. When he was sixteen, he ran away from a chain gang he had been sentenced to for vagrancy despite the fact he had thirty-eight dollars in his pocket.

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