The Big Sleep (1946)

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Released 4-Sep-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1946
Running Time 109:15
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Howard Hawks

Warner Home Video
Starring Humphrey Bogart
Lauren Bacall
Martha Vickers
Dorothy Malone
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Max Steiner

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Ah man, they do not make films like The Big Sleep any more, where tough guys were tough guys and women were babes. The great partnership of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, in their second outing together, is the highlight here. When thinking about great screen partnerships, the very first that always springs to mind for me is Bogey and Bacall. Whilst this is generally not held in as high a regard as Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon, this to me is one of the great films of Humphrey Bogart and it is a delight to see it released on Region 4 DVD. Currently ranked at around 120 in the Internet Movie Database Top 250, this is still quite a powerful film sizzling with the touch of Lauren Bacall, Mary Vickers and Dorothy Malone amongst the dazzling array of female delights. It is also something along the lines of the quintessential Humphrey Bogart film: private eye in tough spot, falling for the beautiful dame with a secret she does not want to share.

    Based upon the Raymond Chandler novel of the same name, Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) is a private detective given the task of sorting out what appears to be a simple blackmail case involving the beautiful but childish Carmen Sternwood (Martha Vickers). However, there is a lot more to this case than meets the eye, and when Carmen's sister Vivian Rutledge (Lauren Bacall) summons Philip to find out exactly what he has been engaged to do, we sort of get the inkling of the multi-dimensional story that is to evolve here. It turns out that the Sternwood sisters have secrets they need to keep. Carmen is involved in certain activities that have exposed her to blackmail, and Vivian has a little habit that has also exposed her to danger and intrigue, all of which Philip Marlowe has to sort out. Add into the equation specialist book dealers who know nothing about books, murders and intrigue aplenty, and things never get dull around the Sternwood sisters. Just sit back and enjoy The Big Sleep.

    Where The Big Sleep really scores is in the characters created by Raymond Chandler that have been brought to life so well. A mildly witty little piece at times, we get to see some great character pieces as this rather screwball collection interact. Of course, the entire film highlights the great partnership between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who were at this time married (his fourth marriage). Just about every scene involving them sizzles and sparks in some way that is central to the pace and atmosphere of this film. However, if you want sizzling, then the entrance of Martha Vickers takes some beating! Whilst not as utterly memorable as The Maltese Falcon, this is a very approachable film with its great collection of characters. Howard Hawks did a good job from the director's chair on this one and kept the pace up and the mystery enthralling.

    Humphrey Bogart made some classic films and this is certainly another one of them. It may not be in the top 100 lists, but The Big Sleep is a very watchable film indeed.

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Transfer Quality


    The transfer here is not a fully restored effort and it shows, but it is generally pretty good to start with before the ravages of time start to rear their ugly head.

    The transfer is presented in the original Full Frame format, and it is of course not 16x9 enhanced.

    The main problem with the transfer is that for significant portions of the film, there is a rather noticeable difference between the left hand side of the picture and the right hand side of the picture. The left portion of the picture is generally very clear, nicely sharp and well detailed, with a nice tonal depth to it. The right portion of the picture, however, is not at all clear and is significantly diffuse and not too well detailed with a murkiness of tone that is quite detracting. The early parts of the film are far less of a problem in this regard than the later parts of the film. This is a real shame, as at its best this is a nicely sharp and detailed transfer that certainly shines as some of the best black and white film that I have seen on DVD. Detail is generally quite decent throughout, although seriously hampered when the right hand side of the picture gets diffuse. Shadow detail at times is a little ordinary, but overall this aspect of the transfer was quite acceptable. Clarity at times leaves something to be desired and there are certainly a number of sequences that give the distinct air of having been shot through dirty lenses. There were no real problems with grain throughout the transfer, and low level noise did not seem to be much of a problem either.

    In the "good" sections of the film, there is a lovely depth to the black and white tones in the film that presents a very nice glossy look to the transfer. However, when the transfer problems start getting too much, the tones slip into a murkier-looking area that at times is not pleasant to see. The lack of depth to the black and white tones during the poorer portions of the film are not at all consistent, which further detracts from the film enjoyment.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There did not appear to be any serious problems with film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. The film is somewhat less blighted with film artefacts than I was expecting, and looks a lot fresher than it really should do in this regard.

    It should be noted that the transfer is heavily windowboxed within the frame, but this does not create any problem on my television as it is almost totally hidden by overscan.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are three audio tracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 1.0 mono soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 1.0 mono soundtrack and an Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 mono soundtrack. I stuck with the English default.

    Dialogue is generally clear and easy to understand throughout.

    There did not appear to be any problems with audio sync in the transfer.

    The musical score comes from Max Steiner, one of the true greats of film music and a very nicely complementary score it is. Whilst it is not the greatest thing he ever wrote, it does its job very well indeed in keeping the pace of the film moving.

    This is quite a decent monaural soundtrack and does a fine job. There is little to really worry about here as far as problems are concerned. There are no major flaws as far as distortion or congestion are concerned, and this is a quite clean-sounding mono sound that is not in any way raw. Obviously, there is no surround channel use or bass channel use at all. The soundtrack has been transferred at a decent level without any false boosting of aspects of the sound for emphasis' sake, with the result that this is a very natural-sounding mono soundtrack that conveys the feeling of the film pretty well indeed. It is pleasing to note that there has been no major remastering here so that the feeling of the film remains very much as I suspect it did on initial release all those years ago.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    A little on the disappointing side, but I suppose that there is not an awful lot that would survive that could be used to flesh out the package.


    Somewhat perversely for a black and white film, we are blessed with a menu partially in colour! Whilst it is a little incongruous, it is nonetheless nicely-themed and comes with some audio enhancement.

Theatrical Trailer (1:47)

    A rather nice little effort, if suffering somewhat from the ravages of time. A little different in its conception, it is presented Full Frame with Dolby Digital 1.0 sound.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There is quite a significant difference between the Region 1 release and what we have been given in Region 4. The principal difference is the Region 1 release has two versions of the film on the DVD: the 1946 theatrical release and the 1945 pre-release version. There is also a short documentary on the DVD detailing the differences. You may of course be wondering about the two versions of the film since the Region 4 chapter listing details the two versions of the film! That is an unbelievable error by Warners that cannot be condoned in any way. Sorry, but Region 1 is definitely the way to go here.


    The Big Sleep is a great film that shows the great Bogey and Bacall partnership at its sizzling best. However, there are some quite serious source-related problems with the video transfer, and we have been well-and-truly stiffed in getting only the theatrical version of the film on the DVD. Warners then see fit to rub our noses in it by listing the full chapter listings for both versions of the film on the slip cover. Unbelievable! If you want this film, and it certainly warrants inclusion in the collection, head for your nearest online Region 1 e-tailer.

    A problematic video transfer.

    A good audio transfer.

    A poorish extras package.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Sunday, September 17, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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