The Big Sleep was released 75 years ago, and its plot has been puzzling viewers ever since. There is no disputing that Howard Hawks's Los Angeles-set noir classic is one of the most entertaining of all US films, thanks to its firecracker dialogue, brutal action, sultry atmosphere, and the volcanic sexual chemistry between its stars, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. But there's also no disputing that it's hard to know what exactly is going on. When The Big Sleep came out in 1946, the New York Times's Bosley Crowther pronounced it "a web of utter bafflement... in which so many cryptic things occur amid so much involved and devious plotting that the mind becomes utterly confused". All these decades later, the film's judgemental Wikipedia entry tuts that it "is impossible to follow", and is celebrated by "movie-star aficionados" only because "they consider the Bogart-Bacall appearances more important than a well-told story". Take that, movie-star aficionados!
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