Howard Hawks’ lusty, if confusing, 1946 filming of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep takes on even more filmic history in light of this remake which transplants from 1940s-California to 1970s-London. The move denatures the Chandler environment. Robert Mitchum encores as he did in the 1975 Farewell My Lovely remake.
Mitchum is hired by wealthy cripple James Stewart to probe possible blackmail. This leads him into the tangled lives of the client’s daughters – semi-nympho Candy Clark and the more mature Sarah Miles. Latter has a relationship with gambler Oliver Reed whose wife Diana Quick has disappeared. Edward Fox was once in love with Clark; he is killed by Simon Turner. Bookstore staff includes Joan Collins. Weak-willed Colin Blakely is no match for hitman Richard Boone.
As for the police, the shift to London introduces John Mills, Richard Todd and James Donald. Back at the mansion, butler Harry Andrews acts officiously, while chauffeur Martin Potter dies in attempt to help Clark avoid implication in pornographer John Justin’s murder; she has been posing for nude pix.
The production is handsome, but in the updating and relocation a lot has been lost. In particular, gone is the 1940s LA feel. Only Clark seems to project the requisite spoiled-rotten youthful spark. Nearly every other principal seems beyond the point of really caring.