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The Big Sleep

CritiqueQuotes • Philip Marlowe at the movies

The Big SleepFirst edition
Publication details ▽ Publication details △

First publication

Literary form

Literary, crime, mystery

Writing language

Author's country
United States

Approx. 72,000 words

Poodle Springs scene
James Caan's Philip Marlowe plans to settle down with his moneyed girlfriend in 1998 film.

Golden Marlowe

Poodle Springs (1998): Film, 95 minutes; director Bob Rafelson; writer Tom Stoppard; featuring James Caan, Dina Meyer, David Keith

One of the most unusual of Marlowes may be James Caan as an older, more vulnerable Marlowe in the 1998 TV movie Poodle Springs—made from Raymond Chandler's last and unfinished novel, which was completed by crime novelist Robert B. Parker (creator of the Spenser series).

Set in 1963 and with a cute script by acclaimed playwright Tom Stoppard, this is no film noir. In fact, it's almost anti-noir: over-bright, without visible shadows.

However, a more insidious, unnoticed corruption is at work in the west coast's broad daylight.

James Caan as Marlowe
James Caan as Marlowe.

Director Bob Rafelson, who had earlier remade the film noir classic The Postman Always Rings Twice for the big screen, seems to go out of his way to keep the mood lightly cynical.

Caan's Marlowe has lived through the 1940s, 1950s and dawn of the 1960s. Now he is the senior, somewhat tired but good-hearted guy we might expect him to be by then—and married to a young heiress, played freshly by Dina Meyer.

It's a long way from Bogie and Bacall in The Big Sleep, but it presents a respectful, natural progression of the Marlowe character—probably in the direction Chandler himself was taking him.

The plot of Poodle Springs is confused and confusing in the best Marlowe tradition, having to do with blackmail, murder and dirty tricks in the California and Nevada development industry.

Trailer for 1998's Poodle Springs.

Our jaded hero thinks and punches his way through the early sixties' boom before discovering the roots of the evil deeds he's investigating are uncomfortably close to home (also in the best tradition) and involving a crazy dame with a gun (ditto). Happy ending though.

Poodle Springs is not among the greatest Marlowe films but not among the worst either. A nice way to see our hero off into Sunset Boulevard.

— Eric


CritiqueQuotes • Philip Marlowe at the movies

1942, 1944, 1946, 1947, 1969, 1973, 1975, 1978, 1998, 2022