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"Dark Passage" offers a different take on the San Francisco noir genre.
This is a movie in which we get to know about the story that unfolds in
front of us told in narrative style by the hero, who is never seen
until about one hour into the picture. Delmer Daves, adapting the David
Goodis novel has created something seldom seen in this type of films,
in which, the hero's presence is required at all times.
The film has a great style, as it offers a view of the San Francisco of the 1940s in ways that hadn't been seen before. The director was lucky to be able to open up the book in excellent ways to keep the viewer hooked from the start. The 'moderne' style of that era is seen in glorious detail, especially Irene's apartment, where much of the action takes place. The effect of the glassed enclosed elevator makes a dramatic contribution to the look of this movie.
The story of an innocent man, falsely condemned to prison for killing his own wife, parallels other movies. What's unusual here is that the presence of this convict is seen in another light with his own slant in to what really happened to the dead woman. There are other elements in the film that make it appealing. as the relationship between the escaped man, Vincent Parry, and the woman who rescues him, Irene Jansen.
Sidney Hickox's stylish cinematography is one of the best assets of the film. The crisp images that one sees of the city, or the surrounding areas, add to the enjoyment of watching the mystery unfold. The mood is set by the swing music of the time as Frank Waxman's score is heard. Richard Whiting contributes the great song one hears in the background.
The film is dominated by Humphrey Bogart, which says a lot about his power as an actor, and as a personality. When one considers he is actually not seen completely until after an hour into the movie, it speaks volumes of how the actor and the director were able to pull it through. The Irene Jansen of Lauren Bacall is another of the things that work in the film. Ms. Bacall's radiant beauty dominates every scene she is in. This actress had such a style that no matter what she is doing, she pulls our attention to her. The camera loved Ms. Bacall.
The other best thing going for the film is the strong performances Mr. Daves has obtained from his cast. Agnes Moorehead makes a phenomenal appearance as the evil Madge Rapf. Her last scene with Mr. Bogart stands as one of the best moments in a film noir of the era. Ms. Moorehead's expressions as she is confronted with the facts, keep on changing as she absorbs everything being thrown at her. Clifton Young who plays Baker, the opportunistic would be criminal, is also effective, as he adds a layer of intrigue with an angle we didn't figure out existed. His fight with Parry at the bottom of the Golden Gate bridge is beautifully choreographed. Finally, the kind cab driver Sam, who helps Parry assume a new identity, as played by Tom D'Andrea is one of the highlights of the film, as well as the plastic surgeon, portrayed by Houseley Stevenson.
This film, while not perfect, shows how well Delmer Dave's gamble paid in his conception for the film.
Bogey is an escaped prisoner. Bacall helps him stay escaped. To maintain his
anonymity he has a face-change operation.
It is a gimmick film, but the gimmick doesn't just serve its own purpose - it highlights a theme of faces, and what faces tell you about the person beneath.
You can tell when something is being explored onscreen for the first time - its done more thoroughly and more excitedly than it ever will again. Think back to that first film about the phenomenon of email (Disclosure) or the internet (The Net), or what about the first film exploring chronology-changes (Citizen Kane) or hide-the-protagonist (The Third Man), or the excitement of acting (Streetcar Named Desire). That initial excitement is never really matched again - after that it becomes just another device, or a reference. The thing here is partly first-person narration (this came out the same year as Lady in the Lake), but wholly plastic surgery, the idea of changing your appearance.
First-person narration is actually quite rare in cinema. Lady in the Lake is one of the only examples where they stick with it for an entire picture, resorting to gimmicks like having Robert Montgomery looking in a mirror. Its used to great effect in the first half of Dark Passage, in order to hide Bogart's face. It was partly mechanical. Its a face-change movie. Instead of starting with Bogart and changing his face to a different actor, they wanted to pretend he looked like a different person (which we only see in a few photographs), and then after the operation he just looks like Bogart. But what the device of hiding his face does is create suspense, and focus on the issue of faces, which is a recurring theme throughout.
And it works to the positive for this film: what's the best way to hide someone's face? Put us behind their eyes! You never see your own face unless you're looking in the mirror. So until his operation, we see through Bogey's eyes - and the result is quite cinematic. It really frees up the movie, unshackling it from the static trappings of most studio pictures of this era. Instead of us just looking on from the edge of a set, which ends up looking like a stage, we're really taken into the action - its marvellous!
And, to save the best till last - Bacall absolutely burns up the screen in this. She sets the celluloid on fire. Any single shot of her in this movie is magic. Just being onscreen and being magic, its the definition of the X-factor.
9/10. What a star-vehicle for Bogey. This was his Third Man. And Bacall is sensational!
Watching a "feature" on the DVD the other day after viewing this movie,
it was interesting to hear that "Dark Passage" was never a popular film
despite the headliners being Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
That was because studio head Jack Warner was displeased that Bogart's face wasn't shown for the first half of the film and so he didn't give the movie much publicity. The fact Bogey's face didn't appear for quite a while apparently didn't settle well with the public, either.
That was their loss: this is a fine film. The stars of it, really - the actors who put the spark in the story - aren't Bogey and Bacall anyway but the supporting actors. I can't recall a movie where the supporting cast was so good, so entertaining, as in this film.
Before naming them, let me preface by saying Bogart and Bacall still give good performances and Bacall still had a face in those early days that was mesmerizing BUT the people who make this movie click are:
Tom D'Andrea as the cab driver; Houseley Stevenson as the strange and extremely interesting plastic surgeon; Clifton Young as the blackmailer; Tory Mallison as Bogart's old best friend and Agnes Moorhead as the villainous snoop. These people are fantastic.
As an escaped convict on the run, we only see what Bogart sees until plastic surgery turns him into the familiar face we recognize. That sort of thing - seeing only what one character sees, using the camera as his eyes, was done in another noir, "Lady In The Lake," but not done as successfully as in this film. Here, it works as we meet these other weird characters as Bogart sees them. Actually, every character including Bacall's, is a bit odd. The script doesn't always make sense, either, to be honest, but it's fun to play along.
It was a simple but effective story with some neat twists along the way and pretty good suspense here and there, too. I think it's a very underrated film noir and very glad the long-awaited DVD gave it a nice transfer. This is another example of a classic film that looks far better on DVD than it ever did on tape. I hadn't realized how well-photographed this movie was until I saw it on disc.
Bogart made three unforgettable landmark films: Maltese Falcon, Big Sleep, and Dark Passage. Of the three, Dark Passage is the least known, which is tragic, because it measures up to the other three and in many ways surpasses them for atmosphere, characterization and psychological mood. Based on a novel by David Goodis, who also wrote the novel that Shoot The Piano Player was based on, it hits top marks in rankings of films in the categories of Film Noir, Existentialism, Dostoyevskian outlook and Kafkan world-view. Filled with forever unforgettable scenes and quotable lines, heart-wrenching views of fog-bound 1940s San Francisco and characters who seem to be stand-ins for the all our own private inauspicious never-to-be famous or successful friends and acquaintances, it's a brilliant metaphor for that dying species: the "individual". Also, of all the Bogart/Bacall pairings, it was the softest, tenderest & most romantic. Movies like this should be on some kind of everybody's-required-viewing-list.
Dark Passage is a forgotten masterpiece and a personal favorite. Delmer Davies captures the 1940's magic of San Francisco from hill hugging wooden stairs to fog horns to shrouded atrium elevators to some of the best character acting I've ever seen. Tom D'Andrea and Housely Stephenson are wonderful as the so smart but so decent cabbie and the end of the dark ally plastic surgeon. Agnes Morehead is persistent annoyance morphed into utter villainy personified. She is nails scraped on a blackboard good and you can't take your eyes off her Madge. Becall and Bogie tie it together with fine understated grace. The flick ends and you want to go find that little beach front café in Peru.
The absorbing documentary featurette on the DVD edition of the 1947
mystery DARK PASSAGE (DP) suggests that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren
Bacall's participation in the star-studded Committee for the First
Amendment, intended to defend colleagues called before the HUAC, might
have been the reason that DP wasn't as big a hit as the real/reel-life
couple's earlier screen collaborations. However, I suspect that
audiences past and present may have found DP harder to cozy up to
because, instead of the cool, insolent, wisecracking Bogart & Bacall of
TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT and THE BIG SLEEP, this film version of David
Goodis' novel THE DARK ROAD presents a more melancholy, vulnerable
Bogart & Bacall -- which is not at all a bad thing, just unexpected
from this star team at that time. That Bogart & Bacall chemistry is
still there, but it's sweeter here, as if they'd decided to let down
their collective guard and allow tenderness to take over. Instead of
the cocksure Bogart character we all know and love, DP protagonist
Vincent Parry is wary, fearful, fumbling in his attempts to clear
himself of his wife's murder and elude the cops like he escapes from
prison in the film's opening scenes. His only allies include the
mysterious Irene Jansen (Bacall), who followed his case during his
trial and ends up in a position to help hide him while he proves his
innocence, and Sam (Tom D'Andrea), a kindly, lonesome cabbie who steers
Parry to a back-alley plastic surgeon (Houseley Stevenson) to get a new
face to help him fly under the law's radar.
1947 was The Year of the Subjective Camera, with DP's first hour shot from Bogart's point of view and Robert Montgomery's film adaptation of Raymond Chandler's LADY IN THE LAKE (which I've discussed elsewhere on the IMDb) using the technique throughout. Unlike LADY..., DP's plastic surgery gimmick provides a good plot reason for the audience not to initially see Bogart's face, though we frequently hear that unmistakable Bogart voice to make up for it. We also get to see the lovely Bacall and lots of spellbinding character actors in lieu of Bogie. There isn't an uninteresting face or a bad performance in the bunch, with standout performances from the leads, D'Andrea, Stevenson (wise, kindly, and vaguely sinister all at once), Rory Mallinson as Parry's musician friend, the ever-dependable Bruce Bennett, cheap hood Clifton Young (with an oily grin and a cleft chin that looks like it got lost on the way to Cary Grant's face), and especially the magnificent Agnes Moorehead as Madge Rapf, the kind of woman who won't join any club that'll have her as a member, a stylish dame who spreads stress and misery wherever she goes. Sticking her nose into everyone's business, Madge manages to lure people to her and push them away at the same time, and if she can't have you, she'll make damn sure nobody else canhave you, even if that means murder. With her delivery dripping honey one minute and venom the next (especially in her climactic scene with Bogart), the quicksilver Moorehead's commanding presence and her unconventional, undeniably striking good looks ensure that you can't take your eyes off her whenever she's on screen.
If you're looking for a tight mystery plot, look elsewhere. While DP has many suspenseful moments, it's primarily a character study and a mood piece about loneliness, redemption, and starting over, with a strong undercurrent of postwar paranoia, all underscored beautifully by Franz Waxman's stirring music (with contributions by an uncredited Max Steiner). The bus station scene is a touching example of this. But the reactions of people who meet Parry with his post-op face and new name, "Allan Linnell," are so suspicious I wondered if writer/director Delmer Daves (who cameos as the photo of Irene's doomed dad. His real-life kids have bit parts, too) was indicating that Parry was really projecting his own paranoia onto the people around him. His new name in particular makes people look at him like he just dropped in from the planet Neptune: "Linnell? That's a very unusual name." What's so freakin' unusual about it?! What, it's not blandly Anglo-Saxon enough? I wonder if John Linnell of They Might Be Giants fame ever had to field such questions...but I digress... :-)
Even when DP drops the subjective camera style so we can see Bogart in all his glory, the visuals are striking thanks to Sid Hickox's moody black-and-white photography (although with the emphasis on Madge's love of all things orange, I can imagine a partly-colorized version a la SIN CITY, with everything black-and-white except Madge's orange clothes and belongings... :-) and some innovative visual techniques. I particularly liked the use of the glass floor when Bogart discovers a dead body -- a tip of the hat to Alfred Hitchcock's THE LODGER, perhaps? Speaking of Hitchcock, DP and Hitch's 1958 classic VERTIGO might make an interesting double feature since they share themes of loss, loneliness, new identities and fresh starts as well as a San Francisco setting. If you want to see a softer side of Bogart & Bacall, DP is well worth watching. You may also enjoy the DVD's other fun extras, like the original theatrical trailer (for me, the hyperbole of that era's movie trailers is part of their charm) and SLICK HARE, one of the Bugs Bunny cartoons affectionately lampooning Bogart (rumor has it that Bogart liked to pal around with the animators at Warner Bros.' "Termite Terrace" and he actually did his own voice work for SLICK HARE and 8-BALL BUNNY).
Bogart's third teaming with Lauren Bacall was in "Dark Passage," a
murder-mystery film which depended upon contrivances rather than good
scripting to see it through
The film opened with the use of a subjective camera (MGM used it throughout their "Lady in the Lake" that same year) with Bogart's off-camera narration establishing the plot as we watch our hero escape from prison with the intent of finding the real murderer of his wife, the crime for which he had been wrongfully jailed
Once he meets up with Bacall and goes to a plastic surgeon, the subjective camera is forgotten as Bogart now utilizes his own face and carries on the investigation
"Dark Passage" was energetically directed and written by Delmer Daves who used some atmospheric location shots in San Francisco to underscore his drama The film included an unusual number of bizarre and eccentric characters, all competently played
Agnes Moorehead essayed a superb1y schizoid characterization as a bitchy "friend" of Bogart and his dead wife Bacall showed definite signs of improvement in her acting and Bogart was properly bitter, sour and nonplussed
For all practical purposes, this film marked the conclusion of Bogart's famous "image" period Now he was to forsake his romantic leading-man roles for acting assignments which he hoped would raise him to greater heights as a performer He was to succeed, in many cases, magnificently
Even if she has only two or three scenes she steals them all.And it
speaks volumes when the stars are Bogart and Bacall.
This is my favorite B/B among the four films they made together."The big sleep" has a plot I've never understood -Hawks used to say it was the same to him-,"to have and to have not" fails to excite me (Bogart a resistant and Gaulliste at that!"Key Largo",on the other hand, is a close second to Daves' movie .
Not that the subjective viewpoint/camera was that much new.Robert Montgomery filmed his hero the same way in 1946 ("Lady in the lake" ,and we only saw his reflection in the mirrors).Hitchcock knew the technique as well and he used it with virtuosity during short sequences.But Daves who is best remembered for his westerns ("broken arrow") pulls it off effortlessly.The depth of field gives a dreamlike atmosphere to the first sequences with Bacall and the surgeon -dream which becomes nightmare during the operation when Bogart sees in his bad dream all the characters involved in the story- There are plot holes of course,particularly Madge 's character .Parry is in Irene's house and presto here she comes.It takes all Agnes Moorehead's talent to give this woman substance.
The first third is Bogartless,as an user points out.But he could add that the last third is almost Bacallless too.
Only the ending,which I will not reveal of course ,is not worthy of a film noir!Maybe the producers imposed it.
Wow, we are really asked to believe a lot in this film. Typically movies
only get away with one or two unlikely plot elements, but somehow I still
enjoyed 'Dark Passage' despite numerous key elements' implausibility.
The film opens to a shot of convicted felon Parry (Bogart) in a barrel in back of a truck headed down the road. He shakes the barrel, takes a nasty roll and staggers out. It's just the first of many doubt-inducing sequences.
The film, with its plot problems aside, is really an excellent film noir study. We are taken through most of the first half of the film from the first-person Parry (Bogart) view. I found this fascinating, despite wooden dialogue and continuous unrealistic steadiness of the camera. I think the base story of 'Dark Passage' is superb, with all its film noir elements. I especially like the first-person view, which then transforms through a surrealistic imagery scene of plastic surgery, into the normal third-person view.
One plot element I particularly take issue with is that, although Parry gets a new face, we are asked to believe that his distinctive Bogart voice cannot be recognised by the closest of his acquaintances. He makes no effort whatsoever to account for this, and this is given no thought in the slightest.
The film is one I would personally love to make - I would like to direct the thing myself, and revise the script a bit, make it more real in dialogue and plot primarily. This is a feeling I've not oft encountered, because I've almost always felt a director has done, even when he presents a wrong point of view, a better job than I could do. Due to my love for the story here I was torn - torn I tell you - in my selection of a vote for this film, but arrived at 7. I took off for the unrealistic factors, but made sure to preserve the respectability of the film. It is, incontestably, a classic - and in my opinion, just because a film is old doesn't mean it is. I respect this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The terrible script completely destroys this film. That's a shame,
because I'm a huge fan of Bogart and Bacall. The film has first person
camera work which is excellent, and the supporting cast is fantastic.
However, Bogey's character acts like a total moron, leaving his
fingerprints on every crime scene he finds himself at, and crime scenes
follow him like a a five year old follows an ice cream truck. There is
one phony plot contrivance after another. Bacall's character would have
to be insane to believe that Bogey's character is innocent -- every
time he goes to see someone, they die! He always has an explanation,
and it always sounds false.
In short, the awful script destroys what is, in every other way, an excellent film.
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