Bogart plays a man convicted of murdering his wife who escapes from prison in order to prove his innocence. Bogart finds that his features are too well known, and is forced to seek some illicit backroom plastic surgery. The entire pre-knife part of the film is shot from a Bogart's-eye-view, with us seeing the fugitive for the first time as he starts to recuperate from the operation in the apartment of a sympathetic young artist (played by Bacall) for whom he soon finds affection. But what he's really after is revenge.Written by
Mark Thompson <email@example.com>
Dr. Coley says he's going to leave Vincent's nose alone but do work on is eyes. The bandages cover his nose, as if he's had a nose job, and clearly indicates no work was done on the skin around his eyes. See more »
I hope I'm not a coward when you start in.
Dr. Walter Coley:
We're all cowards. There's no such thing as courage. There's only fear, the fear of getting hurt. And the fear of dying. That's why human beings live so long.
Dr. Walter Coley:
[getting a towel ready to put over Vincent's face]
You won't feel any pain with this. I'm gonna' give you some shots that'll freeze your face.
Dr. Walter Coley:
[placing towel over Vincent's face]
Now... just close your eyes. Got a fine anesthetic. Used it in the last war. It's in your bloodstream now...
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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!
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