Friday, March 26, 2010

Dark Passage

"Dark Passage" (Delmer Daves, 1947) Soapish film noir with "Bogey and Baby" that manages to have a few interesting things to recommend it, amidst some howler material.

The story isn't much: Vincent Parry (
Humphrey Bogart, eventually), convicted of murdering his wife, escapes from San Quentin, and is able to make his way back to San Francisco with the help of Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall), a rich-girl painter who knows all about Parry's case—because her own father was falsley accused of murdering her mother.

Small damn world.

Irene gives Parry a place to crash, and a change of clothes. Then, making his way to Frisco to meet an old buddy, his cab-driver gives him a line on
a disgraced plastic surgeon, who's not adverse to doing last-minute surgeries at 3 a.m. It takes Parry a week to heal, which he does at Irene's—something he didn't want to do, but seeing as his buddy was murdered and all...

Grave's-eye view of a post-op Bogart finding his musician-buddy dead.

Wait a minute! If you hadn't said that yet, what kept you? It would appear that San Francisco (nice location work, by the way) is the smallest town in America, as everybody knows everybody else and their business, besides. While convalescing at Irene's, Parry becomes aware that the place is being watched by a couple people, a potential blackmailer (Clifton Young) and Madge (Agnes Moorehead), the buttinsky friend of Irene's who used to go out with Bob (Bruce Bennett), Irene's current beau, but was also old friends with the Parry's back in the day. As Bogart would say, "Everything's starting to look nice and cosy..."

When the bandages come off,
we get to see The Man with Bogart's Face, but before then, all we're allowed to see of Parry was his picture in the paper, or his face in shadow. Daves employed a technique not much used in movies—the first-person subjective camera, so we see everything from Parry's point-of-view; there's a lot of people speaking right at us throughout the first part of the movie and answered back by Bogart's disembodied voice. Daves pulls off some miraculous inter-cutting between location-work and studio set-ups (in a moving car, yet!), and it's interesting to see how he gets himself out of jams of timing and transitions. He also employs an interesting angle every now and again, like the vantage point of a murder scene...from below the floor!

There's a lot to quibble about (did I mention the plastic surgery only takes an hour?), but any excuse to see Bogart-Bacall together again, and to see another of
Agnes Moorehead's unabashedly demonstrative performances. Those are enough reasons to give "Dark Passage" a watch.

Here's looking at you looking at me, kid.
Subjective POV of Lauren Bacall in "Dark Passage"

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