Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… Dark Passage (1947)

As we continue on with “Noir-vember,” it’s time to get a different point-of-view (pun intended) with that classic 1947 Bogie and Bacall film Dark Passage!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Slick Hare (1947)

(Available as an extra on the Dark Passage Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 43 seconds)

At the Mocrumbo nightclub, Humphrey Bogart orders a dish of fried rabbit, and his waiter Elmer Fudd must come up with one in twenty minutes. Classic Looney Tunes cartoon with Elmer chasing down Bugs Bunny. Of course, there are various celebrity “cameos” to add to the fun (although I’d be surprised if most people nowadays could figure out most of them). For a classic film fan, certainly a fun cartoon to watch every now and then!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Convict Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart) has escaped from San Quentin prison. After the cops drive past his hiding place, he hitches a ride with passing motorist Baker (Clifton Young). However, that ride is short-lived, as they hear Vincent’s description on the radio, which forces him to knock out Baker. While Vincent changes into Baker’s clothes, painter Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall) comes up on him and, recognizing who he is, offers him a ride. She gets him past the police blocks, and brings him to her apartment, which she offers as a place to hide out. Once, while she is out, a mutual friend, Madge Rapf (Agnes Moorehead), comes to the door, but he turns her away. Fearing the possibility of having been discovered, Vincent decides to leave that night, and takes a cab. The cabby, Sam (Tom D’Andrea), recognizes him, but is on his side and offers to take him to a plastic surgeon. While Sam makes the arrangements, Vincent drops in on his friend, George Fellsinger (Rory Mallinson), and makes plans to stay at his apartment. After that, Vincent goes to the plastic surgeon, Dr. Walter Coley (Houseley Stevenson), who does some work on his face. After he is all bandaged up and given his instructions by the doctor, Vincent is taken back to George’s apartment by Sam. However, once in the apartment, Vincent is horrified to find his friend had been murdered. Feeling he has no other place to turn to, Vincent walks back to Irene’s place. On the way, he sees Baker’s car, but does not see Baker himself. Out of sheer exhaustion, Vincent puts it out of his mind and keeps going towards Irene’s apartment building, where he collapses. Irene finds an unconscious Vincent, and brings him in. Vincent learns from the newspaper that he is accused of George’s murder, but he convinces Irene that he is innocent. After twelve days, she cuts the bandages off his face, and he leaves, with the intention of proving his innocence. He adopts the name of Allan Linnell, but Baker soon finds him and decides to blackmail him. Vincent ends up overpowering Baker, and learns about somebody else following him to George’s apartment before Baker accidentally falls to his death. So, Vincent goes off to confront the real killer.

Dark Passage was based on a novel (of the same name) written by David Goodis (which had been serialized in The Saturday Evening Post before it was published as a book). For the movie, they did some location shooting in San Francisco, including Irene’s house and a diner. But, as I hinted at earlier, the movie is best known for its first forty minutes, in which we see almost everything from Vincent’s (Humphrey Bogart) point-of-view (and what we don’t see that way very cleverly keeps his face in the shadows or out of sight). Of course, the fact that Humphrey Bogart doesn’t actually show his face on camera for the first hour originally irritated Jack Warner when he found out, but too much of the film had been done by that point for him to make any changes.

Personally, I consider Dark Passage the weakest of the four Bogie-Bacall films. Now, I’m not trashing this movie, as I really like it! I’m just saying that the other three are just that much better. I do like the film’s gimmick of the first person view for the first forty minutes, as I think it works with the story. Any other way would essentially have some other actor playing the part, with Humphrey Bogart’s voice dubbed in for them. This way, that’s not necessary. But Lauren Bacall is one of this film’s strengths, as she gives a great performance here, especially for the first part, when she’s mainly interacting with the camera (or so it would seem). And Agnes Moorehead is great, too, as their mutual friend, who pretty much makes a nuisance of herself with everybody. Humphrey Bogart is the only one who really suffers here performance-wise, as we don’t really get a lot of background there, and we’re generally stuck going with his character type rather than a fully fleshed out character for this movie. But, that’s a minor quibble, because, as I said before, this movie is one I enjoy, and for that reason, I would certainly recommend seeing it!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection, either individually or as part of the four film Bogart And Bacall: The Complete Collection. Whether you go with the individual release or the set, the Blu-ray looks fantastic as always, and is certainly the best way to see the movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 46 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

To Have And Have Not (1944)Humphrey BogartThe Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948)

To Have And Have Not (1944) – Lauren Bacall – Young Man With A Horn (1950)

Since You Went Away (1944) – Agnes Moorehead – Show Boat (1951)

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