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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Film Review: Dark Passage (dir. Delmer Daves, 1947)

This Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall film noir vehicle is something of a letdown. For one thing, there's not much of a mystery. Bogart plays an innocent man convicted of killing his wife. He escapes from San Quentin and returns to San Francisco to find the true killer, O.J.-like, kinda-sorta. The problem--his face is on the front page of every newspaper, and, in a pre-tv age, that means he can't moe around in public. But he runs into a cab driver who suggests a de-licensed plastic surgeon who can change his face . . . and make him look like Humphrey Bogart. Now, I can usually suspend disbelief, but the man on the lam just happens to meet this friendly cab driver, who could turn him in for $5,000 but instead helps him by taking him to this plastic surgeon, he just happens to know? OK, OK, I know, it's noir.

There's a camera trick here, which is that until the protagonist, Victor, has the plastic surgery and the bandages removed, we never see his face. Instead, much of the film is shot from his perspective, so he's looking out the camera. Maybe this was the first movie where that was used. If so, it was innovative. It struck me as gimmicky.

I'm also not sure about Bacall's character's motiation to help Bogie out, here.

But my biggest problem with the film was the end . . . spolier alert. There's no twist at the end. The film has a happy ending. Huh?

My sense here is that the studio wanted to do a Bogie-Bacall movie and just shot any old screenplay. It's still entertaining, but it's no Big Sleep.


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