Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Clifton Young tries to put one over on Bogie
DARK PASSAGE (1947). Director: Delmer Daves.

Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart), who was convicted of murdering his wife, somehow escapes from jail and winds up in San Francisco. Helping him hide out and in other ways is Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall), whose father was [she believes] also wrongly convicted of murdering her stepmother. During the first half or so of the film we never see Bogart's face, as just about everything is depicted from his subjective point-of-view. It is not giving much away to relate that Parry has plastic surgery, and wears bandages for more of the running time, until he is unveiled as -- Bogart. [Oddly we see Parry's original face in newspaper photos and he is depicted by a much better-looking man than Bogart. But when Parry looks in the mirror he isn't dismayed by the fact that he looks much older and is, frankly, quite homely.] The best scenes in Dark Passage have less to do with Bogie and Bacall than they do with the very tense business involving Parry with would-be blackmailer Baker (Clifton Young.). While Bogart and Bacall are both good in the movie they are overshadowed in the acting department by some members of the supporting cast, especially the aforementioned Young [who died tragically four years later] and in particular Agnes Moorehead, who gives a ferociously mesmerizing performance as Madge, a friend [of sorts] of Irene's and a would-be paramour of Parry's. Tom D'Andrea is good as the cabbie, Sam, and Houseley Stevenson certainly makes an impression as the plastic surgeon that Sam [rather conveniently] happens to know. Bruce Bennett, Douglas Kennedy [as a cop named Kennedy!], and Rory Mallinson are also notable. Dark Passage is a very entertaining and suspenseful film, but the often far-fetched plot has to be taken with a grain of salt and the characterizations could have used more pepper. Daves' direction isn't bad, but he's not on the level of a Hitchcock. Crisp photography and a nice Franz Waxman score are added bonuses.

Verdict: Suspend disbelief and you'll enjoy this formidable piece of film noir with a frankly formidable Moorehead. ***.

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