Dark Passage
directed by Delmer Daves
(Warner Bros., 1947)

There are coincidences, sure, but Humphrey Bogart's Dark Passage is still a suspenseful classic.

You have to suspend an elephant-sized amount of disbelief, but Dark Passage remains a compelling film noir because of the chemistry between Betty Perske -- oops, I mean Lauren Bacall -- and Bogie. Also, all the character actors give startlingly vivid performances. The fascinating location shots of San Francisco in the 1940s make the scenery practically a character in the movie.

And, as for Agnes Moorehead, she steals every scene she's in. Her final confrontation with Bogart is absolutely riveting. She makes a scene that could easily be preposterous into something truly hair-raising.

This was Warner Brothers studio firing on all cylinders during the peak of film noir. You can't be a noir freak and not check it out.

In one respect, it's a time capsule from another era, and that's because of the smoking. Not only does every single person in the movie smoke, they are constantly offering each other cigarettes, lighting each other's cigarettes, blowing out the smoke and gazing into each other's eyes as tendrils of smoke waft between them. Even with his face so bandaged his mouth is just a slit, Bogart smokes through a holder. With his nemesis holding a gun on him, what does Bogart want? A cigarette, of course. At one point, Bogart drops his cigarette on the floor and grinds it out with his shoe -- in someone's house! Amazing.

review by
Dave Sturm

19 December 2009

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