When I think of film noir and its influence on how I have come to look at movies from a different angle a couple movies stand out in my mind. These two Bogart and Bacall movies are great movies, even if The Big Sleep leaves more questions than answers in its plot line.
Dark Passage was a movie I stumbled onto while looking for a movie I wanted to find, and it quickly became perhaps my favorite movie, not least since the camera is pointed directly at Lauren Bacall most of the time. Well this had to do with my search for the Christmas mingled first person detective film The Lady in the Lake. I had seen a portion of this film, when the main character Phillip Marlowe escapes a frame up by crawling to a phone booth and calling for help. This is all shot from the first person perspective and haunted me until I was able to dig it up. On the way I found Dark Passage.
This movie also starts in the first person perspective of Vincent Parry (Bogart) who escapes San Quinton Prison. On the run he stumbles on Irene Jansen (Bacall) who saves him. Parry eventually leaves only to meet a taxi driver who helps him get plastic surgery from a secret doctor. The surgery scene is one of the scariest, most interesting, pieces of the film. After the operation the film switches to third person. With two people playing against him, especially Madge Rapf (Agnes Moorehead), all I have to say is there is a side ways happy ending. It’s setting, plot and depth of character is what stands out as the best of what film really can be. Even though this film uses a simple and effective filming perspective to add to the intrigue.
“I saw an alternate ending for The Big Sleep.”
“You did?” I was interested in what my friend and film expert Chris was about to say.
“Humphrey Bogart is laying in a hospital bed after getting hit in the head again. Doctor comes up and says ‘It was close, but you’ll live.’”
It is one of the idiosyncrasies of this film that the main character gets knocked out enough to make a hockey player cringe. I like the Big Sleep for several reasons, not least because it makes every attempt to punch up the script possible with great effect. Bacall is mixed up, Bogart funny and angry, cool and bitter, and in love. There is song, danger and blood. Gambler Eddy Mars (John Ridgely) and his boys get their deserts, Carmen gets out of it safe, the law gets what they want and Marlowe gets the girl. With a plot punched up, and almost knocked out, it is the quintessence of confusion without being silly. After all people die, there is either extortion over drugs or nude photos or murder (or all three?) in a film set in 1946.
I will have to follow this up with a review of The Lady in the Lake, and a completely different film series-the three Sabata movies.
My advice, see these films, they’re great and you just might learn something, keep your eyes open.