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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Dark Passage (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).



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#1 of 5 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

Herb Kane

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Posted November 02 2003 - 04:52 AM

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Dark Passage





Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1947
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 106 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: Standard
Audio: DD Mono
Color/B&W: B&W
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $19.98
Package: Snap Case






The Feature:
The last month or so has been very good to fans of Humphrey Bogart and on November 4th, Warner Brothers will be releasing four additional classics all of which feature the legend. Released will be, They Drive By Night, High Sierra, To Have And Have Not and Dark Passage. Also available will be The Bogart Collection featuring Casablanca – Two Disc SE, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre – Two Disc SE, The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon and To Have And Have Not. The MSRP for the gift set will be $99.98. In addition to the WB releases, the 1951 film noir, The Enforcer (Republic Pictures) is also due to release on December 16th.

Dark Passage was based on the novel written by David Goodis and directed by Delmer Daves who was responsible for such classics as Destination Tokyo (Cary Grant), Pride Of The Marines (John Garfield) & Spencer’s Mountain (Henry Fonda) plus a slew of others.

With the story based in San Francisco, the movie starts off with an escape from San Quentin Prison by fugitive, Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart) hiding out in a large container drum on the back of a truck. Once outside the prison, he rolls off down an embankment to freedom. After an altercation takes place with a man who eventually picks him up as a hitch-hiker (which becomes rather significant later in the film), he is then picked up and rescued from the police by a woman, Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall) who seems to know a great deal about the man and is to willing to sacrifice her own freedom to save Vincent. But why…?

Falsely accused of killing his own wife, he now sets out to find the actual killer and to clear his name. It becomes quite clear however, that Vincent isn’t going to get very far. Everywhere he goes, he’s recognized as the most wanted man in the country. Desperate to prove his innocence, he takes the advice of likeable but chatty cabbie Sam (Tom D’Andrea), who has a connection with a plastic surgeon who’s willing to change Vincent’s looks. The surgery is performed by Dr. Coley (played by Houseley Stevenson) whose caricature looking appearance adds as much suspense as the story itself.

After Vincent leaves his best friend’s place (George Fellsinger, played by Rory Mallinson), he returns a short time later to find him murdered. With the noose tightening, it seems wherever he goes, someone winds up dead, and all fingers are pointing at him…

Madge Rapf (Agnes Moorehead) is introduced as a friend of Irene’s. Parry begins his search for his wife's killer and begins to suspect Madge who is a spinster type busybody who seems to get pleasure out of creating misery for others. Obviously she knows the killer's identity but refuses to disclose it to Parry which leads to a dramatic confrontation in her apartment.

Finally, he decides he’s in too deep. The only solution is to leave San Francisco and all of his troubles behind. He wants to go to Peru – not Indiana, but South America. It’s a race to see if he makes it out before his bad luck finally catches up with him. Perhaps a journey that may very well take him past Zihuatanejo if he is to be successful…hmmm.

The film is interesting in that it attempts an innovative use of the first person camera technique (as seen from Bogart’s point of view) similar to the filming of 1947’s The Lady In The Lake, a gimmick which wasn’t all that successful at the time. It certainly adds to the sense of tension when we’re only able to see Bogart’s hands or his feet. It’s brilliant and was years ahead of its time. Everybody seems to have an “uneasiness” about them which adds to the feeling of trepidation already abundantly present.

This was the third teaming of the duo after having appeared to 1944’s To Have And Have Not and in 1946’s The Big Sleep. It’s also interesting to note that in 1947, Humphrey Bogart was the highest paid actor in the business with an annual salary of almost a half million dollars per year. It’s said that Jack Warner was absolutely livid when he found out that Bogart was only actually “seen” just less than half way through the movie, considering how much he had been paid. Though this movie lacks the same amount of chemistry with Bogart and Bacall as was present in To Have And Have Not, it’s no less entertaining. It’s a rock solid noir that’s as well acted by the supporters as those of the two stars. It just has a certain quality about it that I find very pleasing and riveting. Either that or I’m just a sucker for classics filmed in the San Francisco area…



Video:
In my last review of To Have And Have Not, regarding the release of the four Bogarts, I commented that it was the best of the lot – thus far. And it’s a good thing I qualified “thus far”. The video presentation is absolutely breathtaking. I assumed it would have been similar to the other three I had recently watched (and would have been every bit as impressed…). But this…? Wow!!

From the time the opening credits rolled, the look of the film is absolutely gorgeous. The movie has a clear “film like” look to it which is velvety smooth… even more so in many cases than the recently released Casablanca SE (which I regard very highly in terms of recent quality B&W releases). While the contrast falls slightly short of the Casablanca SE it was still drop dead gorgeous. It reminded me of looking at old high quality B&W photographs – only on a screen… it was that impressive. A great example takes place under the Golden Gate Bridge at the 87:20 mark. Look at the suit Bogart is wearing compared to the suit that Young is wearing and the scenery around them. This also exhibits the excellent black levels that are present throughout the entire film.

Through the filming, there were a great deal of facial close ups and the level of detail demonstrated is incredible. Film grain is present but at an absolute minimum. Grayscale is equally impressive… it just felt like I was looking at a collection of great looking photographs… Stunning…!!

The amount of light shimmer is much less frequent compared to my recent viewing of To Have And Have Not and only present in a few scenes sporadically. Film dirt and scratches were at an absolute minimum. In fact I had to look for them, rarely succeeding.

While there were a few bursts of light speckle, they only seemed to be present for three or four scenes and lasted about 20-30 seconds per occasion. A good example can be seen at around the 91:20 mark. There is the odd light speck here and there, it is very infrequent and I never found it bothersome.

And, as I have been able to report with so many recent WB releases, I could not detect any compression or enhancement related issues.

This transfer falls just short of a couple of recent top notch quality releases, most notably Casablanca’s SE and The Bad And The Beautiful – for those unfamiliar with these two discs, that’s high praise indeed. This is most certainly one of the finest B&W transfers I have seen in some time.



Audio:
The DD Mono soundtrack provided is again, as good as we can expect. Once again there are many examples of this track being exceptionally crisp (while Bogart was rustling through the leaves during the opening scene). There is very little music to speak of in the film as much of it is dialogue driven except for the tense score delivered by Franz Waxman and Max Steiner (uncredited)… which brilliantly lends to the feeling of Vincent’s desperation.

All of the dialogue is rendered crystal clear and always intelligible. During much of the first person camera work, Bogart talks to himself (thinking out loud) which sounds as though he’s almost whispering… this is not only effective in the film, but sounds quite realistic. There’s not a lot of action with the exception of some breaking glass, and a few fists thrown, all of which sound perfect.

I was also able to detect a very slight amount of hiss and it was really only noticeable when the volume was quite loud – but never bothersome.

This is yet again, another perfect sounding DD Mono track which is virtually flawless… while it’s not flashy (nor would we expect it to be), it fulfills our expectations.



Special Features:
We are treated to three special features on this disc starting with:
[*] Hold Your Breath And Cross Your Fingers: The Story Of Dark Passage. This is a short biography on Delmer Daves and how he worked his way up the ladder starting as a prop man on the Metropolitan Lot. Also discussed was Bogart’s involvement with the House Un-American Activities Committee and their formation of the Committee for the 1st Amendment and it’s affect it had at the box office. Duration: 10:31.
[*] Up next is the animated short of every classic movie lover’s dream, Slick Hare – 1947 Merrie Melodies, directed by Friz Freleng. Humphrey Bogart is a customer in the posh “Mocrumbo” restaurant where he places his order with waiter (Elmer Fudd) for fried rabbit. Bogie has given him 20 minutes to come up with the delicacy or else… (the Tommy Gun on the table is good inspiration). As we see Elmer frantic to find a rabbit, we are treated to many GREAT cartoon cameos by Ray Milland, Frank Sinatra, Joan Crawford, Sydney Greenstreet, Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda among others and waiting at the table (unbeknownst to Bugs) is “Baby”. This is a fantastic short and is in great shape. Duration: 7:43 Minutes.
[*] Last but not least, the one feature that should be included on every disc, the Theatrical Trailer. This one is in pretty good shape. Duration: 2:13 Minutes.

While the disc isn’t loaded with special features, the ones that are included are great!



Final Thoughts:
Dark Passage was the fourth and final release of the recent wave of WB Bogart releases. I can’t begin to tell you how much fun this past week has been and how happy I am to finally have all of these classics on our format of choice. Considering the retail price of these classic releases and the level of attention to which they have been given, adding Dark Passage or any of the recent releases to your libraries, should be a relatively easy decision.

While this feature may not rank as highly as Casablanca, To Have And Have Not, The Maltese Falcon or The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, its certainly no less entertaining. This feature has an A/V presentation that is a sight (and sound…) to behold and a few extras that flatter the film itself. WB has done a remarkable job with this set – you won’t be disappointed.

Highly Recommended…!!




Release Date: November 4th, 2003
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 5 OFFLINE   Roger Rollins

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Posted November 02 2003 - 05:13 AM

Thanks for the great review, Herb! Your enthusiasm for these terrific Warner releases is infectious, and I can't wait to see this disc. SLICK HARE alone is worth the purchase price! Posted Image

#3 of 5 OFFLINE   Bill Burns

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Posted November 02 2003 - 04:41 PM

I'm thrilled to hear (er, read) the video presentation is so film-like -- this is the title that intrigues me most of the new bunch, and it'll probably be the first I purchase (I have a coupon that'll necessitate waiting until the second week of November, though), but of course To Have and Have Not remains a must as well -- hey, all four are musts, who's kidding whom? Posted Image Thanks for the fine review, Herb, as always. Posted Image
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#4 of 5 OFFLINE   Joe Schwartz

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Posted November 02 2003 - 05:01 PM

Add this one to the colonoscopy thread. Posted Image

#5 of 5 OFFLINE   Werner_R

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Posted November 06 2003 - 11:44 PM

The R2 release is coming soon, I'll definately pick this one up !