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Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Oct 28, 2003.

  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
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    High Sierra

    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1941
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 101 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Standard
    Audio: DD Mono
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $19.98
    Package: Snap Case

    The Feature:
    On November 4th, Warner Brothers is poised to release four never before released Humphrey Bogart films on DVD. They are, They Drive By Night, High Sierra, To Have And Have Not and Dark Passage. In High Sierra, the second installment of the wave, Humphrey Bogart portrays Roy “Mad Dog” Earle who is a cold blooded killer on the lam from the law.

    High Sierra was a novel written by W.R. Burnett and purchased by the studio. The film was brilliantly scripted by a young John Huston under the direction of legendary Raoul Walsh. Ironically, “Mad Dog” was a role that Humphrey Bogart was almost by-passed for. It was originally offered to Paul Muni who wanted the script altered more than Huston was willing and then offered to George Raft but was talked out of it by none other than Bogart himself after convincing him that the studio simply wanted to use his name in connection with yet, another gangster film. Raft agreed and ultimately the part went to Bogart by default.

    After a run of mostly mediocre roles and on the heels of They Drive By Night, Bogart felt it was his turn to finally take the lead, but Warner decided that after the recent performance of Ida Lupino who also previously starred with Bogart in the same film, that she should receive top billing. As a result, Bogie was bumped to second spot and protested vehemently but to no avail. After his performance however, it would be the final time the great actor ever had to fight for a top billing spot.

    Career criminal Roy “Mad Dog” Earle is pardoned from his life sentence and released. His friends and former associates want him to help with an upcoming robbery of an exclusive resort. He immediately joins with his old boss and forms a group to pull another job. When the robbery goes bad and a guard is shot and killed, Earle is forced to go on the run.

    While enroute to California, he befriends a family from the East whose daughter, Velma (played by Joan Leslie), has a club foot. Roy falls for this innocent girl and helps her get the operation she requires. Roy also begins to fall for Marie Garson (played by Ida Lupino), the lone female in the gang.

    With the police hot on his tail, and after a lengthy pursuit, he eventually takes refuge among the peaks of the Sierra Nevada’s, where a tense standoff ensues. Marie shows up at the scene of the standoff where she hopes Roy will be eventually set “free”…

    Lupino gets top billing, but the real star here is Bogart. While this isn’t necessarily a typical film noir in terms of the setting, Walsh combines the two very different sides of “Mad Dog’s” personality, one of which is very gentle and kind, but there is an austere quality that exists, making this an unusual variant of the film noir classic.


    Much of the movie was shot in and around the Big Bear, California area as well as Mount Whitney, California, (ironically which is described as the highest point in the country – obviously prior to the arrival of the 49th state…) and much of the scenery and backdrop is gorgeous.

    Keeping in mind the film is 62 years old, it looks amazing. Sure, there are traces of dirt and occasional scratches, but I was really impressed by this transfer. For the most part, detail is very sharp and the movie seems to have a great amount of facial close-ups, most of which look great. Again, most of the female close-ups were shot soft and the male shots are crisp, all of which show quite nicely.

    There is a good amount of grain structure and the movie does have a dimensional film like quality. Initially, the few opening scenes and a few of the lighter scenes seem to show some light instability which is never overly bothersome. Black levels were also as equally impressive. It was obvious that many of the car chase sequences were sped up to add to the heightened tension, which was quite effective.

    An exceptional video presentation…!

    Once again, the DD Mono track offered, doesn’t disappoint. The dialogue was always crystal clear and intelligible. It’s about as robust and dynamic as one would expect from the period, and delivers in a manner as one would expect.

    I’m very happy to report that the disc is also free of any hiss or popping that can be somewhat annoying with many of the old classics.

    Bravo on a solid job…!!

    Special Features:
    Unfortunately, we don’t have many special features included, but I’m happy to have the two that are. They are:
    [*] Curtains For Roy Earle: The Story Of High Sierra. This is another great newly made documentary featuring Leonard Maltin who discusses Murderers Row and the studios dominance in the gangster film genre. Also discussed is the importance of the film from a career standpoint as well as the long friendship and collaboration that formed with John Huston and Humphrey Bogart during the filming of High Sierra. Great documentary… just wish it was a lot longer. Duration: 15:06 Minutes
    [*] The only other inclusion as a special feature is the Theatrical Trailer. Duration: 2:39 minutes

    Final Thoughts:
    I am extremely delighted that Warner Brothers has released High Sierra in addition to the other three movies. Bogart’s portrayal of a treacherous “Mad Dog” is absolutely brilliant. It is an important movie in that it unites Bogart with Huston who go on to produce some of the best motion pictures ever made. The Maltese Falcon was soon to be released and things would never quite be the same…

    Some may find the lack of extras disappointing, but this is too good a movie to pass over for a meager amount of extras and the A/V presentation is first-rate. Once again Warner Bros. are about to make fans of classic film and those wanting to complete their Bogart collections, very happy.

    Highly Recommended…!!

    Release Date: November 4th, 2003
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    Thanks for another great review and I can't wait for my copies.

  3. GlennH

    GlennH Cinematographer

    Sep 28, 1998
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    Thanks for the review. You never actually said it anywhere, but this film is in Black & White, in case anybody wonders.
  4. Bill Burns

    Bill Burns Supporting Actor

    May 13, 2003
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    I adore Ida Lupino; it's intriguing to note that she was a director in her own right, following in the strong footsteps of the silent cinema's female writers and directors. She made a lasting contribution both in front of and behind the camera. [​IMG]

    Here's a link to an overview of her career at the IMDB:

  5. Todd Robertson

    Todd Robertson Second Unit

    Dec 18, 2002
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    thanks for the outstanding write-up on these essential dvds/films. I cant wait to have all of these![​IMG]

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